Dan Goodgame

Dan Goodgame is editor in chief of Texas Monthly magazine. He oversees the three dozen writers, editors, and designers who produce the award-winning magazine, its website, live events and podcasts. A Pulitzer Prize finalist and best-selling author, Goodgame has interviewed and profiled leaders in every field, including six U.S. presidents, Saddam Hussein, Steve Jobs, Rupert Murdoch, Colin Powell, and Tiger Woods.

Goodgame joined Texas Monthly in early 2019, after serving as a vice-president at Rackspace, a cloud computing company based in San Antonio.

Before joining Rackspace, Goodgame served as editor in chief of Fortune Small Business magazine and FSB.com, whose subscribers were more than a million owners and partners of small and mid-sized companies. He earlier worked for TIME magazine as White House correspondent, Washington bureau chief, and assistant managing editor. He is co-author of the book “Marching in Place,” about the first President Bush.

Goodgame previously worked for the Miami Herald, including as a correspondent in the Middle East and Europe, covering the Israel-Lebanon, Iran-Iraq, and Falklands wars.

A native of Pascagoula, Miss., Goodgame earned a B.A. at Ole Miss and an M.Phil. in international relations at Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes scholar. He serves on the boards of the Texas Book Festival, Texas Public Radio, and the San Antonio Medical Foundation.

Announcing the 2019 Texas Library Grant Recipients

Pictured above: young readers at Marathon Public Library, holding books purchased with a 2018 Texas Library Grant

We are pleased to announce the recipients of our 2019 Texas Library Grants! This year we were able to offer collections enhancement funding to forty-one public libraries across 36 Texas counties—an amount totaling $100,500.

“The Texas Book Festival believes in the power of libraries to educate, enrich, and delight individuals in their communities,” says Lois Kim, executive director of the Texas Book Festival. “Our goal through our library grants is to improve free, year-round access to high quality books for Texans across the state.”

A patron at the Flower Mound Library browses new books purchased with their 2018 Texas Library Grant

The 2019 grants target a mix of needs in communities across the state. Several libraries will use their 2019 Texas Book Festival grant will expand their collection of Spanish and bilingual books—such as the Brookshire Pattinson Library in Waller County, which requested Spanish-language books for all ages to meet a demand for new books in Spanish as parents are inspired by their kids’ love of reading.

Denison Library’s grant is focused on diversifying their collections by adding more books by multicultural authors.

“Our patrons have little access to books by Native American authors, and with  the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma less than 20 miles away, we realize our book collection was completely inadequate in this area,” says Kimberly Murray, Library Director at Denison Library. “Our collection should reflect and serve the needs and interests of everyone that comes through the doors.”

The Terrell County Library is a first-time Texas Library Grant recipient. With recent budget cuts that have left them with only one full time staff member and the next closest library 64 miles away, grant funds to purchase more than 200 new books for children and teens will help fill out a much outdated and incomplete children’s section

Since our organization’s founding in 1995, a key part of our mission has been to promote Texas libraries and literacy. Since then, it has been our great honor to offer over $3 million in support to more than 800 libraries across Texas.

Interested in applying for a Texas Library Grant for your library? Applications for the 2019-20 public library grant cycle will be available in December 2019—check back then!

2019 Texas Book Festival Library Grant Recipients: 

  • Temple Public Library

  • Cedar Park Public Library

  • Friends of the Round Rock Public Library

  • Polk-Wisdom Library

  • Terrell County General Fund

  • Hector P. Garcia Memorial Library

  • McAllen Public Library

  • Mineola Memorial Library

  • Maribelle M. Davis Library

  • City of Lancaster Veterans Memorial Library

  • Cockrell Hill Library

  • Lewisville Public Library

  • Hutto Public Library

  • Whitehouse Community Library

  • Corsicana Public Library

  • North Branch Library

  • Marlin Public Library

  • Marathon Public Library

  • R. Huffman Public Library

  • Palestine Public Library

  • Dublin Public Library Board

  • Leon Valley Public Library

  • Garden Ridge Library

  • Pflugerville Public Library

  • Carl and Mary Welhausen Library

  • Denison Public Library

  • Charlotte Public Library

  • Henderson County Clint W. Murchison Memorial Library

  • Arlington Public Library

  • Fannie Brown Booth Memorial Library

  • Grand Saline Public Library

  • Sarah Bain Chandler Public Library

  • El Paso Public Library

  • Judy B. McDonald Public Library

  • Brookshire Pattison Library

  • Friends of the Longview Public Library

  • Leadership Academy Library

  • Whitesboro Public Library

  • Buna Public Library

  • Roberta Bourne Memorial Library

  • Cleburne Public Library

Spotlight on Texas Libraries: Much to Do at Mary Lou Reddick Public Library

Pictured above: Library patrons of all ages browse and read at the Mary Lou Reddick Public Library.

Young readers act out story time in costume.

Supporting and promoting Texas libraries has been a key part of our mission since the Texas Book Festival’s founding, and we’d like to proudly highlight some of the libraries we’ve worked with across our great state, like the Mary Lou Reddick Public Library in Lake Worth.

In 1961, inside a small room next to the city jail in Lake Worth, Texas, the Lake Worth Public Library began. Now, almost 60 years and three different locations later, the Mary Lou Reddick Public Library of Lake Worth is a thriving community hub, providing their small but active population of 5,000 with access to free programs, classes, internet, and, of course, books. The library now employs four librarians, including their longest tenured library employee, Virginia Ross, who has been with the library for over 45 years.

Lake Worth residents line up to for a recent slime-making class.

Their programs and classes include free yoga every Saturday morning, sometimes paired with a mindfulness workshop—both taught by local professionals. Lara Strother, Director of Library and Community Services, says the library plans to begin offering yoga for kids in the next few months, to take place alongside their summer reading program.

“Additionally, the Lake Worth Senior Center, which is in the same building as the Library, offers weekly chair yoga classes,” Strother says. “Since we share the building with the senior center, we love partnering to feature intergenerational programs, like our popular game nights.”

A young patron take a reading break with resident therapy dog, Bane.

The library’s other programs include workshops on hula hooping, slime-making, miming, letter writing, organizing the Marie Kondo way, and even ghost hunting. They’ve also hosted one-time events like ballet and Irish step dancing performances, free-flight bird demonstrations (with birds such as hawks, owls, and falcons), as well as their regularly scheduled story-times and monthly “Tail Waggin’ Tutoring” sessions, with resident therapy dog Bane (Strother asks, “What could be more fun than reading to a doggo?” and the answer, dear reader, is nothing we can think of).

“People may check out fewer books than they used to, but our library continues to grow as community hub,” Strother says. “Free, enriching programs are a great way to draw non-library users into your space.”

Strother has been a librarian for the Mary Lou Reddick Public Library for twenty years and says she loves all the different roles her job allows her to take on.

“One day I’m in a budget meeting over at City Hall and the very next I’ll be reading to preschoolers during our weekly story time,” she says. “For me, the highlight has always been helping people find what they’re looking for, no matter what shape it takes. This is my passion.”

Strother says working in a city like Lake Worth has many benefits, and one of the biggest is how involved they can be with their patrons.

“I feel like the primary benefit of serving a small community is that you really get to know the patrons.”

You can keep up with the Mary Lou Reddick Public Library’s programs and events by visiting their website or Facebook profile.

Young library goers get ready for game night.

Colson Whitehead in Austin

Texas Book Festival and BookPeople are proud to host Colson Whitehead as he presents his newest novel, The Nickel Boys.

In this masterful follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning #1 New York Times bestseller, The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.

Please join us for an evening with this great American author discussing
his newest work!

See full event guidelines and get your book tickets here

“I always have these ideas, and I think, ‘That would be really good; if I was a better writer, I could pull it off.’ And then I try to become a better writer to do it justice.”

—Colson Whitehead

Who:   Award-winning author Colson Whitehead
What:  Presenting 2019 novel The Nickel Boys
When: 7PM Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Where: First Baptist Church, Austin, TX

Tickets available now: get yours today

 

Spotlight on Texas Libraries: Having Pfun with Pflugerville Public Library

Pictured above: Sowmya Bondugula reads a picture book for the Pflugerville Public Library’s recent Diwali celebration. 

Think of a library, and the first thing that comes to mind is often a cool, quiet building filled with books and a librarian who will gently shush the library patrons if they disturb the other readers. However, if you frequent your local library, you probably know public libraries also host events, workshops, and celebrations of every sort to serve their community.

The Pflugerville Public Library, which Youth Services Librarian Amanda Cawthon says “has grown from a tiny storefront in 1982 to a bustling community hub,” has seen a great increase in both content circulation and patron attendance since their building expansion in 2013. Cawthon credits their community’s loyalty and engagement in part to Pflugerville Public Library’s “great team that works together to provide the best possible service, from circulation staff that goes above and beyond every day to the technical services staff that keeps a steady stream of new material on the shelves to the program staff that is never afraid to try new event ideas.”

“One thing that really makes us stand out is that we are very pet-friendly—more like pet-obsessed,” Cawthon says. “We foster cats from the Pflugerville Animal Shelter in the staff offices and people interested in adopting are welcome to visit them there. We’ve also fostered a guinea pig and a very ill-behaved bunny that caused one staff member to barricade herself behind her desk.”

Pflugerville Public Library also helps cats and kittens from their local animal shelter find families with their monthly Kitty Cafe, where they invite their patrons to enjoy a cup of coffee (or non-caffeinated cocoa) while interacting with the animals. Cawthon also says patrons are welcome to bring well-behaved, leashed pets to the library at any time—but especially at Pet Pfest. This annual celebration of Pflugerville pets offers pet-themed crafts, educational presentations on pet care, professional pet photos, and a pet costume contest, as well as features special guests like miniature horses and exotic reptiles.

The Pflugerville Public Library is also currently celebrating a year of conscious kindness with The Kindness Revolution™.

“It began with our end of summer event last year, Pay It Forward Pflugerville,” Cawthon says. “We invited local service organizations to attend to share information about volunteer opportunities and set up service-oriented crafts activities like decorating kindness rocks, making cards to send to children in hospitals, and making dog toys to donate to the animal shelter. We have continued the “revolution” with kindness themed activities throughout the year. Once a month, the children at Kids Crafternoon donate their finished crafts to decorate a local nursing home instead of taking them home. The library’s Ukulele Club visits the nursing home to play for the residents. We’ll wrap up the year of kindness this July with another Pay It Forward event, but hope the initiative continues to impact the community.”

The city of Pflugerville, which comes by its unique name by way of German heritage, is a quickly growing and diversifying population, which has led the Pflugerville Public Library to introduce more programs and events to serve community interests and needs. Their monthly events include a conversational ESL group, adult craft night, DiversiTeen Book Club, a ukulele club, and Bilingual Storytime.

“We also hold annual events celebrating the various cultures represented in our city, including celebrations for Día de los Muertos, Diwali, and Juneteenth,” Cawthon says. “Our most successful annual event, in terms of attendance, is our annual Comic Con. Last year, over 2,000 people attended. The event features panels with comic book writers and artists, cosplayers, and voice actors, crafts, drawing lessons, video game and tabletop game demos, food trucks, a cosplay contest, and more. We rely on the involvement of the staff, volunteers, board members, Friends of the Library, and support from other city departments to make the event a success each year.”

As one of their two Youth Services Librarians, Cawthon works with the library’s Teen Advisory Group, who she calls “an amazing group of young adults.” The group, which started meeting in 2013, give local teens a chance to help plan future teen events, recommend new YA books, and give suggestions for teen services.

Cawthon herself is a longtime member of the Pflugerville Public Library, having grown up in the area and being a longtime card-carrying library patron.

“I still have a copy of Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman that I won during the library’s Summer Reading Program in 1995,” she says. “I have loved getting to see the library continue to grow with the community.”

Keep up with Pflugerville Public Library’s programs and events by visiting their website or Facebook profile. You can also read a recent article by Amanda Cawthon on the importance of early literacy and reading aloud to children. 

A Spotlight on Texas Libraries: Pottsboro Library’s Community Outreach

Pictured above: a Pottsboro librarian demonstrates their new “pedal library,” which brings books to city residents who may not make it to the library.

Libraries are one of our society’s truly magical spaces. Everyone is welcome, no matter their social status or wealth, and all the wonder, excitement, help, and comfort one can gain from books, music, film, access to the internet, and more is there—free and ready for the borrowing. Libraries also play an important part in their communities, beyond making books and media accessible, by providing community programs and resources that meet their patrons’ unique needs.

Supporting and promoting Texas libraries has been part of our mission since the Texas Book Festival’s founding, and we’d like to proudly highlight some of the libraries we’ve worked with across our great state, like the Pottsboro Library in the north Texas town of Pottsboro. Like many libraries, the Pottsboro Library isn’t only focused on helping patrons figure out what to read next. The library hosts multiple events per month—from fundraising trivia nights to “Sensory Play Days” for kids, even how-to classes for things like learning to sew or getting the most out of your mobile phone device—and has several ongoing programs dedicated to supporting their community of just over 2,000 residents.

These programs include a one-acre community garden, which comprises 100 individual gardening beds, a rainwater-harvesting pavilion, charity food beds, and a nature-play area for children. Along with this garden, the library offers growing materials, tools, and seeds for participants, as well as using the space for gardening education and community gatherings. Library director Dianne Connery said one of the library patrons who joined the program credited the garden with her 90 pound weight loss, saying the garden gave her access to fresh food when she had none before.

The library crew has a new growing project in the works, too: a prairie restoration garden, with the aim to teach residents about water conservation.

“We live in a lake community that is the biggest economic driver for our area—recreation, tourism, nature, and drinking water,” Connery said. “We want to empower residents to protect our most important resource, and we are working with the Texoma Council of Governments and Lake Texoma Association to move this forward.”

Connery shared a story of another successful program the library launched in 2017, “a Library of Things to circulate non-traditional items such as pressure washers, ukulele, canning supplies, tables, chairs, outdoor games, tools, camping equipment, bicycles, ice cream maker, punch bowls, sewing machines, educational games, and a carpet cleaner.” She said one library patron had told her getting to borrow the carpet cleaner saved her marriage.

“Her husband had spilled something on their new carpet, and using our carpet cleaner to remove the stain meant that she would keep him.”

Pottsboro also has very limited public transportation, and the library’s lendable cargo bicycles give people a way to access fresh food at the grocery store rather than having to shop at a convenience store or dollar store that may be in walking distance.

Connery said their “‘cooking on a budget’ classes with accompanying cookbooks, in conjunction with the cargo bicycles, meant a local mom with two young sons could prepare bean burritos for their after-school snack instead of the bag of marshmallows she had been providing. Can you imagine having to do ALL of your grocery shopping at the dollar store? That’s what was happening for Pottsboro residents who had no transportation.”

Connery says one of the most exciting things happening at the Pottsboro is a program inspired by participating in the ALA/YALSA Future Ready with the Library cohort, with the goal to work with local middle schoolers to help them be successful after high school.

“We are designing an e-sports (the competitive wing of multiplayer gaming) program. Rather than try to get kids interested in something we want to teach them, we are using their interests to create connected learning.”

Noting that the Pew Institute reports that rural youth often fall behind urban and suburban contemporaries in their technological preparedness, Connery says they hope to use the e-sports program to help middle and high schoolers develop their technological literacy.

“The highlight of my job is having the freedom to be creative and developing programs that change people’s lives,” Connery says. “Our city officials are supportive and allow us to experiment. Thank you, Kevin Farley, city manager! Our budget increases every year. The library board has us all moving in the same direction, and we have fun doing it.”

We’re so grateful to see the work the dedicated librarians in Texas cities like Pottsboro, and proud to work with libraries like these through our Texas Library Grants program.

For updates on the Pottsboro library programs and events, visit their website or Facebook profile.

 

Pottsboro students pose outside of the 1-acre community garden the Pottsboro Library runs for city residents.

International Women’s (Literature) Day!

March is Women’s History month, and today (March 8) is International Women’s Day. We’re celebrating by sharing some of our past and current favorites written (and in some cases, drawn) by women from other countries. Happy reading!

 

Lois: Autumn and Winter by Ali Smith
I’ve been through autumn and winter and am ready for spring. I am not just talking about the seasons, but two novels I read with my bookclub last year, Ali Smith’s Autumn and Winter. In honor of International Women’s Day, I am recommending a writer whose sensibility is so different (definitely not an American voice), you’ll either love it or hate it. To say Smith’s is a British voice would be too limiting—and yet, her odd and fantastical style captures the feeling of being in Britain at the very moment of Brexit in Autumn and in Winter, the precise sense of what the end of empire must feel like right now. I know that all sounds very abstract but it’s just impossible to describe a simple plot or characters when talking about Ali Smith. It’s all pretty brilliant—dark, funny, tender, acerbic…okay, maybe it is very British after all. (Smith’s newest in this quartet, Spring, will be published March 28!)

Lydia: Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi
I’m currently reading Gingerbread, the newest novel by one of my favorite living authors, Helen Oyeyemi. Or rather, I’m listening to Oyeyemi read the book to me, and I greatly recommend this audiobook version. Reading Gingerbread, like many of Oyeyemi’s books, is much like wandering into a misty, fairytale forest to find many of the trees are moving, rustling topiary of fantastic animals and beings unknown, while others are the darker, mysterious willows and elm and birch and pines we recognize, and all fill us with wonder. Oyeyemi’s prim, fey narration makes the perfect guide to take you by the hand and lead you deeper in.

Lea: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
I first read The House of the Spirits while living in Chile and it was the first book I ever read in Spanish. I had to immediately reread it in English to make sure I didn’t miss a thing. The story of the Trueba family is enthralling and Allende captures the spirit of Latin America and Chile that I originally fell in love with. Whenever I feel longing to visit Chile and remember my time there, I pick up this book and am reminded of the strength and beauty of the Chilean people and country.

Sarah: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
The mere length of Children of Blood and Bone might be daunting at first, but that should not deter any reader from diving in to this astonishing debut novel. The novel is well-paced with an intense progression and stunning writing. The characters are richly drawn in a subtle yet entirely engaging way. Tomi Adeyemi presented at the Texas Book Festival this past fall and when asked about which strong females had inspired her, she explained in a polite, matter-of-fact tone that to her, saying “strong female” is like saying “female female”—all the women she knows are strong.  In the magnificently detailed world she creates, in which characters tackle real-life issues, the reader will hopefully recognize the strength of the females in their own lives.

Maris: Flights by Olga Tokarczuk
I just started reading Flights, winner of the Man Booker International Prize, and was immediately hooked. Unfolding in a series of short sections, it’s a charming work of fiction about traveling, inhabiting one’s body, and what it means to be human.

Claire: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
One of the ground-breaking graphic memoirs, especially for women, Persepolis is the story of a young Marjane Satrapi finding her way amidst war, the Islamic Revolution, and teenage angst. Originally published in French, Satrapi wrote and illustrated this incredible, complex coming-of-age story. It is a compelling book for people of any age, and a beautiful introduction to graphic memoirs.

Nicole: “Blasted” by Sarah Kane
In one of my past lives I worked in theatre, where I lived and breathed plays. “Blasted,” by Sarah Kane, broke so many molds for me. It’s gritty and uncomfortable and makes you really question yourself and human nature. I’ve never read something that made me think as much as this piece of writing did, and I like to reread it when I feel I am getting too complacent.

Julie: Tell Me How This Ends by Valeria Luiselli
Valeria Luiselli is one of today’s most important writers. Tell Me How This Ends is essential reading. Luiselli recounts her experience translating for undocumented children seeking asylum through the channels of the United States immigration system. Reading her stories of the children, recounting what they can and cannot fill in for her about their own experiences of what they left behind and how they came to the U. S., shoves aside every political bias and over-intellectual argument about the border and brings the “issue” down to what is real: the children, the people, and the hope for safety and security that is met with radical, politically-fanned fear here in America. Luiselli packs a ton of power into these pages. Read it, read it, read it and then share it.

Stocking the Shelves: the Texas Library Association’s Reading Lists

We all know librarians are in the business of books—both reading a lot of books and reading about the books they haven’t read, in order to keep up with what’s new and decide what they should add to their shelves in order to keep library patrons excited about reading and coming back for more. But with so many books published each year in the United States alone (2018 saw 695 million copies of print books sold), sorting through thousands of titles is a daunting task for even the most passionate librarian and reader.

An Allen Public Library patron enjoys a new title from TLA’s 2×2 list, purchased with a Texas Library Grant.

One of a Texas librarian’s greatest resources is the Texas Library Association (TLA)—the largest state library organization in the US and was established in 1902 to promote, support, and improve library services in Texas. In order to help librarians searching beyond the best-seller list and word of mouth, TLA compiles and updates eleven recommended reading lists (included below), ranging in focus on genre, subject, and reader age.

Many of our annual Texas Library Grant recipients use these recommended reading lists a a buying guide when using their collections enhancement grant. In 2018, the Allen Public Library used part of their grant to purchase titles from the Texas Bluebonnet Award, Lone Star, and 2×2 lists, and reported circulation increased over 17% for 2×2 titles and over 13% for Bluebonnet Award titles. Their purchases from the Lone Star list created an entirely new collection for teen readers, and those 64 titles purchased circulated a total of 281 times in just four months.

We, as both Texans and readers, are so grateful for the work the Texas Library Association does in supporting libraries and librarians in our state. You can check out their recommended readings lists as well—happy reading!

2×2 – Recommended books for children age two to grade two.

Lariat – Outstanding fiction for adults.

Lone Star – A reading list for grades 6, 7 and 8.

Maverick – Graphic novels for grades 6 – 12.

Little Maverick – Graphic novels for children grades K – 5.

Spirit of Texas (two lists) – Encouraging students in both middle and high school to explore current, quality books by Texas authors and illustrators.

Tayshas – Fiction and nonfiction for grades 9 – 12.

Tejas Star – Bilingual reading list for ages 5 – 12.

Texas Bluebonnet Award – A unique program that encourages reading for pleasure for students in grades 3 – 6

Texas Topaz – Nonfiction gems for all ages.

Celebrate Black Literature: Jennifer Wilks’s Required Reading

Join us in celebrating black literature! The Texas Book Festival is recognizing Black History Month by highlighting black Texas authors, readers, and contributors to the literary community and asking them to share some of their favorite black-authored works. This sharing of past and current book loves aims to enrich not only our TBR piles, but also our often-too-narrow  canon of black literature.

This list of classic and current recommended reading comes from Dr. Jennifer M. Wilks, an associate professor of English, African & African Diaspora Studies, and Comparative Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author ofRace, Gender, and Comparative Black Modernism (2008), which explores the gender dynamics of the Harlem Renaissance and Negritude movements, and her essays on African American and Caribbean literature have appeared in scholarly journals and edited collections. Wilks translated and wrote a critical introduction to the nineteenth-century French-language diaries of African American activist Mary Church Terrell and is currently at work on two book projects: a cultural history of the Carmen story with a focus on adaptations set in African diasporic contexts and a study of representations of race and apocalypse in contemporary African American and Black European culture. Also an award-winning teacher, Wilks is a member of the inaugural Texas 10, the Texas Exes’ annual recognition of top UT Austin professors, and a recipient of the Harry Ransom Award for Teaching Excellence, the Thomas Cable Upper-Division Teaching Award, and the Raymond Dickson Substantial Writing Component Teaching Award.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Had it been possible to say all of Morrison’s books, I would have. However, if I must choose, I’ll choose Song of Solomon, her third novel and the first Morrison work I taught. A family saga that’s also a love story that’s also a revenge tale, Song of Solomon is intimate and epic, heartbreaking and funny. It’s a book that’s made me revisit the family stories I’ve been told and wonder about those that have passed with my elders. I’ve been reading and re-reading Song of Solomon for more than 20 years, and Morrison’s writing never ceases to amaze me.

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat 
This book draws its title from the main character’s name—Claire Limyè Lanmè in Haitian Kreyòl—but the text itself is luminous. It’s one where I tend to re-read passages just to luxuriate in their sounds and meanings. Claire is a 7-year-old girl whose mother died in childbirth and whose father, Nozias, is beginning to question his ability to raise his precocious daughter on his own. Danticat paints a nuanced, tender portrait of black girlhood as well as of the community that rallies around Claire and Nozias. If you’re as moved by the novel as I am, you’ll find yourself wanting to reach into its pages to give Claire a hug.

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
I had the pleasure and terror of moderating Adjei-Brenyah’s session at the 2018 Texas Book Festival. Pleasure because this short-story collection tackles everything from the madness of consumerism to the tragedy of racial violence with style and skill. Terror because I wasn’t sure what I was going to ask because so many of my annotations were some form of “OMG.” All of that to say that Adjei-Brenyah surprised even this experienced reader with his original plots and characters and kept me on the edge of my seat from the first page of each story to the last. I can’t wait to see what Adjei-Brenyah writes next.

Small Country by Gaël Faye
Right now I’m in the middle of reading Franco-Rwandan author and rapper Faye’s debut novel Small Country (Petit pays in French), which recounts the events leading up to the 1993 genocide in Burundi from the perspective of 10-year-old Gabriel. The way that Faye captures Gabriel’s innocence is impressive. As the character wrestles with childhood concerns like his parents’ separation and his stolen bicycle, he also senses but doesn’t quite understand the political storm gathering around him. That the reader knows what this storm entails but still hopes that Gabriel’s innocence will remain intact is a testament to Faye’s talent.

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman
Next up on my reading list is Saidiya Hartman’s cultural history of black women’s intimate lives at the beginning of the 20th century. Hartman combines scholarly research and compelling storytelling with a dexterity that I admire as a reader and a writer. Here as in her other work, Hartman highlights the voices of people previously considered unworthy of representation in the historical record. Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments features black women who veered from the straight and narrow in order to protest injustice, find love, and be their authentic selves. I expect to be inspired as much as I am informed.