I read Satan in Goray by Isaac Bashevis Singer — and left it in Illinois for my mother when I was visiting. She suffers from serious dementia, but expressed excitement about this book and wanted to read it. It’s set in 17th-century Poland — during the aftermath of a catastrophic massacre of the Jews. Messiahs and Devils abound in this book amid the 17th century music Singer has miraculously composed. My mother was born in a similar place in this vicinity. My mother told me her mother died of fear. They were all terribly mad.
I was lucky enough to judge some major nonfiction contests this year, so I feel like I’m bleeding and breathing hard cover books more than usual. Still, it was the stuff I read online in magazines, or poems I heard in person that made my heart quake this year. I don’t know that I read more moving and brilliantly constructed pieces online this year than Morgan Parker’s, “How To Stay Sane While Black” or Mychal Denzel Smith’s “Black Boy Literary Survival Kit” or Eve Ewing’s “We Shall Not Be Moved.” Zandria Robinson’s “Listening for the Country” made me afraid to write, as did Jesmyn Ward’s new novel. Nabila Lovelace and Aziza Barnes organized the most incredible poetry experience of my life. They invited some of the dopest black poets in the country to give readings in Oxford, Tuscaloosa, and New Orleans in something they called “The Conversation.” Jerriod Avant read the most breathtaking and life-giving poem I’ve ever heard at a little place in Oxford called the Shelter. I think we sometimes forget how much genius writing comes out of local papers in this country from young writers. Sierra Mannie proved to me again that she might be the most brilliant young journalist in the country with her piece in the Jackson Free Press on education in juvenile detention centers called “Chronically Absent.”
Do you love Year in Reading and the amazing books and arts content that The Millions produces year round? We are asking readers for support to ensure that The Millions can stay vibrant for years to come. Please click here to learn about several simple ways you can support The Millions now.