Booknotes: The Bluest Eye

With ‘The Bluest Eye’, Morrison wanted to explore racial self-contempt and how that comes about in us. In the late-60s, when the idea of different kinds of racial beauty was just beginning to be properly articulated and accepted, she wanted to show, through the life of a twelve-year-old girl, Pecola, how concepts like “ugly” become personal and how they shape personality and, therefore, life. Throughout, Morrison has also scrutinized the effects of religion, shame, classism, colonization (of the mind), gender politics, incest, child molestation, etc. To avoid dehumanizing those responsible for creating this kind of mindset in a child, Morrison has given us complex, layered characters who are, to me, almost Dickensian. I say “almost” because it is when describing the worst things that happen to or are done by some of these characters that Morrison surpasses Dickens’ pathos. Her truth is searingly honest but kind, and her kindness carefully extends to both the flaws and the virtues of these men and women. Dickens showed us who people are or can be; Morrison shows us who we are or can be. Continue reading Booknotes: The Bluest Eye

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Top Five Short Story Reads From February 2017

Over the past month, I focused on writers from the seven countries that were/are on the US Travel Ban list. Most of them are, of course, Arabic language writers, so I am thankful to be able to find English translations free online. I got the idea from Asymptote Journal’s project to collect writing from these banned countries. Their special feature issue, with at least two stories from each, will be out in April 2017. Though the list below is rather male-centric — because we are dealing, mostly, with highly patriarchal cultures — I have searched harder to get some women writers too. So here are stories from: Goli Taraghi (Iran); Hassan Blasim (Iraq); Hisham Matar (Libya); Nuruddin Farah (Somalia); Leila Aboulela (Sudan); Zakaria Tamer (Syria); and Nadia Al-Kokabany (Yemen). Continue reading Top Five Short Story Reads From February 2017

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Top Five Short Story Reads from January 2017

The 2016 BASS collection is my all-time favorite edition of the entire series so far. For one, a terrific writer of color who actively advocates for other writers of color has guest-edited it: Junot Diaz. For another, it includes stories from smaller literary venues and not just the traditional establishment names. What is rare for me is that I enjoyed every single story in this particular collection so much (with, perhaps, the exception of one — see below) that I am unable to even pick my top favorites. So, instead of choosing, I have simply shared ten out of the twenty stories because they are all available free online. Stories by: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Mohammed Naseehu Ali, Ted Chiang, Louise Erdrich, Ben Marcus, John Edgar Wideman, Yuko Sakata, Meron Hadero, Daniel J O’Malley and Karen Russell. Continue reading Top Five Short Story Reads from January 2017

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Top Five Short Story Reads from October 2016

For me, the best “horror” story fits this description by Neil Gaiman: “I like horror, but I tend to like it as seasoning. I’d get very bored if I was told I had to write a horror novel. I’d love to write a novel with horror elements, but, too much, and it doesn’t taste of anything else.” So, here are some terrific horror short stories by Usman Malik, Alyssa Wong, Ruskin Bond, Kelly Link, and Stephen King. Continue reading Top Five Short Story Reads from October 2016

Johann Sperl Mädchen im Bauerngarten

On Cultivating One’s Own Garden

Recently, I caught up with the movie version of ‘The Martian’, about the NASA astronaut who gets left on Mars alone, presumed dead. After his initial shock and panic, Mark Watney decides to “science the shit out of” the disaster of being left alone on an uninhabitable terrain with practically no life resources. The most important thing he has to do is figure out how to sustain himself for some-50 days before contact with NASA can be possible. So, as a botanist, he cultivates a potato garden with ingenuity, hard work, and patience. Continue reading On Cultivating One’s Own Garden