Wednesday, 4 May 2016

TALLAWAH BOOK CLUB: Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer winner; Earl McKenzie looks back; and Terry McMillan’s latest

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) by Junot Diaz

Diaz, a proud and patriotic son of the Dominican Republic, landed the Pulitzer Prize (among other accolades) for this rip-roaring, adrenaline-spiked saga that revolves around Oscar, an overweight teenaged nerd living in the Dom-Rep, who lives for his sci-fi comic books but is so unlucky in love that he contemplates suicide. It doesn’t help that he is mercilessly tormented by his peers and his family is the very definition of dysfunctional. It’s a powerful, amusing, enlightening novel laced with humour, heart and history (Trujillo is a recurring presence), showing us why Diaz, whose other releases include the debut story collection Drown and the follow-up This Is How You Lose Her, is considered among the great literary talents of his Caribbean generation.

The Flame of the Forest (2015) by Earl McKenzie

Long before he joined the staff at the University of the West Indies’ Mona Campus, from which he’s now retired, celebrated educator, philosophy lecturer and author Earl McKenzie served as an instructor (for 25 years) at the venerable Church Teachers’ College in Manchester. Forest is McKenzie’s nostalgic throwback to that era of his life, spun with anecdotal prose and candid reflections. It’s a slight departure for McKenzie, also a widely acclaimed painter and poet, whose verse and short fiction collections include Two Roads to Mount Joyful (1992), A Poet’s House (2004) and 2015’s Ernest Palmer’s Dream and Other Stories.

I Almost Forgot About You (2016) by Terry McMillan

Few contemporary African-American novelists spin a smart, sassy urban story quite like McMillan, whose Waiting to Exhale, Disappearing Acts and Mama are considered modern classics. This June, the tireless storyteller returns to bookshelves with this umpteenth offering, which follows Georgia Young, a successful and decidedly single Bay Area optometrist, who revisits a chapter of her past as she maps out her future. Along with a deeply pleasurable reading experience, expect McMillan’s signature mix of wit, humour and wise commentary on today’s Black woman grappling with that work/life/love balance. Order your copy HERE

>> READING ROOM: Catch up on past editions of the TALLAWAH Book Club!

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