Hue’s Reviews: What We Lose

Raised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother’s childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor—someone, or something, to love. 

In arresting and unsettling prose, we watch Thandi’s life unfold, from losing her mother and learning to live without the person who has most profoundly shaped her existence, to her own encounters with romance and unexpected motherhood. Through exquisite and emotional vignettes, Clemmons creates a stunning portrayal of what it means to choose to live, after loss. An elegiac distillation, at once intellectual and visceral, of a young woman’s understanding of absence and identity that spans continents and decades, What We Lose heralds the arrival of a virtuosic new voice in fiction. – Goodreads

Throughout my life, coming-of-age novels peppered themselves onto bookshelves whenever I ventured. In these novels, heartbreak, love, loss, and joys scattered their footprints, asking me to grasp the main character’s journey by finding similarity.

Most of the time, they failed as they offered two hundred and more pages of a life I witnessed on television and movie matinees. Bottled in blonde ponytails and bouncy curl drenched in Prell shampoo, any hardships described on the page felt sweeter than my actual life. Their attempts at connection rang hollow, because as a black girl (woman), what should have united us (e.g. girlhood, womanhood) ignored vital intersections that  rendered their stories “cute” and not to be taken seriously. No, Becky with the good hair, we could be friends, but you’ll never understand me, even if you tried.

Via intimate, unsettling, and pining vignettes, Zinzi Clemmons’ What We Lose gifted me one of the few options of a coming-of-age novel that rang more true than I anticipated. Race, family, loss, sex, and identity cultivated this novel. Despite the fifteen years or so, separating me from the author, her heroine, Thandi, the daughter of a South African “colored” woman and a light-skinned black American man, mirrored experiences founding my life’s walls. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she navigated her life with privileges her multicultural background granted, while trying to interpret her carbon footprint in society. When not pulled between worlds – black and white, American and South African, she hashes rich and middle-class by realizing the gumbo her life created and how those outside do not benefit.

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July’s Short Story Sunday, Chapter 2

In my next installment of Short Story Sunday, I picked three tales centered around a common theme of yearning. While the occasional desire makes us whole, pining for what hurts us delivers our ultimate downfall. As I read or listened, their moments merged with my soul. What are worth emotional tornadoes to risk every moment?

In the three stories, we find people at their height of desire, willing to face their adversary straight in the eye with unwitting twists by the end.

Do they meet their objects of desire? Or, do they reach that aforementioned downfall?

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Hue’s Reviews: The Mothers

Every Sunday in every Baptist church lies a thousand stories. Some imagined. Some whispered. Some embellished. Over Sunday dinner plates and soft hums uttered by the grand dames, narrators share them. Some warm your heart and some divide your soul. They compel you to stare at the faces of the pastor, the choir director, and maybe the third usher sitting in the back unable to stare back.

Maybe a talented writer, such as Brit Bennett writes those stories and publishes them, presenting them with clear or open endings made more bittersweet before final offering.

Why did I take so long to read this tale? Did I find myself worried about the whispers? Or, did I connect with them? Make a cup of tea, gather some cookies, and start reading.

Plot

In her senior year of high school Nadia Turner’s living the life of a rebel heart. Despite attaining As in school, she runs through her Oceanside, CA surroundings seeking love and attention in all the wrong ways. Mourning her mother’s suicide refuses to ease…until she meets the local pastor’s son. Lucas Sheppard’s 21 and a former college football star, whose injury cut his career prospects short. Enjoying each other’s company, she becomes pregnant.

Spoiler dead ahead…

……..

She aborts, while maintaining her desire to attend college and live the fulfilling life her mother missed. Since Lucas is the only one to know of her decision – according to her – she moves on and meets Aubrey, someone she designates as a “good girl” with a sad past of her own. They become good friends, even as Nadia leaves home and strives to make her dreams come true.

Secrets never stay quiet.

As each of them grow into adults, their pasts collide. But, at what cost? Who’s watching?

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July’s Short Story Sunday, Chapter I

Lately, I find myself wanting more in my reading experience; more than printed book vs. e-book and realistic fiction vs. young adult. By late June, I choose my means to an end by visiting literary forms I tend to ignore, as if they serve as pariahs to the literary world: short stories and audiobooks. What I find are stories that intrigued and bewildered, scared and challenged – all in the course of thirty pages and under.

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To say the short story receives the short end of the stick understated its reality. Publishers make them more difficult to publish. Back in the day, short story lovers relied on magazines to receive the light of day. Nowadays, if you want a story, buck up the coins to buy a collection.

In short stories, readers need not make them worthless. For some of the best tales reside within a finger’s snap.

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Hue’s Reviews: Bad Romance

As mentioned in my review of Paper Butterflies, abuse, as a trope, requires proper handling for me to read and respect. If placed in less capable hands, I throw the book into the torture porn (Allegedly), which I dislike. Abuse earns itself as a plot device never to be used irresponsibly.

Thus, as I approached Heather Demetrios’ Bad Romance, I prepared to roll my eyes until they popped. Thankfully, the book proved me wrong. This story promised to break your heart and caution anyone into reading abusive signs in their loved ones. Demetrios’ offered no sugarcoating of domestic violence. Frankness abounded each page, providing the real drama some deal with daily. This book saddened, angered, and upset me. But, it would not be a good tale, if it did not.

Good job!

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Hue’s Reviews: Paper Butterflies

June’s life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one—and a secret one. She is trapped like a butterfly in a net.

But then June meets Blister, a boy in the woods. In him she recognizes the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from her home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom… But at what price? – Goodreads

One of the cons about avid reading involves venturing into tales with repugnant subjects. Depending on the story line, separating fiction from reality triggers a toll on one’s heart, if they’re unprepared. For me, child abuse remains number one on the subjects I find difficult to experience.

Despite the good writing of this book, I yearned to “DNF” (Did Not Finish, in bookworm terms), simply because some scenes tore at my heart. But, to support the book, I continued.

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Hue’s Reviews: Ian Kelly’s Casanova

The story of Casanova writes as myth outweighing reality. In his time, he rattled pearls and purses as he swaggered through eighteenth century societal balls and beds, leaving intrigue to knock on my door.

Giacomo Casanova begins his life as a young cleric, only to begin a scandalous affair with a married woman and forced to run to Constantinople. From there, he creates scandal after scandal as he shares his travelogues and conquests with men and women. Escaping jail, meeting people centuries from infamy, and raking lovers, far from a gentleman, he leads an interesting yet disarming life (Two moments he describes would be considered rape).

Thankfully, Benedict Cumberbatch holds my attention (as if I’d turn away…pssh…) because Casanova’s exploits feel quite creative, almost imagined, leading me to seek other pleasure. I guess for his lovers he came off as delectable and charming (Denial on my part…maybe).

To wander eighteenth century Europe without need for a passport enthralled me. But, to me, he’s a hustler, drunken off his on playboy buffoonery: one of which I cannot hide my curiosity.

The first half intrigues, but prepare for an inevitable slowdown dragging the pace. Nevertheless, I cannot lie. For his charm and wit alone, lie back (cheeky) and have a read or listen. Then, have a go with someone close. He would have wanted it that way.

Benedict Cumberbatch: Yum, er, 5/5. I love that man.

Casanova: 3/5 and me a cold shower

…let me think about it…