The first month of the year got me off to a good start. I enjoyed all of the books I read this month, and I’m ticking away on my goal of reading more non-fiction. Plus, I got a chance to meet my Spelman sister, author Tayari Jones (whose latest book, An American Marriage, was a huge success last year), at an event hosted by the Marshall Project. Bonus was meeting Piper Kerman, whose book Orange is the New Black has become one of Netflix’s biggest hit shows, and David Simon, creator of The Wire. I’m also thinking about starting a book club, so I’ve spent part of this month brainstorming ideas for that. Last year, I read voraciously. I want to read just as much this year, but I also want to interact more with the book writing—and reading—community. To that end, I am marking all book discussions, readings, and clubs of potential interest on my calendar!
In terms of my read-more-nonfiction goal, I started on Grant by Ron Chernow (author of Hamilton, on which the hit play is based) during the second week of January. Right now, I’m only 375 pages in (out of 1000), and I have a LOT of thoughts. The foremost of which is that there is no way I could have finished this in a month while also reading other books. I also am reading Kerman’s Orange is the New Black in tandem, so by the end of February, I should be caught back up to my goal of one non-fiction book a month.
- Training School for Negro Girls – Camille Acker || 👍🏾👍🏾
- In a collection of short stories set in Acker’s hometown (and my current town) of D.C., she explores the lives, the thoughts, the reactions, the conditions, and the needs of the gamut Black women who live in this city. I really enjoyed that the types of women and the range of issues Acker examines is a broad as the range of Black experience. Those who fail to understand the variety within the Black community would be well served to pick this book up.
- If Beale Street Could Talk – James Baldwin || 👍🏾
- James Baldwin was such a radical force for his time. I’m so happy that there is a resurgence of interest in his work, and that that interest brought If Beale Street Could Talk back to the forefront. This novel is poetic and loving, but crude and realistic at the same damn time. And timely….unfortunately, it seems that Baldwin’s observations of Black life in America never lose their relevance…
- The Incendiaries – R.O. Kwon || 👍🏾
- This short but interesting novel is told from the point of view of the college boyfriend of a young girl who is radicalized by a Christian cult and orchestrates bombings on abortion clinics. He’s an imperfect narrator telling the story of an imperfect girl who does something terrible, and it feels urgent and desperate but also laced with love and hurt.
- The Leavers – Lisa Ko || 👍🏾👍🏾
- By far the standout novel of my month, this book follows the lives of a young Chinese immigrant (illegal) and her son (American-born), both before and after she goes to her job at a nail salon in Manhattan one day and never returns. Her son is adopted by a white family upstate and both of their lives never (?) quite recover. THis book is extrememly timely to our national discussion at the moment without ever feeling forced or insincere.