“The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” by Deesha Philyaw

I like the cover of this book, but because of the title, I avoided picking it up because I assumed it would be a nonfiction book about churchgoing women. Although I am spiritual, I’m not a fan of church communities, so I avoided this book until I couldn’t.

A local book club selected it for its January read, and that’s when I learned that it’s a book of short stories. At first I borrowed the audiobook, narrated by Janina Edwards, from the library. Edwards’s voice was so mellow and soothing and just a treat for my ears. But I quickly realized that this book is one I’d need to physically read so I can pay close attention the prose as well. I was already impressed.

I decided that when I’m ready to reread this book, I’ll certainly pick up the audio version to hear Edwards’s voice again. But to get on with reading the book for the book club, I borrowed a copy from a friend and quickly got swept up in the stories about Black women and their experiences.

Genre

Contemporary; Literary

Series

n/a

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“Jesus’ Son: Stories” by Denis Johnson

Okay, so this was one of those reading experiences that everyone has had at some point: when you’re reading some critically acclaimed book that everyone says is great and is a modern classic but you can’t see what’s so awesome about it and end up wondering if you’re missing something, like an entire page that possesses all the book’s awesomeness.

Yea… this one didn’t work for me.

Genre:

Contemporary; Literary

Pubbed:

1992

Goodreads summary:

Jesus’ Son, the first collection of stories by Denis Johnson, presents a unique, hallucinatory vision of contemporary American life unmatched in power and immediacy and marks a new level of achievement for this acclaimed writer. In their intensity of perception, their neon-lit evocation of a strange world brought uncomfortably close to our own, the stories in Jesus’ Son offer a disturbing yet eerily beautiful portrayal of American loneliness and hope. (Goodreads)

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“Holidays on Ice” by David Sedaris

Whenever I write a review of a book I listened to, the review becomes a reflection of my experience listening to the story told to me rather than my thoughts on the story. I always have to start with such a reflection because listening to audiobooks is still a new experience for me, one that I’m surprised I’ve stuck with for so long and have taken a liking to.

I would never have thought of myself as an avid listener of audiobooks, but the format is growing on me, especially since I mostly listen to it at work and most of my duties there are dull and repetitive so I look for other things to engage my mind. I surprised myself that I’m able to pay attention to and remember what’s said. I’m a visual learner and I struggle sometimes to focus when only listening, but it seems that my increasingly frequent use of audiobooks is training me to learn and remember things in a different way.

Unfortunately, this new turn in my learning development is slow and happened after I read Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.

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“How to Love a Jamaican” by Alexia Arthurs

When I posted to my personal Facebook account that I was reading this book and it was making me feel nostalgic and a bit sad, I was met with pity, concern, and ridicule.

I didn’t state what the book is about, so my friends and family thought I was talking about my love life. I felt the need to post a clarifying statement to explain that this is a book short stories about growing up in Jamaica and leaving the country to live in the U.S.; about being a Jamaican in a foreign country – the U.S.; about romance, yes, but also families and other relationships; about being a Black woman in the U.S. and about being a Black lesbian. It’s about these and much more, but these themes are at the forefront of the stories and most resonated strongly with me.

Genre:

Contemporary; literary

Pubbed:

July 24, 2018 (I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.)

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“Things We Lost in the Fire” by Mariana Enriquez

I sometimes get intimidated by book reviews I must write. This is one of those times.

The intimidation usually arises because I love the book and have a lot to say but don’t know how to articulate my thoughts, such as now. I had lots to say when I completed this book but didn’t know how to make it all coherent. But the short of it is that this book is great and I highly recommend it.

Quick summary and My thoughts:

Things We Lost in the Fire is a book of short stories by Argentine journalist Mariana Enriquez. It was translated by Megan McDowell and published in the U.S. earlier this year by Hogarth Press. It’s the first book of short stories I’ve ever read and I’m glad that I had such a positive experience with it, which I didn’t expect because I thought I would be unsatisfied with the length. I wasn’t, but I wouldn’t mind reading an expanded version of some of the stories to know what the characters do next.

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