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2017 Book List

I stole most of the format of this book list to Marc’s fantastic yearly book list.

It was a good year of reading for me. It was hard to pick just a few favorites. But, here you are.

Favorites of the Year:

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

I feel that this book is the culmination of all writing and storytelling. The prose is so rich and delicious. So completely original and unpredictable, although Oyeyemi also uses a familiar and cozy fairy tale vocabulary that helps me to settle right into the stories. This book convinced me to binge on two more of her books last year.

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

I loved the beautiful language and the magical element and the epic, four-generation storytelling. The well done big family, with the daily low-key drama and unintended humor and weirdness of it all. Nothing gets solved, but wrongs are sometimes set aside and forgotten about or lived with. But really it comes back to the beautiful language.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The story could easily be a five-volume series, but Gyasi fits the epic into one novel. Each chapter functions as a short story. Each story follows one descendant of two sisters, separated by the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  Sensory details ground me in the scenes, which are often brutal.

Five-Karat Soul by James McBride

Always unexpected, the characters are so well fleshed out. They’re strange in the ways that I expect anyone to be, once you really get to know them. Funny and tragic in good proportions.

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

I read this book in 24 hours, staying up way past my bedtime to finish it. Kunzru’s beautiful prose is always a treat. The characters are well crafted, rounded. And the story, which is the story of white people in America, is completely captivating. The story of white people stealing everything, including life, from Black people, and then stealing Black identities and culture as well.

Incredible Doom #1 by Matthew Bogart

This captures so well the cruelty of adolescence. And the wonder and escape of the early internet.

 

Zines, Single Issues of Comics, & Shorter Works:

Incredible Doom #1 by Matthew Bogart

KittyBooger Twenty-Twelve, edited by Tom DeBeauchamp

After the Gold Rush #1-3 by Miles Greb & Isaac La Russa

Scio #1 by Zachary Martzke & S.J. Choe

Niger #1 by Leila Marzocchi

Outfoxed by Dylan Meconis

Torrey Pines: You Weren’t There, so I’ll Tell You All about It. by Clyde Petersen

The Casebook of Rabbit Black Vol. 1 by Kate Sherron

 

Books:

The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

The Angel of History by Rabih Alameddine

What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah

Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz

Butch Queens Up in Pumps: Gender, Performance, and Ballroom Culture in Detroit by Marlon M. Bailey

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

New Orleans by Amy Balfour

Gorilla, My Love by Toni Cade Bambara

Unity (unpublished draft) by E. L. Bangs

Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Righteous Dopefiend by Philippe Bourgois & Jeff Schonberg

 

Dawn by Octavia Butler

The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington by Leonora Carrington

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Made to Kill by Adam Christopher

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

Black Panther: Nation beneath Our Feet, Trade #1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

Every Day Is for the Thief by Teju Cole

The Witches by Roald Dahl

Dhalgren by Samuel Delany

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Constantine: The Hellblazer Vol.s 1-2  by Ming Doyle & James Tynion IV

The One Marvelous Thing by Rikki Ducornet

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

I Am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett

Ordinary Cruelty by Amber Flame

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

Mr. Punch by Neil Gaiman

Murder Cases by Neil Gaiman & Craig Russell

The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

The Maestro, the Magistrate & the Mathematician by Tendai Huchu

Dr. King’s Refrigerator and Other Bedtime Stories by Charles Johnson

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott

Up South by Robert Lashley

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

The Devil Within: Possession & Exorcism in the Christian West by Brian P. Levack

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Five-Karat Soul by James McBride

My Ugly and Other Love Snarls by Wryly McCutchen

Miss Elizabeth Bennet by A. A. Milne

The Pocket Knife Bible by Anis Mojgani

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

Adventure Time Comics Vol. 2 & 3 by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Braden Lamb

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

 

The Hellblazer Vol. 1: The Poison Truth (DC Universe Rebirth) by Simon Oliver & Moritat

 

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

 

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

The Prep Diaries: A Safe(r) Sex Memoir by Evan J. Peterson

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

The Outer Hebrides: The Western Isles of Scotland, From Lewis to Barra by Mark Rowe

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Saga Vols. 5-7 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Legends of North Wales by Showell Styles

No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts

An Oath of Dogs by Wendy N. Wagner

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

If You Are Unable to Help Just Say So by Jennifer Williams

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

The Autobiography of Malcolm X as Told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X

 

 

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2016 Reading List

The first half of this year, I spent a lot of time reading stories by Irish writers, in preparation for my trip to Ireland. For all of that preparation, I didn’t really understand social customs any more than I would have if I went in without doing the research. But I did learn about writers I had never read before, and that was a real treat.

For me, this was the year of Anne Enright. Enright does what every writer tries to do. She shows what it feels like to have any given experience in elegant, relatable language. I picked up The Green Road because Louise Erdrich recommended Enright at a talk Erdrich was giving at Town Hall in Seattle.

The truly stunning books I read this year:

The Green Road by Anne Enright

Probably the most beautiful book I’ve ever read. The story of a family with four children, so simply, truly, and wonderfully told. The snapshots of interactions and the not quite getting it right but trying of family. I picked this book up because Louise Erdrich recommended Anne Enright at a reading. So glad I did.

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

All the strands are so subtly woven together, as I’ve come to expect from Erdrich. She deals with families, sexual assault, and other trauma with such compassion, without sparing us the reality. I love the setting during the second Iraq War – the consequences of vaulting self-righteousness.

 

The rest of the books I read this year  below run a range from truly good to tedious.

Good Bones and Simple Murders by Margaret Atwood

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy

The Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction 2005-2015 edited by Bolger, Dermot & Ciaran Carty

Twice Twenty-Two: Golden Apples of the Sun and A Cure for Melancholy by Ray Bradbury

Dublin Noir edited by Ken Bruen

Seattle Noir edited by Curt Colbert

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Deportees and Other Stories by Roddy Doyle

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

Brian Boru by Fin Dwyer

 

1348 – A Medieval Apocalypse, The Black Death in Ireland by Fin Dwyer

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

The Gathering by Anne Enright

TEOTFW by Charles Forsman

Sandman Overture by Neil Gaiman

Barnacle Soup and Other Stories from the West of Ireland by Josie Gray with Tess Gallagher

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

Spunk: The Selected Short Stories of Zora Neale Hurston by Zora Neale Hurston.

Home Winemaking Step by Step by Jon Iverson

Dubliners by James Joyce

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera

The Wild Girls by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ireland – Lonely Planet Guide

Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey

Bags by Patrick McHale

Over the Garden Wall by Patrick McHale

Tender by Belinda McKeon

Belfast Noir Edited by Adrian McKinty & Stuart Neville

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

The Forgotten Helper by Lorrie Moore

Half a Life by V.S. Naipaul

The Love Object by Edna O’Brien

Coming Out: Irish Gay Experiences Edited by Glen O’Brien

In Sunshine or in Shadow: Stories by Irish Women Edited by Kate Cruise O’Brien & Mary Maher

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Filter House by Nisi Shawl

The Chimes by Anna Smaill

Clonebrews: Homebrew Recipes for 150 Commercial Beers by Mark & Tess Szamatulski

Guide to Pruning by Cass Turnbull

I’m delighted that my flash fiction piece “Sanguinaut” is included in Discovery: QSF’s Second Annual Flash Fiction Contest, published last year. Give it a read here.

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Two of my poems, “Orpheus on the 74” and “The Resurrection Spell,” are now in the anthology Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam: Gay City Anthology V.  Queer writers explore the meanings of monstrosity in this collaboration between Gay City Health Project and Minor Arcana Press.  I am honored to be featured alongside well-known queer writers Dorothy Allison, Evan J. Peterson, Ocean Vuong, and Imani Sims, to name a few.  You can buy a copy of the collection here.vol_5

Chico is a cute little town in an expanse of nut groves.  Taz, the organizer of the Chico slam, did the legwork to pack out the Chico Peace and Justice Center. The space felt like home, exactly the mix of woo-woo and militance that I’m used to: prayer flags flapped across the ceiling and a sliding scale zine table at the side of the room.

I was impressed by the performance chops of the slammers. While we were waiting for the spacd to open, we met a man who was there for his very first slam. He looked down and shuffled from foot to foot when I greeted him.  On the mic, he delivered his work with conviction, and landed in third place.  

We were also blessed with the only only queer-specific poem of our whole tour.  Now, coming from Seattle, where queerness and poetry are synonymous, I was surprised by a lack of queer poems as we traveled down the coast.  The poem started “dear mom and dad. . .” and was an unapologetic coming out poem from poet Daniel Smallwood.  It was a real treat.

In so many ways, Chico was warm and welcoming.  I look forward to going back on my next tour of the West Coast.

Berkeley slammaster Betsy Gomez and me

Berkeley slammaster Betsy Gomez and me

Coming from Seattle, where we take ourselves very seriously, the Berkeley slam was a fresh take on the playfulness of the slam.  Sevan Boult hosted, and reminded everyone to turn off our “asshole alarms,” because if our phones went off, everyone would know we were assholes.  The word of the day was homunculus, and throughout the night, poets substituted the word in their poems.  In the second round, when the audience response was waning, Sevan punished the audience by reading us Suzanne Somers’ poetry.  The spirit of the Berkeley slam reminds me that the slam is a gimmick to get people to listen to poetry, and it’s supposed to be fun!

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Teaching Kevin Holmes to dance, getting photobombed

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Sacramento Poetry Center organizer Emmanuel Sigauke and me

Sacramento is a sweet little town, the walnut-sized capitol controlling the Californian Brontosaurus   All the roads meet at right angles.  If you’re at the corner of N and 2nd, you know exactly how far you have to walk to get to Q and 10th.  Before the show, I updated facespace at Naked Lounge, a hip cafe staffed by cockatoo-haired baristas.

The Sacramento Poetry Center kindly agreed to host a reading for Casey and me on very short notice.  Before I arrived, I was a bit intimidated.  I  imagined the center as an arts mansion with floor to ceiling windows overlooking a grand estate  filled.  I planned more form poems for my set than usual, because I thought it would be closer to an academic poetry crowd.

In actuality, the center was nestled in an arts strip mall, a down to earth space about the size of a master bedroom.  The audience was small but attentive.  Local poet David Iribarne agreed on the spot to open the show with two deeply personal poems.  Contrary to my fears, funny pieces and pop culture critiques went over well.   I will definitely book the center the next time I tour the West Coast.