Thoughts by Raven Leilani, 2020, 240 pages
Challenge: TOB Shortlist
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Why I read this now: These TOB books just fall into some order without real thought. In other words, I don’t recall why exactly this was next. (WHY do I even ask this question? or: Why do I think I must answer?)
MOTIVATION for READING: #sigh
A sunlit dream where I do better.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: I’m trying to figure out how to answer this… Shall I just do the blurb from gr or should I pretend nobody reads this and I only need to write something that will remind “future-self” what I read way back in January 2021? Let’s do both.
Goodreads: “Sharp, comic, disruptive, tender, Raven Leilani’s debut novel, Luster, sees a young black woman fall into art and someone else’s open marriage.
Edie is stumbling her way through her twenties—sharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She’s also, secretly, haltingly figuring her way into life as an artist. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage—with rules. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and falling into Eric’s family life, his home. She becomes hesitant friend to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie is the only black woman young Akila may know.
Razor sharp, darkly comic, sexually charged, socially disruptive, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make her sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.”
My turn: (pretending I didn’t just read what I dropped in above.) The MC is a young black woman trying to figure out her life and her motivations. She seems to be a sex addict, seems to be rather ambivalent and apathetic about this fact and also that she knows she is the token black woman and should want to do the be-better-to-look-better crap requirements that white corporate America foists upon token blacks in the workplace but she’s just trying to pay rent. This book is FUNNY. Shock value funny. Uncomfortable funny. Reminded me of The Sellout by Paul Beatty.
“I am good, but not good enough, which is worse than simply being bad. It is almost. The difference between being there when it happens and stepping out just in time to see it on the news.”
Our MC wants to be an artist. She confronts her motivations and her ideas that she must be in pain to produce good work. (I made up that – she never really contemplates that out loud, does she?) I really admired her ability NOT to get depressed and give up! But she really doesn’t have the energy or rather most likely recognizes that ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ fix-your-life bullshit is truly bullshit for most people without the means and support system of family, privilege, circumstance. So she finds herself in a family with privilege and explores the circumstance. She wrestles with do the right thing or just ride the waves with what she can get away with. Does she really have choices?
“I remember when my parents tried to tell me this, the only time in their miserable marriage they were ever united. It must be strange for every black kid, when their principal authority figures break the news that authorities lie.”
THOUGHTS: There is no whining, no debilitating frustration. She is fascinating.
Yes to these words: Sharp, comic, disruptive, tender.
I think I was blown away by this book. In my top 3 for TOB so far.
RATING: Four slices of pie, with sneaked forkful on another. With lots and lots of bourbon whipped cream. Ok, just give me that fifth piece already.
“a highly designed editorial nightmare from a boutique imprint experimenting with pomo cookbooks, formerly an imprint that specialized in Crock-Pot tips and a series on pies that employed the authority of a titular Presbyterian Grandma.”
“…slave narrative about a tragic mulatto who raises the dead with her magic chitlin pies;”
VOCAB: Saditty (comparative more saditty, superlative most saditty) (US, dated, slang, chiefly African-American Vernacular) Acting snobbish, arrogant, or superior; uppity; perceived to be trying to associate with a higher social class.
Capoeira (Portuguese pronunciation: [kapuˈejɾɐ] or [kaˈpwɐjɾɐ]) is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music. … It is known for its acrobatic and complex maneuvers, often involving hands on the ground and inverted kicks.
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