The Education of Margot Sanchez

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A Year in Reading: Jamel Brinkley

2017 has been another year of transition for me. After living in Madison, Wisc., for only a year, I moved out to California. It’s been strange and a little unsettling to move farther and farther away from my family and friends in New York. I’ve also felt anxious because teaching duties in Madison and Iowa City, a fairly demanding new job I’ve taken on to pay the bills, and edits for my forthcoming debut story collection have kept me from writing any new fiction. And then, of course, there’s been the nightmarish daily assault of Donald Trump, white supremacy, toxic masculinity, gun violence… The list goes on.

Thank goodness for independent bookstores! A Room of One’s Own, Skylight Books, Eso Won Books, and The Last Bookstore helped new cities feel more like home. Greenlight Bookstore and Prairie Lights Books have been priority stops whenever I dipped back to Brooklyn or Iowa City. Thank goodness for books. Here are some that have ushered me through a challenging year:

A People on the Cover by Glenn Ligon

The Mountain by Paul Yoon

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

In the Wake: On Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison

A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma

Simulacra by Airea D. Matthews

The King Is Always Above the People by Daniel Alarcón

The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier

Portrait of the Alcoholic by Kaveh Akbar

New People by Danzy Senna

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li

Ordinary Beast by Nicole Sealey

Somebody with a Little Hammer by Mary Gaitskill

House of Lords and Commons by Ishion Hutchinson

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons

Afterland by Mai Der Vang

What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah

The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing by Margot Livesey

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Unaccompanied by Javier Zamora

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke

Bestiary by Donika Kelly

Like a Beggar by Ellen Bass

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Play Dead by francine j. harris

Insurrections by Rion Amilcar Scott

More from A Year in Reading 2017

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Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

A Year in Reading: Lilliam Rivera

If I’m not reading at least two books at a time I’m failing somehow. And yet, my to-read pile this year never seemed to dwindle. There’s no real strategy to what I will read. I’m not a snob about it. I’ll read everything from speculative fiction to young adult to poetry. When a book I’m reading strikes a chord, I feel it so violently that I want to throw the book across the room. The selections below are just a sample of what moved me to extreme emotions this year:

The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera

When I finished reading this slim novel, I immediately wanted to read it again. Then, I wanted to read it in its original Spanish and locate all of Herrera’s works. The Transmigration of Bodies is bleak, hilarious, and so full of grit. Herrera is one of Mexico’s most exiting novelists and I eagerly await his next.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

“We went wild that hot night. We howled, we raged, we screamed.” The first two lines of this young adult novel pulled me right in. The Walls Around Us is a ghost tale with prose so beautiful and images so visceral I wanted to protect the young girls from the pain depicted on the pages.

Certain Dark Things: A Novel by Silvia Moreno Herrera

How do you subvert the vampire story? You set it in Mexico City and replace the stereotypical bloodsuckers with feuding families of vampire narcos. This is an exciting new world of gangster vampires that’s full of suspense and emotion.

Kendra by Coe Booth

I love flawed characters that make questionable decisions. Kendra is such a character, a 14-year-old who desperately wants to connect with her very young mother. Sexuality is handled with brutal honesty in this young adult novel. Booth also depicts the Bronx, New York, my hometown, with such love and authenticity.

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

This book came with me on my vacation to Hawaii. The island was the perfect setting to get lost in Chee’s lush world. Every single detail transported me to 19th-century France with its lavish costumes and baroque drama.

In between novels, I usually turn to poetry. These collections sit by my nightstand. Right before I go to sleep, I randomly open a page and read with the hope that the images evoked by these poets will seep into my dreams.

Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia De Burgos

Burgos is one of the most important Puerto Rican poets. Her work is revolutionary. She has such a strong influence on me that her writing makes an appearance in my young adult novel, The Education of Margot Sanchez.

Reliquaria by R.A. Villanueva

Villanueva’s poems seem like prayers, calling out to the past. I’m also attracted to how he plays with Catholicism and its colonial nature in language.

Our Lady of the Crossword by Rigoberto González

González has such a way with words. His poetry is packed with sexuality and culture. The chapbook is also small enough for my purse and travels with me.

More from A Year in Reading 2016

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.

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

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