05 8 / 2014

"And always on Thursdays, there’s a fight. Nine out of ten it’s the usual permutation of one man pecking down another, quiet fighting with lean punches and wrestling that would make Gorgeous George jealous. Then comes that tenth fight, two girls making a firecracker, one lilac blouse closing her eyes before she winds up to slap her boyfriend’s other girlfriend, another Butterick pattern grabbing her classmate’s hair and winding it meter by meter around her hand. The girls scream. They spit. They scratch. They shout bitch slut whore. They pretend to fight over men rather than admit their anger over another girl’s lighter skin, or the store-bought cut of her dress. But even against the ragged dance of violence stands this power: the beauty of those segregated into assembly by the rules of the world’s common ugliness. Sometimes, when I watch the Thursday dancers, I can almost understand whitefolk: these people are so beautiful, it wouldn’t do not to oppress them."

Townsend, Jacinda. Saint Monkey. 2014

pg 305

20 3 / 2014

"Femiphobic diatribes and other bad books have gassed us with this idea that black boys need the presence of black father figures in our lives. I’m sure I’m not the only black boy who realized a long time ago that my mother and her mother and her mother’s mother needed loving, generous partners far more than I needed a present father. Mama disciplined me. She loved me.
Aunt Sue prayed for me. She loved me.
Grandma worked for me. She loved me.
That’s why I made it through the late 80s and 90s. That is why I am alive. Black children need waves of present, multifaceted love, not simply present fathers."

Laymon, Kiese. How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. 2013

pg. 77

20 3 / 2014

"

….she raised me to never ever forget I was born on parole, which means no black hoodies in wrong neighborhoods, no jogging at night, hands in plain sight at all times in public, no intimate relationships with white women, never driving over the speed limit or doing those rolling stops at stop signs, always speaking the King’s English in the presence of white folks, never being outperformed in school or in public by white students, and, most importantly, always remembering that no matter what, the worst of white folks will do anything to get you.

Mama’s antidote to being born a black boy on parole in Central Mississippi is not for us to seek freedom, but to insist on excellence at all times. Mama takes it personal when she realizes that I realize she is wrong. There ain’t no antidote to life, I tell her. How free can you be if you really accept that white folks are the traffic cops of your life? Mama tells me that she is not talking about freedom. She says that she is talking about survival.

"

Laymon, Kiese. How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. 2013

pg. 43

27 12 / 2012

"Listen, if you choose to believe nothing else that transpires here, believe this: your body does not have a soul; your soul has a body, and souls never, ever die."

McFadden, Bernice L; Gathering of Waters. 2012

19 12 / 2012

Check out this chilling short story reprinted in Nightmare magazine.

05 12 / 2012

Sounds very, very interesting. Can’t wait to pick this one up.

14 11 / 2012

"The business is full of fiction writers like me. With one difference: I’m black, born and raised in the United States. At the parties and conferences I attend, and in the book reviews I read, I rarely encounter other African-American “literary” writers, particularly in my age bracket."

24 10 / 2012

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Looking at the title of this book and its cover, it’s quite easy to ask “What the hell is this about?”

Esch Batiste lives off the Gulf Coast in Bois Savage, Mississippi, the only girl in a family full of men, which include an alcoholic father and three brothers. They are poor, living in the back woods. She is pregnant at 14 years old. And Hurricane Katrina is 10 days away.

Each chapter is a day in the life of Esch leading up to the hurricane. She is a tomboy with no feminine guidance, fascinated with Greek mythology, eager to please almost every boy who shows her any little bit of attention. There are also her brothers: Randall, the rising basketball star; Skeetah, who loves his dog China more than anything in the world; and Junior, the youngest, who gets on everyone’s nerves but is also their child, raised by them since their mother has passed. 

This story may seem like it is about survival during one of the most damaging storms in US history, but it is really about a storm of a family that is grappling to grow up and get by amid poverty, violence, and the gaping hole left open by their dead mother and a father distant, angry, and most of the time, drunk.

Though Ward won the National Book Award for this, her second novel, I still was not prepared for how much I’d fall in love with this beautifully written, sad, survival story. I loved every single bit of it. It is my favorite novel of this year by far, and Ms. Ward has been added to my “Writers I Want To Be Like When I Grow Up” list. Junot Diaz was recently quoted claiming Ward “a beast” when it comes to this writing thing. He was not lying.

I would recommend this story to everyone, especially those who enjoy literary fiction and Southern literarture.

Grade: A+

24 10 / 2012

17 9 / 2012

Open City by Teju Cole

Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor doing his residency wanders aimlessly. The walks meet a need for Julius: they are a release from the tightly regulated mental environment of work, and they give him the opportunity to process his relationships, his recent breakup with his girlfriend, his present, his past.

But it is not only a physical landscape he covers; Julius crisscrosses social territory as well, encountering people from different cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey—which takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and into the most unrecognizable facets of his own soul.

Teju Cole is a very smart, articulate writer. I am fascinated by how his mind works. Needless to say, I have mixed feelings about this novel. It is very literary, and though I am wont to enjoy books that fall into this genre of fiction, this story was more dull than interesting, which caused me to fight through to the very end.

Cole is extremely descriptive, giving a massive amount of history and other intricate details about the architecture that Julian encounters during his daily walks. The people that he meets along the way are treated with a similar kind of dignity, like relics and landmarks whose circumstances and actions must be explained, even if it has nothing to do with the actual point of the story. This book is definitely a written portrait of the human condition, with Julian meeting people from all walks of life, various cultures and countries, and sharing how their interactions affect him.

Julian came across more dull than his acquaintances, though, which made it very hard to enjoy the book. I can hate or have disdain for a main character, but being bored by him is torturous. Cole made up for it with the smart and slightly humorous minor characters scattered throughout the book.

I’d recommend this for those who have a deep affection for literary fiction.

Grade: B-