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Need a new summer read? Here’s a diverse list to pick from
Judy Woodruff: With summer in full swing, you may be wondering what books to take along on vacation or enjoy right at home.
Jeffrey Brown talks with two writers who have answers to that question.
It's part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.
Jeffrey Brown: Books helped many of us get through the last year.
To help us keep up the reading as we head into summer, we're joined by Glory Edim founder of the book club Well-Read Black Girl. Her new anthology on girlhood comes out this fall. And Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR's "Fresh Air' and a professor at Georgetown University.
And it's nice to see both of you.
Glory, you want to start with some fiction?
Glory Edim: Oh, wow.
Right now, I'm obsessed with Kaitlyn Greenidge's "Libertie." It's a great book just full of rich historical detail. It's inspired by the first Black doctors during the Reconstruction era. And she takes us on this beautiful ride, learning about the young woman who is like trying to find herself, full of great detail.
Also, when it comes to fiction, I'm loving, loving rom coms. So, Jasmine Guillory has a new book coming out, as well as Tia Williams. Tia Williams 'book is called "Seven Days in June." And it is that kind of story where you feel like you're talking to your best friend and a little bit of cringey moments, but with a lot of heartfelt laughter and joy. It's a great title.
Jeffrey Brown: Maureen Corrigan, give us a few fiction novels?
Maureen Corrigan: The writer I hope everybody will read, especially if they have never read her before, is Laurie Colwin.
Laurie Colwin died in the 1990s. She wrote five novels, two short story collections and two collections of food writing. She is wonderful. She is smart. She is so funny and droll and emotionally complex.
And two of her publishers are reprinting everything she wrote. So I would grab "Family Happiness" and any of her other wonderful novels to really celebrate the end of what we hope is the end of this pandemic.
The other book I'd recommend for the summer is "The Final Revival of Opal & Nev" by Dawnie Walton. It's a wonderful kind of simulacrum of a rock oral history. And so it's fun to read because lots of different styles, but also very moving about people trying to pursue their dreams and what they do to try to achieve those dreams.
Jeffrey Brown: How about a couple of nonfiction picks?
Glory Edim: Oh.
Jeffrey Brown: Glory?
Glory Edim: I am reading "Somebody's Daughter" by Ashley Ford right now. And it is really insightful.
It looks at Ashley's life as she is trying to really understand what has happened between her and her father. Her father was incarcerated. And she's coming of age and trying to really mend their relationship. It's a very inspiring book.
I'm also reading "Goodbye, Again" by Jonny Sun. And that's a collection of essays and reflections. And he has stories looking at plants and thinking about what they mean and where they are in the world, or leaving home and being in another space and what it means to welcome others into your home and what you call home.
He does a great job of just welcoming the reader in.
Jeffrey Brown: And, Maureen, before we started, you told me you were really immersed in fiction, but how about a couple of nonfiction picks?
Maureen Corrigan: Yes. Well, I have a few picks.
"Republic of Detours" by Scott Borchert just came out. And it's about the Federal Writers' Project during the Great Depression. Government wanted to put broke writers to work and came up with this idea of putting people to work writing guides to all of the then 48 states. People like Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, John Cheever, they were put to work on this project.
It's an amazing story, tons of wonderful anecdotes and really vivid writing.
I also would recommend Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Notes on Grief" for people who want to get in touch with, again, some of the heavier emotions of this period that we have just been through. She's writing about the death of her father. She's a spectacular writer. And she really probes those emotions of what it means when life just feels really fragile.
Jeffrey Brown: I wonder, what do you see happening now in terms of reading impact from the last year or publication impact?
Maureen Corrigan: The last few months have been the most diverse list of books that I have seen in my 30-plus years as a reviewer.
So I do think that there's much more of a responsiveness on the part of the publishing industry to begin to try to diversify what has been historically a very white industry.
And the other thing that's happening that's so interesting? I'm a big fan of suspense fiction. And I would say that almost every suspense novel that I pick up these days has a plotline about cultural appropriation or appropriation of someone else's words.
"The Plot" by Jean Hanff Korelitz, who's a wonderful suspense writer,"The Plot" takes place in an MFA Program, a lot of resentment and bad behavior, but also then this plot about a man appropriating a woman's words.
"The Other Black Girl" by Zakiya Dalila Harris is also a story about appropriation in part. It's about a young woman of color in the publishing industry, again, historically a very white industry, but it's got this kind of subplot about stealing someone else's story.
So I think there's this paranoia out there about -- somehow about people not having control of their own stories really filtering into suspense fiction.
Jeffrey Brown: And, Glory, what trends do you see happening now?
Glory Edim: I would agree with Maureen. There is this wave of diversity that's happening and more voices that are focusing on cultural appropriation, race relations.
I am a huge fan of "The Other Black Girl." I read that as well. And it also feels like it's some more character-driven, and there's more essay collections that are also coming out too. I feel like I have been reading so many great essay collections that are focused on abstract topics and memoirs that are not linear in fashion. They're really more experimental and avant-garde in nature.
And I think it's great. I think we can do more experimentation when it comes to publishing in that space.
Jeffrey Brown: All right, Glory Edim, Maureen Corrigan, thank you both very much.
Glory Edim: Thank you.
Maureen Corrigan: Thank you.
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