Summertime is all about kicking back in the warm sunshine with a good book to revisit lost worlds, meet new faces, and let nostalgia carry you through the afternoon. At least, that’s what the IR staff thinks! Here’s what we’re currently reading (when we aren’t reading your splendid 1/2 K Prize submissions, of course):
Alberto Sveum, Editor-In-Chief:
A couple years back, I had Paul Beatty’s The Sellout assigned in one of my courses, and I have not stopped thinking about it since. Lately I have been getting into an earlier one of Beatty’s, The White Boy Shuffle, which follows Gunnar Kaufman, the “reluctant messiah” in Hillside California. This is a book, an author, whose settings, characters, and dialogue are masterfully comic and ridiculous, and the 25 years since this book came out have only affirmed how astute and relevant Beatty’s witticisms on class, race, and culture remain.
Shreya Fadia, Associate Editor:
Lately, I’ve been craving truly immersive worlds, the sorts of books you can get lost in, in that flashlight under the covers, middle of summer, cicadas buzzing and glass of iced tea within arm’s reach kind of way. But I’ve also been struggling to commit to any one story, and certainly not to a whole novel. R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days and T. Kingfisher’s Jackalope Wives and Other Stories have managed to thread both needles. Narayan’s fictional Malgudi and its inhabitants are rendered honestly but tenderly, and in terms of craft, these stories are models of concision. As for Jackalope Wives, the collection (especially the title story) has just the right balance of strange and creepy and funny and magical and visually rich. Next on the list? If my attention span is up to the challenge, probably N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy, and if not, Tananarive Due’s Ghost Summer: Stories.
Morgan Heck, Prize Intern:
I recently finished reading Maya Angelou’s first autobiography in a series of seven, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Since its publication in 1969, it has continued to endure and inspire. Angelou’s descriptions of her childhood are poetic, yet direct; painful, yet packed with strength and hope for a better, more just tomorrow. Her own experiences give a voice to the tragedies—racism, rape, etc.— and triumphs—liberation, self-discovery, etc.—many Black children have shared throughout American history. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a celebration of Blackness, of family, of dignity. Despite the trauma and hardships Angelou faces in her youth, she overcomes.
“We were on top again. As always, again. We survived. The depths had been icy and dark, but now a bright sun spoke to our souls” (184).