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What Are You Reading

James Arthur headshot

James Arthur, Associate Professor, The Writing Seminars 

poetry book titled Brown

“I’ve just finished reading Kevin Young’s terrific poetry collection Brown. Many of the poems in Brown are about Young’s coming of age as a Black boy in Topeka, Kansas, but the poet also writes about his son and includes stark, memorable elegies for Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Emmett Till. Young pays homage to musical heroes like Prince, Howlin’ Wolf, and the Wu-Tang Clan, often weaving excerpts from their lyrics into his own taut verse. Each poem in Brown functions as a self-contained work of art; together, the poems form a rich, extended narrative.”  

Ashley Quarcoo headshot

Ashley Quarcoo, Visiting Scholar, SNF Agora Institute 

The Yellow House book cover

“I ‘read’ primarily via audio book these days, and I’ve just finished listening to The Yellow House by Sarah Broom. It is a story of displacement and uprootedness that has resonated with me in this time when our own lives are so dislocated. Broom reminds us that places tell the stories of the people who inhabit them, but they are also part of the story that we tell about ourselves. In both the presence and absence of a place—a home, a gravestone marker, a plot on a zoning map—lives are made both visible and invisible. Who gets to decide the story we tell? And who is included in that story? Broom’s love letter to her yellow house is a testimony to the ways that our built environment, and those who control and maintain it, tell the world who belongs to a place. I will never view New Orleans in the same way.” 

Jonathan Flombaum

Jonathan Flombaum, Associate Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences 

A Children's Bible book cover

A Childrens Bible by Lydia Millet is a book with deserved hype. The story: a few families share a vacation home, the parents largely ignoring the children. When a giant hurricane approaches, the kids seek higher ground on their own. It’s been described as a ‘climate change novel’ and an allegory. It surely is. But that undersells it. I loved seeing the adult world from a child’s perspective. The book captures the ways that kids and grownups are alien and often alienating to each other. You want to think, ‘These terrible parents!’ You end up thinking twice.”