Teaser Tuesday 12/15

Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme hosted by The Purple Booker. It’s super easy and anyone can join in the fun!

1: Grab your current read
2: Open to a random page
3: Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

Memorial is one of the 77 titles on the 2021 Tournament of Books longlist. This battle of the books takes place in March and pits the top 16 (or 18) books of the year against each other. Just think March Madness for book nerds. Right now most of us who follow this competition are in a mad dash to read the list. We are snatching up sales, searching our local libraries and waiting with bated breath for the shortlist to come out. So guess how lucky I felt when my library sent me the notification that Memorial was a hot pick for the day.

Teaser

Mike’s never promised me anything. Only delivered or didn’t. He always said that promises were only words, and words only meant what you made them.


Synopsis

A funny, sexy, profound dramedy about two young people at a crossroads in their relationship and the limits of love.

Benson and Mike are two young guys who live together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant and Benson’s a Black day care teacher, and they’ve been together for a few years — good years — but now they’re not sure why they’re still a couple. There’s the sex, sure, and the meals Mike cooks for Benson, and, well, they love each other.

But when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Osaka just as his acerbic Japanese mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Texas for a visit, Mike picks up and flies across the world to say goodbye. In Japan he undergoes an extraordinary transformation, discovering the truth about his family and his past. Back home, Mitsuko and Benson are stuck living together as unconventional roommates, an absurd domestic situation that ends up meaning more to each of them than they ever could have predicted. Without Mike’s immediate pull, Benson begins to push outwards, realizing he might just know what he wants out of life and have the goods to get it.

Both men will change in ways that will either make them stronger together, or fracture everything they’ve ever known. And just maybe they’ll all be okay in the end. Memorial is a funny and profound story about family in all its strange forms, joyful and hard-won vulnerability, becoming who you’re supposed to be, and the limits of love.

A revelatory reimagining of the slave narrative

Frannie Langton is a mulatta woman in 19th century England being tried for the murder of her master and his wife. She protests her innocence but gives us Confessions as her accounting. Gothic in style, The Confessions of Frannie Langton turns the typical slave narrative on its head. Although our protagonist makes it a point to say that she does not want to focus on the abomination that is slavery her testimony makes it hard to overlook these atrocities.

I could not help but make comparisons to Edugyan’s Washington Black. The parallels that I saw between the two books were:

Both looked at science and discovery in the 1800’s and how the scientific method was both driven by and overlooked because of racial prejudice.
Both protagonists are unaware of their mother’s identity until they reach adulthood. Each faces the inherent abandonment issues of motherless children – the trauma suffered by the separation of families and loss of identity. In addition both Frannie and Washington must deal with the guilt and horror of the sins committed against these parents when they knew not who these women were, all at once realizing the supreme sacrifice that each of their mothers gave.
Both were enamored with their enslaver. In the case of Washington it was Titsch. He simply could not see his faults or how he was being used for Titsch’s own ends. He was more naive then Frannie and didn’t come to realize that he was not valued or appreciated in the sense that he wanted to be. For Frannie it is her mistress whom she falls in love with. She gets her addicted to laudanum and takes advantage of her position. The old story of master raping and manipulating his slaves is well known and often seen in literature. Although we recognize that power is a potent intoxicating drug, we often don’t consider that power is power regardless of who is wielding the sword.

Now Frannie is not innocent by any means. She has had her hands dirty and has committed her own crimes. Frannie also admits to being angry and how this anger has subsumed her and followed her throughout her life. But in the end The Confessions of Frannie Langton is about taking power over your own voice. This was evident when “Lightning Laddy” was relaying a story his mother told him as a child about the Asiki. The Asiki were changelings – African children stolen and transformed by witches so that not only their appearance changed but that they also lost their ability to talk along with their memories. The question posed was “What would they tell us if they did have tongues?”  What of the exceptional Negro? Do they suffer the same as every other black? Are they used as pawns to perpetuate stereotypes and racist agenda? To answer those “well meaning” white abolitionists who bind the African by their stunted definitions and implicit racism Laddy Lightning replies: “Here’s the rub. You asking me to speak for them. How can I? Why have you asked me? Because you look at a single black man and see all black men. As if one black man is representative of every member of his race. Allowed neither personality nor passion.”

There were so many parts of this book that moved me. Both the language and the content were stirring. I am impressed. Bold. Absolutely refreshing.