A Family Looks Back on All They’ve Survived

PERISH, by LaToya Watkins

LaToya Watkins’s memorable debut novel, “Perish,” opens in 1955, with 16-year-old Helen Jean attempting to abort a pregnancy with her cousin’s turpentine remedy in an outhouse behind the family’s rented, overcrowded home in The Flats, the Black side of a fictional small town called Jerusalem, Texas.

“Helen Jean sat on the hole inside the musky outhouse and pushed her palms flat against the bench, willing her body to do the work she needed it to,” Watkins writes. “She waited for the heavy knot to begin to throb and her bowels to break. For the familiar pain to erupt from the core of her stomach.”

Like Toni Morrison’s Pecola Breedlove in “The Bluest Eye” and the protagonist’s father dropping “his seeds in his own plot of black dirt, Helen Jean is pregnant with her father’s baby. This is not the first time this has happened. As she waits in the decaying outhouse, Helen Jean begins to recognize the brutal reality of her fate: “Everything outside of her felt distant, quiet, and she heard a faint whisper growing from inside her ear, like a mouth inside her head trying to crawl its way out. A life to repay the last one, it said. You can’t keep killing them. Bear it or perish yourself.

These words in the novel’s opening section (aptly titled “Seed”) — and all their ongoing implications — hum, like a live electrical wire, throughout the rest of the novel and the lives of this extended family.

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Boston

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Boston

In this week’s roundup, Salman Rushdie ponders his literary work and his life, a historian revisits the Mexican drug trade and a Belgian artist vigorously renders her life in charcoal and ink in a touching graphic memoir.

Here are six new paperbacks we recommend →

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Boston

LANGUAGES OF TRUTH: Essays 2003-2020, by Salman Rushdie.

Rushdie’s collection gathers nearly two decades of writings on literature and life, including a defense of the (often criticized) magical elements of his novels, remembrances of friends such as Carrie Fisher and Christopher Hitchens, and his experience contracting Covid-19 in 2020.

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Boston

ALL THE FREQUENT TROUBLES OF OUR DAYS: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler, by Rebecca Donner.

Donner’s biography of Mildred Harnack, who was executed by the Nazis in 1943, uses archives, interviews, diaries and other sources to present a textured account of her life as a resister.

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Boston

CHOUETTE, by Claire Oshetsky.

This debut novel tells the story of a professional cellist in Sacramento who has an affair with an owl and gives birth to a humanoid owl-baby, forcing her to grapple with the dual responsibilities of mother and artist while staving off pressure to make her daughter conform to societal expectations.

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Boston

PRETENDING IS LYING, by Dominique Goblet. Translated by Sophie Yanow.

Goblet, a Belgian painter and sculptor, employs charcoal, pencil, ink and splotches of oil to render layered memories of trauma, pleasure and dark humor in this graphic memoir. Our reviewer, Sheila Heti, called it “tender, affecting and complete.”

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Boston

THE DOPE: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade, by Benjamin T. Smith.

Smith’s sweeping history of the drug trade opens with the 1908 arrest of a marijuana wholesaler in Mexico City and chronicles the violence, corruption and greed on both sides of the border that helped fuel the industry’s rise.

6 New Paperbacks to Read This Week

Miguel Salazar📚 Reading in Boston

OUT, by Natsuo Kirino. Translated by Stephen B. Snyder.

This reissued 1997 Japanese crime novel follows a woman who, after being fired from her last job for demanding equal rights with male coworkers, starts working nights at a boxed lunch factory, where she becomes an accomplice to the murder of a colleague’s abusive husband.

Published on August 19.

Read more books news:



Source: Read Full Article