I have ventured out more in the past few weeks than I have in the last six months. I met my mom for lunch at one of my neighborhood faves. So many people are reading the newspapers and are hearing about people fleeing the city, but it’s nothing like the apocalyptic visions that some have in their heads. Some neighborhoods are active and vibrant with outside dining, and retail therapy in limited qualities.
I’m impressed by the majority of the people adhering to the mask policy, keeping their distance from people on the streets when they remove their masks to get a few breaths of fresh air with their masks down. It’s all very civilized. There have been fewer people in the city than what is typical for summer. New York usually quiets down over the summer, but the numbers are markedly lower. I’m curious to see what emerges as we settle in after this weekend. Labor Day will be behind us and we’ll quickly be marching toward the fall.
The Last Few Month In Highlights, #July/August 2020
- I took a hiatus from The Readerly Report for a few months. The last episode I recorded aired on April 15th and I returned on July 19th. I had a good three months to recharge. It was nice to step away from all commitments with the exception of work to find more clarity in what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it going forward. In my absence Gayle recorded three episode on varying topics with an eclectic group of co-hosts. Susie Boutry from Novel Visits came on to talk about Summer Books to get Excited About. Author Camille Pagan talked about the Pandemic’s Effect on Reading and Writing. Audiobook narrator and author Karen White, contributed to the second part of a discussion on Launching A New Book During the Pandemic. And finally, Katie Bassel discussed the new way publishers and marketers are Marketing Books This Summer.
- Since I’ve been back at the end of July we have recorded 4 episodes. Be on the lookout next week for when we post our latest podcast on the books we are most looking forward to reading the fall. Check them all out here: Mid Summer Reading Catch Up; Quarantine Nonfiction and “The Vanishing Half”; When Setting Becomes Character (with author Donna Hemans); August Books We’re Excited About & Gayle Goes On Vacation.
- While Gayle and I discussed Britt Bennet’s The Vanishing Half on The Readerly Report, I also discussed it with my Zoom Book Club. I enjoyed this story a lot and it prompted quite a bit of discussion, as it did in the discussion between Gayle and I. My initial thoughts were of how much more I have wanted from the book, and the many lingering questions I had. Part of this is purposeful on Bennett’s part and I did end up enjoying the parts that weren’t so perfectly illumined because it provoked conversation and speculation.
- I volunteered at a food pantry at the end of July. It was hot, but rewarding, work. This particular food pantry packages weekly groceries and delivers them to tenants in need in a large building complex. Each box contained fresh produce to cooks during the week. Some of the items that were in the boxes I delivered were bags of carrots, apple, potatoes and heads of lettuce and cabbage.
- My mom came to meet me for lunch and we had the loveliest day sitting outside and enjoying our meal. Lunch is the perfect meal if you want to take advantage of sitting outside but don’t want to be overwhelmed with too many people. Being outside is safer for all involved and some restaurants have even gone the extra step of placing partitions in between diners’ tables. Definitely try outdoor dining if you feel it’s safe for you to do so.
September Reading List
Gayle and I are planning to have Francesca Momplaisir on The Readerly Report later this month, so I have her book in my stack. I have a couple of books that I need to read for book club, and of course I am in the middle of Megan Giddings’s debut novel which I stashed in my bag for the ride out to Long Island.
My Mother’s House by Francesca Momplaisir
I first heard about this book from a friend of my mother’s. She knew that I had a literary podcast and she asked me whether I interviewed authors on the show. I was little hesitant to say that I did just in case it wasn’t a book that would be a fit for me. But then I read the premise, a Haitian family immigrates and settle in Brooklyn in order to make a better life and the house becomes witness to the many crimes committed by the patriarch, and I was immediately hooked and started the process of inviting Momplaisir to the show. My Mother’s Keeper is definitely a novel that I would have found on my own.
Luster by Raven Leilani
I mentioned Raven Leilani’s Luster a month or so back when I was talking about my purchases for blacking out the bestseller list. This book has been getting a lot of buzz, and a member of my book club had heard about it and recommend that we read it. It will be our September pick. It’s about a young woman in a dead end job who begins an affair with an older man who is in an open marriage. As their relationship progresses the main character’s loyalties shift to his wife and their Black adopted daughter. Drama ensues.
Lakewood by Megan Giddings
As I mentioned I started reading this the other day and as I have progressed it has gotten heavy and sad. It touches upon numerous social issues. There is a poignancy about this young woman who is subjecting herself to increasingly violent and disturbing experiments but refuses to leave the study so that her lavish salary will continue to pay for her mother’s expensive medical treatments and the family’s crushing debt in the wake of her grandmother’s death.
+ I bought a number of books in August. Here are a few from my list: Heads of Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires; Small Silent Things by Robin Page; Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore; Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas; The Pull of The Stars by Emma Donoghue; Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman; Wonderland by Zoje Stage
+I watched Storm Over Brooklyn, HBO’s documentary about the 1989 killing of Yusuf Hawkins in Bensonhurst. All of the footage that I saw could have been lifted right out of the film and spliced into the nightly news of 2020. There is a lot of optimism that the most recent instances of police brutality and the answering protests and movements will finally put this country on the road to racial justice and police reform. But I have to admit that to see some of these same images back in New York 30 years ago is jarring and disheartening. HBO does a good job of providing context, a host of interviews and other relevant information which includes a guide to action items and a discussion guide for the documentary.