2016 was a strange year in so many ways. We were at once confused and hopeful about the coming elections, I was traveling way too much — first because of the National Book Award for my memoir Brown Girl Dreaming and then for my novel Another Brooklyn. I was talking about writing more than I was writing and that was making me cranky. I was away from my family and that was making THEM cranky. Then we were planning our trip abroad and gut renovation so we were all scattered and crazed. Reading became a balm for all of us. In the days I was home, time was spent reading to my eight-year-old. He had turned a corner as a reader and listener so we moved from the younger graphics — mainly his favorite book of all time: The Crock Ate My Homework — to deeper books like Jason Reynolds’s As Brave As You and later, Ghost, both of which are so brilliantly written that I often tried to move bedtime up a bit to get back to our nightly readings. At the same time, my daughter was grumbling her way through the (still assigned!) Lord of the Flies, (poor child, I felt her pain!) and finding comfort in Edwidge Danticat’s Krik Krak. Krik Krak for my daughter, was the Danticat gateway. She went on to devour Brother, I’m Dying, Breath, Eyes, Memory, and Untwine. I was more than thrilled to see these books stacked beside her bed and, in the morning, one or the other of them brought down to the breakfast table. Losing a teenager to Danticat is not really losing a teenager. The child that re-emerged was a bit deeper, a bit kinder. Then there was my partner — a doctor by day and a reader by night. The stack of books grew high beside her bed, got hauled up to the library, only to be replaced by a new stack. The book she loved the most was Carolina De Robertis’s The God’s Of Tango. It came with us to France this summer and got passed around our extended family. Not one of the people who opened that book didn’t love it. I’d have to say The Gods of Tango is on the list of amazing books written in my lifetime. I would love to spend the rest of this commentary telling anyone who wants to listen about The Gods of Tango but I won’t. Just read it. Or listen to it on audio. Or do both. The same of anything Ann Patchett puts a pen to. Commonwealth – Wow!! State of Wonder — Jeez — how did she do that?! Bel Canto — What…?!
Audio was big for me this year. Spending so much time on planes and trains, the words of other writers were healing, reminding me of why I write. So I plowed through Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s We Love You, Charlie Freeman, Naomi Jackson’s The Star Side of Bird Hill, Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs, Brit Bennett’s The Mothers and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.
Here’s the truth about me — while my partner will read a book she doesn’t really like until the last word, I will not finish a book I don’t love to the bone. Life is too short. There are far too many good books out there. I’m looking forward to finishing more of the ones I love.
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