Last year I told myself I was going to read more African-American fiction because I had knowingly avoided it for reasons mentioned here. In sum, I was annoyed that 1) Most books in the A.A. section of the bookstore looked like low-grade smut with brown people on the cover and 2) As a brown person I'm expected to read or have a connection to these books...I realize now and have realized for some time that I shouldn't generalize about things that I haven't investigated. So what did I do/try to do?--well, investigate of course. I started Quest Alpha to explore contemporary African-American fiction.
Man Gone Down (click title for review). And it was amazing. I nominated it as one of the best 'Morose' reads of 2012 for it's gloomy depiction of a broken man in a broken family, trying to make the American Dream. Noting that the utter hopelessness in the stream-of-conscious narrative was raw, poetic and intellectual. I initially chose it because I thought it would address two of my favorite themes: (de)composition of the American family and failure to realize the American Dream. It did not disappoint.
The second book I was supposed to read was Erasure by Percival Everett, but to this day I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy...so I redirected to another book--Who Fears Death (click title for review) It was like nothing I had ever read before, a weird composite of sci-fi/fantasy/dystopian with a non-eurocentric flair.
I read Who Fears Death months ago. In October I think. I haven't read anything else for the quest since then...but interestingly enough I started reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz a few days ago. And I feel I've inadvertently stumbled upon another book for the quest. However, there might be a problem...but wait, before I go into that potential problem I want to say why I think it works for the quest. There's a theme that connects Man Gone Down, Who Fears Death and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: the struggle with identity. It is overwhelmingly present in all three books. But now the problem: Junot Diaz. No that's not right, the real problem is I don't know enough about Junot Diaz--enough about Junot Diaz's color identity. Is he one of those brown people who doesn't identify with his brownness? This of course doesn't matter in the storytelling. A good story is a good story. But I also don't want to slap a label containing any form of modifier that doesn't apply to someone, i.e African-American. There are some people who might take issue with this...not myself--but some. Diaz is Dominican point blank. I'm not certified, qualified, or justified to grade his level of blackness or African-American-ness (?) Besides I don't think Junot Diaz is one of those authors who tries to define anyone's blackness per se, he's just illustrating his reality. A reality, a genuine experience. An experience that this young woman can identify with...so anyways, I found this video of Junot Diaz speaking last December. Please watch if you have a minute or two.
So I watched the video and knew I didn't want to pull a 'passport check' AND I really like this book so I'm going to use it as reading material for Quest Alpha. But I still feel a little weird including him in the mix...I'm going to learn all I can about Diaz...he intrigues the hell out of me.