Rainy and windy here in Vancouver today. Perfect weather for curling up with a book, and I have a few good candidates (currently reading Iza's Ballad by Margo Szabó and Marc E. Agronin's The End of Old Age). But those are books I'll tell you about next month. Right now, instead of curling up on the couch with a book, it's time to tell you what I read in September.
I started the month with Brit Bennett's The Vanishing Half. Bennett is one of the authors I added to my TBR list after Ibram X Kendi posted about a campaign encouraging readers to buy any two books by Black writers. The goal of the campaign was to "Blackout bestseller lists with Black voices" and thus demonstrate Black power and clout in the publishing industry -- in turn, encouraging the development of more Black writers to all our benefit. My bookshelves already hold many books by Black and indigenous and Asian writers; reading these has rewarded me richly. (I suggested some authors you might like to read in my own #BlackPublishingPower post).But most of these fall under the rubric of "literary novels," however elitist or arbitrary that term might be. In one of my favourite genres -- mystery novels -- Black writers have been sadly under-represented. (Oyinkan Braithwaite's marvellous My Sister, the Serial Killer a happy exception I posted about here; have you read this yet? You must!)
As it turns out, I was mistaken in thinking that The Vanishing Half was a mystery novel. At least, there's a mystery driving the narrative, as the title hints, but there's certainly no murder to be solved. My friend Sue wrote about reading this book for her Book Club discussion around a campfire last month -- we must have been reading it at the same time. If I'd been able to pop in, I could have used the notes in my Reading Journal as prompts reminding me of what I might contribute to a conversation. . .
Next, I read Don Gillmor's To the River: Losing My Brother and wrote a few words about this bereavement memoir in this Instagram post and also in my journal.
Time for a mystery, and the library obliged with Peter Robinson's Careless Love. I still enjoy this series (I think I've fallen one title behind), but as my notes -- see photo above -- indicate, I found myself impatient with Inspector Banks' casual, unconscious sexism, the assumptions he makes about women's motivation, behaviour, thoughts, etc. Glad Robinson includes strong female characters to call Banks on it.
Such a good month for books, a standout being Aysegül Savas' s Walking on the Ceiling (I apologize for not writing the "s"s in her name with their cedillas; not an option I can see on my MacBook Air). A beautiful novel that will take you to and through the streets of Paris. . . and take you to Istanbul as well. Not as a tourist, though, but as one exploring notions of Longing and Belonging, considering Place and Memory. I've posted some favourite passages from the book on Instagram.this interview of Savas by Catherine Lacey. What a wonderful conversation about fiction-writing in general although seen through the focus on Walking on the Ceiling. Here's an excerpt from Lacey's introduction to the novel : "The book’s sensitivity never veers into the saccharine; it is tender without being too self-enamored. I feel that all dyed-in-the-wool readers, lonely in some intractable core of ourselves, crave books like this, books that walk along side us, books that are companions of contemplation, not distractions from life but magnifying lenses for it."