‘Tis the Season for Cuffing: A Book Lover’s Edition

Sunday Spotlight

To be real, cuddling up with a book is how I’d really like to spend this cuffing season. With so much more titles and best of the year lists coming out, it’s enough to hole yourself up in a cozy cabin with a steaming mug of hot cocoa and the most delicious book you can get your hands on.

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Ah, this is the life.

A queer Pinay can dream right?

While I scheme of ways to actually make the above photo a reality for me before the season ends, here are a few notable literary things to tide all of us over:

  • Longreads has also compiled their best story picks for the year, which includes a piece on the beloved writer James Baldwin and gentrification in San Francisco. Go through this list propitiously — it definitely isn’t the time for tl;dr.
  • Over at The Millions, Lisa Lucas of the National Book Foundation reviews her Year in Reading for 2016. What exquisite joy it must be to read & revel in the literary world! She mentions a few titles that I’ve been wanting to read, like Jesmyn Ward’s The Fire This Time (Baldwin-esque sighs) but what surprised me was a title she referred to as a “true sparkler of the year”: C.E. Morgans The Sport of Kings. Duly noted.
  • If you’re like me, you probably wait for Pamela Paul’s weekly newsletters from The New York Times Book Review to see which books are making waves (or should be making waves), which books are new and notable releases, which books deserve your time and company. I particularly enjoyed reading about Paul’s process of selection as revealed on reddit and compiled by Lithub here: how planning for the best books list starts in January, how it’s an emotional process.
  • Lastly, check out the third edition of Nepantla, a journal dedicated to queer poets of color. There is a poem by one of my fave poets — r. erica doyle — in it so don’t miss out on this anthology:
                           dear trees, please sculpt the byway; dear breeze, whisper a map;
                           dear magnetic field, make of me a sail in the solar wind,
                           that I may unwind into the light of my own throat’s longing. (from wander)

I’m currently finishing two books: an advance copy of Han Kang’s Human Acts (to be released in January 2017) and Alain de Botton’s The News: A User’s Manual. I’ve been sick for the past two weeks but I really can’t complain, because laying in bed only means one thing: more time for reading while I’m recuperating.

Also, here’s a preview of next week’s posts on the blog: a lot on classics, like Gabriel García Márquez and Kahlil Gibran. Going back to the classics may be a theme next year, as you can never learn enough from past literary greats.

“Life is too short to read a bad book.”
–Pamela Paul

How to Mother, with Brit Bennett

Book Reviews, Fiction

“An inside hurt was supposed to stay inside.
How strange it must be to hurt in an outside way you can’t hide.”
The Mothers, Brit Bennett

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Me, a copy of The Mothers, accompanying tote and saltwater. (October, 2016)

Often times, we are attuned to grand and sweeping tales about life and death, love and heartbreak, stories which take us to new landscapes, push us to new heights, until we find a well-hidden lesson in one of the pages, so minute that if we weren’t paying attention closely, we would’ve missed it.

When I picked up Brit Bennett’s The Mothers (Shop your local indie store), I knew that it wasn’t one of those tales. It was a book about a small black community in southern California, written in a folkloric way with the nuances of modern technology. The book is named after a group of older women in the community, wise in their years and lovingly all-knowing.

We were girls once. As hard as that is to believe.

Oh, you can’t see it now — our bodies have stretched and sagged, faces and necks dropping. That’s what happens when you get old. Every part of you drops, as if the body is moving closer to where it’s from and where it’ll return.

The Mothers’ lives revolved around Upper Room, a small church in Oceanside, California and its attendants. There was Nadia Turner, a young woman who lived with her father (Robert) and whose mom (Elise) shot herself one day; her best friend Aubrey, a quiet girl who ran away from home (and her mother); and Luke Sheppard, the pastor’s son, Nadia’s former lover who became Aubrey’s husband.

And while Bennett illustrates each character’s struggle with a depth that readers can empathize with, there are also deeper tensions that she addresses with lucidity.

Nadia keeps replaying details leading up to her mother’s suicide in mind, hoping she can find an answer to a growing number of why’s. One can only assume the weight imposed upon a frightened girl, the uncertainties weighing her down. Grief doesn’t have the same face, but it touches the heart and soul in almost the same way.

Grief was not a line, carrying you infinitely further from loss. You never knew when you would be sling-shot backward into its grip.