Tales have passed down between generations for as long as mankind has been alive. These stories helped infuse the foundation of different cultures. Some tell of missing beans and talking animals, while others mention the nightly selection of new brides. And some tell of gingerbread.
A book’s purpose is to inform, whether it paints a view of a fantastical world or provides a reflection of everyday life. Sometimes, these purposes indulge our curiosities naturally and slowly. Other times, the author forces our eyes wide open to take in harsh truths we weren’t prepared to face. Etaf Rum’s debut novel, A Woman Is No Man, displays the traditions, culture, and societal expectations of Arab families, but also shows the painful reality for its woman.
So often, a collection or anthology sets out to represent the best writing of a given form, genre, or year: Best American This, Best Collected That. Not so in the case of Forward: 21st Century Flash Fiction (Aforementioned Productions, 2019), a collection of short short fiction by writers of color, edited by Megan Giddings.“I’m not really a person who believes in bests,” she explains in her editor’s note. “The point [of this collection] is to show off how many ways a very short story can be written[…], to show that there are many writers out there engaging with the incredible elasticity of flash fiction.”
In the past few months, I have read two books by Shane McCrae. First, I read his latest collection In the Language of My Captor – a series of persona poems and loosely autobiographical musings which focus on the complicated nature of race and racism in American history. I fell in love with the way McCrae refuses to bow down to stereotypical narratives of what it means to be black. As a mixed-race man raised by white grandparents, McCrae explores is own nuanced identity beside the identities and imagined experiences of African Americans kept in cages by white museum curators, all the while refusing to preference once experience of blackness in America over another. In In the Language of My Captors, McCrae acknowledges the complicated nature of communicating this spectrum of black experience in the language of white Europeans – this is particularly true when thinking about poetry as a genre whose canon is made up almost entirely of white, male faces.
Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf/Vintage, 2013)
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley
“The morning Claire Limyé Lanmé Faustin turned seven, a freak wave, measured between ten and twelve feet high, was seen in the ocean outside Ville Rose” (3).
A girl, a birthday, a seaside village, a wave: these are the things which begin Edwidge Danticat’s novel Claire of the Sea Light, and they are the things which persist, wrapping themselves around each other in tighter and tighter knots until they are finally pulled tight at the close of the novel. Continue reading →