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#5 On My TBR – Yellow Covers

Yellow is the color of sunshine, sweet summer corn and buttercups. It is also this week’s theme for 5 On My TBR.

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

So let’s get to it!

#1 – Loving Day

From the author of the critically beloved Pym comes a ruthlessly comic and moving tale of a man discovering a lost daughter, confronting an elusive ghost, and stumbling onto the possibility of utopia.

“In the ghetto there is a mansion, and it is my father’s house.”

Warren Duffy has returned to America for all the worst reasons: His marriage to a beautiful Welsh woman has come apart; his comics shop in Cardiff has failed; and his Irish American father has died, bequeathing to Warren his last possession, a roofless, half-renovated mansion in the heart of black Philadelphia. On his first night in his new home, Warren spies two figures outside in the grass. When he screws up the nerve to confront them, they disappear. The next day he encounters ghosts of a different kind: In the face of a teenage girl he meets at a comics convention he sees the mingled features of his white father and his black mother, both now dead. The girl, Tal, is his daughter, and she’s been raised to think she’s white.

Spinning from these revelations, Warren sets off to remake his life with a reluctant daughter he’s never known, in a haunted house with a history he knows too well. In their search for a new life, he and Tal struggle with ghosts, fall in with a utopian mixed-race cult, and ignite a riot on Loving Day, the unsung holiday for interracial lovers.

A frequently hilarious, surprisingly moving story about blacks and whites, fathers and daughters, the living and the dead, Loving Day celebrates the wonders of opposites bound in love.


#2 – Black Nerd Problems

The creators of the popular website Black Nerd Problems bring their witty and unflinching insight to this engaging collection of pop culture essays on everything from Mario Kart and The Wire to issues of representation and police brutality across media.

When William Evans and Omar Holmon founded Black Nerd Problems, they had no idea whether anyone beyond their small circle of friends would be interested in their little corner of the internet. But soon after launching, they were surprised to find out that there was a wide community of people who hungered for fresh perspectives on all things nerdy, from the perspective of #OwnedVoices.

In the years since, Evans and Holmon have built a large, dedicated fanbase eager for their brand of cultural critique, whether in the form of a laugh-out-loud, raucous Game of Thrones episode recap or an eloquent essay on dealing with grief through stand-up comedy. Now, they are ready to take the next step with this vibrant and hilarious essay collection, which covers everything from X-Men to Breonna Taylor with insight and intelligence.

A much needed and fresh pop culture critique from the perspective of people of color, Black Nerd Problems is the ultimate celebration for anyone who loves a blend of social commentary and all things nerdy.


#3 – The House of Spirits

In one of the most important and beloved Latin American works of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a luminous tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies. Here is patriarch Esteban, whose wild desires and political machinations are tempered only by his love for his ethereal wife, Clara, a woman touched by an otherworldly hand. Their daughter, Blanca, whose forbidden love for a man Esteban has deemed unworthy infuriates her father, yet will produce his greatest joy: his granddaughter Alba, a beautiful, ambitious girl who will lead the family and their country into a revolutionary future.

The House of the Spirits is an enthralling saga that spans decades and lives, twining the personal and the political into an epic novel of love, magic, and fate.


#4 – An Untamed State

Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a wilful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.


#5 – Our Short History

How can a woman learn to let go of the people she loves the most? 

Karen Neulander, a successful New York political consultant and single mother, has always been fiercely protective of her son, Jacob, now six. She’s had to be: when Jacob’s father, Dave, found out Karen was pregnant and made it clear that fatherhood wasn’t in his plans, Karen walked out of the relationship, never telling Dave her intention was to raise their child alone.

But now Jake is asking to meet his dad, and with good reason: Karen is dying. When she finally calls her ex, she’s shocked to find Dave ecstatic about the son he never knew he had. First, he can’t meet Jake fast enough, and then he can’t seem to leave him alone. Karen quickly grows anxious as she watches Dave insinuate himself into Jake’s life just as her own strength and hold on Jake grow more tenuous.

As she struggles to play out her last days in the “right” way for Jake, Karen wrestles with the knowledge that the only thing she cannot bring herself to do for her son—let his father become a permanent part of his life—is the thing he needs from her the most. With heart-wrenching poignancy, unexpected wit, and mordant humor, Lauren Grodstein has created an unforgettable story about parenthood, sacrifice, and life itself.

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Reading the Rainbow – June

I’m sure by now that you have heard the old adage “Never judge a book by its cover.” But if you’re like me some book covers simply make you swoon. Before I go too far this post is not about cover lust but a challenge to read books from your TBR that are of a particular color. Each month Life of a Book Addict group on GoodReads assigns two colors. The challenge is to read as many books within that month that prominently display that color. At the end there’s a beautiful collage of books generated by all the members of the group. This month Jackie has picked green and navy as “June is bright and colorful with flowers and blooming trees all around. We have green grass and lots of water sports again.”


My shelf

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

For fans of The Language of Flowers, a sparkling, big-hearted, page-turning debut set in the 1970s about a young black boy’s quest to reunite with his beloved white half-brother after they are separated in foster care.

Told through the perspective of nine-year-old Leon, too innocent to entirely understand what has happened to him and baby Jake, but determined to do what he can to make things right, he stubbornly, endearingly struggles his way through a system much larger than he can tackle on his own. My Name Is Leon is a vivid, gorgeous, and uplifting story about the power of love, the unbreakable bond between brothers, and the truth about what, in the end, ultimately makes a family.


Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson–winner of the John W. Campbell Award, the Sunburst Award, and the World Fantasy award (among others), and lauded as one of our “most inventive and brilliant writers” (New York Post)–returns with a new work. With her singular voice and characteristic sharp insight, she explores the relationship between two sisters in this richly textured and deeply moving novel . . .


Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

A new essay collection from Samantha Irby about aging, marriage, settling down with step-children in white, small-town America.


Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins

New York Times bestselling author Morgan Jerkins makes her fiction debut with this electrifying novel, for fans of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jacqueline Woodson, that brings to life one powerful and enigmatic family in a tale rife with secrets, betrayal, intrigue, and magic.


The Passengers by John Marrs

Eight self-drive cars set on a collision course. Who lives, who dies? You decide.

The new gripping page-turning thriller from the bestselling author of THE ONE – soon to be a major Netflix series.


The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, The Mercies is a story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.


Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

A tragic comedy of epic sweep and dimension, Skippy Dies wrings every last drop of humour and hopelessness out of life, love, mermaids, M-theory, the poetry of Robert Graves, and all the mysteries of the human heart.


Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline

From the New York Times-bestselling author comes a pulse-pounding domestic thriller about a group of friends who have been bound for twenty years by a single secret—and will now be undone by it. Someone Knows is an emotional exploration of friendship and family, as well as a psychological exploration of guilt and memory.


How many of you are doing color challenges this year and how do you select your books?

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Blog Tour: Girlhood – Teenagers From Around the World in Their Own Voices

Synopsis

What do the lives of teenage girls look like in Cambodia and Kenya, in Mongolia and the Midwest? What do they worry about and dream of? What happens on an ordinary day?
 
All around the world, girls are going to school, working, creating, living as sisters, daughters, friends. Yet we know so little about their daily lives. We hear about a few exceptional girls who make headlines, and we hear about headline-making struggles and catastrophes. But since the health, education, and success of girls so often determines the future of a community, why don’t we know more about what life is like for the ordinary girls, the ones living outside the headlines? From the Americas to Europe to Africa to Asia to the South Pacific, the thirty-one teens from twenty-nine countries in Girlhood Around the World share their own stories of growing up through diary entries and photographs. They invite us into their day-to-day lives, through their eyes and in their voices, in a full-color, exuberantly designed scrapbook-like volume. 


My Review

This is a colorful anthology that gives you a glimpse into the lives of teenage girls from all over the world. From as far away as Kazakhstan to as close to home as Bayonne, New Jersey, we get to see these girls’ hopes, their dreams, their aspirations. Ahuja includes maps and statistics for each country showing the challenges faced by women in those societies. The personal journal entries allows you to hear each girl’s perspective and what she values most in life. Teenage girls will see that despite the differences there are many shared experiences. It is a wonderful to show young girls that they are not alone and that they have it in them to persist and rise above the challenges they face.

I started reading Girlhood with my 9 year old daughter. I wanted her to see how other girls from around the world lived. Although she enjoyed the first few stories, I soon realized that some of these girls’ experiences were beyond her scope and maturity level. These were conversations that I was not ready to have with my daughter just yet. As a woman though, I am grateful that this anthology exists and wish that it was available when I was a teenager.

That being said, I think this book would serve well as either a social studies or writing text. Middle school girls would benefit from having this as part of their curriculum.

Special thanks to Amanda Dissinger for access to this title.


Meet the Author

Masuma Ahuja is a freelance journalist reporting on gender, migration and human rights. She was previously a producer at CNN and national digital editor at the Washington Post. She uses words, photos and emerging media to report and tell stories about gender, migration and the impact of politics of people. Her projects have ranged from long-form stories to sending disposable cameras to women around the world to document their days to crowdsourcing voice mails from Americans about the impact of the 2016 election on their lives. She was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014.

#5 On My TBR – 2021 Releases

Happy Happy New Year! How many of you are as excited to greet this new year as I am?

With a new year comes new resolutions, new plans and this week’s focus — new releases!

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

So here are 5 of my most anticipated releases of 2021.

#1 – Chlorine Sky

I have read Mahogany’s Browne’s Black Girl Magic and the anthology The BreakBeat Poets and was moved. So when I saw that she had a novel-in-verse coming out this year I got goosebumps.

She looks me hard in my eyes
& my knees lock into tree trunks
My eyes don’t dance like my heartbeat racing
They stare straight back hot daggers.
I remember things will never be the same.
I remember things.

With gritty and heartbreaking honesty, Mahogany L. Browne delivers a novel-in-verse about broken promises, fast rumors, and when growing up means growing apart from your best friend.


#2 – Concrete Rose

International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.


#3 – Blood Grove

Walter Mosley is my favorite author and this is his 15th installment in the Easy Rawlins series.


#4 – 400 Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019

An epoch-defining history of African America, the first to appear in a generation, Four Hundred Souls is a chronological account of four hundred years of Black America as told by ninety of America’s leading Black writers.


#5 – Harlem Shuffle

From two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.

Nonfiction November #5

Black Futures, edited by Kimberly Drew + Jenna Wortham

Black Futures uses cultural references and mixed media to talk about the Black experience.

Black is not one dimensional nor monolithic. Black transcends time and space –

Therefore editors Jenna Wortham and Kimberly Drew decided against a linear approach to the book. Instead Black Futures is arranged to be consumed more organically. Within each section we are given a table of contents and also a guide to related entries so the topic may be explored in more depth.

Black Futures begs the question “What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?”

Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham. Photo by Naima Green

Although the book opens with Black Lives Matter and social activism it goes on to examine the Black collective. How are those on the fringes included and embraced in Black society and how can we uplift them?

In a Google Hangout with Shawne Michealain Holloway, Tiona McClodden talks about being identified as a member of the BDSM community and what this meant for her. She felt vulnerable in that moment, yet free, because she was finally being seen.

”I was really concerned about how people saw the mask. And that mask, in particular sense, was not a mask to hide. It was a mask to reveal.”

This idea of being seen is emphasized by the editors through pictures and artwork and even Twitter exchanges. The authors stress the need for personal archival and give explicit directions on how to document your life so that future generations will know your lived experience.

Cultural inheritance is not just about what we have learned from the past, but how that legacy is passed on to our children. In the section entitled ‘Black to the Land’ Leah Penniman talks about the history of hiding rice and other seeds within African traditional hair styles and how today cooperatives like Soul Fire Farm train Black families sustainable farming practices.

My favorite part of the book was the section on Black Joy which delves into self-care and love. Highlighted here was rejuvenation through worship, relaxation and play and healthy food practices.

Black Futures is a collection of Black excellence. It is a testament to our past struggles and a beacon of hope for the future.

52 Weeks of Women of Color Post 3

I came across the 52 Weeks of Women of Color challenge late last year. When I jumped aboard I had no idea just how wonderful my reading experience was going to be. More than half of these books were from new-to-me authors and they span a gambit of genres.

As this month is #NonfictionNovember here is My post“Nonfiction Works by Women of Color.”

Book #19 – Hitting A Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My Review


Book #20 – The Talented Ribkins

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From Goodreads“Inspired by W. E. B. Du Bois’s famous essay “The Talented Tenth” and fuelled by Ladee Hubbard’s marvelously original imagination, The Talented Ribkins is a big-hearted debut novel about race, class, politics, and the unique gifts that, while they may cause some problems from time to time, bind a family together.”

I enjoyed this family and their hijinks. My favorite part was when Johnny was teaching Eloise about their family history. The moral of the story was knowing who you are and what your gift is. That everyone has a special spark or super power to brighten the world.


Book #21 – Breathe: A Letter to My Sons

Rating: 5 out of 5.

From GoodReads: “Emotionally raw and deeply reflective, Imani Perry issues an unflinching challenge to society to see Black children as deserving of humanity. She admits fear and frustration for her African American sons in a society that is increasingly racist and at times seems irredeemable. However, as a mother, feminist, writer, and intellectual, Perry offers an unfettered expression of love–finding beauty and possibility in life–and she exhorts her children and their peers to find the courage to chart their own paths and find steady footing and inspiration in Black tradition.”

So glad I had access to both the audio and the hard copy. I liked hearing the author’s words and experiences in her own voice. Yet I felt that what she was saying was so important that I had to see the words, mark them down. Absorb them.


Book #22 – Who Put This Song On?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a semi-autobiographical YA novel about a young girl that struggles with anxiety and depression. Written by poet Morgan Parker, it rings true and is very relatable. Parker captures the aughts (2000s), its music and a young black girl’s struggle with fitting in with humor and grace.


Book #23 – This Is Just My Face Try Not To Stare

Rating: 4 out of 5.

FUNNY! I would definitely recommend listening to the audiobook for this one. Sidibe narrates it herself and will have you in stitches! Who would have known that Precious was so funny?


Book #24 – Split Tooth

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My GoodReads review


Book #25 – The Revisioners

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From GoodReadsThe Revisioners explores the depths of women’s relationships—powerful women and marginalized women, healers and survivors. It is a novel about the bonds between a mother and a child, the dangers that upend those bonds. At its core, The Revisioners ponders generational legacies, the endurance of hope, and the undying promise of freedom.


Book #26 – Know My Name

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was a heartbreaking memoir. Chanel Miller recalls her attack by Brock Turner and describes the anguish she went through in the days after and during the trial. I applaud her strength in coming forward and telling her story as a victim, then a survivor and now an activist.


Book #27 – The Queen’s Assassin

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From GoodReadsPerfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Red Queen, this is the first novel in a sweeping YA fantasy-romance duet about a deadly assassin, his mysterious apprentice, and the country they are sworn to protect from #1 NYT bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz.

The books showcased in this post were all read in February this year.

Nonfiction November #3

The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart by Alicia Garza

The Purpose of Power is not your typical memoir.  Yes, Alicia Garza pours her personal experience into these pages but her focus is on building community.

  • She talks about the definition of empowerment and explains how it is different from power
  • She walks us through the historical aspects of movements including the civil rights movement
  • We learn the difference between having a following and a having a base and what it takes to mobilize that base during a movement.

While Garza dispels the idea that black lives matter is a hashtag, she also criticizes those who have co-opted the movement for their own personal and political gain.  These individuals were never part of BLM nor were involved in its founding.  One case in point is the lawsuit brought about by a Baton Rouge police officer.  During the 2016 protest against police brutality the officer was struck upon the head and suffered brain injuries.  He sued the three founders of Black Lives Matter. The judge ruled against him citing that you cannot sue a social movement.  Furthermore, the protest was not organized or promoted BLM. DeRay McKesson was the organizer of that event. He is a community activist but is not, nor has he ever been, a member of Black Lives Matter.

There have been several instances where the media has credited him and other men as having leading roles in the organization. Oftentimes, these men fail to correct them. In McKesson’s case he has met with politicians and dignitaries on behalf of Black Lives Matter.  Hillary Clinton even sat down to meet with him during her presidential bid after Garza, Cullors and Tometi declined to align themselves with either campaign.

Garza stresses that the vision for the Black Lives Matter movement came to fruition through the hard work and dedication of three black and queer women.  So why don’t we hear more of them? Simple, she says women are invisible in this society especially those that are marginalized.

Despite recognizing the importance of this intersectionality, she stresses that we must find common ground.  What is the one purpose that you all have?  Work towards that aim.  Garza admits that there will always be things that people disagree about and that not everyone is going to value the same things. But if you stay focused on that one thing that ties you all together you can see measured success.

On a personal note, she called me out and I’m sure she called out a bunch of you guys too, when she was going over empathy.  If someone is telling you that they are suffering from something, they are not expecting you to tell them of your experience with the same thing.  They just want you to listen and to be heard.  You may tell them you feel for their pain.  It was funny because there was a guy who posted something about being distracted with reading and I went on to respond that I too had been distracted during the Covid pandemic instead of just saying that I understood. I could have just shared my support.  Perhaps give suggestions.  It may seem like a minor issue, but I think we are more aware of our reactions to big issues.  These small moments occur every day and we often don’t realize what we are doing.  If we are going to come together as a nation we need to start learning how to put ourselves in each other’s shoes and try to see things from other people’s perspectives.  We also have to be able to find that common ground so we can heal as a nation.

Throwback Thursday 11/12

I discovered Throwback Thursday on my friend Carla Loves To Read page.

Throwback Thursday meme is hosted by Renee@It’s Book Talk and is a way to share some of your old favorites as well as sharing books that you’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on your TBR list while you continue to pile more titles on top of them! These older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board and connect back to Renee’s blog.

This week my choice is Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. I figured if you guys were as wound up as I have been it would do you well to have some humor in your lives. Samantha Irby dishes up just that. And guess what? —– Humor counts as Nonfiction! So you can add another one to the books if you are participating in Nonfiction November 😉


This was rip roariously funny. I know I’m making up words here but Ms. Samantha had me in stitches. I can’t believe that I had this title sitting on my shelf since 2017 and it was only the monthly color challenge that had me cull this book from my massive TBR.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life could probably be swallowed whole in one sitting but it served me well in small doses of joy served up like cups of sweet coffee – a little bit here to kick start the day, a little bit there to get past the doldrums of work and the ho hum of everyday chores.

This review originally appeared on my GoodReads page April 7, 2019


Throwback Pic

“Beatles Pillow Fight, Paris” was taken in 1964 by Scottish born photographer Harry Benson. His work and iconic photography have been immortalized in the 2016 film Harry Benson: Shoot First.

Signing off. Hope we get to talk books soon!

Throwback Thursday #3

I discovered Throwback Thursday on my friend Carla Loves To Read page.

Throwback Thursday meme is hosted by Renee@It’s Book Talk and is a way to share some of your old favorites as well as sharing books that you’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on your TBR list while you continue to pile more titles on top of them! These older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board and connect back to Renee’s blog.


This week I decided to choose a nonfiction book – The World Between Two Covers – as this is Nonfiction November. What excited me about this book was that it broadened my horizons. It made me purposely search out books in translation and from different perspectives. Back then over 90% of my reading was mystery/thrillers from older white men. This year 90% of my books read were women and POC.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My Review

When I first picked up this book I was excited about the concept of reading texts from all across the world. I could already envision myself with sails cast traveling figuratively to unknown lands. In my mind’s eye I saw clearly the vast array of colors that enveloped the people; could almost taste the exotic food as the aroma of culinary delights wafted into my nose. From looking at the cover, I expected Ann Morgan, “Blogger Extraordinaire”, to include us on her literary adventures. I expected this book to delve into the “The 196 ( . . . AND Kurdistan)” with delightful anecdotes of far-away lands. I supposed it might be a foray into ethnic studies reminiscent of my cultural anthropology classes in college. Ah but alas – One should never judge a book by its cover. What a found between these two covers (pun intended) was a thorough research endeavor in which Morgan painstakingly sought out, found, and was gifted texts from around the world. Indeed some texts had not yet been translated into English and others not even published.


In this global economy that we live in where we can Skype with someone clear across the other side of the world, one might think that Ann Morgan’s endeavor were a simple feat. Over the course of 12 chapters she outlines why we are not as globally minded as we might think we are and the obstacles that stand in the way of authors and readers alike trying to connect across cultures. From the Eurocentrism evident not only in our choice of literary canons, but also in our construction of maps that color how we perceive the world — to the “translation bottleneck” that determines which books even have a chance of reaching the Anglophone reader, Morgan’s thorough analysis is both eye opening and soul searching.

This review originally appeared on my GoodReads page August 4, 2015


Throwback Pic

This photo, Frida Kahlo on White Bench, was taken by Hungarian photographer Nickolas Muray in New York, 1939. The pair are said to have had a decades long love affair.

Signing off. Hope we get to talk books soon!

#5 On My TBR – Death

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. This week’s theme is Death. El Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that celebrates the souls of loved ones departed. It follows the Aztec tradition of honoring the dead by setting up family altars, enjoying your loved one’s favorite foods and visiting their graves with marigolds and gifts. The Day of the Dead is held November 1st and 2nd this year. If you are interested in participating you can find additional info and future prompts here.

#1 – Men We Reaped

From Goodreads: In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five men in her life, to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truth–and it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own.

Jesmyn grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi. She writes powerfully about the pressures this brings, on the men who can do no right and the women who stand in for family in a society where the men are often absent. She bravely tells her story, revisiting the agonizing losses of her only brother and her friends. As the sole member of her family to leave home and pursue high education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity. 


#2 – Death in Her Hands

From Goodreads:

A novel of haunting metaphysical suspense about an elderly widow whose life is upturned when she finds a cryptic note on a walk in the woods that ultimately makes her question everything about her new home.

While on her normal daily walk with her dog in the forest woods, our protagonist comes across a note, handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground with a frame of stones. “Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body”. Our narrator is deeply shaken; she has no idea what to make of this. She is new to area, having moved her from her longtime home after the death of her husband, and she knows very few people. And she’s a little shaky even on best days. Her brooding about this note quickly grows into a full-blown obsession, and she begins to devote herself to exploring the possibilities of her conjectures about who this woman was and how she met her fate. Her suppositions begin to find echoes in the real world, and with mounting excitement and dread, the fog of mystery starts to form into a concrete and menacing shape. But as we follow her in her investigation, strange dissonances start to accrue, and our faith in her grip on reality weakens, until finally, just as she seems be facing some of the darkness in her own past with her late husband, we are forced to face the prospect that there is either a more innocent explanation for all this or a much more sinister one – one that strikes closer to home.

A triumphant blend of horror, suspense, and pitch-black comedy, ‘Death in Her Hands’ asks us to consider how the stories we tell ourselves both guide us closer to the truth and keep us at bay from it. Once again, we are in the hands of a narrator whose unreliability is well earned, only this time the stakes have never been higher.


#3 – Dog Flowers

From Goodreads:

A daughter returns home to the Navajo reservation to confront her family’s troubled history and retrace her mother’s life—using both narrative and archive in this unforgettable and heart-wrenching memoir.

After Danielle Geller’s mother dies of a withdrawal from alcohol during a period of homelessness, she is forced to return to Florida. Using her training as a librarian and archivist, Geller collects her mother’s documents, diaries, and photographs into a single suitcase and begins on a journey of confronting her family’s history and the decisions she’s been forced to make, a journey that will end at her mother’s home: the Navajo reservation.

Geller masterfully intertwines wrenching prose with archival documents to create a deeply moving narrative of loss and inheritance that pays homage to our pasts, traditions, heritage, the family we are given, and the family we choose.


#4 – Monkey Beach

From Goodreads:

Five hundred miles north of Vancouver is Kitamaat, an Indian reservation in the homeland of the Haisla people. Growing up a tough, wild tomboy, swimming, fighting, and fishing in a remote village where the land slips into the green ocean on the edge of the world, Lisamarie has always been different.

Visited by ghosts and shapeshifters, tormented by premonitions, she can’t escape the sense that something terrible is waiting for her. She recounts her enchanted yet scarred life as she journeys in her speedboat up the frigid waters of the Douglas Channel. She is searching for her brother, dead by drowning, and in her own way running as fast as she can toward danger. Circling her brother’s tragic death are the remarkable characters that make up her family: Lisamarie’s parents, struggling to join their Haisla heritage with Western ways; Uncle Mick, a Native rights activist and devoted Elvis fan; and the headstrong Ma-ma-oo (Haisla for “grandmother”), a guardian of tradition.

Haunting, funny, and vividly poignant, Monkey Beach gives full scope to Robinson’s startling ability to make bedfellows of comedy and the dark underside of life. Informed as much by its lush living wilderness as by the humanity of its colorful characters, Monkey Beach is a profoundly moving story about childhood and the pain of growing older–a multilayered tale of family grief and redemption.


#5 – In Cold Blood

From Goodreads: Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time.

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

Five years, four months and twenty-nine days later, on April 14, 1965, Richard Eugene Hickock, aged thirty-three, and Perry Edward Smith, aged thirty-six, were hanged for the crime on a gallows in a warehouse at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, Kansas.

In Cold Blood is the story of the lives and deaths of these six people. It has already been hailed as a masterpiece.