Thursday, February 23, 2017

Writers From Life's Other Side

A small selection of books bought this year
Over the past few years I have made a point of seeking out writers that have never been on my radar, despite the accolades they have garnered for their writing. I am especially interested in discovering and reading writers from ethnic backgrounds that offer a new and unique (for me), view of life that I have never experienced or imagined. Additionally, I have been seeking out male and female writers of colour, who tend to add another layer of insight and experience to their writing that non-white male and female writers are simply unable to provide.

Among my female 'discoveries' have been Maya Angelou (I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings); Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God); Jesmyn Ward (Men We Reaped, and Salvage The Bones); and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (That Thing Around Your Neck, and Americanah).

Male writers of colour that have also come to my attention and join my list of new 'discoveries' include the brilliant and insightful Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Beautiful Struggle, and his stunning follow-up, Between The World And Me); Teju Cole (Every Day Is For The Thief); Colson Whitehead (Apex Hides The Hurt); Ernest J. Gaines (A Gathering of Old Men); and Daniel Black, whose recent book The Coming, I examined here...

Still more of my recent book buying adventures
Of course, I am not completely ignorant about the pantheon of great African-American writers who were, or are contemporaries of the above writers. Men such as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, W.E.B DuBois and Ralph Ellison are names I have been familiar with for many years. Of these four writers, the only one I had read was James Baldwin. Indeed, earlier this year I reread two of Baldwin's now classic essay collections, Nobody Knows My Name (from 1961), and The Fire Next Time (1963).

I had read these and other books by James Baldwin during my 20's, but was motivated to read them again because two contemporary writers, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Jesmyn Ward have responded to Baldwin's famous essay, The Fire Next Time, by publishing in these past couple of years, Between The World And Me (Coates, 2015), and a collection of modern essays edited by Ward called The Fire This Time (2016).

Until recent years, my knowledge of female minority writers has been all but non-existent. I have read Toni Morrison over the years, and while I was familiar with Alice Walker and her book, The Color Purple, I had not, and still have not, read that or any other of her books. To be honest, I can not recall having read a novel by another woman of colour before Toni Morrison, which, for an avid reader like myself, feels like a terrible admission to be making.

Clearly I have a lot of catching up to do, and the list of authors, both male and female that I am adding to my reading list, continues to grow and expand. I just hope I have the time and energy to do the authors and their books, justice.

Here are links to some of the books I have read (or plan to read) this year...

All are worth reading.

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