So, I was soooo not the girl following tradition when it came to our wedding two months ago, but it seems my book choices for this summer have followed the pattern Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue. Go figure! Here is what I've been reading this summer:
Something Old...Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
I read Things Fall Apart when I was a sophomore at New York University (well over a decade ago, gasp) in my African and African American Literature Class. This is a classic book, masterfully written by Chinua Achebe in 1959. Last week, my cousin came to visit and picked up off the shelf. We both recalled enjoying the book, but I could not, for the life of me, remember what it was about. So yesterday, as I prepared to go get my wig tightened up, I tossed it in my bag. Nothing like a stint under the dryer to get started on a good book.
I finished the book this morning. The language was beautifully poetic. Achebe wrote, "The night was impenetrably dark. The moon had been rising later and later every night until now it was only seen at dawn. An whenever the moon forsook the evening and rose at cock-crow the nights were as black as charcoal."
Onkonkwo's life was beautifully tragic. He rose from nothing, made something of himself, and was so intent to be a man of power and valor that, I believe, he slowly drove himself back into the nothingness. There were times when I wanted him to emerge on top. There were times when I was so disgusted by his lack of balance, his extreme patriarchal stance, and his disregard for all things feminine that I wanted him to be humbled. Still, his end was not one that I wished for. It was simply sad.
At the end of the book my spirit was not at rest. My unrest came with reading about the negative impact of Christian mission work in Nigeria. I was not troubled by the depiction, for I know that it is true. (I had a similar kind of rest sitting through my Church History 2 class when we looked at the photographic images sent to America by missionaries of the Africans that they had "Christianized" which was really code-speak for civilized/westernized/whitened.) I was more troubled—as I always am—at the way that the gospel as been used like grenades and the way that Christianity has torn people apart.
Something New... A Taste of Honey by Jabari Asim
I know I'm usually really deep, but the truth is, I chose this book because I liked the title and the cover. In this instance my superficiality paid off. This collection of related short stories made me laugh, cry, get angry, and think on the goodness of God and the power of love.
As it is a newer book (released March 2010), I don't want to give away to much. That said, I am posting an excerpt from the official press release: The narratives are set in the imaginary Midwestern town of South Gateway, where second-generation offspring of the African Americans involved in the Great Migration have pieced together a thriving if uneasy existence. Centered on the lives of a diverse cast of well drawn characters, the stories evoke a uniquely American epoch; a time and a place that is vividly rendered here with the twin peaks of horror and nostalgia. With police brutality on the rise, the civil rights movement gaining momentum, and wars raging at home and abroad, the community Jabari Asim has conjured stands on edge. Against this backdrop, the people in each story also struggle with everyday grievances such as love, child-rearing, adolescence, and domestic abuse. Each vignette is achingly chronicled and creates a piercing portrait of humanity.
Something Borrowed... Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth
This one wasn't really borrowed, but it did come highly recommended from my girls Kem, Kimberly, and Yvette. It is also one of Oprah's faves. So I picked it up, read it, and I must admit, I wasn't impressed.
As one who has spent more money than I dare admit in the weight loss industry (gym memberships, home equipment, DVD's, books, etc.), I felt like I got got. As I read the book I couldn't help but think that all of the women at the retreats Roth held were white. Not that I have anything against white women, but I think that when folks write books and they use a general term (women) that they should consider a multiplicity of ethnicities and cultures and the various ways in which food operates in various cultures. Plus, the God piece was too airy for me. There was not enough foundation for me.
Something Blue...The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine
Caution: Do not read this book if you are premenstrual. The tears just flowed and flowed and flowed and I was in my good week!
I devoured this book. It wasn't a feel good book at all, but it was a think good book. It made me think about children, child prostitution, parental responsibility, poverty, globalization, patriarchy, and the ways in which they all work together. The main character, Batuk, was a girl after my own heart. I think it was because she was a writer. It is amazing the cathartic nature of writing and the way in which creativity can keep someone alive in dire circumstances.
On another note, the book is set in India. Batuk is from a rural Indian village, but most of the book is set in Mumbai. My husband and I live in a heavily populated Indian community. When I am out, I look for Batuk in the faces of the girls and woman I encounter. It seems silly, I know. But I am sure that I will see her one day.