Sunday, September 30, 2007

Taryari's Book Meme Challenge

Tayari Jones, author of The Untelling, was given a meme, and while she decided not to tag anyone, she's left it up to us to do our own. So, in an attempt to break out of my blogging slump and start October off right, I'm gonna meet the challenge.

Total Number of Books I Own: It’s impossible to know right now. In my living room, I have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that my beloved built. When we bought our home, we had to look for a house with a living room to accommodate this literary shrine. There are seven shelves, completely full with books on top of the ones that are properly placed. I have text books lined up on the side of it. I have books stacked up on my printer table. I have a smaller book shelf in my bedroom (also built by Mr. Persistence), and I have a waterbed in my guest room (the water mattress has long since been replaced with a futon mattress), and the headboard is a bookshelf filled with books….and the top of the headboard…and boxes in my garage that I still haven’t unpacked since moving here six years ago…and a box of books I left in St. Louis, packed away with old Chaka Khan and Billy Joel albums…Whew!

Five Meaningful Books:

One: The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks. I’d seen the movie and fell in love with Newt. When I realized there was a book too (not understanding at the time the movie was an adaptation), it became the first book I ever finished reading. It also became the first time I realized that a story could be created from the life of an ordinary black person; a young black person. It was the first time that I envisioned stories about my life, and people like me.

Two: In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker. This was when I first became aware of Alice Walker. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I was already out of high school, but unfortunately, I don’t remember reading much, if any literature by women before college. I discovered Walker as I was also discovering black bookstores, realizing that there were whole stores with literature by us! It’s no wonder that I didn’t read much before. Walker’s books made me know and believe that stories about us, particularly black women, were important…and necessary. (Thanks Alice!)

Three: Here I had to try and decide between Richard Wright and James Baldwin. And while Native Son and Black Boy were very influential for me and my writing, (this is my way of adding a 6th book), I have to go with Just Above My Head by James Baldwin, primarily because of the young girl growing up in the church aspect. Spirituality was very important for me growing up, and I thoroughly identified with that character in this story.

Four: Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. I grew up in Baptist and Pentecostal churches. This book confirmed what I’d always believed in my heart but didn’t know how to articulate: that spirituality doesn’t reside in a building, in a ghost, anything anthropomorphic, or anything outside of myself.

Five: The World According to Garp by John Irving: This book made me realize that I could identify, on some level, with a character completely opposite of myself: white, male, New Englander. I love all the Irving novels that I’ve read…and I’ve read plenty…twice…and thrice!

Last Book Read: Iola Leroy by Francis E. W. Harper. This book has become an important part of my research for my thesis. And, learning that this wasn’t just another “domestic” novel, a novel to extract sympathy for the abolitionist or Negro cause, was eye-opening. This novel was written to show that African Americans (and not just the ones with obvious “white blood”) were wholly capable and ready to take their place in American society after the Civil War. This novel demonstrates the literary diversity and cleverness of black women writers in the 19th century.

Last Book Bought: Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat. I enjoyed Breath, Eyes, Memory and The Farming of Bones. I love Danticat…she is fast becoming my favorite writer.

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