repost from my facebook page.
repost from my facebook page.
So an old friend sent me NPR’s Guide to 2016’s Great Books.
I started looking at the list and got so excited!! If you are thinking of buying me a gift, please peruse this list. My birthday is coming up 🙂
Check out the Book List
I’ve already started compiling my list of books to read over the next few months. I plan to start writing book reviews too. So look out for that. I have a few on the blog already.
I recently read a book called, My First Novel – tales of woe and glory as edited by Alan Watt. It is a collection of writing experiences from published authors. In it, I read Cynthia Bond’s experience writing Ruby. It was intriguing.
Then I saw that Ruby was on Oprah’s Book Club. Now, I love Oprah. I love books. Oprah’s Book Club is a wonderful thing. But I have had a couple of regrets with it. I’m talking to you One Hundred Years of Solitude! I hated that book!!
But I digress.
Ruby is a heartbreaking and horrific book. Yet it is also profound and moving at the same time.
The book tells the tale of Ruby Bell. She has returned to her hometown of Liberty, Texas. She left for New York city in the 1950’s and returns to the small, hateful and judgmental town and faces her past.
There is also Ephram Jennings. He has been in love with Ruby since he was a child. Ephram is a grown man who lives with his older city, Celia. Celia is an orderly, cooking, strong-willed, “church mother” elect woman who has raised Ephram since the committal of their mother and the death of their father. Ephram calls her “mama” and pretty much does as she and the town expects.
Ruby is not liked by the town. She seems crazy and is a woman of ill-repute. She’s been had! A lot. Spirits are drawn to her and she lives in dismal conditions taking care of her spirit children and receiving food from a local woman all while being haunted and terrorized by an evil spirit.
This is a story of redemption and redemptive love. Ephram struggles against the will of the entire town, his church and his strong-willed sister to try to be there for Ruby.
Cynthia Bond’s writing will make you think of Toni Morrison or Zora Neale Hurston and maybe even Alice Walker. Her prose is beautiful. She can really turn a phrase.
However, there are times when I was reading this and thought of Stephen King. You know how his novels feature a small town with underlying evil things, people and secrets that all converge because of some circumstance that brings about a fight between good and evil? That’s how this novel felt to me.
The further you read, the more haunting it becomes. There were a couple of times that I had to put the book down because I was either terrified or the scene was so horrific that I recoiled in disgust.
Yes, this book contains disgusting things. There is abuse, child rape, voodoo and murder. There is some gruesome goings on in the town of Liberty!!
But again, there is also redemptive love. There is one line in the book where Ephram tells Ruby “If you can bear to have lived it, I can at least bear to listen.” Ephram’s ability to listen and actually see Ruby really warms the heart.
It also reminds me of all that our people have survived. All of the undiagnosed mental health issues our community faces and all of the secrets that our community contains.
Again, this book is horrific. But if Cynthia Bond can bear to have written it, and she discussed how hard it was in the book My First Novel, then I could bear to read it and testify to its greatness.
But make sure you read it in daylight.
It almost feels like Christmas. Today I received wonderful gifts. I’m already exceedingly blessed but today just makes me thankful for all of those blessings!
First my son came home from school and recited the poem Dreams by Langston Hughes. I was very proud of him. He is growing so fast. It reminds me that time flies and these precious moments are Fleeting.
Then the doorbell rang with my Essence Beauty Box filled with goodies and a box of books – Ruby by Cynthia Bond and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.
I have finished all of Octavia Butler’s books and the have just started on Citizen – An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine and Men We Reaped, a Memoir by Jesmyn Ward.
I will be happily reading!
I am also in my last week for my first two classes in my writing program!
So today’s great day serves as a reminder that life is also great.
It’s easy to get caught up in things that are going wrong. I’m hoping that my great day can help someone to remember to focus on what is going right. Always acknowledge those moments. They are fleeting.
Walter Mosley has been on my list of authors to check out for a while. For some reason, I’ve never gotten around to him.
As I’ve been trying to save money and exercising my library muscles lately, I see the Last Days of Ptolemy Grey perched on a shelf and just grab it. I liked the title and the cover pic with the words fading away and I kind of get it.
Ptolemy Grey is a 91-year old black man living in Los Angeles alone. In squalor. There are mice, roaches, an unusable bathroom and this old man who’s mind is fading (like the words on the book cover) waiting on his grand-nephew caregiver, Reggie.
Ptolemy lives in fear of losing his mind, changing times and a crack-head woman who robs him whenever he leaves his house alone. She has even come into his house and it has made him afraid to even answer the door.
Reggie was killed in a drive by shooting and Ptolemy’s life has to change. In walks a new family friend, Robyn Small. She connects with Ptolemy. She actually sees Ptolemy. Reggie has been his caregiver for years but the bathroom hasn’t worked in at least that long. Robyn cleans his house and helps Ptolemy get things in order. Including his natural mind. You see Ptolemy is trying to remember things he was supposed to have done and people he was supposed to have helped.
Robyn takes Ptolemy to a doctor who offers Ptolemy the chance to take an illegal and experimental drug that would give him his mind back. If he takes the drug he will only have 3 months to live. tops.
Ptolemy takes the deal with the devil and tries to set things right.
This book makes me think about the generational gap between the young and the old. How we don’t often see the old people around us. We deal with them. We sometimes take care of them. But we don’t see them. We don’t value them anymore. And the loss is tremendous and profound. Especially in the black community.
This book also shows how much things have changed in our community with the loss of respect for each other and our lives.
I recommend this book. And I now owe it to myself to catch up on Walter Mosley.
So I’ve been sick for most of the week and I was reminded that I have not been writing.
I have been reading though. Here’s an update on that
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom – this book is about a little Irish girl who came to the United States as an indentured servant and placed in the care of a house slave. I was intrigued by the story and Alice Walker recommended it, but in the end, I did not like this book. I think it had potential and failed along the way.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd- I loved the Secret Life of Bees so in a sense this author has already proven herself to me. I was skeptical at first because I am seeing more and more books by white women in black voice and few feel genuine. In the end, I trusted Sue Monk Kidd. She delivered. I like that it is historical fiction about Sarah Grimke, an abolitionist and early feminist. In the novel Sarah is given a present of Hetty, a slave girl. Sarah tries to give her back, to free her and eventually teaches her to read. The novel gives insight into what propels Sarah to become an abolitionist and also to realize the confinement of woman (much like slaves). Makes me want to read more about the real Sarah.
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston – I read this book many years ago and I remember watching the movie. Neither moved me so much. However, reading it recently, I fell in love with it. I love how she captures culture and language and judgment and being confined by duty and then being set free by love. I would have wished a different life for Janie, but I think that goes against the idea of the novel (at least in my head). She’s beautiful, free, has money and she can do whatever the hell she wants to. She’s paid her dues.
I am trying to keep track of all of the books that I will have read in 2014. I have not done this before. This may or may not have reviews.
1. Lowcountry Spirit by Ann Hite – this book is about 3 young slaves girls on an island of the cost of Georgia. It’s filled with magic and each girls connection to it and the island. I give it ***
2. Zealot – The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan – I bought this book after watching the video of the author being interviewed on Fox (if you call that an interview). The book explores the life of Jesus as a Jewish preacher and the shifting and creation of the lasting story of his messiah-dom.
3. If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Wont) by Betty White – yes, a book by Betty White. I picked it up on sale at the airport in Detroit heading to North Carolina. Read the entire book on the plane. It was cute. It’s Betty White
4. Jokes My Father Never Taught Me by Rain Pryor – this book was so interesting because although I knew the story of Richard Pryor being raised in a whorehouse and I knew about all of his wives and women, I almost never hear/see/think about any of his children and so I never thought of what it might have been like for them. It shows Richard warts and all and a daughter coming to terms with her extremely flawed, broke and genius of a father and her love for him in spite of that brokenness.
Alison Hammer. Writer. Reader. Creative Director. Word-lover. Blogger.
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