Readings and the Books That Have Moved (Changed) Me (to be continually updated)
I’m told a writer’s blog most definitely would include a list of books and authors I have been moved by. This feels a daunting task, as I am continually reading and being moved by what I read. My studio is over-filled with bookcases and books. I have started to store many of them in my kitchen atop the cabinets there. Though I’ve made a list of these stored ones, I haven’t typed it up yet and have not found an efficient way to categorize them. I retrieved this listing moments ago thinking that by looking through it, I’d see the books I would want to put on this first list of Books that Moved Me for my blog. However, skimming through several of its pages has made me dizzy and anxious. Should I make a list of books I’ve read in the last year or the last 20, 30, 40 years? Not coming up with an answer I just sat down at my computer and told myself to write a short, playful piece about books and reading and what I feel about the topic.
I often choose to read rather than watch TV, even if a good movie or interview is on. I even opt to read rather than watch the news lately. Being pelted by “breaking news” has become the new normal: I’m not being fed by the news, but attacked. It’s either about a body part showing up in your favorite meditation spot or the latest outrage carried out by that mistake in the white house (when are we going to paint that proverbial metaphor for white supremacy with rainbow colors including the browns and the blacks, anyway?) who keeps shoving his foot in his mouth and spreading his ignorance over every meaningful human endeavor caring people have tried to put in place for the last fifty years. I want relief from these nightmares! Get rid of the white egomaniac and the “white house!” Reading feeds me, usually doesn’t “break” me, exercises my brain and helps me keep my thinking faculties alert.
Sometimes I read with a specific purpose in mind (like reading literary journals to see what kinds of stories they like when I am seeking places to send my work) or around specific areas I might be researching for background in my stories. But sometimes my way of deciding what book or books I might want next to read is almost psychic, depending upon how one interprets a kind of whimsical wandering of my book cases. If I don’t know what to read next, I will sometimes waft back and forth in front of my bookcases, eyes wide open and scan the books packed into the shelves and either my glance stops on a certain book, or I’m pulled to one, or I see a book as if for the first time and realize I never read it, and it’s about time I do. And yes, I might be intrigued by a review or a friend’s recommendation to purchase a book at Barnes & Noble or on Amazon.
I don’t just read for pleasure. I need poetry and stories that tear me apart and put me together again as a whole new person, reborn in the experiences these words give me, feed me. I need to know the sorrows, the horrors, the injustices, the wonders, the joys that the writer has experienced and survived to tell me, the reader, what it has been like for them. I need to learn, always the truth of others’ lives, seared into me through their words/voices, the words they have etched on the page.
I also love finding a story or a kind of writing that grabs my attention fully and takes me away from myself and into another character, or place or time or event. Just as a tree in bloom, a robin dipping into a rain puddle, a cloud that seems a galloping stallion captures my attention, I love and need to be taken out of my all too often-fretting self and repetitive mind. I feel the act of listing books I have loved because they have moved me in some way is so subjective and personal that I can only hope that some one else might find my listing of value. At other postings, I’ll list books that have stayed with me for a long time, grateful that I can share the love.
Some of the books I’ve read or reread and loved in the last years. I will keep updating this list:
Book Doctor by Esther Cohen, Counterpoint, 2005
The World of Rae English by Lucy Rosenthal, Black Lawrence Press, 2014
The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, Europa Editions, 2012 (translated by Ann Goldstein)
Ties that Bind by Sarah Schulman, The New Press, 2009
Beloved by Toni Morrison, Chatto & Windus Ltd, 1988
When We Were Outlaws by Jeanne Córdova, Spinster Ink, 2011
The Gay Revolution by Lillian Faderman, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2015
Tales of the Lavender Menace by Karla Jay, Basic Books, 1999
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Random House, 1969
Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick, Simon & Schuster Inc., 1987
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg, Firebrand Books, 1993
Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman by Leslie Feinberg, Beacon Press, 1997
The Group by Mary McCarthy, Avon Books, 1954
Between Two Women by Patricia Harrelson, Word Project Press, 2013
Whispering Pines by Mavis Applewater, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018
Matters of the Heart by Catherine Maiorisi, Bella Books, 2016
Sisterhood by Julie R. Enszer, Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013
Crime Against Nature by Minnie Bruce Pratt, Sinister Wisdom and A Midsummer Night’s Press, rev. ed. 2013
A Few Words in the Mother Tongue, Poems Selected and New by Irena Klepfisz, The Eighth Mountain Press, 1993
On Strike against God by Joanna Russ, Out & Out Books, 1980
High Desert by Katherine V. Forrest, Spinsters Ink, 2013
In Love & Trouble; Stories of Black Women by Alice Walker, Harcourt, 1973
A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1953
Silences by Tillie Olsen, Delacorte Press, l978
Patience & Sarah by Isabel Miller, Fawcett Publications, 1973
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, Random House Inc., 1997
The Complete Works of Pat Parker, Midsummer’s Night Press and SinisterWisdom, 2016
My Katherine Mansfield Project by Kirsty Gunn, Notting Hill Editions, 2015
Books I recommend by author friends:
First, I want to honor the work of the brilliant author, educator and mother, Marie Josephine Diamond, who tragically left us on the day of our total eclipse, Monday, August 21, 2017, as millions were looking upward for some sign that a change could happen in the current oppressive state of our country under Trump’s repressive regime, just as it was happening in our solar system. A beloved and profound member of my prose writing group, she is deeply missed and will always be in our hearts. I will write short synopses of these two books at a later date:
Women and Revolution: Global Expressions, edited by Marie Josephine Diamond, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1998: An anthology covering the vital role radical women have played in social transformations throughout the world.
Crossings by Marie Josephine Diamond, Hermes House Press, Inc., 1987: A haunting, metaphoric tale of an unnamed woman’s breakdown and transcendence.
Room to Fly: A Transcultural Memoir, Birthday Deathday & Other Stories; The Challenge of Indian Fiction in English by Padma Hejmadi, University of California Press, 1999
A Visit to William Blake’s Inn, The Sea at Truro (poetry) Sister Water (novel) by Nancy Willard
Beyond the Horse’s Eye by Janet Rose, WordSpace Publications, 2013
Love Means Second Chances by Susan Elizabeth Davis, Bread & Roses Collaborative, 2011
The Reversible Mask by Loretta Goldberg, Made Global Publishing, 2018
The Final Opus of Leon Solomon by Jerome Badanes, Knopf, 1988
Marxism, Reparations & the Black Freedom Struggle by Monica Moorehead, World View Forum, 2007
Thwarted Queen by Cynthia S. Haggard, Spun Stories Press, 2011 http://www.spunstories.com
Vera’s Will by Shelley Ettinger, Hamilton Stone Editions, 2014
Turn the Guns Around by John Catalinotto, World View Forum, 2017
Getaway by Maureen Brady, Bacon Press Books, 2018
Laboring: Stories of a New York Hospital Midwife by Ellen Cohen, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013 https://www.amazon.com/Laboring-Stories-York-Hospital-Midwife/dp/1492803995/
What the Owls Know, poems by Paul Bernstein, Kelsay Books, 2019
Caught in the Act by Toinette Lippe, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2004 https://books.google.com/books/about/Caught_in_the_Act.html?id=LUzaHP0l4WcC https://www.amazon.com/Caught-Act-Reflections-Being-Knowing/dp/1939681243