Drinking From A Bitter Cup (5 down–47 to go)

I just finished Drinking from a Bitter Cup by Angela Jackson-Brown.  This fulfills the prompt to read a book “by a person of color.” The back cover describes the book as follows:  “After the death of her mother, Sylvia Butler’s father, a man she knows only from an old photo, takes her from Louisville, Kentucky to Ozark, Alabama to live with his family.  But his wife resents everything about this intruder, from her out-of-wedlock conception to her dark skin and nappy hair.  When the wife’s younger brother Charles returns from Vietnam, Sylvia thinks she has found a friend and confidante, only to be hurt again, but this time, in a manner she never could have imagined.”  So, no big mystery what’s going to happen with Uncle Charles, right?

I became re-acquainted with a Dear Friend about four or five years ago.  During that visit, she declared she was done reading books where a young girl gets raped by an uncle.  I didn’t disagree.  This book changed my mind.

Angela Jackson-Brown creates a character so engaging, you’d stick with her through anything.  Through a first person narrative, her character shares heartbreaking secrets with a pragmatic sweetness that’s free of judgment and anger.  Her characters are believable and likable.  Those who hurt her are still loved by her, and she makes you care about them, too, even when you don’t want to.

Read this book.

Because 3 books aren’t enough…

Yes, I started a 4th book. Why, you ask?  I do have two others plus an audio book started already. Here’s why:  I can’t stand to not be reading something on my Kindle app for those moments I find myself trapped with nothing to do.  Like now.  And since I don’t carry a purse, I don’t carry a paperback. 

So, I started the above pictured The Thirty-nine Steps to fulfill the espionage/spy novel prompt.  It’s purported to be the first of this genre and it’s great fun so far.  

Watership Down

I’ve had Watership Down on my bookshelf for thirty-seven years.  I moved it from my parents house, to college, to an apartment, to another apartment, to a house and to another house, because I wanted to read it.  In Stephen King’s the Stand (my favorite book), Stuart Redman (my favorite character) refers to Watership Down (It was about rabbits!), and remembered it was on my “to read” list.  On the television show Lost,  James “Sawyer” Ford  (my favorite character) sits on the beach reading Watership Down after the plane crash. Again, I remembered.

Finally, I’m reading it.  At 129 pages, I can see why Stephen King had Stuart reading this at the beginning of the Stand–a bit of foreshadowing and preparation for Stu.  Because, really, this is a war story.  “Since leaving the warren of the snares they had become warier, shrewder, a tenacious band who understood each other and worked together.  There was no more quarreling….They had come closer together, relying on and valuing each other’s capacities.  They knew now that it was on these and on nothing else that their lives depended, and they were not going to waste anything they possessed between them.”  War bunnies?

(I’m not going to say I’m heading back down the rabbit hole.  I’m just not.)

Two at a time?

I took a notion to start these two simultaneously. Drinking From A Bitter Cup fulfills the “a book by a person of color” prompt.  I met the author at a writers conference in Louisville a year or two ago.   My aunt gave me Watership Down when I was 11 or 12. It fulfills the “a story within a story” prompt.  They are both starting strong, but neither has demanded my full attention yet.  Just as well as I’m pretty busy with my real life work this week. 

3 Down–49 to Go

I just finished reading Dear Committee Members: a novel by Julie Schumacher. As Newsweek said, it’s smart and fun. This fulfilled the “book of letters” prompt required by the 2017 Popsugar reading challenge.  It was the perfect book to follow Station Eleven, as it demanded little of me, other than frequent use of the dictionary feature on my kindle.  (I’m still processing Station Eleven, and it might be both my favorite book and the best book I ever read.) Imagine Frasier Crane cast as an embittered curmudgeonly English Professor at a third tier (I’m guessing) liberal arts college, firing off snarky letters of recommendation, among others.  I often burst out laughing, and showed my Beloved Husband selected portions, which he also found amusing.  But, this book isn’t for everybody.  I was an English major, and once considered a career in academia.  This book makes a strong case that one should avoid that path.

The prolific epistolarian of the novel was a graduate of a prestigious creative writing “seminar,” but failed to live up to expectations, especially his own.  All of his novels are out of print and he’s forced to rescue copies from used bookstores.  Nonetheless, he’s sincerely advocating for one of his advisees to gain a spot in a similarly prestigious writers residence.  He writes, “…his novel in progress, a retelling of Melville’s ‘Bartleby’ (but in which the eponymous character is hired to keep the books at a brothel, circa 1960, just outside Las Vegas), is both tender satire and blistering adaptation/homage.”  He’s indignant that a sociologist has been named Chair of the English Department: “Perhaps, as the subject of a sociological study, you will find the problem of our dwindling status intriguing.”   He really does want the best for his department, while harboring absolutely no ambition himself: “You’ll soon find that I make myself unpleasant enough to be  safe from nomination.”  My favorite letter might be one he writes for a student he’d caught plagiarizing who was stupid enough to ask him for a recommendation.

You get the picture.  This is a character study.  There is a plot, but pay close attention or you’ll miss it.    I liked the character, but if you don’t find him charming in the first few letters, he’s unlikely to grow on you.

Meanwhile, my next prompt is “a book by a person of color.”  I have holds for both Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.  Until then, I’m moving on to “a book with one of the four seasons in the title.”  An Overdrive library search led me to Winter Birds by Jim Grimsley.

Happy reading.