Saturday, December 2, 2023

A few book gifts for undergrads & grad students

"It feels like Christmas," said one my graduate students while doing a little dance and holding up her copy of Courtney Thorsson's The Sisterhood. I had just given her Thorsson's book as well as another of my grad students. I gave two of my undergraduates copies of Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, and I gave two other undergraduates and a grad student Colson Whitehead's Harlem Shuffle. 

I hadn't thought of the books as Christmas gifts until my student said it, but now I'm going to steal that idea. 

All semester, I've been talking with my grad students and my colleague Elizabeth Cali about Thorsson's book. So I felt obligated to get those students copies. Well, it was probably the only way to get me to shut up. I'm fairly sure I've spoiled the whole book by talking about all aspects of it, so I figured they needed to read it for themselves.

If you're lucky as a grad student, you encounter some book that sets the bar for you on what you should be trying to do in your career. And Thorsson's book, I'm sure, will be that book for my students. 

A week or so before break, a group of us were talking about Morrison with some undergraduates, and two young sisters in attendance told me that they didn't own any Morrison books. I told them that they had to read her best novel, Song of Solomon. 

I know, I know: the consensus among scholars is that Beloved is her best. Morrison herself says that Jazz is her best. They're all wrong. Song of Solomon is her best. Ha.

You know, Morrison plays a key role in Thorsson's book, The Sisterhood. She writes about Morrison's involvement with a group of Black women writers, artists, and thinkers who gathered for conversation and organizing in New York City in the late 1970s. 

Over a year ago, Thorsson wrote an episode on that famous Sisterhood photograph for our podcast Remarkable Receptions. Her episode remains the most downloaded episode for our podcast. 

Finally, I gave a couple of my undergraduates and a graduate student Whitehead's Harlem Shuffle (2021), the first in what the novelist plans as a trilogy. He's already published the second book Crook Manifesto (2023). My students and I are doing some research on Whitehead's book, so I'm looking forward to reading and discussing those novels with them. 


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