Our brains often contain strange and temporary bedfellows. Right now, Woolf perches in my consciousness beside Sherman Alexie, Rebecca Solnit, and a New York Times essay about ghosting. By this time next month, some other writers will have taken up residence between my ears.
Where do they go? Does Virginia retreat to some corner of my brain until I once again experience the euphoria of a city, in which case she’ll come out wearing her amazing fur coat and rap on my forehead so that I remember how much I love Mrs. Dalloway?
Anyway, would you like to invite some writers into your mind this months? Consider issuing your invitations to these folks.
Disclosure: Other than the fiction, which is of my choosing, I find most of the essays I read on sites like Longreads, BuzzFeed, and Narratively. So, after you read my suggestions, give them web traffic as well! And if you’d like to support local businesses in your community, buy the novels from independent bookstores!
Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
I’m reading Mrs. Dalloway again for the class that I’m observing, and it’s just as wonderful on the third read. I originally fell in love with Mrs. Dalloway because of this single paragraph:
“Dear!” said Clarissa, and Lucy shared as she meant her to her disappointment (but not the pang); felt the concord between them; took the hint; thought how the gentry love; gilded her own future with calm; and, taking Mrs. Dalloway’s parasol, handled it like a sacred weapon which a Goddess, having acquitted herself honourably in the field of battle, sheds, and placed it in the umbrella stand.
It is amazing how Woolf packs so many turns of feeling into a single sentence. There’s a commentary on class, love, and female friendships all in the single motion of a maid putting away an umbrella. If you want to read more modernist gems like the fragment above, check it out. It’s a great read no matter how many times you’ve read it before.
Citizen (Claudia Rankine)
Though Between the World and Me is the trendy read of the moment, I would recommend reading Citizen as well. Rankine’s work is spare, masterful, and incredibly creative. She doesn’t try to describe the indescribable experience of being black in America. Instead, she paints the pain of exclusion and racism through everyday anecdotes, like this one:
And when the woman with multiple degrees says, I didn’t know black women could get cancer, instinctively you take two steps back though all urgency leaves the possibility of any kind of relationship as you realize nowhere is where you will get from here.
I can’t wait to have the kind of job that lets me teach this book.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie)
I figured that if I plagarized from Alexie for my own title, I owed it to him to read his book. And I’m so glad I did! This book is meant for young adult readers, but it’s enjoyable for adults who empathize with Alexie’s teenage narrator Junior. This is a great read for graphic novel enthusiasts, people who find children funny, and anyone who has ever decided to be their smart self in high school, no matter what.
“80 Books No Woman Should Read” Rebecca Solnit, published in Lithub
Rebecca Solnit, can I be your student? Or maybe we can put on Supergirl costumes and defeat mansplainers everywhere? If you’re looking for a sidekick, let me know!
“The Five Stages of Ghosting Grief” Rachel Fields, The New York Times
Some dude didn’t text back this woman and then she thought about her life and her choices. It’s actually quite good. And relatable for all people who choose to engage with straight boys via texting.
“Are We Different People in Different Languages?” Ana Menendez, published in Lithub
In a short answer, yes. But the way Menendez gets you there is ceaselessly interesting. This is a great essay for fellow language geeks and Gloria Anzaldúa fans.
“Hidden in a Suitcase” Michele Leavitt, published in Guernica Magazine
Leavitt sketches a heartbreaking history of a Southern family who were able to love each other fiercely, even when their struggles with addiction made it impossible for them to love themselves. You’ll never guess what the title means.
“What’s In a Necronym?” Jeannie Vanasco, published in The Believer
This is a gorgeous, spare piece about dead siblings – and the perils of sharing their names. After reading this I wanted to call my (alive) brother and tell him that I loved him.
What have you read this week? Let me know!