This is the second installment of an online series highlighting work by Black authors published in The Common. To read The Common’s statement in support of the nationwide protests against anti-Black racism, white supremacy, and police brutality, click here.
Folks, it’s September. Time to stow away that summer beach read and pull out the award-winning tome that’s going to get you noticed by the cute grad student in the coffee shop. This month, read about starkly different economic and cultural worlds existing side by side. As the poor and the rich, the colonizer and the native shift uneasily along slippery fault lines, these recommendations offer brutal looks at friction between and within communities. Harrowing and insightful, you’ll be so engrossed you won’t even notice the number written on your to-go cup.
Portland was vibrant, despite its mistiness; always threatening to rain, but never truly downpouring. G. and I walked up and down Fore Street, looking for the restaurant by the same name, trying not to look too much like lost tourists. We had escaped to Portland in search of good food, which was always a comfort to us and which we needed now more than ever. Finishing our undergraduate degrees a few weeks earlier had left us feeling more somber and empty than excited. After days of enduring many heartfelt goodbyes from friends we knew we’d never see again and lengthy advice from proud, overbearing relatives, we were aching to get away from it all; to distract ourselves from the constant reminders that a chapter in our lives was closing forever.
Photography, science, geo-politics, instruction manuals, and a good Springsteen song—this month we’re reading works of literature with foundations in other art forms. We’re also recommending a memoir, flash fiction, linked short stories, a novel, and a poetry collection—the greatest genre spread of any Friday Reads installment since the feature’s inception. So this June, as we move into summer at last, join us at The Common in trying something new, something varied, something complex. Spice up your reading list and genre-bend your life!
Hold Still by Sally Mann, A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin, The Spark and the Drive by Wayne Harrison, Barefoot Dogs by Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, Itself by Rae Armantrout.
With the arrival of spring we’re leaping bravely into unfamiliar worlds—safe in the hands of experts, of course. An eerie peripheral dreamscape; quotidian life viewed from upside down or inside out, never as expected; the dark bureaucracy of the criminal underground; messages ferried to and from ghosts—these are unmapped terrains, and what better companions than these authors, their first cartographers? Expand your world(s) this month with these suggestions from our contributors and staff.
Bone Map: Poems by Sara Eliza Johnson, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins, Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson, Self-Portrait in Greenby Marie NDiaye, Elegies for the Brokenhearted: A Novelby Christie Hodgen.
Today we celebrate the publication of Tess Taylor’s The Forage House with two new poems from her debut collection (“Official History”, “Southampton County Will 1745”), complete with audio recordings. In the following interview with Diana Babineau, Taylor talks about personal ancestry, American roots, and slavery, as she attempts to uncover what remains of a broken past.