Our September read was a pick by Ann Freland.
Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston. : From the author of the classic Their Eyes Were Watching God comes a landmark publication – a never-before-published work of the American experience.
In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston traveled to Plateau, Alabama, to visit eighty-six-year-old Cudjo Lewis, a survivor of the Clotilda, the last slaver known to have made the transatlantic journey. Illegally brought to the United States, Cudjo was enslaved fifty years after the slave trade was outlawed.
At the time, Cudjo was the only person alive who could recount this integral part of the nation’s history. As a cultural anthropologist, Hurston was eager to hear about these experiences firsthand. But the reticent elder didn’t always speak when she came to visit. Sometimes he would tend his garden, repair his fence, or appear lost in his thoughts.
Hurston persisted, though, and during an intense three-month period, she and Cudjo communed over her gifts of peaches and watermelon, and gradually Cudjo, a poetic storyteller, began to share heartrending memories of his childhood in Africa; the attack by female warriors who slaughtered his townspeople; the horrors of being captured and held in the barracoons of Ouidah for selection by American traders; the harrowing ordeal of the Middle Passage aboard the Clotilda as “cargo” with more than one hundred other souls; the years he spent in slavery until the end of the Civil War; and finally his role in the founding of Africatown.
Barracoon employs Hurston’s skills as both an anthropologist and a writer, and brings to life Cudjo’s singular voice, in his vernacular, in a poignant, powerful tribute to the disremembered and the unaccounted. This profound work is an invaluable contribution to our history and culture.
Other suggestions included “A Column of Fire” by Ken Follet and “Shelter in Place” by Alexander Maksic
Katherine Owens will be blessing us with the bounty of the summer at our meeting next Thursday the 12th. Her menu sounds amazing:
Spinach mint soup and a peach, fig, goat cheese salad with prosciutto. Would welcome sides, dessert, bread, appetizer and of course wine. And as it is July, let’s keep it fresh, local, and seasonal.
Please leave a comment below to let us know if you can come and what you will bring.
We will be visiting a bookplates favorite genre -historical fiction with our end of the summer read – “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate. See below for a summary as well as two other suggested reads.
Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice… Born into a world of wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all. A loving daughter to her father, a US senator, with her own ambitious career as a lawyer and a handsome fianc waiting for her in Baltimore, she has lived a charmed life. But when Avery returns to Aiken to help her father weather a health crisis and a political attack, a chance encounter with May Crandall, an elderly woman she’s never met before, leaves Avery deeply shaken. Avery’s decision to learn more about May’s life will take her on a journey through a hidden history of stolen children and illegal adoption. A journey that will reveal a secret that could lead to devastation… or redemption. ‘This heartbreaking story is also heart-mending-a powerful tale of family, of sisters, of secrets kept and secrets shared.’Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author
Other suggested reads
“Lincoln in the Bardo” George Saunders
“The Heart” By Maylis De Kerangal
Kim Hall will be our lovely summer hostess and Lissy will be leading our discussion of The Friend. Kim will be delighting us with peel & eat shrimp and suggests we indulge in the early summer produce and have several accompanying salads. Please let us know if you can come and if so what you will bring by leaving a comment below. Thanks!
While the other beach bums might be thumbing through the latest Gillian Flynn, this summer we will be sidling up poolside with the 18th Century page-turner by Voltaire -Candide. Do not fear this oldie but goodie is brief -where high brow meets brevity -a rare treat. This monthly selection comes from Melissa, who’s literary breadth never ceases to amaze (she has been known to be both a Turn of the Screw/Henry James and “Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch” devotee!)
The other suggested reads included The Hellfire Club and I’ll be Gone in the Dark.
We will be discussing the “Great Alone” and Kim Oh is hosting us. Kim has a slew of tasty treats in store. She will be making a crab & asparagus risotto, and Japchae (mixed vegetable stir fry with glass noodles) as well as a couple of apps.
Salad(s), bread(s), and desserts would be appreciated. Please “leave a comment” below to let us know if you can come and what you will bring.
Lissy (with an assist from Bobby) proposed three great reads for our group’s June Read. The winner was “The Friend” by Singrid Nunez. See below for a brief synopsis as well as the other two suggestions she posed to the group.
THE FRIEND (2018) Despite weighing in at little more than 200 pages, Sigrid Nunez’s new novel sure is heavy.
Brilliant but informal, sad yet laugh-out-loud funny, The Friend is a digressive bumblebee of a novel that alights on aging, death, the waning power of literature and the strength of friendship. It’s a book of fragments that questions what it means to be human.
When a middle-aged New York City writing professor—unnamed, as are all human characters in the book—loses her longtime mentor and friend to suicide, she floats through her days in a bubble of stunned grief. Then her friend’s latest wife—now widow—known as “number three,” asks the narrator to take Apollo, her husband’s massive, aged Great Dane.
Even though her apartment building does not allow dogs (and it would be impossible to hide one that’s large enough for children to ride on), she agrees. Apollo is also grieving, spending his days waiting forlornly at the door and his nights howling out his anguish. Slowly, their uneasy coexistence becomes an intense, exclusive partnership that alarms the narrator’s friends. “Oh,” says a woman she meets at a party, “you’re the one who’s in love with a dog.” Her friends worry she will be homeless—booted from her rent-controlled apartment, a very real possibility the narrator ignores. But woman and dog have an inner journey to make, swimming upstream against their grief and puzzlement in an attempt to understand why their friend abandoned them.
Nunez’s seventh novel is small yet rich. Replete with limpid asides on writing, writers and what it means to be a person of words in an increasingly emoji world, The Friend will appeal in particular to fans of postmodern authors such as David Markson. Talented as she is, Nunez should be better known among readers. If you’re already a fan, this beautiful, spare work will not disappoint. If you aren’t, this relevant novel is the perfect introduction.
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner & Atticus by Ron Hansen