My little sister finished her sophomore year at high school today. She brought home a report card that was in absolute terms, a letdown, but it was relatively satisfactory because she did no worse than she had in the third quarter. She also brought home remnants of a cleaned-out locker, the learning theme for next year, identity, and her summer reading list. I’m not sure what’s on that menu, but it got me to thinking about what literary delights I would digest this summer, and what I should recommend on this blog for others.
When you hit the bookstore, or when you pass the next newsstand, pick up a copy of this months’ Vogue. There is a profile about Susan Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations. I liked reading that Susan Rice takes a tough stance on human rights issues, has a soft emotional side, a serious approach to work and a spirit that embraces play time wholeheartedly!
That’s a picture of Ms. Rice with her husband, Ian Cameron. What I liked especially about the article was what it didn’t say. Rice is a member of a black professional and social elite that has always existed in this country, but for some reason seemed invisible. Worse, the black elite seemed like an urban legend, or a mythical creature like Big Foot. Remember when The Cosby Show first went on the air? I do. I think I was in the 7th grade. I couldn’t understand why black people insisted that a generally wholesome and intact family led by two educated, worldly black professionals could not exist. Thanks to the passage of time, Oprah and in no small part, I think, President Obama’s administration, we are being introduced to elite blacks in the very highest and most influential jobs on the planet. Also, Ms. Rice comes from a very impressive family. Her father, Emmett Rice, was on the board of governors for the Federal Reserve. No small feat for a black man born in North Carolina in 1920. But as you will see if you click the link, he already had a track record of breaking barriers by he time he was appointed to the Fed board of governors. Her mom is a guest scholar for the Brookings Institution.
On to books. You might remember my post about “Kinky Gazpacho,” by Lori L. Tharps. Gazpacho is a memoir of Tharps’ travels through Spain, Morocco, her childhood and young adulthood in the states. I love this book for its wit, warmth, honesty and insights into how Spaniards see blacks and vice versa, even if they are squirm inducing at times.
“On Beauty”, by Zadie Smith must be part of your permanent book collection. I am not a literary critic, so I don’t have the words to describe her immense talent. But what I like about Smith’s work is her crisp wit, and her full-bodied depictions of her characters. Some writers, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, have unearthly powers of expression. But with Smith, sure, I feel like she’s way way up there above all of us, telling riveting stories by creating interesting people and use perfect diction in amazing prose to describe it all. But I still feel connected to the experience. One of the lead characters in “On Beauty”, Howard Belsey, is a white Englishman married to an African-American woman, Kiki. They’ve been married 30 years, but he just cheated on her—the weak fool—and the story picks up shortly after that. Smith’s husband is Nick Laird, also a critically celebrated novelist, pictured here. His recently published novel, “Glover’s Mistake”, also makes my summer reading list.