Quick Lit June 2020
Deacon King Kong

Deacon King Kong

I started this book back in February and, in the wake of the coronavirus, had a difficult time continuing in print in March—but then I switched to the audio version last month and couldn't put it down. The story begins with a shooting: it's 1969, in the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn; a beloved drunk deacon named Sportcoat wanders into the courtyard and shoots the drug dealer he'd once treated like a son point-blank, in front of everyone. After this jolting beginning, McBride zooms out to show the reader how this violent act came to take place, exploring the lives of the shooter and the victim, the victim's bumbling friends, the residents who witnessed it, the neighbors who heard about it, the cops assigned to investigate, the members of the church where Sportcoat was a deacon, the neighborhood's mobsters (and their families). All these people's lives overlap in ways that few understand in the beginning, and McBride's gentle teasing out of these unlikely but deeply meaningful connections—and the humor and warmth with which he does it—is what captured me. More info →
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Rodham

Rodham

I've been intrigued by the idea of this story since I heard about it years ago, because how on earth does one write an alternate history about a living person? In this new novel, Sittenfeld imagines what Hillary Clinton's life might have been like if, after meeting and then dating Bill Clinton, she turned down his marriage proposal and went her own way. Her answer, which combines real and historical events, was not what I expected. (I appreciate Hillary's reflection near the end of the book, where she ponders what might have been if she had chosen a different path: "Is there a parallel universe where I marry Bill? And if there is, do we stay married?") I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Carrington MacDuffie (who surprised me with her Bill Clinton accent!). More info →
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Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking

Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking

I just shared this new food memoir in our recent post featuring 20 tasty and tantalizing food memoirs and wanted to share it here as well as a recent read. Once again, Buford shares a first-hand account of his time in the kitchen, this time in France. In a quest to deepen his culinary training, Buford and his wife move to Lyon with their twin three-year-old boys. They intended to stay for six months so Buford could cook, but after settling in they extended their visit—and stayed for five years. A lush, detailed, and vividly drawn account of esteemed French kitchens, and the culture that makes their grand food possible. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Buford narrate his own story in the audiobook version. More info →
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Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor

Saad's goal with this workbook-style book, which began as a 2017 Instagram challenge called #MeAndWhiteSupremacy, is to help white readers recognize how they participate in the system of white supremacy. Consider the book your personal workshop: Saad presents 28 carefully structured prompts inviting readers to reflect on and journal about different aspects of white supremacy. By better understanding their complicity in the system, white readers will then be better equipped to demolish it. I listened to the audio version, narrated by the author, which I loved, but appreciated the word of warning given me by fellow audiophiles: since this is a workbook-style book, I didn't want to listen on a six-mile hike; I wanted to listen in small chunks, with pen and paper handy. More info →
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All Things Reconsidered: How Rethinking What We Know Helps Us Know What We Believe

All Things Reconsidered: How Rethinking What We Know Helps Us Know What We Believe

It was my pleasure to endorse this brand-new book from my friend Knox McCoy, who you may know from The Popcast with Knox and Jamie. In his thoughtful new work, a "celebration of recalibration," Knox manages once again to unite comedy and candor, penning serious reflections that are seriously funny. His reflections on introversion and the Enneagram had me in tears, I was laughing so hard. This book has prompted lots of dinner table conversations at my house: lately we've been discussing times in the past where we've changed our minds about big issues, and long-held beliefs we've come to let go of. More info →
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Disoriental

Disoriental

This coming of age story begins in the waiting room of a Parisian fertility clinic. While awaiting the treatment she hopes will result in a child of her own, Kimiâ Sadr can't help but reflect on her own childhood and family history. She was born in Iran, but fled to Paris with her family after her journalist father criticized the ruling regime and subsequently became a target. Now at 25, Kimiâ plunges into the pool of memory to revisit her tomboy youth in a country that doesn't understand the concept, her close-knit yet contentious family and her relationships with all her aunts and uncles one through six, and her current status as an uneasy immigrant. I loved the voice here ("Just be patient a little bit longer, dear Reader") and the sophisticated layering of a personal story upon numerous current political and cultural events. More info →
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