Another #TopTenTuesday post, hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl.
This week’s topic is a discussion on new authors read last year. Thank goodness for Goodreads because I had forgotten some of the books read earlier in the year. Of the 20 read, only 4.5 were people I’d read before (J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Kiese Laymon, Dan Brown, and the .5 you’ll learn more about shortly. Everyone else was new to me. And, of those, most were debuts. Here are four that stood out.
Julia Fine, What Should Be Wild
“…to capture a word was to empty it of power, to tame what should be wild.”
So, I must confess: her work was not entirely new to me. Former classmates in Chris Abani‘s course at Columbia College of Chicago, we have both read and offered feedback on each other’s work before (though I don’t believe I read any interation of this piece). Honestly, nothing prepared me for Julia’s published work. There is something drastically different between printed Word Documents and books bound by a major publisher (HarperCollins). When I took her debut novel off the Barnes & Noble shelf, I felt a mixture of awe, pride, wonder, and envy. I could not resist gushing to the clerk, “My friend wrote this book!” I cannot count how many days I just stared at it on my desk afterward. Here was someone I actually knew who has turned her dream into a reality — and seeing her do so, having the proof right there with me in my apartment, scared the shit out of me. But I am so glad I got over myself, so glad I cracked open the spine. A fresh new voice in magical realism, Julia crafts a tale that spans generations in its exploration of what it means to intimate, to cursed, to be woman.
Delores Phillips, The Darkest Child
“Satan is not going to leave. The only way to get him out is to invite God in, and God is not welcome in my mother’s house.”
Delores‘s debut novel The Darkest Child was published in 2005. She was 52 at the time (which I guess means there’s still plenty hope in this world of 20-something-debut-novelists-getting-movie-deals for me to one day make my mark!). My grandmother warned that this would be heavy. Delores writes the coming of age story of a teenage girl growing up in the rural south in the 50s. But “it’s not so much about what white people do to black folk,” my grandma cautioned before I read it, “as it is what black folk do to each other.” Even with that warning, I wasn’t ready. I was not ready to be sucked in to the Quinn family, to become so invested in not just the life of the protagonist Tangy Mae but also of her siblings as well. I was not ready for the ending to be left so open, or to learn that Delores died before finishing the sequel. Delores characters felt like people living and breathing and laughing and hurting right beside me, and I was lost for a few days after finishing this book.
Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Heads of the Colored People
“You would think with his blue contacts and unnaturally blond hair set against dark chocolate mocha-choca-latte-yaya skin… that Riley would date white or Asian women exclusively, or perhaps that he liked men. But you would be wrong on all counts….”
Another debut fiction author, Nafissa‘s short story collection cracked me up with its quirkiness. All of the characters in this collection combat the stereotype of what it means to be a black millenial in America. There are moms of private school students writing increasingly snarky (and evermore bougie!) letters to each other after their children have a disagreement; an attention-starved depressed teen anxious for social media sympathy (my grandmother’s favorite in the collection); two passive-aggressive officemates on a power struggle, and more. Nafissa has a knack at twisting seemingly mundane scenarios into stories that tickle ’til they make you think.
Christopher Priest, The Prestige
“The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you wont find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled.”
Christopher was the first person I read in 2018. I discovered him, actually, while watching Netflix on a red-eye Megabus over the holidays. I am infatuated with magic and randomly decided to watch the movie The Prestige, starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. I actually fell asleep early on, woke up about halfway through and became so intrigued that I had to start the movie over from the beginning. I watched it again over the holidays and then Googled everything I could on it — that is when I learned that the movie was based on a book. Without any spoilers, it’s about two rival magicians who compete to create the best illusion. The ending of the movie is eerie. The ending of the book is even eerier. There was definitely no illusion behind the spell Christopher cast with his work — I do believe he is my favorite out of all those read in last year.