I’m not sure I can convey the charms of Such a Fun Age better than Trevor Noah did when he interviewed author Kiley Reed. It’s a smart readable suspenseful and morally complex story about race and class, and the American dream of reinventing oneself, if not climbing financially and socially. Reid choreographs a tense & sometimes beautiful pas de deux between her two protagonists—Emira, Temple alumna uncertain of what her future should hold, months away from aging off her parents’ health care plan, and Alix Chamberlain, the Instagram-sorta famous girl boss who hires Emira to babysit her child. Black women have been caregivers for white families for years, end this relationship is front at times with a deep strain of racial history and mistrust. Especially when friends get involved, love triangles form, and things go viral.
Ada Calhoun’s Also A Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me is getting some well-deserved raves & attention. Like a couple of books I’ve enjoyed recently, Also a Poet blends cultural history, literary criticism, and personal memoir. Calhoun begins by trying to complete the unfinished project of her father–a biography of Frank O’Hara, a writer known primarily today as a poet but who was referred to famously in his NYT obituary as an art critic and “also a poet”. Through the course of the project, Calhoun battles her frustrations with her father, his friends, his past, and the executor of O’Hara’s estate. For all the insight that daughter & father gain into O’Hara’s life & times, it’s no spoiler to say that the book ends up being more about Calhoun & her father (an art critic and also a poet) than about the original subject, namely, Frank O’Hara. What the reader gets, however, is a complex & painfully true account of the process of writing, as well as the process of acceptance–of our families, ourselves, our pasts.
Even though I can’t remember reading a book like Juniper & Thorn by Ava Reid, I feel like I’ve confronted this story before. And I mean that in the best way. It’s got magic & love, sisters quarreling & dads exerting unreasonable control. Marlinchen is the youngest of the X family—Undine, the eldest sister, can read the future in water reflections, Rosenrot, the middle daughter, can create just about any potion or cure from herbs. And they’ve all been kept to their home (the mother deceased long ago, naturally) for years. Reid opens the novel with a rare, and fateful, journey outside the family’s grounds, a trip to the opera, which introduces a love interest in the main dancer, and which summons the father’s deepest rage that they have gone out into the city, full of temptations & modern conveniences (electricity, for example) that is making their magic obsolete.