Thank you to Rooo for this suggestion.
Grad school is reading and writing and writing and reading. I’ve been mostly happy with the selection so here is my list of summer reading (and feel free to add to it):
1. The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
Synopsis: A powerful, darkly glittering novel of violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young woman at an elite American university is drawn into a cult’s acts of terrorism
Everyone in my graduate group but me went to her lecture (it was over a topic that I didn’t need lecturing about so I skipped) and were enthusiastic about reading her novel for our group discussion (I have a fascination with cults and the psychology behind it so I was on board.) I’m about a 1/3rd of the way through listening to it on Audible (only 5.5 hours) and it’s just beautiful writing, very fluid and intense.
2. The Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon.
Synopsis: A eccentric Aster was born into slavery on — and is trying to escape from — a brutally segregated spaceship that for generations has been trying to escort the last humans from a dying planet to a Promised Land.
Never heard of this either but my professor strongly suggested it for my own individual reading. Regardless, I’m jealous of their bitchin’ Author Name. Wikipedia says that Solomon is an American author and in 2018, they received the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses’ Firecracker Award in Fiction for their debut novel and were nominated for a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in the debut novel category.
3. The Book of the Night Women by Marlon James.
Synopsis: Lilith is a beautiful young woman born during the 18th century on a Jamaican sugar plantation. Orphaned from birth, she quickly learns that life as a slave can be frequently brutal and unkind. After she is forced to defend herself against a would-be rapist, she is sent to work in the plantation owner’s house.
This was suggested by the only guy in my graduate group but he wanted to read another book by James that was like 700 pages long (that book is being called the “African Game of Thrones.”) That was a bit much so we all compromised on this one, but James has four (very long) novels out. He is a Jamaica-born author and his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings won the 2015 Man Booker Prize (this was another book of his we wanted to read but it’s 600 pages.) It was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for fiction, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for fiction, and the Minnesota Book Award.
4. Destroyer by Victor Lavelle
Synopsis: The legacy of Frankenstein’s monster collides with the sociopolitical tensions of the present-day United States. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein beseeched his creator for love and companionship, but in 2017, the monster has long discarded any notions of peace or inclusion. He has become the Destroyer, his only goal to eliminate the scourge of humanity from the planet
I choose this novel because Lavelle is a short-story writer and this book is a series of short stories that are interlinked by one event. I’m having difficulty writing a novel and had mentioned to my prof that I have way more ideas and writing if I could just make my manuscript a bunch of short stories connected by one event. She also prefers this structure and encouraged me to do it and check out some novels by authors who also do that.
Also, I have read a lot of black, female speculative fiction writers but no black male writers so I asked the prof for suggestions.
5. A People’s Future of the United States.
Synopsis: A glittering landscape of twenty-five speculative stories that challenge oppression and envision new futures for America.
Our professor loves speculative fiction and all but one of us write in the sci-fi/fantasy era so she assigned this book.
6. Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones
Synopsis: A magnificent collection of short fiction focusing on the lives of African-American men and women in Washington, D.C., Lost in the City is the book that first brought author Edward P. Jones to national attention. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and numerous other honors for his novel The Known World, Jones made his literary debut with these powerful tales of ordinary people who live in the shadows in this metropolis of great monuments and rich history.
(This is another novel of interlinked stories assigned to me.) Also, Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due (not assigned, just more interlinked stories that I’ll read to help my writing. My prof said Due’s at her best with short stories.)
7. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Synopsis: Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
“With five starred reviews, Tomi Adeyemi’s West African-inspired fantasy debut, and instant #1 New York Times Bestseller, conjures a world of magic and danger, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir”.
This has been on my radar for a while and I’m so glad that I get to read this AND lead the book discussion. I’m stoked about this book.
8. Mama Day by Gloria Naylor
Synopsis: On the island of Willow Springs, off the Georgia coast, the powers of healer Mama Day are tested by her great niece, Cocoa, a stubbornly emancipated woman endangered by the island’s darker forces. A powerful generational saga at once tender and suspenseful, overflowing with magic and common sense.
I read Linden Hills and I think I made a post about it on TSB by Naylor, loved the writing, wanted more. I will also be reading Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison as that was a huge theme this past semester with my program due to (now-fired) professors telling students in specific demographics that they don’t understand their own experiences. (I’ll be posting that story later.)
9. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Synopsis: Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride.
I’ve been meaning to get into The Handmaiden’s Tale because it’s fucked up dystopia and that is my flavor. I like this quote from Atwood:
She has described the novel as speculative fiction and adventure romance, rather than pure science fiction, because it does not deal with things “we can’t yet do or begin to do”, yet goes beyond the amount of realism she associates with the novel form..”
10. Wife by Tiphanie Yanique
Synopsis: The title of Wife is both ironic and deeply serious. There are wittily sharp poems on the gender inequalities and potential prisons of marriage, that are in dialogue with poems that celebrate the physical joys of intimacy and poems that explore the processes of self-creation that take place in the closeness to the male other. These spare, elegant poems are not only intensely body focused and attentive to the minutiae of domestic space, but that they make connections to the worlds of family, church, village and nation – and even, in a poem the references the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, to the soul.
I made a post about Land of Love and Drowning, also by Yanique and I L.O.V.E.D. the book (READ THIS BOOK. IT’S SO GOOD.) I asked if I could read another book of hers and chose this book of poetry. No other reason than that I love the author and haven’t read a book of poems by a black poet ever in my life.
That is my semester and reading suggestions. Don’t be scared to add, suggest, ask questions, critiques, it’s totally fine.