Reviews

Hillbilly Elegy

Many in the media and politics keep trying to figure out why our new President attracts so many Rust Belt and Appalachian voters. This memoir of a young man’s coming of age in both regions may offer some insight.

At only thirty-one, J.D. Vance admits he's way too young to have penned a memoir. He hasn’t done anything extraordinary (though he did graduate from Yale Law School, a major accomplishment for a kid from a single-parent home in a working-class town in Ohio, where many did not finish high school).

Vance writes most vividly of Jackson, his dirt-poor but beautiful ancestral home in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. He also describes his people: a great-grandmother who once killed someone, and his own Mamaw who often threatens to do the same to her husband when he comes home drunk. In fact, J.D. relates, one night he saves his Pawpaw after Mamaw poured gasoline over him and lights a match.

Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan

Mega Girl was the best superhero around—until she gave up her lifestyle of punching bad guys and saving the world. Now, ex-Mega Girl Alison Green is trying to live a normal life, go to college, and figure everything out. As she works to save the world without a mask, finish her homework, and attempt to cope with the past, Alison learns that heroism can take many forms.

Rumble, Vol. 1: What Color of Darkness by John Arcudi

An ancient god of war out for vengeance, a lonely bartender, and an angry fire demon all walk into a bar. Sounds like the start of a joke, right? Well, that's almost correct.

What Color of Darkness imagines a world where ancient gods and monsters feud over thousands of years to decide the fate of humanity. Humans have a mighty champion in the war god Rathraq, who fights to make sure humankind can flourish in safety—but he's betrayed and imprisoned for thousands of years. Now Rathraq's soul has been released and forced to inhabit a scarecrow, but this won't stop his quest for revenge. Aided by the bartender Bobby, who's just trying to get by in life, Rathraq hunts for the monster queen who stole his body, clashes with an outsized fire demon, and confronts a world starkly different than the one he remembers.

Homegoing

A Ghana proverb says, “By going and coming, a bird weaves its nest.” The title of this novel tells the story of many people from Ghana who were forcibly removed from their African home, yet centuries later, two descendants return to find their family.

If you liked Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Yaa Gyasi’s novel will make the perfect follow-up.  Hard to believe that she started writing this in her early twenties and finished it by age twenty-six. It covers much more ground than Whitehead’s historical novel: Africa and the U.S., and much more time, from the mid-seventeen hundreds to now.  

At one point in the novel, a black history teacher describes history as storytelling. Gyasi presents many eloquent and heart-rending stories here. What ties them together is that all the characters belong to one extended family, who were once royalty in Ghana. They became both slave-sellers and slaves. Many came to America.

Gyasi follows two tracks of this family: one remained in Ghana, the other was forced into slavery in the U.S.  It follows their descendants after the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the great migration north.

Gyasi visited Africa as a student to do research on a book about mothers and daughters. But when she toured Ghana’s Cape Coast Castle, something in the rooms, the cellar where slaves were chained and abused in dungeons called out to her. She immediately decided to focus on the African slave trade and its diaspora later in the U.S.

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