(All synopses via Goodreads)
NoViolet Bulawayo recommends these three books (BN Review):
Buck is a powerful memoir of how a precocious kid educated himself through the most unconventional teachers—outlaws and eccentrics, rappers and mystic strangers, ghetto philosophers and strippers, and, eventually, an alternative school that transformed his life with a single blank sheet of paper. It’s a one-of-a-kind story about finding your purpose in life, and an inspiring tribute to the power of education, art, and love to heal and redeem us.
This stunning first novel, set in colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s, centers on the coming of age of a teenage girl, Tambu, and her relationship with her British-educated cousin Nyasha. Tambu, who yearns to be free of the constraints of her rural village, especially the circumscribed lives of the women, thinks her dreams have come true when her wealthy uncle offers to sponsor her education. But she soon learns that the education she receives at his mission school comes with a price. At the school she meets the worldly and rebellious Nyasha, who is chafing under her father’s authority. Raised in England, Nyasha is so much a stranger among her own people that she can no longer speak her native language. Tambu can only watch as her cousin, caught between two cultures, pays the full cost of alienation.
In this deeply personal book, the celebrated Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat reflects on art and exile.
Inspired by Albert Camus and adapted from her own lectures for Princeton University’s Toni Morrison Lecture Series, here Danticat tells stories of artists who create despite (or because of) the horrors that drove them from their homelands. Combining memoir and essay, these moving and eloquent pieces examine what it means to be an artist from a country in crisis.
Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Trilogy – Marie Vieux-Chauvet, Edwidge Danticat (Introduction), Val Vinokur (Translator), Rose-Myriam Rejouis (Translator)
In Love, Anger, Madness, Marie Vieux-Chauvet offers three slices of life under an oppressive regime. Gradually building in emotional intensity, the novellas paint a shocking portrait of families and artists struggling to survive under Haiti’s terrifying government restrictions that have turned its society upside down, transforming neighbors into victims, spies, and enemies.
In “Love,” Claire is the eldest of three sisters who occupy a single house. Her dark skin and unmarried status make her a virtual servant to the rest of the family. Consumed by an intense passion for her brother-in-law, she finds redemption in a criminal act of rebellion.
In “Anger,” a middle-class family is ripped apart when twenty-year-old Rose is forced to sleep with a repulsive soldier in order to prevent a government takeover of her father’s land.
And in “Madness,” René, a young poet, finds himself trapped in a house for days without food, obsessed with the souls of the dead, dreading the invasion of local military thugs, and steeling himself for one final stand against authority.
Sympathetic, savage and truly compelling with an insightful introduction by Edwidge Danticat, Love, Anger, Madness is an extraordinary, brave and graphic evocation of a country in turmoil.
In 1854, beautiful, adventurous Rosa Barr travels to the Crimean battlefield with Florence Nightingale’s nursing corps. A headstrong idealist, longing to break out of the rigid confines of life as a young lady, Rosa is determined to make a difference in the world.
For Mariella Lingwood, Rosa’s cousin, the war is contained within the pages of her scrapbook, in her London sewing circle, and in the letters she receives from her fiancé, Henry—a celebrated surgeon who has also volunteered to work within the shadow of the guns. When Henry falls ill and is sent to recuperate in Italy, Mariella impulsively decides she must go to him. But upon her arrival at his lodgings, she makes a heartbreaking discovery: Rosa has disappeared without a trace. Following the trail of her elusive cousin, Mariella’s epic journey takes her from the domestic restraint of Victorian London to the ravaged landscape of the Crimea and the tragic city of Sebastopol, where she encounters Rosa’s dashing stepbrother, a reckless cavalry officer whose complex past —and future—is inextricably bound up with her own. As Mariella’s quest leads her deeper into the dark heart of the conflict, her ordered world begins to crumble and she finds she has much to learn about secrecy, faithfulness, and love
Unburnable: A Novel – Marie-Elena John
In this riveting narrative of family, betrayal, vengeance, and murder, Lillian Baptiste is willed back to her island home of Dominica to finally settle her past. Haunted by scandal and secrets, Lillian left Dominica when she was fourteen after discovering she was the daughter of Iris, the half-crazy woman whose life was told of in chanté mas songs sung during Carnival: “Matilda Swinging” and “Bottle of Coke”; songs about the village on a mountaintop and bones and bodies: songs about flying masquerades and a man who dropped dead. Lillian knew the songs well. And now she knows these songs—and thus the history—belong to her. After twenty years away, Lillian returns to face the demons of her past, and with the help of Teddy, the man she refused to love, she will find a way to heal.
Set partly in contemporary Washington, D.C., and partly in post-World War II Dominica, Unburnable weaves together West Indian history, African culture, and American sensibilities. Richly textured and lushly rendered, Unburnable showcases a welcome and assured new voice.
Have you read any of these? What have you added to your TBR list recently?