June Reads: the list

On the first day of the year, I laid out my 2018 reading goals. Here’s what’s on the list for June:

#1 Fat Fiction: Hometown by Michele Feltman Strider

Brief Description: “Sharon’s longing for deep and authentic ties of kinship takes her farther and farther from her Alabama home town in search of a real “home.” Her journey leads her to the sweaty, boozy, sexy streets of the French Quarter and on to the golden prairies of Oklahoma where silver fighter jets pierce a perfect blue sky. Passing through the surreal, nightmarish aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she ultimately discovers a place of acceptance she never expected.”

hometown
I chose this chunky novel for June because I have more time to read in the summer.

#2 The Oldest Book Shelved: Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons by Tara Laskowski, purchased June 28, 2013

Brief Description: The author asks, “Was there an etiquette, a set of unwritten rules, for a situation that seemed to break all the rules of a ‘decent’ society? From there, the collection grew—exploring the etiquette of obesity, dementia, infertility, arson, etc.”

modern manners
“…the way people conduct themselves in situations that Emily Post would never write about.”

#3 Newest Book Shelved: Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston — and published MAY 8TH, 2018! Zora tried to publish this book 90 years ago, but no one would take it because she had written in the formerly enslaved man’s dialect. It’s been at Howard University for 60 years, where only scholars could read it.

Brief Description: “A major literary event: a never-before-published work from the author of the American classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, which brilliantly illuminates the horror and injustices of slavery as it tells the true story of the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade—illegally smuggled from Africa on the last “Black Cargo” ship to arrive in the United States.”

BARRACOON
Funny story: since I keep buying books, I have to change my “newest book” in my spread sheet constantly. I got this book that day it was published. Definitely the newest!

#4 Random Pick: Mile End by Lise Tremblay, translated by Gail Scott. Naomi @ Consumed by Ink brought this title to my attention, and so we’re both reading it.

Brief Description: “She is simply a grotesque ‘fat woman,’ getting larger every day—a clown, a monster, in her own words, with no self, no identity save her enormous mound of flesh, its blubber, its perceived deformity. . . .Yet within this spreading body crouches the still point of a sharply observant intelligence, a vision unclouded by fantasy or illusions, least of all about herself.”

mile end
Alright, Naomi, fingers crossed. I’m intrigued by the premise.

Challenge Update:

I have to say, so far I am happier with this challenge than any other I’ve devised. I’m not caught between backlog and newer, sexier novels. I built in a “mood reader” choice, and I’m still sticking to my fat reading goals. I’m only a couple of books behind, which happened during the busiest part of the school year. Keep an eye out for these books in the future: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware and God, the Moon, and Other Megafauna by Kellie Wells.

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36 comments

  1. That’s exciting about the Zora Neale Hurston. You do a great job highlighting older African American writers. Glad too you are enjoying the way this challenge is going. I certainly enjoy your views of the books it throws up.

    • Thanks, Bill. I’ve become more appreciative of the reading I do that highlights older works by African Americans. That’s not too brag, but more because I’ve noticed young people who are getting into social justice are almost exclusively reading new books by African American social justice advocates, people like Reni Eddo-Lodge, Margo Jefferson, Ta-Nahisi Coates. What young people don’t realize it’s that social justice isn’t new, and you have to know where you’ve come from. In fact, Ta-Nahisi Coates relies heavily on Malcolm X’s ideas, so it makes sense, to me, to read the source material first.

  2. God, Barracoon looks fabulous. And yet another reminder that history wasn’t “long ago and far away”, it’s right here. (My favourite story that highlights this is that my father’s college roommate – the youngest of many children and born late in his parents’ lives – had a grandfather who was born into slavery. Emancipation came when he was five.)

    • Oh, wow. Here was a reminder to me that history isn’t far gone, a reminder a received today: I’m working at a reunion at a women’s college. One lady is here for the class of 1958. The college where I teach, which next door, opened in 1966. We’ve been open 51 years. She was a student and graduated before my college opened. 😮

    • I pre-ordered it, I was so excited. I love Zora. One of my coworkers told me last year that his wife was pregnant. I asked if they had a name picked out, and he kind of shyly/hesitantly said Zora, after one of his favorite writers. I was so excited!

  3. This looks like a really great list – I’ve never heard of most of these books (except the Zora Neale Hurston one which has of course been in the new a lot). I am going to maybe take your suggestion to another commenter, to try an audiobook of her work, because I also find it really difficult to read dialect and often abandon books as a result.

    • Definitely! The audio book narrators will read the words how they look in the text, so you can hear how close they are to standard English, but musical in a different way.

  4. The Hurston has to be the highlight of the month! I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of it. I always have a little trepidation about books that are published long after the author has died, having been rejected in their lifetime, but hopefully this one will be the exception.

    • It was rejected due to concern at the time that writing in dialect would drag down the whole race, but Hurston’s motto was “skin folks, not kin folks.” I’m reassured that it wasn’t rejected based on quality. She wrote a little about the man in another book of hers, and his comments were so interesting, raw and heartfelt.

  5. I have an article about the publication of Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” on my phone that I haven’t had the chance to read yet. Stories like this always take me aback because I sometimes think we forget that slavery or Jim Crow really weren’t that long ago. Hope you enjoy all your June reads.

    • People have been writing about it a lot lately because they are excited. Those who love Hurston are crazy-devoted. I read about the man (I can’t remember his name) briefly in one of Hurston’s other books. I’m not sure why she wrote about him only a little and then did a whole book. I do know that she had a hard time deciding what to include in each of her anthropology books because she had SO many notes and couldn’t get things to jive together.

  6. Well, obviously, Barracoon is the most exciting book on this list! But I’m also excited for you to read Mile End. I love buddy-reading. 🙂

    (P.S. I’m am so, so far behind on blogging right now – will be trying to catch up a bit this week!)

    • I always say that when we get behind on blog hopping, it’s best to just pick up where you are instead of back reading. When I tried to back read, I just stayed behind for a really, really long time. I’m about 60 pages into Mile End. It has an interesting tone. Regarding the character, sometimes I feel good about her, then she makes me nervous. I’ll have to see what happens!

  7. Baracoon sounds amazing! I didn’t even know that was possible, books that weren’t published formally and only available to academics-fascinating stuff! And I love reading your fat challenge, it’s wonderful.

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Anne! The reason Barracoon has been in a library for so long is because Zora Neale Hurston is EXTREMELY important in the world of African American writing. However, when she was alive, other famous black writers, like Richard Wright, were against Hurston writing in dialect, thinking it made African Americans sound uneducated. She also refused to write novels specifically about what it’s like to be black. Therefore, at the time, her fame was up and down. She died in utter poverty and had been working as a maid.

  8. I’ve been enjoying the resurgence of interest in book podcasts with the Hurston manuscript; it’s great to see people discovering and rediscovering her work!

    Very cool that this year’s challenge format is working well for you; I agree that it’s hard to get a mix of backlisted and new stuff in there, without things getting either imbalanced or overwhelming. Heck, I’m pretty easily overwhelmed just by focussing on my backlist reading projects. Nice problem to have, of course!

    • Definitely! It’s kept me happy, though once in a while I think of a book not on the schedule that I’d like to get to. I either stick the schedule or add the book in extra if I’ve read one on the schedule really fast.

  9. That Zora Neale Hurston is on my book wish list because I love her books (still have a few left to read on my shelf) and was thrilled to see this title. I like your June list idea. I pulled a big stack from my shelf of books on the backlog that some of which I can’t see because I don’t have enough shelf space and decided I wanted to read them over the next few months. Last week I finished one in a day (audiobook helped) and started another one I’m almost finished with. I also have to remember to read my kindle backlist ad well but I have another review copy book I received that I started and am enjoying.

    • E-books are hard because it’s easy to forget they are there! I spent a weekend going through every single book I own and logging it on a spreadsheet. That helps. I can organize the spreadsheet by what I have read or need to read, the date I logged the book, and where it is located (Nook, Kindle, shelf). I’ve read three of my June books (am in the process of reviewing) and Hurston will be next. I love her work, and if you want to revisit her most popular novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, check out the audiobook. It’s narrated by Ruby Dee, the famous actress who was in A Raisin in the Sun and other movies.

      • I need to reread Their Eyes because it’s been a while and Ruby Dee is beautiful and brilliant. I’d love to hear her narrate a book. I have a spreadsheet of books too…yes let’s do the email meet and greet so we can really talk!

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