Over the next three months, I’m going to be playing Book Bingo. There is a card with fifteen boxes, each box a category. Like Book involving a journey or Book by an exiled author. There are some categories I know nothing about, the Hugo Award winner for instance. I had to look up Hugo Award, which is apparently the longest running award given to science fiction works. I don’t read much science fiction at all, and I think I haven’t tried to get acquainted with this genre since reading Asimov’s books about robots in high school. Or the Young Adult category, which is something I never warmed up to even as a young adult. I’m excited about this though, mainly because nobody gets to tell me what books to read, and I am looking at this as an opportunity to step outside my boundaries a little, if only on paper.
For the Romance/Erotica category, I read Body Music by Julie Maroh. And for Story told from multiple perspectives, I read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
Body Music by Julie Maroh
This is a graphic novel about young love and desire told in twenty-one vignettes. We are introduced to men, women, and gender non-conformists as they navigate Love in these times. The author showcases love stories that are often ignored by the mainstream, and she covers a spectrum of sexuality. The panels take us through the standard stages of romance: the heady attraction, the familiarity in a relationship, the agony of a break-up, the search for comfort and a person who feels like home.
The writing tends to become sentimental, but it is always sincere. It helps that the art work is beautiful. Bodies in various stages of undress and pleasure never look that lovely in real life.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This is a sweeping story that takes place over few centuries, that seems to touch upon everything—colonization, the building of nations on the backs of slaves, war, family, love. Big themes, but the novel somehow manages to be both personal and epic.
The story follows the lineage of two half-sisters Effia and Esi, born in what is now Ghana. We alternate between descendants of each of these women, between the plantations of the American South, and the motherland. I found it interesting that the author does not hesitate to describe Africa’s role in the slave trade. The Asante and Fante tribes fight each other constantly; they take prisoners and supply white slave traders with numerous bodies.
I liked how inter-generational trauma was explored in this novel. The author does this with the help of recurring motifs—a fear of fire or water, premonitions or flash forwards that tell disturbing stories, and the idea that the deeds of those who came before us will have consequences beyond our imagination.
While the author’s research is evident, sometimes it felt as though characters were placeholders. I was struck by this especially when reading about the lives of the African-American characters. There is a matriarch who sings gospel, a man wrongfully imprisoned, another man who manages to pass for white, jazz and coal mines and cotton; a crash course in the black experience. But this doesn’t take away from the novel, it remains engrossing right until the end, when the bloodlines meet in contemporary America.
I cried a little.
I hope to be able to share what I read over the next few months. Book Bingo is the kind of sport I can get behind.