Wednesday, October 2, 2019
October 2, 2019: Recent Reads: There There
[Busy with a bunch of book talks at the moment—on which more in a few weeks—so a series of brief posts highlighting great new books I’ve read this year. Add your own recent reads, whether new books or otherwise, for a crowd-sourced weekend reading list!]
I’m a critical optimist, and my list of favorite books tends to reflect that perspective—indeed, many of my favorite American novels found their way into my fourth book, with its focus on “hard-won hope” as a model for critical patriotism. But no preference and no perspective should go unexamined or unchallenged, and so I also enjoy the occasional opportunity to read a book that is decidedly and consistently pessimistic. Well, “enjoy” probably isn’t the right word there—but I greatly value such texts and perspectives, even (perhaps especially) in an era where it’s all too easy to give in to despair. Tommy Orange’s There There (2018) is one of the best such pessimistic books I’ve read in a long while, a bracing depiction of contemporary Native American identities and communities that (without spoiling anything) does not offer any easy answers, or indeed any answers at all, for the problems and challenges facing them. I’m tempted to say that writing such a book is itself an optimistic gesture, and thus that reading it can be as well—but I’m not sure that would be in the spirit of Orange’s book, so much as my own perspective. So I’ll just say that I’m very glad I read this book, and everyone should do so.
Next recent read tomorrow,
PS. Thoughts on this book? Other recent reads you’d share?