When I pick a book to read, it has to do with two things: my mood or whatever creative project I am working on. I look to authors as teachers, hoping they’d provide me with some insight, inspiration and answers to questions I’ve been probing. The last twelve months was no different. As I close up the 2016 shop, take inventory and evaluate, I am appreciative of the strides I’ve been able to make; the mistakes that have taught me hard lessons; the challenges that have made me stronger and the values that have helped me be smarter. Although my evolution is no where near complete, I am fully aware of the growth towards forward movement. As with 2015, I am interested in sharing with you the books that helped me arrive at points of new perspective.
Das Energi by Paul Williams was the first book I read in 2016, having completed it on January 6th. It’s a very simple collection of poetry, however, its advanced tone is what allows it to stand a part from the rest. Williams uses a combination of language that is very rare, appearing as if he knows something the masses does not. It was illuminating to spend my first week of the 2016 new year in his company.
On March 18, I finished reading Nell Irvin Painter‘s The History of White People. It was the first book of the new year to emotionally stir me politically. Before Irvin Painter, I had read Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Edwidge Danticat’s The Farming of Bones. They had set the tone, really; positioning me adequately to fall into the steps of human history. Although I read Diaz and Danticat first, the narratives were combined with a fictional story, allowing me the freedom to remove myself from the severity of its historical references. Irvin Painter, however, didn’t give that option: she told it how it was and it is harder to run from the truth in that regard.
It took me two months to read A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. I finished it on May 5th, feeling as if I had just finished watching an action movie like Scarface. It maintained a unique Jamaican reference in language and tone because James wrote large portions in Patois. Not only does it give a lot in page numbers but, also, narrative. There are so many characters, so many perspectives, that James provides a full cast list. It was a journey, for sure; a great one. Of course, Marlon James was the 2015 Man Booker Prize winner.
I’ve never owned a comic book before. Until now. I learned that Marvel’s Black Panther is a superhero from a country in Africa that is the most technologically savvy in the world and its army is made of women. Then I learned the new writer for the comic book is Ta-Nehisi Coates. I was sold and immediately purchased two copies, the second one to send for my niece and nephew. Because, you know, representation matters. Having finished it on October 8th, I was filled with euphoria to read its story and be a witness to a black superhero and black warrior women.
Octavia Butler‘s Xenogenesis series was my introduction to her work, style and brain flow. The three part series is composed of Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago. By the time I finished Dawn on October 20th, I rushed for the remaining parts and finished all three by November 20th. She was certainly a prophet, filled with imagination and unlimited creative power. Butler is someone I’d love to chat with over coffee, someone who I have deemed my teacher. ♦