Tag Archives: Literature

Just Like A Woman: More Color and Diversity in the Novel as in Life

By Carole Reedy

Two Latinas, one Native American, one Black American, one Ghanaian American, and one White American. These remarkable women make up the list of some of the most anticipated 2020 novels written by women.

In 2019, we saw the first black woman and first black British author, Bernadine Evaristo, win the coveted Booker Prize for her novel Girl, Woman, Other. Previously, just four black women had been shortlisted for the award.

In an unprecedented action, the Booker committee decided to flout the one-winner rule. The prize was shared with author Margaret Atwood for The Testaments, sequel to her best-selling novel A Handmaid’s Tale.

The books listed here will surely be among those considered for this year’s top prizes. Let this column serve as an early alert so you can get on those library waiting lists!

Two important novels to be published this year are not on this list because we reviewed them in the February 2020 issue of The Eye: The Mirror and the Light by Hillary Mantel (in March) and The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante (in June). See theeyehuatulco.com to read about these marvelous new novels.

On to the next 2020 selections, with publication dates in parentheses…

Zora Neale Hurston
Hitting A Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick (January 2020)

Surely the most recognizable name on this list, the late Hurston’s works continue to rise from the ashes. Upon her death of heart disease in 1960, Hurston’s papers were tossed into a burn barrel, but then were miraculously saved by a friend passing the house where Hurston had lived, the valuable manuscripts continuing to be published to this day. It’s also thanks to writer Alice Walker, who in 1975 published “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston,” in Ms. Magazine, that attention has focused on the author.

It’s impossible to begin discussing Hurston’s intense struggles and experience. Just reading a brief biography of her life is exhausting. But we’re fortunate to live in a world filled with publishers who continue to remind us who she was and what she means to history and society.

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick contains 21 stories of love and race, eight of them from the lost Harlem Renaissance collection of the 1920s and 30s. The Guardian calls her tales “wickedly funny…unnerving at times, but always a thrill.” We are so fortunate to benefit from the discovery of her stories.

Louise Erdrich
The Night Watchman (March 3, 2020)

This novel is based on Erdrich’s grandfather’s story, both as a night watchman in a North Dakota factory and as a member of the Chippewa Council, where he was active in arguing for the Native American during a time (1953) when the US government was presenting a new bill that threatened their rights.

Memorable characters from the reservation and others make up the world of Erdrich’s book, one the publisher describes as “a majestic work of fiction from this revered cultural treasure.”

Erdrich has won a plethora of awards, including the 2012 National Book Award for Fiction. A member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, she owns a bookstore, Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, with a focus on Native American literature.

Yaa Gyasi
Transcendent Kingdom (September 15, 2020)

This tops my eager-to-read list because I and most of my reading friends were deeply impressed with Homegoing, Gyasi’s 2016 debut historical fiction novel, which follows the family of many generations of Ghanaians. Among other awards, the book received the 2017 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award.

Gyasi’s new novel also examines the life of a Ghanaian family, this time in Alabama. Those who are fortunate enough to have received advance copies give this book five stars, praising it as the book that “will make her a legend.”

Isabel Allende
A Long Petal of the Sea (January 21, 2020)

Those of you who want to read in Spanish to improve your second language skills will find Allende a good place to start. She’s accessible and a master storyteller and historian. Allende’s style is often magical realism, and the most popular of her many novels is The House of the Spirits.

The Guardian writes that “At this point in Allende’s career, it’s easy to forget what a trailblazer she was, a rare female voice in a wave of Latin American literature that was overwhelmingly male.”

A Long Petal of the Sea starts during the Spanish Civil War, continues with the protagonists through France and eventually to Pinochet’s Chile, and finally moves to Venezuela. The poet Pablo Neruda plays a part in the expansive tale of 80 years, as does Allende’s own life. It sounds to me like a complete and satisfying historical tale.

Julia Álvarez
Afterlife (April 7, 2020)

After 15 years, we’re finally looking forward to another Álvarez novel. Many of us remember well In the Time of Butterflies, the story of sisters rebelling during the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, as well as How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, also a family tale whose story takes place in the Dominican Republic and in the US.

Afterlife is a novel of the immigrant experience and of a recent widow dealing with loss and grief. It is described by critics as both moving and funny.

One of our favorite Latin American authors, Luis Alberto Urrea (if you haven’t read his The House of Broken Angels, you have a great delight in store for you!), welcomes Alvarez’s return with this: “The queen is back with the exact novel we need in this fraught era.”

Kate Elizabeth Russell
My Dark Vanessa (March 10, 2020)

Like Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel Gone Girl, this first novel by a young American PhD is being touted as the most-awaited novel of the year by The New York Times, Esquire, and The Guardian, among others.

Esquire says: “A singular achievement – a masterpiece of tension and tone . . . with utmost sensitivity and vivid gut-churning detail. Before you start My Dark Vanessa, clear your schedule for the next few days…this will utterly consume you.”

The story, woven from memory, is one the publisher describes as “exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher.”

The mere availability of these future masterpieces in libraries and bookstores and on Amazon and Kindle fills me with two deeply satisfying emotions: joy and anticipation. Booker-prize winner Evaristo expresses contemporary women’s concerns best in one brief sentence: “We black British women know that if we don’t write ourselves into literature no one else will.”

Stay in the limelight, gals! Keep reading.

Mexico’s History, Past and Present, through Books

“History endures in Mexico. No one has died here, despite the killings and the executions. They are alive – Cuauhtémoc, Cortes, Maximilian, Don Porfirio, and all the conquerors and all the conquered. That is Mexico’s special quality. The whole past is a pulsing present. It has not gone by, it has stopped in its tracks.”

José Moreno Villa

By Carole Reedy

Despite the endless options for looking up information online, many of us still prefer to read books to gain a sense of history. In keeping with this issue’s theme, I offer here with brief descriptions books that over the years have helped me understand our dear Mexico today. Many have been mentioned in this column over the past seven years because of the authors’ keen insights and grasp of Mexico past and present. Continue reading Mexico’s History, Past and Present, through Books

Books You Might Have Missed

By Carole Reedy

Even we dedicated readers, with our lists, book clubs, and notebooks, have trouble keeping up with the plethora of new authors and their work. We want to read everything by our favorite writers, and then there are the best-sellers. Add to that books recommended by friends and then all of the articles from The New York Times, The Guardian, and the multitude of literary publications. Continue reading Books You Might Have Missed

Women Writers of The World: Thank You!

By Carole Reedy

Over the past 200 years, women worldwide have offered fresh perspectives despite the prominence of men in most fields. In the 21st century, we’re seeing an emergence of women in politics, as heads of states, in science, and in the arts. Here are a few women writers who have enriched our lives, not only with their writing, humor, and intelligence, but with their ability to reflect on and express in words what it means to be a woman and, importantly, human. Continue reading Women Writers of The World: Thank You!

Favorite 2016 Books of Expats Living in Mexico

By Carole Reedy

In an attempt to add some spice to the Favorite Reads 2016 column, I decided to narrow the selections to choices from expats living in Mexico. These readers are from the US, Canada, South America, and Great Britain. To my delight they presented me with a wonderfully eclectic list to share with you. Their task was to select a favorite book they read in 2016 (not necessarily published then), relate what they liked about it and identify their own country of origin. The result is a basket of memorable books you may want to add to your 2017 list. Continue reading Favorite 2016 Books of Expats Living in Mexico

My Favorite Fiction of 2016

By Carole Reedy

Instead of making a Christmas list for Santa, every year I review the books I’ve read and make a list of my favorites. Revisiting each book provokes a memory of the particular time I was reading it–in the Buenos Aires apartment adjacent to the Recoleta Cemetery where Evita’s remains finally rest in peace, in the cozy bed and breakfast in La Havana across from the Museo de la Revolución, or on a lazy afternoon on my small, peaceful, yet vibrant with street-vendor noise, terrace in Mexico City. Continue reading My Favorite Fiction of 2016

THE BIG LITERARY AWARDS: Who are these finalists?

By Carole Reedy

Stunned and surprise were the first feelings I had after reading the list of novels that are short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award this year. I didn’t recognize one name. At first I thought ‘Mmmmm, a bunch of young whippersnappers.’ But, no, to my surprise most are middle-aged with a cache of published books to their credit. Continue reading THE BIG LITERARY AWARDS: Who are these finalists?