We had a fabulous time with our hometown boy Ethan Hawke last Tuesday! He read from his new book, Rules for a Knight, to a packed house, and left us with some homework:
Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce Carol Oates
The time is the 1950s. The place is a blue-collar town in upstate New York, where five high school girls are joined in a gang dedicated to pride, power, and vengeance on a world that seems made to denigrate and destroy them. Foxfire is Joyce Carol Oates’s strongest and most unsparing novel yet–an always engrossing, often shocking evocation of female rage, gallantry, and grit. Here is the secret history of a sisterhood of blood, a haven from a world of male oppressors, marked by a liberating fury that burns too hot to last. Above all, it is the story of Legs Sadovsky, with her lean, on-the-edge, icy beauty, whose nerve, muscle, hate, and hurt make her the spark of Foxfire, its guiding spirit, its burning core. At once brutal and lyrical, this is a careening joyride of a novel–charged with outlaw energy and lit by intense emotion. Amid scenes of violence and vengeance lies this novel’s greatest power: the exquisite, astonishing rendering of the bonds that link the Foxfire girls together. Foxfire reaffirms Joyce Carol Oates’s place at the very summit of American writing.
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town with Brown, who believes he s a girl.
Over the ensuing months, Henry whom Brown nicknames Little Onion conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859 one of the great catalysts for the Civil War.
An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
1953, is Baldwin s first major work, a novel that has established itself as an American classic. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s discovery one Saturday in March of 1935 of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a Pentecostal storefront church in Harlem. Baldwin’s rendering of his protagonist s spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle toward self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves.
Essex County by Jeff Lemire
Where does a young boy turn when his whole world suddenly disappears? What turns two brothers from an unstoppable team into a pair of bitterly estranged loners? How does the simple-hearted care of one middle-aged nurse reveal the scars of an entire community, and can anything heal the wounds caused by a century of deception? Award-winning cartoonist Jeff Lemire pays tribute to his roots with Essex County, an award-winning trilogy of graphic novels set in an imaginary version of his hometown, the eccentric farming community of Essex County, Ontario, Canada. In Essex County, Lemire crafts an intimate study of one community through the years, and a tender meditation on family, memory, grief, secrets, and reconciliation. With the lush, expressive inking of a young artist at the height of his powers, Lemire draws us in and sets us free.
The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
Larry Darrell is a young American in search of the absolute. The progress of his spiritual odyssey involves him with some of Maugham’s most brilliant characters – his fiancee Isabel whose choice between love and wealth have lifelong repercussions, and Elliott Templeton, her uncle, a classic expatriate American snob. Maugham himself wanders in and out of the story, to observe his characters struggling with their fates.
Toots in Solitude by Jayne Yount
Forty-nine-year-old Toots Henslee’s near-idyllic solitude–he lives in a treehouse overlooking a river near Nashville–is invaded by Sally Ann Shaw, a wannabe country-western singer on the lam from her hoodlum boyfriend, from whom she’s stolen a quarter of a million dollars. Yount’s fourth novel, first published in 1984, is a wry fable about identity and commitment, responsibility and the vagaries of love.