weekend reading

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In An Interview with Celeste NgNicole S. Chung discusses issues of race, family, representation, the writing process, and more with Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told YouThe interview centers on the Asian American experience, with Ng relating how her own childhood family and current family (with her husband and son) influence her work. Ng says, “I’ve always been drawn to writing things that scare me or puzzle me. In particular, I wonder if it’s ever possible for any two people to truly understand each other, or if there’s always going to be some scrim of incomprehension between them. This plays out in so many ways: in a marriage, between parents and children, between siblings, between cultures. So I guess it’s only natural that those questions wove their way into this book.” From The Toast.

I cannot recommend the work of Kima Jones enough. Whether it is poetry, fiction, or essay writing, Jones has a powerful command over language and a stunning ability to boldly and brazenly tell her own story. The duality of her writing at once captures a ubiquitous emotional space–a space left easy and open for empathy, and simultaneously forces the reader into an experience so personal we’re left collecting our jaw from the floor. The essay, That Which We Refuse to Bury, is about estrangement and acceptance. About reunion and the meaning of family. But it is also about the absence of males and male influence. It begins with the death of her grandfather, Magic, a man she, her mother, and her siblings seldom had the chance to know. Estranged from her family for most of their lives, Magic had his own wife and kids in another state. Upon his death, Kima’s mother insisted on attending his funeral to mourn her father’s death with her estranged family. Meanwhile, Jones remained home and worked on her manuscript. “So I turned half-heartedly to my manuscript and wrote poems around a grandfather.  I wrote about the great migration and Nana landing in Harlem, I wrote about her as a troubled preacher’s daughter, I wrote about her as an answering service operator and an operator for Bell South. I wrote about my mother, I wrote about fictionalized relatives. I made up friends for Nana and Harlem as she would have discovered it in the 60’s with a newborn in tow. I refused to write about Magic. Death would not change the purpose of my art making. This book, my first book, is for the women and their lost histories and the things we give up, by force and choice, when husbands are had, when babies are born, when men stay or go. God bless the dead but I forged on with a single purpose in mind, a purpose that excluded my grandfather.” From Souvenir. 

The Sole Keeperby Jami Nakamura Lin, is a beautiful, mythologized vision of the inner workings of the brain of God. It is a glimpse at Christianity–what we forget, what we remember, and why we believe. From Pank.

Tonight, in Oaklandby Danez Smith, will likely be the best and most important poem you read today. From The Poetry Foundation.

BookPeople’s very own Jenn Shapland wrote an essay that currently appears in LitHub. The Tracks is a devastating look, both personal and well-researched, at the harrowing reality of suicide-by-train. Though acknowledged in other countries as a public concern, it is often overlooked or overtly ignored in the United States, despite its prevalence. The ongoing refusal to properly recognize this issue results not only in an incompetent safety-net in American society for those experiencing extreme depression or suicidal thoughts, but also in a gross oversight in preparing train conductors for the inevitable mental and emotional devastation that their job entails. Often, we are never taught the language to engage in this topic. Here’s an incredibly significant line: “In a way, suicide becomes a great release, a chance for public acknowledgment of years of bravery in the face of torment on the part of everyone—those afflicted and those drafted into its private struggle.”

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