Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
(Amistad, 2016, 175 pages)
Woodson is a poet and that comes across in this book. Her way with language is amazing. This is a slim book and Woodson has a way of conveying so much so concisely that you just sit back and appreciate her way with words. This book transports you to Brooklyn in the 70s. We’re introduced to a friendship made up of four girls: August, Gigi, Sylvia, and Angela. We see the power of friendship but we also see that childhood is fleeting and the real world has a way of coming in and changing your life whether you’re ready for it or not.
This is a poignant and powerful novel.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
(Harcourt, 1994, 311 pages)
This classic text stands up each time I read it and I feel like I get something new out of it every time. I had to re-read Flowers for Algernon for a class that is discussing the text and while I wasn’t necessarily eager to read it again I quickly found myself sucked back in to the story.
Originally published as a short story this book follows Charlie, a man in his early 30s who is mentally disabled. He has always been motivated to try and learn so he can “be like other people” and it was because of this motivation that his teacher suggested him as a good candidate for an experiment at a local college aimed at increasing intelligence. After the surgery we see the changes in Charlie through the text of progress reports he submits to the professors in charge of the experiment.
There are more changes in Charlie than just what we see on the intellectual front. He is also tapping into his past and how his family affected him and led him to where he came to be in the present day. The book tackles a lot issues with an emphasis on humanity and respect. It’s a heart-breaking book and while there are dated aspects to it (and a few things that led me to raise my eyebrows) I think it’s a valuable text that prompts good reflection and discussion.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
(Balzer + Bray, 2017, 444 pages)
The Hate U Give was this semester’s first selection for our Between the Covers Book Club and the timing of it was… well, we’ll just say that it was a timely read. You might be familiar with the title because it has gotten a lot of praise and publicity. It’s a young adult novel that follows a young woman named Starr whose best friend was the victim of a police shooting. And she was the only witness.
The reader experiences what Starr is going through as she copes with the loss of her friend and tries to deal with the fact that it’s her word against forces so much larger than herself: the officer involved and the media seeking to spin the narrative. This was a book that forces you to reflect back on the many police shootings we’ve seen covered over the years. I found myself writing in the margins when a detail reminded me of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown… it was unsettling but powerful.
This book lends itself to good discussions about hard topics a lot of people tend to shy away from. I’m still reflecting on the book and what an amazing job Thomas did with it. A great read, and don’t let the YA label keep you from picking it up.
The Natural by Bernard Malamud
(Perennial Classics, 2000, 228 pages)
Women – both problem and answer.
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
(Flatiron Books, 2016, 418 pages)
What happened at the Bar-Be-Que??
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
(Simon & Schuster, 1994, 415 pages)
Repetitive ridiculousness; Pure madness; Ingenious
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, 96 pages)
Wise prince teaches invaluable lessons.