The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind

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A Year in Reading: Dinaw Mengestu

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Perhaps the only real privilege that comes with being a writer is the chance to peer into the future and read books that have yet to be published — books that arrive in manila envelopes, unbound, or in your email as a PDF or even better, simple Word doc with only a title page for a cover. Steve Toltz’s Quicksand won’t be published until 2015, and I imagine by the time its published, I will have read it at least once more because it’s much funnier and wiser than any novel I’ve read in quite some time. And then there’s Claudia Rankine and Beth Loffreda’s The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind which will be out in early 2015, and which while reading I wished could have been published years ago, or perhaps simply every year because it starts, or better yet insists on continuing, a conversation on race and the imagination that’s too important to ignore.

And as for books published in 2014, I’ll remain grateful for many years for Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation — a book that, all too often, I found myself reading aloud from to whoever happened to be near me at that moment — and for Akhil Sharma’s Family Life, and the always extraordinary Helen Oyeyemi for Boy Snow Bird, two novels that I carried with me on many planes, across numerous borders, even after I had finished them because they were such exquisite, perfect company.

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