July 12, 2018

Even more marginalia

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to be much better at sharing my marginalia from the books I read. I’ve fallen out of the habit, but I am working on re-introducing the habit, now.

Here are a few notes from a few books I have recently read. I will share more soon.

The House of Broken Angels, Luis Alberto Urrea

My most memorable birthday party was my 20th, for a multitude of reasons I won’t get into here, but since then I’ve been mostly low-key about birthdays. Aging has made me mellow, and instead of celebrating birthdays, I ease into them with quietness. For Big Angel’s 70th birthday, ostensibly his last one, he wants one last party, one last celebration—and to him, I can relate. When you know there will be no more reasons to celebrate, you want your last party to be a big one, a memorable one, not just for yourself, but for everyone you love. This is the setting of Urrea’s novel: it is a novel about a party, but more a novel about celebrating the ones we love, about relishing in their presence, and about knowing that our bonds extend well beyond life and death. It is one of the best novels I have read in a long time; it is a novel that makes me want to party.

What We Lose, Zinzi Clemmons

What We Lose reads like a collection of essays and vignettes, but together, they form a coherent story of someone who loses her home—only in this case, home is not a place, but a person. What does life look like when you become homeless (personless, motherless)? What do the fragments of this homeless life say about a life as a whole?

Stay with Me, Ayobami Adebayo

Reading Stay With Me, I think a lot about the tension between the old and the new, the past and the present. I think about how the ways things were done before, and the way we would like to do them now; I think about the inherent conflict that exists when the past and the present do not reconcile well. I think about how, these days, many people are craving the good old days” and making decisions that take us back to an older time, without realizing the effects of those old days” on the people who were maligned back then. This is a story about family, pregnancy, politics, business, and marriage. It is also a story of the tension between what once was and what now could be.

The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill

Reading Aminata Diallo’s autobiography reminds me of reading Frederick Douglass earlier this year: stories of horror, atrocity, perseverance, strength, disappointment, hope, and sobering reality that tell us much about the experience of the solace, but even more about the inhumanity of the slave trade and how we were all complicit in its continuing effects. Hill’s notes, acknowledgments, and further reading lists that close the book are well-worth diving into and will serve as fodder for my reading lists to come.

The History of Bees, Maja Lunde

I have been, for a few years now, obsessed with bees and the role they play in our ecosystem. When colony collapse disorder started affecting North American bee populations, I was stricken with worry. Maja Lunde’s novel is essentially a book written to stoke my anxiety: what would the world look like if the bees disappeared? What could we have done to avoid this? Sure, the book reads a bit like it was written for children, but the story is an important one for our time.


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