Fall Reading: Exploring Voices

Many different viewpoints on the bedside table this fall, and I recommend them all. (Amazon links for book titles). Explore the lives of Penobscot Natives in Maine, incarcerated prisoners, pigeons around the world, and family stories from the suburbs of Illinois.

Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty (his website). Interrelated short fictional stories centering on a main character, David, or Dee, and experiences, disappointments, and mostly dark adventures he has with his friends and relatives at various times of his life. If you read Tommy Orange's book, There, There, about contemporary Native life in Oakland, California, it is a complementary insight, but from a Northeastern approach, with much poetry in the descriptions of the landscape. But know too that the twelve stories seem matter-of-fact, but are disturbing, and the last three contain violence. 

This Is Ear Hustle by Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods. Part backstory, part transcript, from the award-winning podcasters of Ear Hustle (Ear Hustle website and links to podcast). We find out how Poor, a professor and self-described introvert, found herself teaching at San Quentin, and how Woods found himself locked up there and eventually had his sentence commuted. They are a profound and thoughtful team. The terms and conditions of prison life are revealed through the eyes of the inmates, and many are not what you might imagine. This book was chosen as the One City One Book for San Francisco Public Library. A video of the conversation with Poor and Woods, moderated by Piper Kerman (author of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison) is available at YouTube here. Yes, there is swearing.

A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching by Rosemary Mosco (her website). I took this book with me on two separate trips and both times found it both soothing and illuminating. It's a small paperback with rounded corners, a design attraction, meant to feel like a field guide, of course. There are pigeons everywhere you go, but have you really looked at them? Mosco, with charming illustrations, guides the reader through the history, characteristics, and science with humor. Pigeons, I see you now!

Still No Word from You: Notes in the Margin by Peter Orner (his website). I fell in love immediately as I read the first three stories in this collection of very short fiction. Peter has a magical way of finding the heart of a character and unfolding it before the reader in a compassionate manner. (Full disclosure: he was one of my grad-school teachers.) The stories turned my heart inside out with awe. If you like these, there are other great books by Peter Orner as well.

Happy Reading!