Editor’s Note: Hey friends! I’m pleased to bring you our new feature, Bookshelf. Each month we’ll hear from Acro Collective creators on what they’re reading. For November, our creators delve into a diverse mix of texts. As we all head off into holiday season, remember to set aside some time for yourself—perhaps with one of these good reads?
SA: Randall Kenan, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead (1992)
E.L. and I just finished reading Randall Kenan’s Let The Dead Bury Their Dead, a novel of short stories conjuring each other through the fictional southern town of Tim’s Creek, Jean Toomer meets Gabriel García Márquez meets Zora Neale Hurston and steeped in magic and under-scripted tragedy. I especially love how Kenan digs into what it means to tell stories, and give meaning, in a southern context, but there’s a lot to love in this book. At least for “Tell Me, Tell Me,” check it out!
IC: Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams (2014)
I know this book has received no shortage of praise, but rereading it this month I am in awe all over again at Jamison’s combination of tough-mindedness and soft-heartedness. “There’s a way of representing female consciousness that can witness a larger self around that pain– a self who grows larger than its scars without disowning them, who is neither wound-dwelling nor jaded, who is actually healing”
KH: Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)
What can I say about this wondrous book (sorry) that hasn’t already been said, except that it deserves every word of praise it’s received? Funny yet heartbreaking, deeply political yet surprisingly intimate, this book – to borrow the words of one of its best characters – stepped into me and rearranged everything.
MH: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (2015)
“[The ‘I’m not a racist’ defense] was the attempt to commit a shameful act while escaping all sanction, and I raise it to show you there there was no golden era when evildoers did their business and loudly proclaimed it as such… To acknowledge these horrors means turning away from the brightly rendered version of your country as it has always declared itself and turning toward something murkier and unknown. It is still too difficult for most Americans to do this. But that is your work. It must be, if only to preserve the sanctity of your mind.” (97-99)
EL: Claudia Rankine, Citizen (2014)
A collection of prose poetry and images that hone in on the split-second moments in both private conversations and public discourse where racism becomes explicit. Those moments so often stop us cold, freeze our reactions, and pass on without ever being properly addressed. Rankine explores how those moments are experienced by the victims of racism and why their reactions of anger and grief are so often read as excessive or out of proportion by those who don’t live under its shadow.
KS: Sarah Kane, Blasted (1995)
Blasted is Kane’s earliest full-length play and was first produced at the Royal Court Theater in early 1995. With sparse dialogue and only three characters, the play explores connections between a rape in a Leeds hotel, and the destruction of civil war.
ST: Toni Morrison, God Help the Child (2015)
Morrison tells the story of Bride, who, as a young girl, was spurned by her mother for her blackness. Now, she is a strikingly beautiful and successful young woman in contemporary LA. God Help The Child chronicles Bride’s loss of her lover, her disastrous attempts to make amends with a woman she’d put behind bars fifteen years earlier, and her strange, magical-realism-infused descent into a second childhood. As is always the case with Morrison, the writing is beautiful, the meditations on childhood sexual abuse powerful, but the book suffers from its brevity, which cuts into its promising scope.
EY: John Layman and Rob Guillory, Chew (2009-present)
This absolutely disgusting and weirdly riveting graphic novel is a great romp into the world of Asian-American FDA agent Tony Chu, who lives in a world where Avian flu scares have rendered chicken illegal and the FDA all-powerful. It has great world-building, including the food-related powers of cibopathy (getting a psychic sensation of what has happened to an object, and where it’s been, by biting or tasting it).