Thursday, July 2, 2020

A few books to consider

I was talking with some folks at ProQuest recently, and a couple of people asked me about books I've enjoyed or would recommend. Since we've seen many lists focusing on works dealing with anti-racism and white privilege, I want to go in a slightly different direction: offering a couple of novels, a short story collection, and a history book.

1. Novel: Song of Solomon (1977) by Toni Morrison. Listen: she was such an extraordinary storyteller that you could make a case for a few different books by her. Still, I'm drawn to Song of Solomon. On a basic level, it's about this guy trying to discover aspects of his personal and overall black cultural identity. But then, the story -- multiple stories in one -- just get complex and show Morrison displaying incredible skill as she charts out this expansive family history. 

2. Novel: The Nickel Boys (2019) by Colson Whitehead. I've been closely following Whitehead's works for close to twenty years at this point, and let me tell you, he still surprises me with unexpected turns and ideas. He's a really inventive thinker. In 2014, after the killings of Eric Garner and Mike Brown, Whitehead heard about the Dozier School and decided to imagine the institution from the perspective of black boys. Whitehead is trying to think through the long history of abuses that have taken place in this country, and he uses this school and locale to touch on the cruel things humans can inflict on each other. 

3. Short stories: All Aunt Hagar's Children (2006) by Edward P. Jones. He's a really great short stories. His compositions are primarily set in Washington D. C., and it's clear that he is deeply in tune with the many spaces inhabited by black folks in the city. He offers tales about the everyday struggles of these black city-dwellers.   

4.  Nonfiction/history: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (2010) by Isabel Wilkerson. The journalist takes on the role of cultural historian as she  illuminates the journeys of black people who headed to the North, the Midwest, and West. It's an expansive book and captures so many perspectives. 


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