The Children’s Book – A.S. Byatt

An absorbing interrogation of a seemingly perfect family at the dawn of the arts and crafts movement in England. I loved this book not just for its peek at literary celebrity–it’s based upon the life of children’s author E. Nesbitt–but also for its metaphors that are so organic and accessible, even I could figure them out.

Home Fires – Kamila Shamsie

This is a re-telling of the Antigone myth. If you want to know how a story about conflicting loyalties between family and country, between assimilation and individual identity, are so pertinent even to this day, just read this book, especially its end; it explains everything.

Indigenous, Growing up Californian – Cris Mazza

Although Mazza grew up in San Diego County and I grew up in Los Angeles/Hollywood, I saw so much of my own childhood in this book, figuratively speaking; it’s filled with mysterious yet pedestrian details that comprise everyone’s youth. A portrait of the best days of the California dream, an era that has been lost to late-stage capitalism, for lack of a better term.

Cotton Comes to Harlem – Chester Himes

I used this book for a class I taught on African American noir. It’s probably the best of the Harlem series, which is part mystery, part social commentary, written by a man living in Paris who based his detectives on two cops from Los Angeles: the whole world in one slim volume.

Bunk – Kevin Young

Bunk is the poet Kevin Young’s sequel to The Grey Album, which looks at race. But hoaxes of all kinds, he argues, are rooted in white racial paranoia and he really proves it in this fascinating, deeply researched and thrillingly written historical expose.

Jane Rosenberg LaForge is the author of six volumes of poetry (four chapbooks and two full-length collections); the novel The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War (Amberjack Publishing 2018) and a memoir, An Unsuitable Princess (Jaded Ibis Press 2014). She lives in New York.

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