Somehow it is the middle of summer already; I feel like I’m holding onto the sunshine for dear life. Of course, with more sunshine comes more daylight for reading - one of my favorite things to do in the summer. Trading layers and layers of blankets for a nice breeze and iced coffee on my porch make me feel like I’m on vacation - even if just for twenty minutes between napping children.
If you’re in our Book Club or have stopped into the shop anytime since we’ve been open, you know that I absolutely loved They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Hanif Abdurraqib’s brilliant essay collection full of music and cultural criticism. It was one of my favorite books last year. I’ve been looking forward to picking up his newest book for a while now, and it did not disappoint. Abdurraqib’s prose is beautifully lyrical and brutally honest - two things I love that can often be hard to find. And if you’re about to say, “Oh, I’m not really familiar with A Tribe Called Quest. I probably won’t know what he’s talking about” - don’t. Embarrassingly, I have never listened to anything the band has ever released, and by the end of the book I was crying. This is cultural criticism at its finest.
In The White Card, Claudia Rankine takes on liberal white privilege. Inspired by a question and answer session after a reading of her incredible previous work, Citizen: An American Lyric, in which a white man asked “What can I do for you? How can I help you?” Rankine set out to confront the white liberals who imagine themselves not to be complicit in everyday acts of racism. Here is a bit from the Preface of the book: “Theater is by its very nature a space for and of encounter. The writing of The White Card was a way to test an imagined conversation regarding race and racism among strangers.” This is part of the conversation we should be having. It is not comfortable but it is necessary.
Sarah Rose Etter’s The Book of X is the wonderfully weird and heartbreakingly poignant novel you’ve been waiting for. Cassie is raised on a meat farm. Like her mother and grandmother, she is born with her stomach in a knot. What first seems metaphorical and surreal quickly morphs into the lived experience of women everywhere. Literal and figurative violence is heaped upon Cassie’s female body from every direction: the expectations of her mother and grandmother, cruel treatment by a high school boyfriend, the unkindness of the city so far from the home she grew up in. Take a chance on The Book of X - you won’t be sorry.
My favorite part of Costalegre is the narrative voice - 15-year old Lara is so real. Just like so many of us at 15, she longs to, and is often expected to, be an adult but still craves attention like a child. That tension is exacerbated by the fact that her mother collects surrealist painters instead of caring for her daughter. To further complicate matters, it is 1937 and Hitler has begun to make a list of cultural degenerates. Lara’s mother and her artist friends have decided to leave Germany and take up residence at her home in Mexico. The lack of stability and parental love in Lara’s life becomes all the more apparent when she meets Jack Klinger, an artist who actually values and pays attention to her. This is a wonderful coming-of-age story - and the heat of Costalegre makes it the perfect summer read.