Friday, August 27, 2021

THE DRAGON THE GIANT THE WOMEN by Wayétu Moore











5.5. 💗💗💗💗💗💗💗💗

Greywolf Publishing

Available now

About

 In this beautiful memoir of dislocation, a young girl flees war-torn Liberia with her family to America. Moore (She Would Be King) begins with herself as a five-year-old living with her sisters, grandparents, and father in Monrovia. When the 1990 civil war erupts with terrifying massacres by rebels overthrowing president Samuel Doe (who Moore imagines as “the Hawa Undu dragon, the monster in my dreams, the sum of stories I was too young to hear”), the family heads for Sierra Leone, hoping to get to America. Moore describes this desperate trek in the lyrical voice of her younger self, a dreamy girl who filters the danger through a folktale lens. The middle section tracks her childhood after her family resettles in Texas, then her trauma-plagued young adulthood in Brooklyn (“nightmares were old friends”), and racially fraught romances (“I never feared my blackness, until the men,” referring to the black men she first dated in college). The book’s final section holds a mirror to the first, describing in her mother’s voice her mother’s journey from New York back to Africa to rescue her lost family. Building to a thrumming crescendo, the pages almost fly past. Readers will be both enraptured and heartbroken by Moore’s intimate yet epic story of love for family and home. 

I absolutely love this memoir ❤



Thursday, June 24, 2021

DEAR SENTHURAN A Black Spirit Memoir by Akwaeke Emezi

5.5

Available now

Summary,

How does a spirit child drawn from Nigerian tribal cosmology negotiate modern life? That's the metaphysical conundrum at the heart of this highly personal and unusual memoir. Emezi grew up in Aba, Nigeria, and identifies as ogbanje, an “Igbo spirit that’s born to a human mother, a kind of trickster that dies unexpectedly only to return in the next child and do it all over again.” In order to ameliorate their feelings of “flesh dysphoria” or “metaphysical dysphoria,” the author underwent multiple surgeries, including breast reduction and a “hysterectomy with a bilateral salpingectomy.” As Emezi writes, they chose “to mutate my body into something that would fit my spiritself.” Structured as a series of far-ranging letters written to friends, lovers, exes, family members, and others, the narrative raises questions about the author’s "embodied nonhuman" existence and Igbo conceptions of reality. While Emezi’s personal and professional travels have taken them around the world—Trinidad, Berlin, Johannesburg, Vietnam, Tanzania, and homes in Brooklyn and New Orleans—this book is not a travelogue. Although conventional elements of memoir reoccur—a painful breakup, estrangement from family members, career ups and downs—the author presents them as manifestations of a deity's "deeply traumatic" embodiment as a human being. Emezi attributes much of their meteoric rise—multiple literary award wins and nominations, National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honoree, etc.—to the casting of the right spell. The author is crystal-clear in their focus on "writing for people like me, not for a white gaze,” and seen through the prism of Igbo ontology, this adventurous life story is undoubtedly compelling. For some readers, getting past Emezi’s "outrageously arrogant" demand "for attention, for glory, for worship" as a self-described "bratty deity" may require a leap of faith and a modicum of empathy, a merely human trait.
Tribal spiritual beliefs meet contemporary literary acclaim in a powerful memoir.

Thank you to Kirkus for the Summery.

A powerful author, a powerful book I immensely enjoyed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

LE PARFUM DES FLEURS LA NUIT by Leïla Slimani














5.5

Available now ( French language )

Summery

Comme un écrivain qui pense que « toute audace véritable vient de l’intérieur », Leïla Slimani n’aime pas sortir de chez elle, et préfère la solitude à la distraction. Pourquoi alors accepter cette proposition d’une nuit blanche à la pointe de la Douane, à Venise, dans les collections d’art de la Fondation Pinault, qui ne lui parlent guère ?


Autour de cette « impossibilité » d’un livre, avec un art subtil de digresser dans la nuit vénitienne, Leila Slimani nous parle d’elle, de l’enfermement, du mouvement, du voyage, de l’intimité, de l’identité, de l’entre-deux, entre Orient et Occident, où elle navigue et chaloupe, comme Venise à la pointe de la Douane, comme la cité sur pilotis vouée à la destruction et à la beauté, s’enrichissant et empruntant, silencieuse et raconteuse à la fois.

C’est une confession discrète, où l’auteure parle de son père jadis emprisonné, mais c’est une confession pudique, qui n’appuie jamais, légère, grave, toujours à sa juste place : « Écrire, c’est jouer avec le silence, c’est dire, de manière détournée, des secrets indicibles dans la vie réelle ». 
 
C’est aussi un livre, intense, éclairé de l’intérieur, sur la disparition du beau, et donc sur l’urgence d’en jouir, la splendeur de l’éphémère. Leila Slimani cite Duras : « Écrire, c’est ça aussi, sans doute, c’est effacer. Remplacer. » Au petit matin, l’auteure, réveillée et consciente, sort de l’édifice comme d’un rêve, et il ne reste plus rien de cette nuit que le parfum des fleurs. Et un livre.


Sunday, June 13, 2021

A GHOST IN THE THROAT by Doireann Ni Ghriofa














5.5

A Ghost in the Throat
By Doireann Ni Ghriofa
326 pages. 

Creative nonfiction.

Available now

Summary:

A woman once fell in love with a poem — a keening, a roaring — for a slain beloved. The 18th-century Irish noblewoman Eibhlin Dubh Ni Chonaill composed “Caoineadh Airt Ui Laoghaire” after her husband was murdered by a powerful British official. Arriving at the scene, Ni Chonaill, pregnant with their third child, drank handfuls of her husband’s blood. “My bright dove,” “my pleasure,” she called him in the poem, “my thousand bewilderments” — why hadn’t she been with him? She imagined her blouse catching the bullet in its pleats.

For decades, “Caoineadh Airt Ui Laoghaire” survived in the oral tradition. It is now recognized as one of the great poems of its age. The poet Doireann Ni Ghriofa was also pregnant with her third child when she fell under its thrall, keeping a “scruffy photocopy” under her pillow. Where are Ni Chonaill’s finger bones buried? she wondered; where can one leave flowers? The grave lies unmarked. Ni Chonaill’s letters and diaries have all vanished. Her own son omitted her name from family records.

The ardent, shape-shifting “A Ghost in the Throat” is Ni Ghriofa’s offering. It includes her translation of “Caoineadh Airt Ui Laoghaire,” along with a hybrid of essay, biography, autofiction, scholarship — and a daily accounting of life with four children under the age of 6.

“This is a female text,” Ni Ghriofa begins the book. “This is a female text, composed while folding someone else’s clothes. My mind holds it close, and it grows, tender and slow, while my hands perform innumerable chores. This is a female text borne of guilt and desire, stitched to a soundtrack of cartoon nursery rhymes.”

The book is all undergrowth, exuberant, tangled passage. It recalls Nathalie Léger’s brilliant and original “Suite for Barbara Loden”: a biography of the actress and director that becomes a tally of the obstacles in writing such a book, and an admission of the near-impossibility of biography itself. “To study a female life marked by silence is to attempt a cartography of fog,” Ni Ghriofa has written.

ImagNi Ghriofa is the author of several books of poetry, which she has translated herself, from the Irish. “A Ghost in the Throat” is her first book in prose. It has been read rapturously, but not always carefully. I’ve seen reviews that are grateful for how the writer evokes the tedium of domestic life and the “depredations” of pregnancy on the body.Except that’s not what Ni Ghriofa describes, not at all; not she who is a bit abashed at how much she “loves her drudge-work,” she who stares at her body in the mirror — “my breasts, lopsided and glorious; the holy door of my quadruple cesarean scar, my sag-stomach, stretch-marked with ripples like a strand at low tide” — and feels “no revulsion, only pride. This is a female text, I think. My body replies in its dialect of scars. Ta-dah! it seems to say, Ta-dah!”

The story that uncoils is stranger, more difficult to tell, than those valiant accounts of rescuing a “forgotten” woman writer from history’s erasures or of the challenges faced by the woman artist. Ni Ghriofa, who spent 10 years pregnant or breastfeeding, who almost lost her fourth child (there is a harrowing chapter set in the NICU), is immediately ready for another. Without a baby to occupy her, she wakes up shaking — “What will become of me, in the absence of this labor, all this growing and harvesting?” She cannot quit that “exquisite” pleasure of service, the purpose and physical pleasure in caring, feeding, holding a small baby. Her husband pleads with her, asks if he can get a vasectomy (she thanks him for going through with it in the acknowledgments — a first in my reading experience).

What is this ecstasy of self-abnegation, what are its costs? She documents this tendency without shame or fear but with curiosity, even amusement. She will retrain her hungers. “I could donate my days to finding hers,” she tells herself, embarking on Ni Chonaill’s story. “I could do that, and I will.” Or so she says. The real woman Ni Ghriofa summons forth is herself.


I absolutely love this novel, deserving to be named "Literature".

I also want to thank my friend Claire 

at Word by Word for bringing this book to 

my attention.



Tuesday, June 8, 2021

ON EARTH WE'RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS by Ocean Vuong














5.5

Now available

About

 On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family's history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one's own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.


With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.

I loved this book and look forward to reading what Ocean Vuong writes next.