I often hear people say that they no longer care to read fiction novels about slavery. I personally don’t have a problem with that, especially if I can read one that’s really good. Today’s recommendation is Family by J. California Cooper. This is a novel you should definitely put on your 2020 TBR if you haven’t read it yet.
Family explores slavery through the generations while stressing how each generation survives and flourishes in spite of difficulty. Family is more than a story of slavery, it is one of hope and the unfolding of the generations to come. That’s all I’m going to say because I don’t want to give anything away.
One of the best things about Family is the emotion it provoked in me. It had been a while since I felt so overwhelmed by a book. It actually almost made me cry and that’s saying something because I don’t cry easily when reading. If you haven’t read J. California Cooper yet you might want to start with this full length short novel. Furthermore, she wrote many short story collections which are full of lively language and inspiring stories about everyday people. Her short stories are optimistic and enjoyable. You might want to try one of my favorites called Homemade Love. I recommend Family to new readers of J. California Cooper, readers who don’t mind reading slave narratives, and readers looking for a short novel that packs a punch.
“In this wise, beguiling, beautiful novel set in the era of the Civil War, an award-winning playwright and author paints a haunting portrait of a woman named Always, born a slave, and four generations of her African-American family.” (Family, back cover)
Family – J California Cooper
My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
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This was the first book I read by J. California Cooper and I was forever hooked on her captivating and life lessons-filled short stories. They were Wonderful stories, especially since I’m not a fan of short story collections. Homemade Love changed all that for me. So if you haven’t tried J. California Cooper this short story collection would be a great place to start.
Check out below my review of Homemade Love and another video with J. California Cooper talking about her story writing.
Homemade Love – J. California Cooper, paperback, 175 pages (St. Martin’s Griffin)
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I’m slowly but surely working my way through J. California Cooper’s work and enjoying each one. I’m marveled at her mastery to tell a story. Anyone out there who is attempting to write short stories should absolutely read her. All the ingredients in her stories are carefully chosen and used to depict well-rounded characters placed in common life situations. All of her stories have a moral. She isn’t preachy but she definitely tries to favor the positive side of life, even in the most burdensome situations.
A Piece of Mine is only 124 pages and can be read in one sitting. It contains twelve short stories, each as interesting from one to the other. They all revolve around the central theme from the catchy title, A Piece of Mine. Cooper was very good at giving her short story collections titles. All the titles are memorable puns chosen to accompany her perfect stories. Cooper’s simple yet direct writing style shines through these relevant stories. “Her stories, parables, and monologues take flight with truths about being alive, rhythm of folks at ease by the creek and the pool table, songs of love and remorse, syncopated, galloping, and beguilingly, genuine.” Ntosake Shange (back cover of Anchor Books edition) “Ms. Cooper is as down-home as Zora Neale Hurston, thank you, and blooming into as skilled a storyteller. Cooper’s characters are the folk heroes of Black culture…Tales of triumph that give you reason to keep reading.” Essence (back cover of Anchor Books edition)
Day 28 – Favorite Author:
My favorite author is extremely difficult to pin down to one person. So, I decided to site an author that I discovered last year that I’ve fallen head over heels in love with. J. California Cooper. She was an incredible storyteller and sadly she died last year. I’ve read two of the novels that are pictured here and absolutely loved them. I don’t know how this author managed to fly completely under the radar and not get the acknowledgement she deserved. If you haven’t picked up a book by Cooper I recommend checking out Family. It’s short but poignant. It will suck you in, break your heart, and leave you with lots to think about. Here are a few other titles that you might want to have a look at too: Homemade Love, Life is Short But Wide, Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime , and A Piece of Mine, among others. Nobody knows what the J stands for in J. California Cooper. She wanted it that way. Could she have not gotten noticed because she was so discrete?
Who’s your favorite author?