I make my living as a school librarian which means I am constantly trying to model that readers are always reading. This year I have been writing down all the books I read to show my students, which means theoretically I could have made a book list of every book I read, but I am just going to write about the books that months later still stick with me.
In September I interviewed Jesmyn Ward about Sing Unburied Sing. I’m holding back the exclamation points here. To prep for the interview I spent one incredible weekend rereading Salvage the Bones, the Men We Reaped, and The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, the essay collection which she edited. After I followed up with her first novel Where the Line Bleeds, which I’d never read. I’m still thinking about something she said in the interview which you can read here.
Jesmyn’s memoir The Men We Reaped captures what it is like to be black and from Mississippi (from the South, from America) like nothing else. I’m from Mississippi. In some ways this book is the book I spent much of my life wanting to read. If you haven’t read The Men We Reaped, you need to.
Ariel Leve’s memoir An Abbreviated Life is about growing up with a toxic mother and Leve’s gradual break from her mother. It really resonated with me. Go Ariel!
Robin Coste Lewis’ Voyage of the Sable Venus (NBA 2015) is mind-blowing. I also loved listening to Robin discussing “The Race Within Erasure.”
Nina Riggs’ posthumously released memoir The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying made me cry the best kind of cry, one where I grieved with Nina as she grieved for her kids, for her husband, and for her mother, who was also dying of cancer. Nina was a poet. Each line is gut-wrenching.
Patricia Lockwood is also a poet. Her memoir priestdaddy about growing up the daughter of a married Catholic priest is a hysterical, introspective, and illuminating take of what it’s like to grow up within the patriarchy.
I kept thinking Danzy Senna’s novel New People shouldn’t have worked but it did. I can’t even begin to describe it. My friend Diana has it. It’s the next book I’m re-reading. It’s brilliant.
They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib is a collection about music and Marvin Gaye and being black and from the Midwest in a country which wears the blood of your ancestors on its teeth. Loved it. Also on my rereading list.
Gene Oishi’s Fox Drum Bebop is a collection of stories about the Japanese Internment and the aftermath. My father in law was an internee. I’m writing a children’s book about the internment and have been reading a lot about the internment. Fox Drum Bebop allowed me to connect with the internment in a way that I haven’t previously.
I’ve had a lot of friends who are adopted, growing up I wanted to be adopted, I’ve thought about adoption, but Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere helped me understand more deeply the many ways trans-racial adoption can be an erasure. I couldn’t stop reading it.
I just finished up an interview with Leni Zumas for Electric Lit, which means to prep I also read Leni’s two other books, The Listeners and Farewell, Navigator, both of which are highly recommended. Some of her short stories still have me by the throat. Red Clocks, her new book, is about an America that has been overtaken by Christian zealots, which, wake up people, is happening in real-time. For me it was a personal relief to read because someone out there not #raisedreligious gets this. However, Red Clocks isn’t heavy. I’ve been working on the interview so long that I can’t say more than to let you know that this book, which comes out January 16th, is important. People are going to be talking about Red Clocks. Pre-order it.