When Kit de Waal was growing up in 1970s Birmingham, no one like her – poor, black and Irish – wrote books. Forty years on, the author asks, what has changed?

Source: Kit de Waal: ‘Make room for working class writers’ | Books | The Guardian

(Originally posted on my book review blog, Diary of a Mad Reader)

I am someone who reads books that break my heart, time and time again. The Book of Night Women broke my heart. Apparently, A Brief History of Seven Killings, which I’m 14 pages away from finishing, is going to do the same. And they’re both by Marlon James.

I so want to say that I hate him and his damn novels but that wouldn’t be true. They resonate too deep for hate. The Book of Night Women stayed with me so long I was extremely reluctant to buy A Brief History. I waited; saw it in my favorite bookstore, saw it win prestige and still said I ain’t buying fucking bullshit that breaks my fucking heart. I nah fi do it.



whose music reached me before Prince.


whose reggae connected me to my family in a way no other music does.

And so I bought it…and started reading.

Fucking Marlon James, man. I mean, damn.

I can’t fault him for his knowledge, or sense, of history. I can’t fault him for me reading past the sick ass murder that occurred in the first few pages. I can’t fault him anymore than I could fault Dylan for Masters of War or NWA for Fuck the Police or War for The World is a Ghetto because neither him or Dylan or NWA or War are the originators of this violent ass world I’m raising my son in.

I can’t even fault him for my reaction to a book that I haven’t yet finished, although I only have 14 pages left out of a 686 page novel. I can’t fault him for me feeling sorrow for the fictional psychopath Josey Wales. I can’t fault him because he’s an honest writer. His research is solid. His writing is beyond great. I can’t do anything but finish the novel, post this review and this song…

Selassie I Jah Rastafari

Addendum: I just finished the book. Considering the deranged violence that occurred throughout the book was that I would end it smiling and happy but I did! I’d read the whole tome all over again just to read that ending but first, I need a year or two to recover, just like I did with The Book of Night Women. With this ending, I do believe Marlon James has joined my very small list of favorite writers.

Reading Round-up 3.3.15

March 3, 2015

As of this date I have accomplished the monumental task of reading two books from start to finish. It might seem counter- intuitive for a writer to have a problem completing the reading of a book but such is the nature of my life now. The two books read were Watershed by Percival Everett and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

Watershed – I don’t know what I think/feel about this book. I read it and continued reading it waiting for some “action” to happen.  Considering that the story involves Black Panther history as well as the Indigenous struggle at the Pine Ridge reservation, some action was bound to happen, was it not? However, whatever action did take place seemed muted by the main character, a hydrologist named Robert Hawks’ emotional disconnect. I am not yet sure whether that is an indication of the author’s talent or my response to the novel’s very understated action scenes. I will say this: at the end of the novel, after wading through various chapters being prefaced by hydrologist jargon, I felt like the author was smacking me, the reader, by stating that the prefaces were fictional. In researching the author, I discovered that he is considered a satirist or at the very least includes aspects of satire as one of his literary tropes. I’m just not sure yet whether I appreciate that or not. I shall have to read another book or two of his to figure it out.

Brown Girl Dreaming – First of all, chalk it up to my ignorance that I was surprised to find out on opening the book that it was poetry. I don’t pay as much attention as I should. That aside, from start to finish, Brown Girl Dreaming was a delight. So much so, I plan on it being the foundation of a poetry unit for my home-schooled son.

Deeper than that, however, is the strong sense of love and peace I felt upon finishing the book. In that way, it reminded me of how I felt when I finished Clare of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat. Some writers have the incredible ability to write in such a way that reading their works opens up the gentleness of the world. Considering that the world isn’t truly a gentle place, that is a remarkable achievement.