Reading Baldwin…

IMG_0956I used to run my hands along the books on the wooden bookshelves that were in the hall upstairs in my home.  It contained a myriad of first edition African-American novels from Frederick Douglas to Malcolm X.  Growing up I was particularly intrigued by the title Giovanni’s Room.  I wondered what the story could be about.  I remember reading the back cover but still not being so sure.  I always heard my mother and especially my uncle persuasively explaining to me the importance of James Baldwin’s works, emphasizing  Another Country (my favorite so far)Going to Meet the Man, and Go Tell it on the Mountain.  I grew up having these titles in mind but Giovanni’s Room, for some reason, was always in the forefront, probably because it was the first book of his that I held in my hands.

Sadly it has taken me forty years to read one of Baldwin’s novels.  I read lots of African-American authors at college for my major but Baldwin surprisingly never came up.  Four years ago, I read and thoroughly enjoyed If Beale Street could Talk. The year after I read Giovanni’s Room. I’m so glad I finally got to the book that perked my interest at such a young age because of the title alone.  I followed up by reading Another Country and The Fire Next Time.  Both are incredible literary works that everybody should read before they die. I still have more to discover by Baldwin.

So I guess you’re wondering why I’m writing about my reading discovery of James Baldwin. Well I thought I’d let you all in on a reading project that one of my Booktube buddies, Denise D. Cooper ArtBooks Life (Awesome creative Booktuber go check her out!) will be doing next year.  It’s called The Blackout for Books 2018.  She’ll be reading books by African-American authors for twelve months.  The rules are the following:

  1.  Only read African-American writers
  2. Read 1 independent writer each month
  3. Read 2 African-American Women Writers each month

It’s as easy as that.  I commend her for this and I’ll be joining her for January, February, and March of 2018.  I can’t wait.  It would be great if you all could join in too for any amount of time you’d like.  So, now you know a bit more about why I started this post talking about James Baldwin.  I’ll punctually be writing posts about some of my favorite African-American writers and about those that I haven’t read yet but are looking forward to read in preparation for this reading challenge.  This will give you some ideas if you aren’t sure what you’d like to read.  If you decide to participate, don’t forget to link your comments with #the blackoutforbooks2018 everywhere.  Let me know below what you think about this reading challenge and if you’re interested in joining in. Happy reading y’all!

 

 

Literary Evening for Freeman’s Launch

I don’t often get the chance to attend literary events , but when one is happening it’s img_3906-1usually in Paris and I try my damnedest to get there.  Tuesday night, the 11th of July, I had the pleasure of listening to Edwidge Danticat and Marie Darrieusseecq in promotion of Freeman’s The Best New Writing on Home at Shakespeare & Company in Paris.  This is the third literary anthology of Freeman’s and I’m really excited to discover some new and interesting writers that maybe I’m not that familiar with.

The evening began with waiting in line for seats.  I was accompanied by Manika and Silje both Booktubers you should check out and while waiting we couldn’t help but exchange on bookish topics until we were finally shown to our seats. Lucky for us we weren’t too badly placed.  The weather was nice.  A cool breeze with a hint of rain settled us all into our seats awaiting the commencement of the event.  It started just after 7pm.  John Freeman officiated the event, of course, and drove the talk with precision, asking and making pertinent questions and statements.  I was amazed to see that these two authors as different as they are, race and background, that they share some common ground in the themes they choose to write about.

Marie Darrieusseecq is a French author originally from Bayonne in the Basque region of France.  I was happy to discover her up close and personal since I have heard so much about her but have never read any of her books.  Her novels contain many recurring Being Herethemes – belonging and identity which both authors talked a lot about that evening.  Her latest novel, Being Here:  The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker was released this month in English translation by The Text Publishing Company.  An excerpt of the novel can be found in Freeman’s if you’re interested in discovering her work before embarking on a full novel.  Darrieusseecq assured me that The Text Publishing Company translation is the best for Being Here: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker.  Just to get you a bit more interested in it, here’s the blurb on the front cover, “A burning intelligence and a fierce hold on what it meant and means to be a woman and a artist.” J.M. Coetzee. 😉

Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American writer who lives in Brooklyn.  She also writes aDeath lot about identity and belonging, as well as mother-daughter relationships and the diaspora.   Some of her more well-known novels are Breath, Eyes, Memory (her first novel), Krik? Krak! (short stories), and The Dew Breaker, among so many more. Known and loved for her short stories you can find the story All the Home You’ve Got in Freeman’s.  The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story is her newly released novel (July 11, 2017)  which focuses on Danticat’s mother dying of cancer and how death is treated in other novels by authors.

After a series of questions from John Freeman and discussion back and forth between the two authors, the floor was opened for questions.  I couldn’t think of anything to ask because my mind was racing with all the great things they’d said previously.  However there were a few great questions from the audience.  What was great was the lovely natural discussion and humor from both of these ladies.  They played off of each other and that was humorous.

This is the second time I’ve been to a literary event with discussion between two authors and I really do think this should become more of a regular occurrence because it brings to light even more profound discussion of literature, writing, and existence. Wishing that I had taped this event so that I could go back and compare once I’ve read more of their works, I happened upon the podcast version of that evening which I’ll link here.  Shakespeare and Company has a podcast of all of their author events at the link I posted.

Of course the evening wouldn’t have been complete without purchasing a few books and getting autographs.  Thorough as I am, I brought 4 books by Danticat to be autographed from home, which she graciously did. Meanwhile we had a very interesting conversation about reading books out of our comfort zones yet finding that they parallel some of the same themes we usually like to read about.  She also agreed with me about author events with 2 different authors that write about similar themes in different ways.

We finished off the evening with cocktails and more bookish  conversation and anticipating our next literary event…. Shakespeare and Company will surely deliver.

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Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist 2017

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The 2017 Baileys prize for women’s fiction longlist:

Stay With Me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò (Canongate)

The Power by Naomi Alderman (Viking)

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (Hogarth)

Little Deaths by Emma Flint (Picador)

The Mare by Mary Gaitskill (Serpent’s Tail)

The Dark Circle by Linda Grant (Virago)

The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride (Faber & Faber)

Midwinter by Fiona Melrose (Corsair)

The Sport of Kings by CE Morgan (4th Estate)

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso (Chatto & Windus)

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill (riverrun)

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (Serpent’s Tail)

Barkskins by Annie Proulx (4th Estate)

First Love by Gwendoline Riley (Granta)

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (Granta)

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus)

So I only guessed two right. Now that I look at the list I should have suspected The Woman Next Door would wind up on the list. So hard to know with this prize.  The books I’m most interested to read are The Sport of Kings, The Power, Do not Say We Have Nothing(on my TBR this year), The Woman Next Door (on my TBR this year), Stay With Me, and finally The Lesser Bohemians.  Sadly the only book I’ve already read on this list is Barkskins.  It will be a tight race for the shortlist.  I’ll be trying to focus on the few I’ve named. So what do you think of this list? Do you feel it’s better than last year’s? I was a little surprised that Swing Time didn’t make it.  Thoughts?

 

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#ReadSoulLit 2017

Hoping you’re all gearing up to celebrate Black History Month 2017 through literature.  This year I’m hosting a read along on Goodreads of Bedrock Faith by Eric Charles May published by Akashic Books.  You can sign up here to become part of the group and take part in the discussion.  All discussions will be happening over there and will be followed by a live discussion on my YouTube channel Brown Girl Reading, at the end of the month.  On Instagram I’ll be co-hosting a photo challenge with Danielle from dani! dany! danie!.  I’ll be doing some updates of what I post over there here in case any of you aren’t on either Goodreads or Instagram.  I look forward to exchanging with you and I’m sure this is going to be great.  Oh and if you’re interested in seeing how #ReadSoulLit started click here to watch the playlist of #ReadSoulLit videos that were made the first year by some of our black Booktubers.  Happy reading!

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#NonfictionNovember 2016

This is the second year that Olive from abookolive and Gemma from Non Fic Books are hosting #NonfictionNovember over on Booktube.  It entails reading as much nonfiction as you want in the month of November.  It’s already the first of November, so I thought it would be a good idea to introduce it to you in case you’d be interested in joining in.  There is a Goodreads group called Nonfiction November that you can join and partake in the discussions and they have already begun.  The hostesses have chosen four general categories for the reading challenges:  New, Fascinating, Controversial, Important.

So here are the books I’ve chosen to read this month in honor of nonfiction.

New:  I’ve chosen The Night Wanderers Uganda’s Children and the Lord’s Resistance Army by Wojciech Jagielski.  I received it from my Booktube friend Kamil from img_3163WhatKamilReads for my birthday.  You should check him out becuase he always suggests great books and lately loads of great nonfiction recommendations.  I’m counting on this book to really entice me to read more  nonfiction regularly.  He sent me this book before I had decided to do #NonficitonNovember. So I guess you could say it came at just the right moment.

Fascinating:  I’ve chosen 2 books for this category. The first one is Jhuma Lahiri’s In other Words, where she talks about learning Italian and moving her family to Italy.  Since I teach English and am always interesteimg_3162d in the way people go about learning languages I figured that this one would be perfect.  I also chose a second book which also fits well under fascinating and it’s called Soldier A Poet’s Childhood by June Jordan.  She was a prolific poet, essayist, and author (writing African img_3160American Literature and LGBT Literature) who isn’t talked about enough.  She died  in 2002 at the age of 65.  I’m excited to get to this memoir of her childhood and to follow-up with more of her work later.

Controversial:  I wasn’t sure what to choose for this category so I’m reading Negroland by Margo Jefferson.  Now I’m not really sure if it’s controversial but I think it might be since Jefferson’s memoir covers her img_3164life as part of upper crust Chicago in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.  This is a point of view that we rarely hear about and I suspect some people don’t think it really exists. I’ll be buddy reading it with 2 other Booktubers: Manika Wangata and Kathleen Ann.  You should also go check out their channels. We’d decided to read this together over a month ago and we are all really excited about it.

Important:  Obviously I had to choose Hidden Figures The Untold Story of the African img_3161American Women who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. Learning about these intelligent, not talked about black women, is very high up on my list.  I can’t wait to get into the book.  There is also a movie adaptation for those who prefer seeing the movie first, which is going to be released December 25th 2016, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae.  I’m sure this going to be a must see.

 

I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying.
http://www.bookdepository.com/?a_aid=browngirlreading