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March 13, 2017

3 Novels I Want to Read Soon


I love non-fiction so much that it can be a struggle to get myself to read fiction as well. I find a good mix of genre/medium keeps me a happy reader, though, so I make an effort to push myself out of my non-fiction comfort zone. Here are three novels I currently have out from the library and hope to read soon.

(Note: Some of my blurbs include "spoilers," since I've read about the books in non-fiction works.)

Eva's Man
by Gayl Jones
Beacon Press, 1976

Eva's Man is analyzed in Trimiko Melancon's Unbought and Unbossed: Transgressive Black Women, Sexuality, and Representation, a book I read recently, as an example of--and maybe this is obvious from the title--a representation of a transgressive black woman. Eva survives sexual abuse at the hands of her father (and others), and ends up imprisoned for the brutal murder of a male lover. This book is notable for ending with Eva engaged in a sexual relationship with her woman cellmate; it's considered one of the earliest published novels to feature a black queer woman. As you can imagine, however, the portrayal is not universally celebrated. Beverly Smith, in the essay "The Truth That Never Hurts: Black Lesbians in Fiction in the 1980s" (which inspired the name of the collection of her work it's featured in, The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom, another book I finished recently), says Jones "has portrayed lesbians quite negatively" (49). With these variant perspectives, I'll have to read Eva's Man for myself.

Hanging by Her Teeth
by Bonnie Greer
Serpent's Tail, 1994

The novel takes its title from the Degas painting Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando (1879), which
Degas, Miss La La Land at the Cirque Fernando (1879)
displays a black woman hanging from a rope by only her teeth. The longer you look at the painting, the more disturbing it becomes. The strength of the racist male gaze is overwhelming: you can't see the woman's face; she is not in the center, but off to the side; and her fantastic wardrobe serves only to accentuate her dehumanized resemblance to a caught fish hanging by a lure or a lynching victim.

The cover, however, does not display Degas' painting. Instead, it features a lush 1940 painting Nude (Mahlinda) by Harlem Renaissance artist William H. Johnson, which sends a completely different message. The woman here stares straight out at the viewer, a hint of a smile at her lips. She is confident. She is relaxed. She is as bold as the red and green and orange and blue and brown paints used by the artist.

Despite the differences in the perspective of the paintings, they are still both painting of women by men. I'm interested in finding out how Greer bridges the two disparate view points.

Her
by Cherry Muhanji
Aunt Lute Books, 1990

This book about different generations of black women in 1950s Detroit won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Debut. I don't know much more than that just yet, except that the person on the cover is dreamy. That's more than enough for me.

2 comments:

  1. You always find interesting books that I have never heard of! All sound interesting, looking forward to your thoughts on them :D

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  2. Wow: each of these does sound great. And I love that they're all backlisted! So often we forget to look behind us!

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