2015 was a good reading year for me, and it was a year that came with a lot of changes. Emotionally it was a tough year and I think that the situations I experienced told me what to read. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more thankful to be a reader as I was this year. So much of my reading turned out to be comforting and serendipitous, and I ended up reading books I didn’t even know I needed to read. And because of circumstances, I wasn’t able to write as many reviews as I normally do, but I was able to benefit from reading other people’s words.
Experiencing two deaths in my family, I was greatly encouraged and comforted by Elizabeth Alexander’s The Light of the World , and strangely calmed and made more introspective by Barthes’ Mourning Diary, and as I discovered later, he died not long after he had finished writing it so I don’t think he ever got over his mother’s death, which makes the book’s content even more sorrowful.
My graduate research paper, which focused on black women, spurred a lot of my reading. In particular, Toni Cade Bambara’s ‘Black Women’ anthology, ‘ Black Feminist Thought ‘ by Patricia Hill Collins as well as ‘Black Women, Writing and Identity’, by Carole Boyce Davies not only introduced me to many new black women writers, but also drove home the point that there is a lot of research and writing on black women that still needs to be done. Reading black women’s memoirs, such as Tracy K. Smith’s ‘Ordinary Light’, Jacqueline Woodson‘s ‘Brown Girl Dreaming’, and Margo Jefferson’s ‘Negroland’, as well as books written by black women about other black women, for example, Kuwana Haulsey’s book, ‘Angel in Harlem’, and Maryse Conde’s ‘I, Tituba’ gave me the motivation I needed to do more research and write more.
This year I became more aware of Chicana feminism which I found I was able to relate to a lot given my own experiences of being member of a subculture. Even after my graduation, I still feel compelled to read similar books and I think they have made me stronger and more aware. Women from other groups inspired me as well. I read Maxine Hong Kingston and Sandra Cisneros for the first time and I was truly impressed. I was able to finish reading all of Toni Morrison’s books and Anais Nin ‘s journals, and they were as inspiring as ever.
I think it’s clear that there’s been a vague theme in my reading and indeed I made a conscious effort to read more women this year. According to my math, I read 156 books this year and 104 of them were by women. I’ve enjoyed discovering new women writers, for example Willa Cather, Kim Thuy, Hong Ying, Anne Sexton, Venus Khoury-Ghata, Hedwig Dohm, Wang Anyi, Gloria Naylor, Gayl Jones, Ernessa T. Carter, Geling Yan, Maria Dermout, Buket, Uzuner, Helene Cixous, and Joan Didion.
I did read some great books by male writers though, particularly in the poetry section. I also reread Man Booker Prize Marlon James’ The Book of Night Women in preparation to seeing him in a panel discussion. There are so many books I have to read but rereading brings its own rewards.
Later on in the year I became more interested in doing art research and I read some introductory texts to several famous artists. But the most inspirational book to me on art so far has been one I’m still reading, a collection of essays by Jeanette Winterson (‘Art Objects’).
Although I have continued to diversify my reading, and have also made more of an effort to read female writers, my reading continues to be American-dominant. Next year I plan on re-reading Toni Morrison’s books in chronological order. I also hope to read more Middle Eastern, North African, and Latin American literature.
Below are three lists of books that were highly favoured by me in the non-fiction, fiction, and poetry categories.
I appreciate all of you who read my blog and interact with me. Wishing you all a great 2016:)
- Between the World and Me– Ta-Nehisi Coates
- A House of my Own- Sandra Cisneros
- Art on my Mind: Visual Politics– bell hooks
- A Woman Speaks- Anais Nin
- The Black Woman: An Anthology- Toni Cade Bambara
- The Gloria Anzaldua Reader
- A Bad Woman’s Story– Kishwar Naheed
- The Journals of Jules Renard
- Paris is Burning- Lucas Hilderbrand
- The Light of the World- Elizabeth Alexander
- The Natural Order of Things– Antonio Lobo Antunes
- Angel of Harlem- Kuwana Haulsey
- I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem– Maryse Conde
- Dreams of my Russian Summer- Andrei Makine
- The Woman Who Read Too Much– Bahiyyih Nakhjavani
- Lucy– Jamaica Kincaid
- The Joys of Motherhood– Buchi Emecheta
- Mr Loverman– Bernardine Evaristo
- You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down– Alice Walker
- China Men– Maxine Hong Kingston
- The Ink Dark Moon- Ono No Komachi
- Selected Poetry of Anne Sexton
- She Says- Venus Khoury-Ghata
- Beneath my Eyes- Li-Young Lee
- How to be Drawn- Terrance Hayes
- Mercurochrome- Wanda Coleman
- Prelude to Bruise- Saeed Jones
- The Breakbeat Poets- Kevin Coval
- In Presence of Absence- Mahmoud Darwish
- Forbidden Words- Eugenio de Andrade