Edwidge Danticat’s favorite books of 2012

 

•  Home, Toni Morrison: It is an absolute marvel. Lyrical prose and narrative innovations are a given. It is Toni Morrison, after all. Frank Money, a Korean war veteran, returns to America with a head full of violent memories. He is also a reluctant narrator, who questions the writer and readers about how his story is being told.

•  NW, Zadie Smith: I love everything she writes, but this was an extra special book. I adored the structure, and there is so much depth and humor in her work, and she writes amazing dialogue. You read her and you think, “I’ve had this very specific thought many times, but it never quite comes out so exquisitely stated.”

•  Three Strong Women (Trois femmes puissantes), Marie NDiaye: She is a huge sensation in France but not so well known here. I am hoping that John Fletcher’s translation will change that. A lawyer, a teacher and a nursemaid are not only as strong as the prose that describes them, but they also vulnerable and memorable.

•  The Devil in Silver, Victor LaValle: Why isn’t he more of a household name? He writes books that are hard to categorize but startle and amaze you with their epic feel and dead-on details. It is set in a mental hospital in Queens, and LaValle is so skillful and so empathetic that you find yourself spending time in everyone’s shoes, at least for a while, and you strangely emerge the better for it.

•  This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz: I read this book in Haiti, and my eyes kept tearing up each time I read his descriptions of Santo Domingo and would look up and see a similar scene in Port-au-Prince. To paraphrase from the story The Sun, the Moon and the Stars, if this were another kind of year-end list I would tell you about the way he describes the sea, but since it’s not that kind of list, I’ll just say that I cried over Invierno, in which Yunior and his brother, new arrivals in the United States, venture out against their father’s wishes to experience snow.

•  A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers. I really enjoyed his poignant and minimalist approach, the way he presents this intriguing and intricate world as not necessarily foreign but possibly home, which makes his portrayal of his eternally hopeful main character and the people and circumstances he encounters all the more powerful.

•  Haiti: The Aftershocks of History by Laurent Dubois and Tetonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake, multiple authors: As Jan. 12 approaches, we will be talking again about the earthquake that crushed Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas in 2010. These extremely well researched yet still accessible books dig into Haiti’s history and culture from the dawn of Haiti’s creation to its current state.

•  Mule and Pear, Rachel Eliza Griffiths: This reminds me why I need to read more poetry. The book is a lifelong list, a stunning series of tributes to literary works the author loves. In one of the poems that opens the collection, Mercy Does Not Mean Thank You, Griffiths writes: “Say it is my father/bursting into tears alone/above his newspaper…/I am now tempted to paraphrase:/Say it is me/nearly bursting into tears of joy/above all these books/And many others.”

Edwidge Danticat is a writer living in Miami.

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