Friday, 15 May 2015

THE BEST NEW BOOKS: The return of Toni Morrison; Elizabeth Alexander's latest; plus Hazel Campbell and Donna Hart

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: Race, class and the ties that bind have been the core themes coursing through Toni Morrison's fiction ever since classics like Beloved, Song of Solomon and The Bluest Eye raced up the bestseller lists. On the heels of her critically heralded slavery-era offering A Mercy (2008) comes Morrison's eleventh novel, God Help The Child (Knopf), a sobering reflection on parenthood and familial relations that critics say recall some of the finest writing in the Nobel Laureate's oeuvre. 

In a nutshell, God Help The Child revolves around a young light-skinned mother who calls herself Bride and the terrible consequences that arise when she rejects her dark-skinned daughter. Readers will also encounter Booker, the man Bride loves and loses to anger; Rain, the mysterious white kid with whom she crosses paths and Sweetness, Bride's disapproving mother. As the countless Grade-A reviews attest, the author's latest release is a timely wake-up call to parents everywhere. 

"With God Help the Child, Morrison gives us an unflinching look at wounds that adults can inflict on children with life-altering consequences," writes Essence's Patrik Henry Bass, while The New York Times' Michiko Kakutani proclaims, "[This novel] attests to [Morrison's] ability to write intensely felt chamber pieces that inhabit a twilight world between fable and realism and to convey the desperate yearnings of her characters for safety and love and belonging." 

> A DEATH IN THE FAMILY: When Elizabeth Alexander lost her husband of two decades, Ficre, in 2012, the acclaimed author and poet found herself at an existential crossroads. But, thankfully, she found solace in caring for her two young sons and channelling her grief into her art. The sum of her reflection and soul-searching is the utterly candid new memoir The Light of the World (Grand Central Publishing), in which Alexander, who read at Calabash in 2007 and graced the podium at Obama's inauguration in 2009, weaves a nostalgic love story in the tradition of Joan Didion that's essentially a chronicle of loss and hope. 

> BOY WONDER: The Spongebob and Dora the Explorer set will certainly enjoy breezing through Ash the Flash, popular children's book author Hazel Campbell's latest kiddie treat that's vividly illustrated and spins the energy-filled story of a talented young boy who discovers what it means to run like the wind. 

> JAMAICA LABRISH 2.0: Fans of Joan Andrea Hutchinson's work and, indeed, Miss Lou's might want to check out Donna Hart's just-released Mek Wi Laugh & Talk, a laugh-out-loud hilarious collection of poems from a promising debut author whose keen observations of island life easily complement her very clever use of the patois.

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