“When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.” — Maya AngelouMaya Angelou
Still in my mind after six months: Ministry of the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. A prescient book, a wide sweeping story of our near future. I read this when it was first published and am rereading it. Many people across the world believe Robinson’s account is a likely forecast of where the world is heading as we grapple with Climate Change. P.S. Its not a dystopia. There is hope.
Antelope Woman by Louise Erdrich, (I recommend the audio version read by the author), is the most recent version of Antelope Woman originally published in 2016. Louise is the author with whom I most strongly relate as a writer. Her stories arise from a particular place. The Sentence and The Night Watchman are two others I’ve read in the last few years both twice. Check out her books at her bookstore in Minneapolis, Birchbark Books. Below is an interview with Louise on her novel, The Sentence. I recommend any of Erdrich’s books.
The Children’s Fire by Mat Mcartney. Inspiring memoir and challenge to all of us to ask whether we are keepers of the children’s fire in this world changing time on Planet Earth.
Horse by Geraldine Brooks who is another of my favorite writers. Geraldine began writing as a journalist, which I observe is the genesis for many of our best fiction writers. Horse demonstrates the power of a trained researcher who can weave a story around historical facts and mysteries. Year of Wonders, a novel about the Great Plague is a powerful example of how Brooks builds narrative around historical events. I have read all of Brook’s fiction and nonfiction. Each is a gem, a solid work of research and careful thought. Caleb’s Crossing is one that resonated powerfully with me.
The Haunting of Hajji Hotak by Jamil Jan Kochai, a finalist for the National Book Award in 2022, a book of interrelated short stories from which I am learning how to write. Jamil’s works illustrate how important we hear from writers whose direct experience reflect to us how our national policies impact people in other nations. Jamil Jan Kochai was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan, to Afghani parents, who later immigrated to America when he was a young boy. I had the rare privilege to participate in a writers’ group with Jamil during the Tucson Festival of Books Masters Review. His refrain for reviewing each of our works – Where’s the fire? – still rings in my mind. There is plenty of fire in this book. And, wonderful humor.
Finally, I am listening to Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead. A reimagined version of Dicken’s David Copperfield, this is an ambitious novel. I was born in the foothills of the Appalachians and I can testify that Barbara’s main character is so authentic that I both laugh and cry (with memories loosed in my mind of my grandparents and aunts and uncles and the people in and around Watauga and Johnson City, Tennessee.) I recall the mash up of local culture and mystical realism and poverty. It is the beginning of the Opioid Pandemic. Barbara, whose book plots are usually complex and nuanced, is a powerful writer whose books are some of the most powerful works of American literature in my lifetime.