In Jessie Redmon Fauset’s second published novel, Plum Bun: A Novel without a Moral (published 1928), one woman struggles to finding her own identity racially and sexually in New York City during the vibrant years of the Harlem Renaissance. Artist Angela Murray is a light-skinned “coloured” woman in the transitional years of the late 1910s

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Sleepwalking Land by Mia Couto1 blends two stories of seeking for one’s identity in the midst of war-torn Mozambique. In the first, an old man and a young orphaned boy have fled a refugee camp and seek shelter in a burned-out bus on the side of the road. Near a corpse, they find a set

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I was surprised by Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (published 1916). I thought it would be an Our Town-esque view of life in a small town. It was very similar in its setting to Thornton Wilder’s play in that it focused on people in a small community. But Sherwood Anderson’s collection of stories was remarkably

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Germinal by Emile Zola (first published in French, 1885) is so much more than I can capture in a summary or in an opinion post or review or whatever it is I write. Germinal is 500 pages that immersed me in a world of starving and ill people in an obscure mining town living a

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The three plays by Tennessee Williams that I’ve read in the past few weeks all dealt with loneliness, the fragility of dreams, and the masks we all wear as we go through life. Given these themes, it’s no wonder a thread of discontent and depression seemed a hallmark of Williams plays. But add a stupendous

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Whenever I read a novel with stunning writing, I am always reminded why I seek novels with great writing to begin with. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (first published 1940) is one such novel. It is deceptively simple in its plot, dialog, and sentence structure. I felt I was there. For Whom

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Although I don’t think her debut novel is necessarily as polished as her later novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stunned me with her perfectly crafted story in Purple Hibiscus (published 2003). It’s full of symbolism, but the touching story of a girl coming to terms with life in general (her abusive

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In her personal journal to God, young Celie tries to make sense of the incestuous rape she’s experiencing from her Pa. A few pages later, she tries to make sense of the unhappy marriage she’s thrust in to. For Celie, life entails hard work, submission, violence, and daily rapes from her (nameless) husband. Does that

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Passing by Nella Larsen (first published 1929) captures the conflicts that young African-American women face in 1920s America. Although solidly a part of the Harlem Renaissance in the ways it tackles racial issues, Passing also magnificently captures a young woman’s repressed sexuality. The terms “passing” refers to a light-skinned African-American acting as white in order

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