FICTION – BLACK AUTHORS EDITION
Focusing my reading this spring on black authors because 1) Black Lives Matter, 2) the African-American literary tradition is incredibly rich and fertile, and I’ve been neglecting the deep reading I began with my Toni Morrison class in college and with other favorite authors since, and 3) I like having a ‘theme’ to my reading each season, because it’s cool to see how books pair together and resonate with each other.
Right now, I’m enveloped in the wonderfully told story of The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy. To steal the words of NPR’s reviewer, which are featured on the front cover: “Flournoy’s knockout debut is one of those books that should, by rights, be described as the Great American Novel.” I agree. She is the heir to Toni Morrison and Lorraine Hansberry, an expert on the black family and this particular family and this lost, broken city (Detroit) that still has so much life in it. It’s a ghost story and a family saga and a bunch of love stories, too. Here’s an excerpt for you to enjoy:
Humans haunt more houses than ghosts do. Men and women assign value to brick and mortar, link their identities to mortgages paid on time. On frigid winter nights, young mothers walk their fussy babies from room to room, learning where the rooms catch drafts and where the floorboards creak. In the warm damp of summer, fathers sit on porches, sometimes worried and often tired but comforted by the fact that a roof is up there providing shelter. Children smudge up walls with dirty handprints, find nooks to hide their particular treasure, or hide themselves if need be. We live and die in houses, dream of getting back to houses, take great care in considering who will inherit the houses when we’re gone. Cha-Cha knew his family was no different. The house on Yarrow Street was their sedentary mascot, its crumbling facade the Turner coat of arms. But it disintegrated by the hour. Mold in the basement, asbestos hiding in the walls, a garage stolen. He understood these things pointed to abandonment. He knew he should walk away from the place, let it become one more blasted-out house in a city plagued by them. but what to do with the house and what to do about his mother’s sickness were problems to which Cha-Cha possessed no simple solution. In both cases, his impulse leaned toward preservation, but at what cost?
The next books on my list:
Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
Americanah – Chimamanda Adichie
Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward
The Farming of Bones – Edwidge Danticat
If Sons, Then Heirs – Lorene Cary
Jam on the Vine – LaShonda Katrice Barnett
NONFICTION – QUEER WOMXN EDITION
“Why I Take All My Dates to Olive Garden” by Kristin Arnett.
Kristin Arnett is a lesbian twitter queen and Floridian author. In this hilarious essay, she explains why she takes first dates to Olive Garden: “to chill out and avoid the problems in my life.”
Two people eating means you get three sticks total. I like to think Olive Garden did that on purpose, so that you’re forced to break bread with your date. You must share with each other, touch hands. It’s all very romantic, if romance is deciding who gets to take the bigger share of the carbs. Also, if I eat my first breadstick quick enough, I can pick up the second one before my date even notices it’s missing.
“Periodic #2” by Franny Choi over at Palette Poetry
I continue to be in love with this monthly column from Franny Choi, which this time I read a bit late (in time for my own “monthly column”)
“Mattress Shopping” by Em Rowene in Honey and Lime.
I’m not even going to say anything about this one, because it is so surprising and gorgeous that I want you to discover it for yourself.
As always, I’d love to hear what you’re reading this week!