For the first year ever I may have read more nonfiction than fiction. This is because I’ve been focusing on more essay writing and diving deeper into the genre. I usually read creative nonfiction, fiction, and business books.
Here are my top choices for what I read in 2014.
Americanah, fiction. This was a really great read. It's a little on the long but very engaging and culturally witty. Americanah tells the story of a girl who moves to America leaving her love behind. It dives deep into what it's like for an immigrant going to college in the US, her relationships, and her ultimate return home.
Ghost Dance, fiction - I first read Ghost Dance by Carole Maso in a grad class and I wept. But I also read through it fast to keep up with the class. I went back and re-read it slowly. I love stories that dive deep into pain, and deep into healing. This story is both fascinating in style and form, as well as content. It pulls at the heart by forcing you to want more of the love that is missing in the main character’s life. It is the story of a tragic loss that send’s waves through one’s life, and these waves link together the story.
Slouching Toward's Bethlehem, nonfiction - Joan Didian has become a strong voice in the world of essay writing. I wanted to read up on her very first collection, Slouching Toward's Bethlehem, chronciling life mostly in California in the 1960's. I really enjoyed this collection for its style, a voice penetraitng the usual observations of life. It inspired me to keep writing essays and pushing myself in this genre.
The Artists Way, nonfiction - This is a must read for any creative. I would almost say it’s a must read every single year for the creative.This book is a guide to breaking down roadblocks and staying focused on your creative work. It's renowned for unleashing award winning writers, directors, and artist of all sorts around the world. The biggest takeaway for me was writing morning pages to clear my head, and the emphasis that creative life is not an escape iit is your daily life. There is no big break, it is only you and the world every single day. So, get to work and use this book to help you.
Diaries of Anais Nin, nonfiction - In 2013 I started reading the series of diaries written by the French author Anais Nin. It became almost a monthly habit to move onto the next diary; I just couldn't put it down. I finish this series in 2014. Reading her diaries was moving. You fall into her life and her poetic descriptions, the sharp understandings of human character, and you can’t help but sweep yourself up in the series.
What great books did you enjoy this year?
I have trouble understanding the divided narratives in the media of a “New Detroit” versus an “Old Detroit.” My Detroit family has lived here for over 100 years and would agree with me. It is just Detroit to us.
My family is white, black and Middle Eastern. My mom and dad, their brothers and sisters, and many of their nieces and nephews grew up in Detroit. My uncle who looks the most Lebanese of us all didn’t fit in with the blacks or the whites growing up. I’m not sure he cared very much to fit in. He was too busy as the only son helping our family get by.
My mom eventually left her home in Detroit and moved to Fraser, a tiny little town in the suburbs. My sister and I grew up there, while most of my mom’s family stayed in the city.
When my sister was nineteen she faced a horrible addiction and a very difficult path. She bought her drugs easily from Detroit. Thankfully, my sister was able to build a sober life again. But many who do suffer all over Metro Detroit find their drug of choice in the city.
She tells me that when one drug house gets busted it just moves on down the block to the next abandoned home. She looked on Google to see where she used to get her drugs, and the entire block was cleared. She felt happy with hope; maybe the shell of her past could stop haunting her.
But the massive blight and emptied past of Detroit still haunts us as a region today. The lack of awareness that we are all connected, those living in the suburbs and city and neighborhoods of all backgrounds, is too often lost. Enforcing two simplistic narratives forces you to pick a stereotype of new or old, of race or financial standing attached to doing well or being a victim. This divisiveness slices and guts out our empathy, right when we need it most.
I am thankful for sobriety. That steep mountain that helps pull others up from the muddy sickness of addiction. My beautiful sister is several years clean. She sees life around her and can now enjoy the view.
I am thankful to have a body: all parts working, 26 years old used. I could feed and care for it better. But it is all working. With my hands I can write, fold laundry, pet my dog. I am grateful, especially for the writing part.
I am thankful for time, the sharp spark that hits you in the ass and reminds you to get going already. Live life because it is only with you today. I am also thankful for this time I live in. I am grateful for the age of digital storytelling.
I am thankful for community, the crowd of people always there to cheer you on and share your pains. Life is a whole lot lonelier without a tribe to share it with. We’ve found the community in Detroit to be kind, creative, funky, and full of a hell of a lot of great people.
Driving down Woodward towards New Center you pass under an overhead bridge. It is grey and crumbling but the center holds clear with bright white words: viral, viral, viral, viral, viral.
You swoop right under these words and they stick with you for a moment, graffiti of the mind.
I have a love / hate relationship with the word and the action of going “viral” online. It sounds like a disease - the spreading. It is something any writer should want today: millions of readers reading and sharing as their work goes viral. Yet it can be manipulated, obnoxious, the cat memes and lists, the best of our days.