Reading to Write

Writers find inspiration for their craft by reading vivaciously in multiple genres. Enjoy, digging in…

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

is a book length poem of free verse, connected prose poems, vignettes, and a third person narrator’s voice are interspersed with photography and art set against stark white spaces and blank pages, as if, the words and images are displayed on museum walls without frames, black words on white walls. Citizen is deliberately disorienting and works to poke the subconscious and the consciousness to check what we are knowing or forgetting or banishing to unknowingness. 

Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Alison

Alison tells of grinding poverty in the uncensored words of a child protagonist who speaks in a first person forward moving voice. Rather than mere descriptions every scene, character, voice, internal and external, holds and wears the consequence of constructed class, deliberate disenfranchisement, economic deprivation, isolation, and sanctioned social degradation by those aspiring to, and belonging to more highly valued classes, and those constructions internalized by the protagonist, her family, and community. Alison teaches me how a child narrator, without flash backs, can show all the aspects of time, place, and character, while revealing sexism, classism, and child sexual abuse and abandonment without apology for herself or her people.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie

Adichie has created a double coming of age story of fifteen–year–old Kambili and her seventeen–year old brother, JaJa. Sister and brother struggle to grow up in both urban–modernist and rural traditionalist values, and spiritual heritages that have been occluded in a constantly changing and perilous post-colonial environment. The structuring of Purple Hibiscus is instructional and inspiration for me writing a first novel. She teaches me that a central full bodied close telling of a story can be surrounded by smaller sections that complete an exquisitely driven story arc and economic use of movement through time.