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September Book

Pictured above: Puffin in Bloom edition of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Here at The Bookly Club September is the season when we visit (or revisit) a scholastic classic. Normally this is when we’re heading back to school and dreaming of school supplies. But again, this school year will be looking very different. However, we still have the books we love! So for September we’ve picked a beloved classic.

And what is there really to say about our September book? First published on June 13th, 1908, this book and its characters have taken on a life of their own. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery has been translated into 36 languages, sold over 50 million copies, and is one of the best-selling books of all time. And yet, I’ve never read it! I’ve watched the 1980’s seriesand the latest adaptation Anne with an E on Netflix, but I’ve never read the book. So for many of us this will be a re-read, but for some of us this will be a long overdue first read!

Lucy Maude Montgomery

Lucy Maud (L.M.) Montgomery was a Canadian-born author who grew up in the town of Cavendish on Prince Edward Island. A dreamy place we hope to visit someday (girls’ weekend 2022!?).

She was raised by her grandparents, and lived a rather lonely childhood. But this fostered in her a great imagination and creativity. The setting and many of the characters in Anne’s story were directly inspired by Montgomery’s childhood on Prince Edward Island. So much so, that there are now tourist sites on the island dedicated specifically to Anne of Green Gables, and provincial license plates once bore her picture.

Montgomery wrote this series for all ages. And it begins with the story of an 11-year-old orphan with red hair named Anne. She’s mistakenly sent to two siblings in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert were hoping to adopt a boy into their family to help with farm work and Anne is far from what they’d expected. But what begins as a mistake, soon turns into a heart-warming story of belonging, home, community and the universal pains of growing up. We’re very excited to start this in fall. It seems like the perfect time for a visit to Avonlea.

We hope you’ll join us! Reading along is pretty easy, here’s how …

  1. Pick up a copy from where ever you get your books, and read along with us anytime between now and the end of September
  2. Keep us posted on social using #booklymark and tagging @thebooklyclub
  3. Stay tuned for our discussion post on Instagram and/or our reviews here on the blog to share our thoughts

Hope to hear from you soon!
x

August Book

At The Bookly Club we pick a book for August that fits in your beach bag. Not literally (although if a book doesn’t fit in your beach bag you’re doing it wrong), but it should be a book you’d want with you on a day at the beach. Granted, this year’s a little bit different. A lot-a-bit different actually. Beach-going and summer vacations aren’t the care-free relaxing endeavors they once were. In fact, if you’re like us, they aren’t happening at all. Or if we do, our beach bags are over-stuffed with PPE and hand sanitizers, and maybe a book.

But no matter where we’re reading from this summer, we’re still in the mood for a “beach read.” Something that moves fast, isn’t too long, with maybe a touch of romance, likeable characters, and light on the gravitas. And Diane Chamberlain’s The Stolen Marriage fits that bill for us!

A lifelong book lover, and author since the late 1980’s, Chamberlain has authored dozens of novels. And The Stolen Marriage is one of her more recent books; first released in the fall of 2017.


My stories are often filled with twists and surprises and–I hope–they also tug at the emotions. Relationships — between men and women, parents and children, sisters and brothers – are always the primary focus of my books. I can’t think of anything more fascinating than the way people struggle with life’s trials and tribulations, both together and alone.


The Stolen Marriage is set on the East coast in the 1940’s (North Carolina by way of Baltimore), it tells the story of Tess DeMello and how one night changes the course of her life forever. During a time of war and the Polio epidemic, this young nurse finds herself having to navigate layers of secrets, tragedy and somehow get back to the life she wants to live. There are some heavier themes sprinkled in the story, but it’s fast-paced and hopeful. Also, ironic that we’ve picked a story taking place during an epidemic. Good or bad? We’ll find out.

We hope you’ll read along with us! It’s really simple, here’s how …

  1. Pick up a copy from where ever you get your books, and read along with us anytime between now and the end of August
  2. Keep us posted on social using #booklymark and tagging @thebooklyclub
  3. Stay tuned for our discussion post on Instagram and/or our reviews here on the blog to share our thoughts

Happy reading, friends!

Barracoon: Further Reading

Hi! It’s been a while since y’all have heard from me here and I’m excited to be back for our July pick, Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston. I read this in November of 2018, so instead of providing a review (because, let’s be honest, it’s been TOO long since I read it for me to remember anything that the other lovely Bookly ladies haven’t already covered), I thought I’d round up some further reading and reviews for you to check out! (Tip: If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend listening to it.) Alright, check out the links below to learn more about this incredible book.

This blog post from The Stacks (we highly suggest subscribing to their podcast!).

Goodreads reviews from Never Without a Book, Renee at Black Girl Magic, and Reggie.

These video reviews are the perfect way to feel like you’re part of a book club: Brown Girl Reading and Left On Read.

These podcast episodes from the New York Public Library, NPR, and 1A.

Instagram posts from @bookofrachael, @booksbythecup, @booksnailmail, and @kenyanbibliophile.

And finally, these articles from The Atlantic and The New Yorker.

 

If you’re looking for some books that complement Barracoon, pick up…

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Homegoing Yaa Gyasi

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Stamped From the Beginning Ibram X. Kendi.

History

One cannot review Barracoon. One reads it and is given something that we rarely get in this world – someone’s story unedited, unforgiving, and un-redacted. American history in education is full of redactions to suit a purpose. To whitewash the history of slavery is a reflection of those who wrote the history books – white people hoping to to make slavery more palatable and, in a sense, more forgivable by disconnecting it from today and diminishing the horrors. Even more than that, the only voice we hear is white. That disconnect and silencing aids in the insidious creep of racism into our societal constructs of today – ever less apparent to those who benefit from it.

Zora Neale Hurston is an incredible gifted writer. To refuse to alter the voice of Oluale Kossula, she shows herself to be more than a gifted writer. She shows herself to be measured and endlessly dedicated to capturing the truth. The recovery of this work allows us a chance to listen to a voice of truth, our real history.

With each review of Barracoon that we post, we will include a link to an #ownvoices review from a Black reader. I’d like to share with you…  Tayari Jones’s thoughts on Barracoon.

 

In Their Words

In school I learned about enslaved Africans. I learned how millions of men, women and children were kidnapped from Africa, shipped to America, and lived and died enslaved in this country. But I learned of these stories from whitewashed history curriculums.

I had never read of slavery from the words of a person enslaved. And author Zora Neale Hurston takes such care and commitment in recording Kossola’s story. I am thankful she shared her talents, her dedication, and for Kossula’s strength in sharing his life. There’s a kind of tragic poetry to the words Kossula shares, and I felt honored to be let into his story through Barracoon. This book is a rare and important one. And I don’t throw that term around loosely. Barracoon is a must read. It’s our history, and it’s past time we start centering more voices like these.

Hurston understood in 1927 even better than we do now how important it is to hear our stories through the voices of those who experienced them. And with that, I’ll stop talking. I want to share with you all a few #ownvoices reviews of this book…

The Power of Untold Slave Stories
by Torry Threadcraft for The Atlantic

Black & Bookish review
by Antoinette Scully

The Stacks Podcast review
by Traci Thomas

Now go pick up a copy and read it!

An Opportunity to #Listen

I started and finished Barracoon in just under four days. I honestly don’t know how to write this review. Full disclosure, book reviews aren’t my forte in general (which you may have figured out if you’ve read any of my others). However, reviewing Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon feels strange. She was brilliant, and scholars and biographers have studied her and her work. I don’t have anything to add there. The book is Kissola’s recollection of his life in Africa, being enslaved, and then being free from enslavement. There is no room to judge the quality of the narrative, because it’s simply his life – we can’t ask that it be anything it’s not. 

Therefore, I feel as though I can only speak to my experience reading it. Reading Barracoon at this particular moment feels appropriate. Reminding, or for some people learning, about the experience of enslaved people is an important piece in acknowledging our history and seeking to better our present. My heart broke for Kissola and the pain and suffering he had to endure, I can’t imagine losing my entire family – first with the swiftness with which he was stolen in Africa and then with the slow loss of his children and wife in Alabama. But I also can’t stop thinking about the millions (literally) of others who endured similar experiences and whose stories will go forever untold. I wish I had something profound to add here, but I don’t. 

In putting these words together, I tried to find what I wanted to say, how to tie this all together… Specifically, as it relates to the movement we are standing in the middle of right now. And I don’t really have those words. But others do. Look for Black authors, Black creators, Black educators, and Black people to listen to. And really listen. Educate yourself. Take action. Read Barracoon, and then keep reading. If we want to dismantle the system, we need to know the system we are dismantling. And we need to know why the system needs to be dismantled. 

With each review of Barracoon that we post, we will include a link to an #ownvoices review from a Black reader. I’d like to share with you Dr. Kira Gold’s thoughts on Barracoon

Feeling Old. Might Delete Later.

I don’t know that I have much of a framework for “reviewing” books like this. I’m obviously old enough that I identified with the cranky old teacher who would rather turn people into apples than deal with their nonsense. Wayside School is obviously a strange little book with strange little characters. It’s like fantasy for eight year olds. A book grounded in something they understand, a classroom, and expands on the complexities and simplicities of learning, friendship, and recess, while being out of this world wacky. I can see how kids my niece and nephew’s age would laugh and laugh at the silliness. I also can see how the bouncy, punchy read could keep the attention of its intended audience. 

As an adult, I appreciate a couple of things about this book. One, every student in the classroom gets a chapter – or at least most of them. They are all their own self. I think it is a subtle but important point for kids. We are all someone with individuality, flaws, silly sides, and deserve our own chapter.  Secondly, the writing is obviously for a certain grade level, but there are these moments of brilliance and poetry in the writing – particularly the last sentences. “You need a reason to be sad. You don’t need a reason to be happy.” “It’s funny how a person can be right all the time and still be wrong.” “[Eyes] can see everything except themselves.” Third, I don’t know if I like or don’t like this. But the kids are kind of a-holes. Not sure if highlighting that kids can be mean is being truthful to kids in a good way or in a bad way.

July Book

This July at The Bookly Club we’ll be reading Zora Neale Hurston‘s profound work, Barracoon. And we hope you’ll read with us as we all further our education on American history. How do you join? Check HERE. And now more about our selection…

Although Hurston wrote Barracoon nearly 100 years ago in 1927, it was only just published in 2018. It’s tells the story of Cudjo Lewis, originally known as Oluale Kossola, who at the time was the only living survivor of the Clotilda; the last slaver known to have made the transatlantic journey (unearthed just last year in 2019).

Hurston was, and is, one of America’s most notable authors and anthropologists. She’s the author of dozens of award-winning poems, essays, plays, novels, short stories, books, and a filmmaker. As a Black woman in America at the turn of the century, she focused her work on the issues of the Black community and was an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance movement. She told stories of the African American experience, and Barracoon was in fact her very first book-length work.

“The African slave trade is the most dramatic chapter in the story of human experience.”
– Zora Neale Hurston

The Western slave trade legally plundered Black bodies for 364 years. From just 1801 to 1866, an estimated 3,873,600 Africans were enslaved and traded for European and American merchandise. Born 1841, Olulale Kossola was kidnapped to America in 1860 along with 115 other Africans on the Clotilda. He was 19 years old.

Hurston interviewed eighty-six-year-old Kossola over a period of time in 1927. She visited him at his home in Alabama bearing gifts and sharing stories. Barracoon is Hurston’s careful transcription of Kossola’s narration of home, family, his childhood in Africa, the genocide of his community, how he was stolen away and enslaved in America and later set free from slavery, his subsequent founding of Africatown, the raising of his African children who never set foot on African soil, and ultimately his life-long journey to find home.

“Where we come from we doan know. Where we goin, we doan know.”
– Oluale Kossola

Barracoon is a one-of-a-kind storytelling experience written by a legendary American author. It’s a keystone part of American history, and one all too often forgotten or ignored. And it’s long, long overdue that we give stories like Kossola’s into the spotlight. Black lives matter. Past. Present. And future.

So let’s take one small step in living those words by reading Barracoon to further our education on what it is to be Black in America, how this country was started, and where we are.

Here’s how you join us…

  1. pick up a copy from where ever you get your books, and read along with us anytime between now and the end of July
  2. keep us posted on social using #booklymark and tagging @thebooklyclub
  3. stay tuned for our discussion post on Instagram and our reviews here on the blog to share our thoughts

 

Scary Stories from Wayside School

I’m so excited to be sharing my first-ever review in PODCAST format!

We’ve partnered with Alli from the SSR Podcast for our May & June read of Sideways Stories from Wayside School, and it was so much fun! SSR has been one of our favorite bookish podcasts for awhile now, breaking down an old school read from our tween and teen days every week. And I had the pleasure of chatting with Alli all about this odd, silly, creepy childhood classic. We had a lot to say; good, bad and ugly. So thank you so much to Alli and the SSR Podcast for hosting Bookly this month, and please CLICK HERE to check out all our thoughts and feelings in Episode 97 of the SSR Podcast . . .


SSR Podcast Episode No. 97


 

And make sure to visit the SSR Podcast for plenty more literary throwback chats!

 

Sorry, Not Sorry

Years before she published Dear Girls, Ali Wong aired a stand-up special on Netflix called Baby Cobra. She was pregnant with her first during filming, and I was just barely coming out of the fog of having two babies within about a year of each other. I couldn’t have been more primed to find everything she referenced all too familiar and laugh-out-loud hilarious. And I don’t take issue with her raw and crude brand of humor. Parenting is raw and crude, so it fits. Needless-to-say, when I heard about Dear Girls I was all in.

Each chapter is a letter to her daughters Mari and Nikki where she shares different embarrassing, challenging, rewarding, gross, triumphant stories. I love that she is completely unfiltered in sharing the lessons she’s learned the hard way, and trying to share more of herself. Parents often project onto children so much of what we hope for them and how we see them, but we rarely share much of our own histories, vulnerabilities or mistakes. But Wong is completely unafraid of laying it all out there, and that’s something to respect.

Wong is confident, self-deprecating and unapologetically herself with every word. Reading her story was a refreshing take on life, adulting, loving, parenting and working as a woman in America. Specifically as a woman of color and the child of immigrants. Sure, a lot of her chapters are about parenting and relationships. It is a book written to her daughters after all. And there are some chapters that are SO CLOSE to home. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so seen as I did in reading Chapter 10 “Bringing up Bebes.” But there’s so much else to be gained from Dear Girls. Her experiences with gender roles, work-life balance, sexism, sexuality, family dynamics, financial stability, and so much else are well worth reading. Especially when she tells it all with such a unique and savage brand of humor.

The moral of the story? . . .
It was a solid 3 out of 5 stars for me. Translation? It was solidly a good read. I liked it, but maybe didn’t love it (4 stars would mean I loved it, and 5 stars means it’s an all-time favorite). I don’t give our stars lightly. But I really enjoyed Dear Girls. Although, if you have any reservations about Wong’s humor I definitely recommend watching her specials first so you know what you’re in for. It’s not for the faint of heart. Though if you’re game, this book is a great extension of her humor and storytelling. It’s entertaining, and a great distraction from a global pandemic! Not-to-mention the very last chapter that nearly had me in tears; a beautiful letter by Wong’s husband written to their daughters in admiration of his family, their mother, and them. He’s one badass feminist.

Well, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading! And I hope you’ll read along with us in May/June 🙂