A profound, prismatic collection.

ON GIRLHOOD

15 STORIES FROM THE WELL-READ BLACK GIRL LIBRARY

Fifteen stories, originally published between 1953 and 2018, that center around young Black women.

A trip to FAO Schwarz turns into an uncomfortable encounter with economic inequality for Sylvia and her friends in Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Lesson,” while Princesse in Edwidge Danticat’s “Seeing Things Simply” learns a gentler lesson about her own artistic potential from a glamorous French-speaking painter. In Alexia Arthurs’ “Bad Behavior,” Stacy is left unceremoniously with her grandmother in Jamaica by parents who are “afraid of their fourteen-year-old daughter.” Valerie, in Rita Dove’s “Fifth Sunday,” is determined to win the affections of the minister’s “very ugly” son, while Avery, in Dana Johnson’s “Melvin in the Sixth Grade,” is besotted with the story’s titular character, a gangly White kid she calls “My beautiful alien from Planet Cowboy.” Collecting the stories of literary giants—Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston—and contemporary authors including Camille Acker and Amina Gautier, the book presents an expansive, decades-spanning view of Black girlhood. “I want to attest to the worthiness of Black girls as they come of age—their need for protection, love, and freedom,” Edim writes in the introduction. Organized around the themes of innocence, belonging, love, and self-discovery, the collection is genuinely riveting; the stories narrate the lives of indelible characters with humor, irony, and immense skill. And while each story differs greatly in setting and tone, throughlines arise. Grandmothers, mothers, and sisters loom large in these stories; two of them—“The Richer, The Poorer” by Dorothy West and Alice Walker's “Everyday Use”—center on the dramatic differences in sisters’ lives. And throughout, the stories’ protagonists often struggle with the projections of the people around them, colored by their Blackness: what the narrator of Paule Marshall’s “Reena” calls “that definition of me, of her and millions like us, formulated by others to serve out their fantasies, a definition we have to combat at an unconscionable cost to the self and even use, at times, in order to survive; the cause of so much shame and rage as well as, oddly enough, a source of pride: simply what it has meant, what it means, to be a black woman in America.”

A profound, prismatic collection.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-769-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

THE RAVAGED

This debut novel from Walking Dead actor Reedus follows three thematically connected yet narratively unrelated people as they journey to find themselves.

Hunter, a heavily tatted Iraq War vet and self-proclaimed gearhead, attacks his boss at the bike shop after catching him kicking a dog. “Hunter was old school,” the narrator says, rough-hewn but with strong moral fiber and a heart of gold. After learning his father died in a “mysterious house fire” in California, Hunter hops on his Buell S1 motorcycle alongside his buddies Nugget and Itch for a cross-country haul to execute the will. Meanwhile, a wealthy 65-year-old executive named Jack is mugged while traveling aimlessly through South America, neither the first nor the last of his hardships. Jack abandoned his cushy, bloodless office lifestyle after his dying mother told him to “run and never look back,” words he continuously labors to unpack. Finally, Anne, an abused teenage girl in Tennessee, steals her father’s savings and .38 revolver and runs away from home, clobbering her brother upside the head with a cast-iron skillet when he tries to stop her. She connects with her friend Trot, and they join a community of train-hoppers. Co-written by Bill, the story reads like a pastiche of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the latter of which is name-dropped as “great” by multiple characters. Though occasionally hitting some beautiful imagery of the American heartland, Reedus falls victim to implausible dialogue—“Fabiola, you are reading me like a stock report,” Jack says—and overcooked language: “flesh the color of a high-dollar medium-roast coffee bean.” Frequently wordy summaries do little to develop the thinly sketched characters; we know nearly as much about them on Page 25 as on Page 250.

A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-09-416680-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

more