Book Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing

Book Review: Sing, Unburied, SingSing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward
Pages: 285
Published by Scribner
Genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Multicultural
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A searing and profound Southern odyssey by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward.

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she's high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie's children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward's distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.

My Takeaway “Sorrow is food swallowed too quickly, caught in the throat, making it nearly impossible to breathe.” Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing Though I finished this book days ago, I have taken my time writing this review because I want to do it justice. Sing, Unburied, Sing is unlike…

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Book Review: What We Lose

Book Review: What We LoseWhat We Lose
by Zinzi Clemmons
Pages: 224
Published by Viking
Genres: Literary Fiction, Multicultural
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Raised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother’s childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor—someone, or something, to love.

In arresting and unsettling prose, we watch Thandi’s life unfold, from losing her mother and learning to live without the person who has most profoundly shaped her existence, to her own encounters with romance and unexpected motherhood. Through exquisite and emotional vignettes, Clemmons creates a stunning portrayal of what it means to choose to live, after loss. An elegiac distillation, at once intellectual and visceral, of a young woman’s understanding of absence and identity that spans continents and decades, What We Lose heralds the arrival of a virtuosic new voice in fiction.

My Takeaway  “I’ve amazed myself with how well I’ve learned to live around her absence. This void is my constant companion, no matter what I do. Nothing will fill it, and it will never go away.” Zinzi Clemmons, What We Lose Clemmons’s debut novel…

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Book Review: Hum If You Don’t Know the Words

Book Review: Hum If You Don’t Know the WordsHum If You Don't Know the Words
by Bianca Marais
Pages: 432
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons
Genres: Literary Fiction, Multicultural
Goodreads

Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a nine-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred... until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin's parents are left dead and Beauty's daughter goes missing.

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection.

Told through Beauty and Robin's alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum if You Don't Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.

My Takeaway  “I didn’t know what to say in a world where people were hated and attacked for not being the right color, not speaking the right language, not worshipping the right god or not loving the right people; a world where hatred was the common language…

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Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Pages: 400
Published by Atria Books
Genres: Fiction, Multicultural, Women's Fiction
Goodreads

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.

My Takeaway  “When you’re given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn’t give things, you take things.” Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo W♥w. W♥w. W♥w. The…

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Book Review: Marriage of a Thousand Lies

Book Review: Marriage of a Thousand LiesMarriage of a Thousand Lies
by S.J. Sindu
Pages: 288
Published by Soho Press
Genres: Fiction, LGBTQ, Multicultural
Goodreads

Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met.

As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life? Is she willing to walk away from all that she values about her parents and community to live in a new truth? As Lucky—an outsider no matter what choices she makes—is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a vivid exploration of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality. The result is a profoundly American debut novel shot through with humor and loss, a story of love, family, and the truths that define us all.

My Takeaway  “Let me tell you something about being brown like me: your story is already written for you. Your free will, your love, your failure, all of it scratched into the cosmos before you’re ever born. My mother calls it fate, the story written on your…

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