Category Archives: Recommendations

Revisiting Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights

Wakes of Joy: On Ross Gay's "The Book of Delights" | Porter House Review

All writers are given the same piece of advice to write each and every day; Ross Gay took on this challange and made it literal. 

And so The Book of Delights was born, Ross Gay’s collection of personal essays, a one-year project beginning and ending on Gay’s birthday. Each piece is framed around the blissful premise of capturing the little pleasures in everyday life. 

The topics of the delights range from the smallest joy, like a “Flower in the Curb,” where Gay recounts seeing, “some kind of gorgous flower, mostly a red I don’t think I actually have words for, a red I maybe only seen in this flower growing out of the crack between the curb and the asphalt…”  (Gay 9). 

In addition to the light moments, Gay reveals truths that ask his reader to think. A writer of color, Gay raises the issue of inequality throughout the text, like when he discusses his friend’s book : 

“…the fact that innocence is an impossible state for black people in America who are, by virtue of this country’s fundamental beliefs, always presumed guilty. It’s not hard to get this. Read Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow. Or Devah Pager’s work about hiring practices showing that black men without a record receive job callbacks at a rate lower than white men previously convicted of felonies… (Gay 25).”

This perspective that Gay shares invite his readers not only to be appreciative, but critical, of their surrounding world. More serious themes such as this are interwoven throughout the novel, balancing the existing uplifting moments. 

As a reader, this feels more authentic to read than a book solely about delights. It’s not realistic to have a positive outlook every day for an entire year. Gay’s balance of the ideas he wrestles with in daily life, along with the little joys he experiences make for a reliable narrator. 

The Book of Delights is a great read that asks its reader to reflect on life’s positive experiences, amid times of uncertainty and negativity. Its essay-like structure of one delight at a time makes it easy to breeze through, since it is connected by a premise more than a plot. It’s positive tone will put you in an uplifting mood and help you to notice the daily delights in life than go often overlooked. 

– Charleigh

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In Need of a New Read? Check Out These Titles

“Books shed light unto the darkness. Darkness retreats one letter, one line, one page at a time,” said writer Kiyoko Yoshimura. Remembering that books hold the incredible power to enrich and educate can be a lifeline, especially during turbulent times like these.

If you’re craving a deep-dive into a title that makes you think, critique, and reflect, check out these 8 well-reviewed books:

NONFICTION

1. Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now by Evan Osnos is a “fast-paced biography that draws on extensive interviews with his subject, as well as with Obama and a host of Democratic party heavyweights. In pursuit of brevity it races through the many personal dramas of a tumultuous life and deals only perfunctorily with Biden’s surviving son … This book suggests Biden has the capacity for self-reinvention,” according to Julian Borger, of The Guardian.

2. Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark is an “incandescent, richly researched biography … Red Comet takes us on a literary picaresque, drawing on untapped archives, Plath’s complete correspondence, interviews with surviving members of the couple’s social and professional circles, and, most crucially, on Hughes’ journals and letters… A bravura performance, Red Comet is the one we’ve waited for,” The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Hamilton Cain stated.

3. Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art by Rebecca Wragg Sykes “explains in splendidly engaging prose why this fact is cause for wonder and celebration … What Wragg Sykes has produced in Kindred, after eight years of labor, is masterful,” says NPR writer Barbara King. “Synthesizing over a century and a half of research, [Wragg Skyes] gives us a vivid feel for a past in which we weren’t the only smart, feeling bipedal primate alive. That feel comes across sometimes in startlingly fresh ways.”

4. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson includes “vivid stories about the mistreatment of Black Americans by government and law and in everyday social life—from the violence of the slave plantation to the terror of lynchings to the routines of discourtesy and worse that are still a common experience for so many—retain their ability to appall and unsettle, to prompt flashes of indignation and moments of sorrow,” as stated by Kwame Anthony Appiah, a writer of The New York Times Book Review. “The result is a book that is at once beautifully written and painful to read.”

5. After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America by Jessica Goudeau is considered required reading for anyone looking to understand the United States in the Trump era, according to Mimi Swartz in The New York Times Book Review: “Goudeau understands the metaphorical power of a beloved courtyard where family gatherings will never occur again, and the fear inspired by the sideways glance of a newly minted government soldier who may or may not be a friend on any given day … Reading After the Last Border will make you wish that more Americans would take a critical look at themselves and ask whether we are who we want to be, or whether we have lost our allegiance to the dreams that still inspire so many to try to reach our shores.”

FICTION

6. Memorial by Bryan Washington, author of Lot, is “a new and nuanced rom-com, and what truly makes Memorial extraordinary—especially the final section—is Washington’s uncanny ability to capture the elusive essence of love on nearly every page… if there’s one book you should go out of your way to read in 2020, it should be this one,” as Alexis Burling from The San Francisco Chronicle said in her review.

7. The Weekend by Charlotte Wood is a work described as being “more Big Chill than Handmaid’s Tale, with a dash of Big Little Lies and an echo of Atwood’s The Robber Bride. Wood uses the classic theatrical set-up of a house party to concentrate tension in a tight space. If she were Agatha Christie this would lead to murder, but her characters’ emotional blow-ups are closer to those in David Williamson’s Don’s Party or Rachel Ward’s recent film Palm Beach… Behind the laughs there is deep humanity, intellect and spirituality, qualities that mark The Weekend as much more than old-chook lit … The Weekend is a novel about decluttering and real estate, about the geometry of friendship, about sexual politics, and about how we change, survive and ultimately die,” as said by The Guardian’s Susan Wyndham.8.

8. The Cold Millions by Jess Walter is “a tremendous work, a vivid, propulsive, historical novel with a politically explosive backdrop that reverberates through our own… Walter is a Spokane native, and he captures both the depth and breadth of this moment in his hometown’s history … gives us the grand tour, with a bounty of crime and intrigue and adventure anchored by an unforgettable ensemble cast … About half of the novel is narrated in the third person from Rye’s point of view, but Walter brings in a multitude of first-person voices to bring the world roaring to life,” according to Steph Cha, from USA Today.

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Meat Symbolism in Han Kang’s The Vegetarian

That red juice oozing out of your steak isn't blood

If you’re looking for a terrific and horrific read this Halloween season, look no further than Han Kang’s The Vegetarian. (Please Note: The Vegetarian is a psychological horror/thriller novel and may not be suited for all readers. The book depicts violence/sexual violence, mental illness, and abuse, so please be advised before reading). 

The Vegetarian is written in three parts with three narrators. Part one follows protagonist Yeong-he and is narrated by her husband, Mr. Cheong. As a psychological thriller, this novel focuses on the psychological trauma Yeong-he experiences, and the mental anguish of those around her.

Mr. Cheong isn’t the best husband: he opens the novel by saying his wife is average. His narrative tone is that of a superior partner in a relationship, and the way in which he speaks to his wife indicates mistreatment. 

We learn Yeong-he is undergoing a significant change. After waking up from a nightmare, she vows to never eat meat again. Meanwhile, Yeong-he’s personality is becoming muted. She turns socially withdrawn and quiet, as if she is experiencing depressive symptoms. 

Yeong-he’s repulsion toward meat could speak to a greater symbolic meaning: the repulsion toward her own husband. Psychoanalytic theorist and philosopher Julia Kristeva writes about this very topic of abjection, or the feeling of horror that causes the subconscious and unconscious mind to confuse the self with the other. Regarding food as an example, Kristeva writes: 

“‘I’ want none of that element, sign of their desire; ‘I’ do not want to listen, ‘I’ do not assimilate it, ‘I’ expel it. But since the food is not an ‘other’ for ‘me,’ who am only in their desire, I expel myself, I spit myself out, I abject myself within the same motion through which ‘I’ claim to establish myself.” 

When considering the text from a feminist lens, the symbolic implications of meat are hard to ignore.  From a physical standpoint, meat is flesh and body, and often contains blood. It’s a common trope in art for meat to represent masculinity.

Yeong-he’s disgust towards meat could be because she unconsciously likened it to something primal. Meat could be the threat she is misinterpreting to harm her own reality. Not eating meat goes against her husband’s wishes, and is an exercise in control. 

This reading would suggest Mr. Cheong and masculinity itself is Yeong-he’s real problem, not her unwillingness to eat meat. Ironically, Mr. Cheong becomes more domineering to try to combat this eating issue, and Yeong-he’s mental state only worsens. 

If you’re curious like to learn what happens to Yeong-he and want to curl up with a page-turning thriller,  I recommend The Vegetarian.

-Charleigh 

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Literature of the Climate Crisis

Environmental Banner

We have eleven years to cut global emissions in half. Scientists warn that anything less could raise the global temperature over 1.5 °C and create massive droughts, floods, extreme heat, poverty, and environmental emigration.

2019 saw a huge shift in the public’s awareness of the climate crisis. We’ve curated a reading list for those who want to learn even more.

 

Nonfiction

Environmental Books Nonfiction

This is Not a Drill (2019): A collection of essays written and collected by Extinction Rebellion members that will bring the urgency of the climate crisis into reality.

On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal (2019): A collection of award-winning environmental journalist Naomi Klein’s most poignant and inspiring articles on the climate crisis in the last decade.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy (2019): In the midst of her exploration of the intersection of technology, memory, and humanity, Jenny Odell connects our tech-induced memory lapses to our lack of attention to our environment.

No One is Too Small to Make a Different (2019) : Greta Thunberg lit the world on fire with her passionate, scalding speeches on the urgency of the climate crisis. This collection documents some of her most inspiring words.

Daughter of Copper Woman: From creation myths to the bloody legacy of colonization, Anne Cameron documents the stories of indigenous women and the link between culture, feminism, and land.

 

Poetry

Environmental Books Poetry

“The Peace of Wild Things” (2018): First published in Wendell Berry’s collection of the same name, you can read the entire poem here.

“Lullaby in Fracktown” (2016): First published in Poetry‘s January 2016 issue, you can read the entire poem here.  This poem was written by Lilace Mellin Guignard.

“Once the World Was Perfect” (2015): First published in Joy Harjo’s collection Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, you can read the entire poem here.

“Of Age” (2017): First published in the New Yorker, you can read the entire poem here. This poem was written by Amit Majmudar

“2 Degrees” (2015): First preformed at an United Nations Climate Change event, you can read the entire poem here. This poem was written by Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner.

 

Fiction

Environmental Books Fiction

Oryx & Crake (2003): The first in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAdam trilogy, Oryx & Crake tells the story of a new species of people created specifically to survive the climate apocalypse.

The Lorax (1971): Dr. Seuss’s iconic and essential children’s story about the consequences of capitalism on the environment.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1996): Humans are barely surviving from the legacy of environmental destruction in this world crawling with giant insects, toxic air, and human greed.

The Road (2006): A father and child try to survive life on the road after a devastating apocalypse transforms the land around them.

Bone Clocks (2014): Author David Mitchell uses the landscape of a fantasy world to explore human nature and our relationship to the environment around us.

 

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Feeling Uninspired? Here are Some Books That Can Help

Inspiration can come in a variety of different forms regardless of what genre you write in. With Nature Photography Day being on June 15th, I wanted to create a short list of some of the most beautiful books featuring nature photography. Viewing these splendid images could spark something inside you and help give you a new view on the world as well as create an engaging talking point in your everyday life.

9781604694925_p0_v1_s550x406Seeing Seeds by Teri Dunn Chace & Robert Llewellyn

Sometimes taking a closer look at things can help to change your option of them. In this dazzling book, there is more than just close up pictures of seeds, because every seed comes with a fascinating story. As the saying goes, “Great oaks from little acorns grow”, but this book shows there is much more to a seed then the plant it will someday become. With Llewellyn’s unique method of focus stacking, a technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus distances, every part of the picture is in sharp focus creating a depth of detail that rivals the best botanical illustrators. Within these stunning pages, you’ll gain an understanding of how seeds are formed and dispersed, why they look the way they do, and how they fit into the environment. Seeing Seedsis sure to take you to strange and wonderful places and when you return, it’s safe to say you will never look at a seed the same way again.

81bbF+rQklLOverview by Benjamin Grant

Going from extreme close up to extreme overview can give you a greater understanding of the world as a whole. Have you ever looked out of your airplane window and marveled at the site of the land below you, viewing the grid of housing developments, roads, farms, and shipyards? With this stunning and unique collection of satellite images of Earth, this book offers an unexpected look at humanity. It showcases a marvelous view of the world by stitching together numerous high-resolution satellite photographs. The effect is a sensation that echoes the experiences that astronauts have when given the opportunity to look down on Earth. These breathtaking, high definition satellite photographs offer a new way to look at the landscape that we have shaped, with a mixture of more than 200 images of industry, agriculture, and nature. These photographs highlight the incredible natural patterns that the land creates as well as revealing a deeper story about the human impact on the world. This extraordinary photographic journey around our planet captures the sense of wonder gained from a new, aerial vantage point and creates a perspective of Earth as it has never been seen before.

UnknownBeaches by Stefano Passaquindici

As it is still summer you might not be able to head to the beach yourself, but that does not mean that you need to deprive yourself of the beautiful images and inspiration that beaches can bring you. With this beautifully illustrated volume, you have access to 100 of the most breathtaking beaches in the world all from your home. These beaches can be found on coastlines from around the world, from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to the quaintness of Love Beach in the Bahamas. This book offers an exclusive tour of 100 of the most beautiful beaches in the world chosen by some of the world’s most qualified and sophisticated travel journalist and photographers and offers a unique perspective for travelers everywhere. This book could also be used as a wonderful piece of research should your work require useful maps and website references

rarely seen.jpgRarely Seen by National Geographic

Humans have always been fascinated by the awe-inspiring and in this book you can feast your eyes on the visual wonders that few will have the chance to see in person. This book features striking images of places, events, natural phenomena, and manmade heirlooms all shot by some of the world’s finest photographers. Everything is here in this masterpiece, a 30,000-year-old cave art sealed from the public; animals that are among the last of their species; volcanic lightning; giant crystals that have grown to more than 50 tons; the engraving inside Abraham Lincoln’s pocket watch. “In the presence of so many breathtaking images, you’re sure to find something inspiring to write about.” So sit down in a comfortable chair and let your mind wander to all to the possibilities.

dawn to duskDawn to Dark by National Geographic

Everyone knows that light makes photography possible and that by simply changing the lighting of an environment it can change the feelings that a photograph brings. In this remarkable book, the world’s best landscape photography and photojournalism depicts the stunningly beautiful passage of a single day, from dawn’s first light to the closing moments of sunset. Full of one-of-a-kind photographs, this collection gives readers a front-row seat to the wonders of the world as seen through the passing of a day.

We hope this little list helps you find that spark of inspiration you look for when the creative well feels empty. The photographs in these books can help give you a new perspective on the world through their expert use of lighting, angles, and distances. With this change of perspective, we hope that you find the ability to engage with the creative inspiration that is all around you and know that inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places.

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Sink Your Eyes Into These Books!

As we enjoy the summer I wanted to take a moment to create a short list of summer reading material. For those that don’t usually read this could be a terrific goal to have this list completed by the end of July. For those that do read this could be seen as a list to broaden your horizons into a genre you don’t usually read. How many can you read? Which is your favorite?

 

Fiction

Where the Crawdads Sing

By Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Celebrated for its inspiring tale and emotional prose Where the Crawdads Sing will bring tears to your eyes and a smile on your face.

Historic Fiction

Lost Roses

By Martha Hall Kelly

It is 1914, and the world has been on the brink of war so often, many New Yorkers treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia: the church with the interior covered in jeweled mosaics, the Rembrandts at the tsar’s Winter Palace, the famous ballet.

But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia’s imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortune-teller’s daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya’s letters suddenly stop coming, she fears the worst for her best friend.

A story of friendship and hardship this tale will have you questioning the limits your own relationships have and if you are willing to break them.

Romantic Fiction

Normal People

By Sally Rooney

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school football team, while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

The classic tale of girl meets boy but with a societal class twist. A love story that is not quite a romance from two different perspectives. Will they be together? Will they drift apart? 

LGBTQ Fiction

Real Queer America:LGBT Stories From Red States

By Samantha Allen

Ten years ago, Samantha Allen was a suit-and-tie-wearing Mormon missionary. Now she’s a senior Daily Beast reporter happily married to another woman. A lot in her life has changed, but what hasn’t changed is her deep love of Red State America, and of queer people who stay in so-called “flyover country” rather than moving to the liberal coasts.

In Real Queer America, Allen takes us on a cross-country road-trip stretching all the way from Provo, Utah to the Rio Grande Valley to the Bible Belt to the Deep South. Her motto for the trip: “Something gay every day.” Making pit stops at drag shows, political rallies, and hubs of queer life across the heartland, she introduces us to scores of extraordinary LGBT people working for change, from the first openly transgender mayor in Texas history to the manager of the only queer night club in Bloomington, Indiana, and many more.

Conservative communities and queer spaces? Samantha Allen challenges the vision that readers have for the Mid United States and their inner communities and completely changes the narrative and has readers begging for more. 

Science Fiction

Radicalized

By Cory Doctorw

Told through one of the most on-pulse genre voices of our generation, Radicalized is a timely collection consisting of four SF novellas connected by social, technological, and economic visions of today and what America could be in the near, near future.

Unauthorized Bread is a tale of immigration, the toxicity of economic and technological stratification, and the young and downtrodden fighting against all odds to survive and prosper.

In Model Minority, a Superman-like figure attempts to rectifiy the corruption of the police forces he long erroneously thought protected the defenseless…only to find his efforts adversely affecting their victims.

Radicalized is a story of a dark-web-enforced violent uprising against insurance companies told from the perspective of a man desperate to secure funding for an experimental drug that could cure his wife’s terminal cancer.

The fourth story, Masque of the Red Death, harkens back to Doctorow’s Walkaway, taking on issues of survival-ism versus community.

An anthology that likens to Black Mirror, these authors push the societal norms and forces us to question our morality and political views.

Fantasy

Black Leopard Red Wolf

By Marlon James

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

As Tracker follows the boy’s scent–from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers–he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?

Armed with literary devices and African mythology Marlon James takes us on an adventure through new worlds and prose. A sharp contrast from the Greek Myths we have become used to Black Leopard Red Wolf is a refreshing tale you won’t want to put down.

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5 Flash Fiction Pieces to Celebrate Women’s History Month

By Anne Jonas

In honor of Women’s History Month, I have chosen 5 flash fiction pieces written by, or about, women. These pieces take no more than 5 minutes to read, and are perfect for any spare moments you have throughout your day.

1. Break, by Rabih Alameddine

break

Image Source: Chloe Scheffe, The New Yorker

This piece chronicles the relationship between a sister and a brother who correspond over the course of seven years with just photographs. What is the reason for such a peculiar form of communication, you may ask? The narrator is a trans-woman whose family disowned her upon her transitioning, and threatened her brother not to speak or write to her without consequences. This story is a haunting portrait of the breaking and reparation of family, love, and loneliness.

“He broke first. I received a four-by-six portrait of his son with a slightly bleeding nose, taken hastily, badly lit, likely by a bathroom bulb. On the ten-year-old face, a thread of blood trickled from nose to upper lip, curving an ogee around the corner of the mouth and down the chin. The boy was in no pain; he looked inquisitively at the camera, probably wondering why his father had had the urge to bring it out.

I held my breath for a beat or two or three when I saw the image. On the back of the photograph Mazen had written, ‘I keep seeing you.’”

2. Girl, by Jamaica Kincaid

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Image Source: Jefferson Wheeler

In this laundry list of dos and don’ts, demands, and warnings, Jamaica Kincaid exposes the unembellished realities of growing up as a girl in a patriarchal world. Written in 1978, in the height of the Second Wave feminist movement, Kincaid’s story feels just as personal as it does political. It is not flashy about its brilliance, and yet in its modesty it proves to be a nuanced masterpiece.

“this is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely; this is how you set a table for tea; this is how you set a table for dinner; this is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest; this is how you set a table for lunch; this is how you set a table for breakfast; this is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming; be sure to wash every day, even if it is with your own spit; don’t squat down to play marbles—you are not a boy, you know”

3. The Huntress, by Sofia Samatar

huntress

Image Source: Del Samatar

In this sci-fi fast fiction piece, an impossibly large female monster called The Huntress terrorizes the inhabitants of a city below. The narrator is a foreigner to this place and is fatally unprepared for the wrath of The Huntress. This piece weaves together intense sensory imagery with disorienting ambiguity; we, as readers, feel just as on-edge as the narrator.

“The Huntress left dark patches wherever she passed. She left a streak. In the morning, the hotel staff would find me unconscious, gummed to the floor. The proprietor weeping, for nothing like this had ever happened in his establishment, nothing. Had I not read the instructions on the desk?”

4. Housewife, by Amy Hempel

amy-hempel

Image Source: VICE

In this one-sentence story, Amy Hempel humorously captures the pure delight of a cunning, two-timing housewife rejoicing in her latest affair. Hempel relays the sexual freedom and polyamorous nature of a modern-day woman who seeks her own pleasure first, and protocols second.

“She would always sleep with her husband and with another man in the course of the same day, and then the rest of the day, for whatever was left to her of that day, she would exploit by incanting, ‘French film, French film.’”

5.  John Redding Goes to Sea, by Zora Neale Hurston

 

zora-neale-hurstonjpg

Image Source: Fotosearch / Getty Images

Zora Neale Hurston is one of my all-time favorite female novelists as well as an iconic figure in feminist history. Although she is primarily known and celebrated for her novels, her fast-fiction and short stories are equally deserving of praise. In this piece, Hurston masterfully uses dialect to illustrate the story of John Redding, a ten-year-old daydreamer who imagines his backyard stream is a great sea.

“The little brown boy loved to wander down to the water’s edge, and, casting in dry twigs, watch them sail away downstream to Jacksonville, the sea, the wide world and John Redding wanted to follow them.

Sometimes in his dreams he was a prince, riding away in a gorgeous carriage. Often he was a knight bestride a fiery charger prancing down the white shell road that led to distant lands. At other times he was a steamboat captain piloting his craft down the St. John River to where the sky seemed to touch the water. No matter what he dreamed or who he fancied himself to be, he always ended by riding away to the horizon; for in his childish ignorance he thought this to be farthest land.”

For those who feel like they don’t have the time to read a full-fledged novel, or who desire a fast-paced narrative, fast fiction is the way to go. However, do not assume that just because these pieces are short, they are any less than a novel or a lengthier piece. Fast fiction is an important subgenre of literature because it stretches the expectations of what we perceive fiction to be. It teaches us to be creative and really think about the words we are writing. Fast fiction is a lean and efficient form; nothing is arbitrary. It is important that we read works like these so that we, too, may become better readers and writers.

For more fast fiction pieces, check out:

https://flashfictionmagazine.com/

http://www.100wordstory.org/

http://thecollagist.com/

https://everydayfiction.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Authors to Read Year Round

  1. AUDRE LORDE- One of the pillars of queer literature, Audre Lorde is famous for her many works in poetry, her invention of the biomythography, and her essays. A self-described, “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” Lorde dedicated both her life and her talent to addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classicism, and homophobia. Each of her works remain relevant and tackle social issues that are still found today.

220px-Audre_Lorde

“When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” – Audre Lorde

2. JAMES BALDWIN-An American novelist, playwright, and activist. One of his novels If Beale Street Could Talk, recently won an Academy Award. His works delve into the effects of racism for both the oppressed and the oppressor. Unlike other authors, Baldwin’s slow approach to revealing racism is at first subtle, but as you travel deeper into both his essays and novels, you are transported into a realistic interpretation of racism–– that racism is not just a black or white area, but a complicated and messy grey web of multifaceted and harmful philosophies that need to be carefully analyzed to understand.

james-baldwin-750x563

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” – James Baldwin

3. ELIZABETH ACEVEDO-   Elizabeth Acevedo is an award-winning slam poet and bestseller of her novel The Poet X. The book has gone on to receive: the 2018 Boston GlobeHorn Book Award, the Walter Dean Myers Awards for Outstanding Children’s Literature, the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, and the Michael L. Printz Award for 2019. It was also a finalist for the Kirkus Prize. Her works not only blur the lines between prose and language, but they also question today’s philosophy of racism, physical presence, sexuality, and religious faith.

Elizabeth acevedo

“Burn it! Burn it. This is where the poems are,” I say, thumping a fist against my chest. “Will you burn me? Will you burn me, too?” – Elizabeth Acevedo

4. ALICE DUNBAR NELSON-Poet, essayist, diarist, and activist. Her works exploring racism were largely rejected by publishers during her lifetime. As a highly successful journalist, she fought against the male-dominated field and was often denied recognition or payment for her articles. Her first collection, “Violets and Other Tales” (published in 1895), is referred to as the first-ever short story collection ever published by an African-American woman. Best known for her prose, Alice Nelson is one of the few authors of her time to portray the complicated reality of African American women during the Harlem Renaissance. Her portrayal includes women as intellectuals, addressing topics such as racism, oppression, family, work, and sexuality.

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It is dark, like the passionate women of Egypt; placid, like their broad brows; deep, silent like their souls. Within its bosom are hidden romances and stories, such as were sung by minstrels of old. From the source to the mouth is not far distant, visibly speaking, but in the life of the bayou a hundred heart-miles could scarce measure it.

– Alice Dunbar Nelson

5. OCTAVIA E. BUTLER-

A multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, she became in 1995 the first Science-Fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. Her work changed the very grounds of Science Fiction. She shifted the idea of white male heroes saving other people’s, to allowing the reader to see people of different class, ethnicity, education, and gender and to contemplate them in new contexts. Her work often reflected contemporary issues, such as California Prop 187 which attempted to deny immigrants their rights before it was deemed unconstitutional.

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The thing about science fiction is that it’s totally wide open. But it’s wide open in a conditional way.” – Octavia E. Butler

Please comment and tell us your favorite authors below!

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5 Exercises to Escape Writer’s Block

Hey everyone! I’m Victoria Valley, one of the two new interns at Cambridge Editors, and a Graduate Student from Emerson College’s Editing and Publishing Program. If you are like me and enjoy both reading and writing, then you may have suffered from the dreaded affliction, Writer’s Block. If you have yet to experience it, allow me to explain: writer’s block is, the inability to write or to think of what to write. Also, some who glare at their manuscripts whilst sitting in the corner of their offices have been known to call it “Hitting the Wall” or “The Pit.” If this is true for you, here are five – yes five ­– ways to cure yourself of writer’s block.

  1. Walk

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Henry David Thoreau, is said to have walked up to four hours a day to help his writing. A leader in the Transcendental Movement, he created an essay known as “Walking” or “The Wild,” which proclaimed that modern people are too distracted by civilization and that allowing our natural side to the forefront of our minds would help create a much needed balance in our lives. So let those juices flow! Get up! Allow yourself to forget the paragraph you desperately need to write and enjoy nature. You don’t need to walk up to four hours a day! A simple 30 minutes might make all the difference. This exercise was a life saver for me as an undergraduate! I found it difficult to start my day and was also extremely shy. Forcing myself to walk outside for at least 30 minutes a day not only helped me with my writer’s block but also helped me to explore my neighborhood. By incorporating walking into your life you not only can escape writer’s block but you can also explore your neighborhood as well!

  1. Outline Your Ideas.

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Now let’s change the format. Instead of re-writing the same five sentences, draw a picture. Start by drawing a circle and writing your idea on the inside. Create five outer circles with arrows pointing to each of them. Now set a timer for one minute. In the span of one minute, write every random word that comes to mind in each of the outer circles. Repeat this process three more times. The first few bubbles tend to hold little meaning for me, but the more concepts you create, the easier it is to form new strings of ideas.

  1. Experience Art.

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Go out and find a local art gallery. As you walk around the exhibit, write down a few lines of your first impressions on each piece. If you are unable to walk through a gallery, find an art website and write down your first impressions. Writing will always inspire art and vice versa. By focusing on visual thoughts, your mind will hopefully explore new inspirations and ideas.

  1. Use Writing Prompts.

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Writing challenges can inspire new ideas and allow your brain to work outside the box. These challenges come in large variety and are available for every genre. Writing prompts are easy to find over the Internet and are generally free as well.

Here is one to get you started: Pretend you are the owner of a large company. You are forced to fire one of your top executives. For ten minutes, write in letter format why you are removing this person from your company.

  1. Play Story-Telling Card Games.

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If your Writer’s Block is contagious and your friends need inspiration as well, then I suggest story-telling card games. These games typically consist of a box of cards that have been illustrated with pictures or words. When laid out on a table, they allow for a narrative to be created. The person who produces the best narrative from the cards wins the game. Some story-telling card games are: The Hollow Woods, Once Upon a Time, Above and Below, and The Machine of Death. This last suggestion is my personal favorite way to shake writer’s block because you also get to relax with friends!

Writer’s block happens to all of us, and with some time and patience anyone can escape it. Hopefully, one of these options cures your Writer’s Block and you can continue your project. Is there a routine I have not mentioned? Please, comment below sharing what you do to escape writer’s block!

 

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5 Books to Keep You Company on Valentine’s Day

Hello Readers! My name is Anne Jonas and I am a new intern at CambridgeEditors. I am an English major at Boston University, with a double minor in French and Women’s Studies. When I am not in the classroom, I enjoy exploring Boston, smashing the patriarchy, and binge-watching French TV shows on Netflix.

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If you are a single lady like me, then you know that Valentine’s Day can make you feel a little isolated or left out. But I’ve got just the fix! I have chosen five books that transform romantic clichés into awe-inspiring narratives. These books are not your typical Nicholas Sparks heartthrobs or your Fifty Shades of Grey heart-racers. Rather, they are books that look at love through different and unconventional perspectives, which made me think about the genre of romance and why we read it in the first place. So, I challenge everyone out there to find company in a book today. Get into some comfy clothes, make yourself a big cup of tea, find a cozy nook, and grab one of the five books below!

  1. Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home

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Fun Home is a graphic memoir written and illustrated by Bechdel, following her relationship to her father from childhood to adulthood. Self-described as a “tragicomic,” the graphic novel addresses the innerworkings of a dysfunctional family with the witty humor of an angsty teenager. The book explores themes of father-daughter love, self-love, and first love. If you like visual aids while reading and a quirky, nuanced sense of humor, I would highly recommend this book.

  1. Ian McEwan’s Atonement

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Ian McEwan’s Atonement follows a tragic love story of mistaken identity in WWII-era England. The book centers around Briony, who, as a young teenager, falsely accuses her sisters love interest of rape, thereby separating the two for life. The novel explores themes of guilt and shame, as well as the “happily-(n)ever-after” trope of postwar fiction. The book has been adapted into a movie featuring Keira Knightly and James McAvoy (*swoon*). For those who love a moving, Titanic-esque tragic love story, this is the perfect book for you.

  1. Alice Walker’s The Color Purple

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The Color Purple is an epistolary novel, containing letters exchanged between Celie, a rape survivor and social pariah, and God. This novel takes a soulful look into the struggles of navigating trauma as a queer woman of color in the early 20th century. It looks at love between female outcasts, and delves into themes of sisterhood, colorism, and feminism. This book is perfect for those looking for a spiritual, yet contemporary reflection on love, gender, and race.

  1. Toni Morrison’s Beloved

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In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Sethe’s love for her daughter, Beloved, is so great that she kills her in order to save her from the wrath of slavery. The novel follows the chaotic relationship between Sethe and Paul D, who are both haunted by the ghost of Beloved and then visited by her doppelgänger. For those who enjoy a good spook, I highly recommend this novel. This book has also been adapted into a film which features Oprah Winfrey as Sethe. Grab this book if you want a challenging, haunting read on the complexity of maternal love.

  1. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre

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Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is a bildungsroman that follows Jane Eyre through her abusive childhood, her education at an all-girls orphanage, and her eventual position as governess to the mysterious Mr. Rochester. The novel explores the social taboo surrounding large age-gaps in relationships, mistresses, and what love is like with a physical disability. If you are a fan of period pieces, this book is a great way to escape into the elusive lives of the 19th century English elite.

If you are writing a novel of your own, or if you’d like to connect with our team of expert writers, check out the CambridgeEditors website. However you spend this holiday, enjoy the best wishes from the team over at CambridgeEditors!

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