Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
What a month for new fiction. February has already brought two of the best books I’ve read in a while, Call Me Zebra and An American Marriage, and now another is added to the list. At some point, I’d like to write a more detailed review of this book, because I can’t stop thinking about it. Freshwater is stunningly original, dark and raw. Ada’s fractured self seems like a simple case of mental illness to the Western reader, but Emezi draws from (Nigerian) Igbo spirituality to create a portrait that is less easily classified. It’s an outsiders view of cultural borders, mental illness and life in liminal spaces.
An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones
I started this book immediately after finishing Call Me Zebra. They are both, at heart, stories of exile, but their very different experiences are reflected in their characters. Zebra is arrogant, angry and loud in her exile. Jones’ characters are resigned and quiet in theirs. In An American Marriage, the insecurity of black lives is a given, not a disruption. Through the story of one couple fractured by a system in which a black man can be both innocent and imprisoned, Jones explores ideas of justice, loyalty, and commitment. It’s beautifully written; heartbreaking and true.
Call Me Zebra
by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
Zebra is so odd, brilliant & infuriating that she will either charm or alienate you. After fleeing her country and losing her parents, Zebra seeks guidance in the “matrix of literature” and the wanderings of literary exiles as she traces the route of her flight from home. Stick with this book past the first few claustrophobic chapters and it will reward your patience with humor, truth and literary magic. If you read this, let me know what you think.
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
Both the title and basic plot of this novel scream ’90s Lifetime Movie.’ They probably were a 90s Lifetime movie. Give it a chance, anyway. Set in Paris, this novel moves beyond generic parental anxiety into class, culture and economic injustice. It’s Lifetime’s formulaic nanny rendered in 3-D.
The Most Dangerous Man in America
by Bill Minutaglio & Steven L Davis
A fast-paced, eye opening adventure that will redefine your image of the 60s. Almost every incident in this book is new to me. I was familiar with Timothy Leary, but I didn’t know he escaped prison with help from the Weather Underground and Black Panthers, then evaded capture in Algeria where hippies brought him drugs while the FBI tried to extradite him. Along the way his story links back to revolutionary politics, COINTELPRO, Watergate, and the political madness of the Nixon era.