When bright-eyed 18-year-old me started journalism school in 2010, I had zero idea of what kind of magazine journalist I wanted to be. I never really envisioned what writing for a magazine actually looked like. It could have been sports, travel, or anything, though for the world’s sake, probably not makeup or fashion; it didn’t matter as long as I was writing.
Then I took my advanced writing capstone with a truly talented professor and writer (thanks for everything, Dr. Hinnant!), and I realized my future belonged to long-form, which I didn’t even know was a thing until the first day of that class. I became enthralled by the works of Jennifer Gonnerman, Tom Junod, Anne Fadiman, and Robert Sanchez (#humblebrag: I actually interned at the same magazine as the latter). I didn’t just admire them; I wanted to be them.
OK fast forward six years, and that clearly didn’t happen. I’ve never forgotten the impact it had — and still continues to have — on my life though. I still love reading long-form and still appreciate all the time and effort that goes into turning real-life events into the most-fascinating stories about the human experience. It’s why I can now add one more name to that list above: Truman Capote.
In Cold Blood sits on a certain pedestal and rightfully so. Capote clearly defines everything I love about long-form in this book: the details, the emotions, the power to force us into uncomfortable but necessary gray areas, and *swoon* the storytelling. His craft is unmatched, and it’s no wonder that this book is often considered quintessential long-form journalism — even if its journalistic integrity has been called into question a time or two.
Source: Kyle Magee.
Being from the Midwest, I always thought Chicago seemed so close yet so far away. It’s only a five-hour car ride from my hometown of Festus, Mo., and it’s silly that I only spent one day in Chi-Town of my 22 years that I lived in its neighboring state. But lo and behold, adulthood came, and two of my dearest friends, Layne and Nick, moved to DeKalb, Ill.
This past March I flew out to visit the couple, and they kindly indulged me with stops at four superb Chicago bookstores. (Let’s be honest: Nick enjoyed the perusing just as much as I did — if not more so.) We definitely shopped ’til we dropped, though that could also be due to the insane amounts of yummy food we consumed during our trip to the Windy City. Read on to see four must-see Chicago stops for bibliophiles.
- What: Border Child
- Who: Michel Stone
- Pages: 250, hard cover
- Genre: Contemporary fiction
- Published: 2017
- The lit: of 5 flames
I received Border Child from a publisher sometime in 2018. I delayed reading it though because it seemed too real and too close to real-world problems. Books are powerful in that they call attention to immoral circumstances in our everyday lives; they’re also powerful because they can be an escape from that reality. With our current tumultuous landscape and with the U.S. border such a fiery topic, I strayed from this novel. I didn’t think my heart could take it.
I knew its purpose likely had meaning and influence and hoped it was a book that would change people’s minds, give them that “ah ha” moment that sadly this growing nationalist world needs. But I couldn’t bring the nastiness of the world into my literary one, not yet anyways.
Until I finally did — and was disappointed. Border Child has foundational power for issues that are often ignored when talking about immigration reform; however, it lacks strong storytelling to really bring these problems and challenges to the forefront of conversation. It didn’t captivate me like I had wanted, and it doesn’t do the real-life people and problems that inspired it much justice.
The best artists turn inexplicable pain into art and beauty. Jeannette Walls places herself in that category by detailing her childhood in her incredibly honest memoir, The Glass Castle. Despite living a life that most of us can’t imagine, Walls somehow manages to tell her story without it being colored by hindsight. Rather, she tells it through a child’s lens. Through it all, she demonstrates how love can distort your opinion of someone but also that silver linings and good memories can be found in even the toughest of times.
March can be pretty bleak for a lot of reasons, mainly because it’s acting like January when all you want is spring. But one positive thing is guaranteed to occur during the third month of the year: Women’s History Month!
While it’s important to celebrate the real-life women who have paved the way for us in 2019 (though look at how far we still have to go), it’s important to also honor the literary legends who have been inspiring for centuries or even just a few years. Because books are the epicenter of female empowerment, compiling this list wasn’t easy; it was worth the challenge though. Alas, here is my ranking of the top 10 female characters of all time (or at least of the books I’ve read).
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows proves Ariana’s point: God is a woman.
Too often, society boxes female authors and their stories about sex into sweeping tales of love, romance, and magic. Balli Kaur Jaswal’s novel confirms that women — even conservative women — are humans too and that they have fantasies just like men. Sex doesn’t have to be folded into a fairy tale, and it doesn’t have to be forbidden (unless, of course, that’s part of the fantasy per some of our characters here). Women want and need to talk about it too.
This novel breaks cultural boundaries by questioning gender and cultural stereotypes and bringing taboos to the forefront. It challenges the concept of “other,” which confirms we’re more alike than different, and it’s really fun to read. There’s a lot to be said for that.
Some books can’t escape you. It’s not just your inner circle reading them; rather, it seems every bibliophile on the planet has picked up a copy at some point. You can’t explain why you haven’t done so yourself, but you know one day you will. And that day will be a good one.
The Nightingale has been that book for me the past few years. I’ve had multiple friends and family members rave about this historical fiction favorite, and one of them compared it to All the Light We Cannot See, a fellow World War II novel I adore. Surely I’d have the same feelings toward this one.
It’s had a far greater reach though. I’ve seen many subway riders reading it, and once I asked one of them what they thought about it.
“Oh I cried on here yesterday reading it.”
I owe my cousin, Julie, who sent me her copy of The Nightingale, among other books I can’t wait to read. Thanks to her, I could no longer be distracted by other novels. It was time to dive into this instant classic, and I’m so happy I did.