Cover of Tracy K. Smith’s “Ordinary Light”

Since I heard her speak as part of the Houston Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series in February, 2016, I’ve had a deeply personal resonance with Tracy K. Smith. At the time, Smith was the poet laureate of the United States, and her voice — so deeply rhythmic, elegant, calming, and motherly — made her seem a wise soul, capable of comfort and compassion. For several years, Smith hosted a podcast called The Slowdown. Though I was an inconsistent listener, on days when I needed some soothing, listening to Smith explain and read a poem brought me solace. …

Book Cover — An Orchestra of Minorities
Book Cover — An Orchestra of Minorities
Chigozie Obioma’s (2019) Novel “An Orchestra of Minorities”

When you reach the last harrowing page of Chigozie Obioma’s epic An Orchestra of Minorities, you might feel a vacuous unease, a fear deep in your stomach. What will happen to Chinonso? Obioma’s novel has been compared to a modern-day Odyssey (Goodreads), though a Shakespearean or ancient mythological tragedy is a more apt comparison. However, such comparisons are unnecessary, particularly as they center a Western, hegemonic canon that Obioma seeks to disrupt. Parallel to Marlon James’ (2019) Black Leopard, Red Wolf (my top book of 2019), Obioma’s epic novel seeks to raise Western reader consciousness of African folklore, spiritual, and…

Cover of Washington’s book “Lot”

Right now, we could all use some honesty, some beauty. Enter Bryan Washington’s master-craft Lot. Though marketed as a set of stories, the book queers storytelling. Not quite a novel, nor a disconnected set of short stories, Lot is a love letter to Houston: its places, food, and people; a love letter to Black and Latinx queer culture; and an excavation of the human condition. How do we find ourselves, and each other, in a shifting, multiracial, multiethnic, queer world? Amidst the heat, the shifting landscapes, the skyscrapers and bayous, our coming and going, can we find love?

At the…

“Reinhardt’s Garden” Book Cover

Mark Haber’s (2019) Reinhardt’s Garden is the perfect book for 2020. Not only escapist and absurd, the novel vacillates between polar extremities and coupled realities so reminiscent of my and many others’ emotional and physical life in this bizarre, terrifying, turbulent year. The novel is deeply philosophical, leading one to contemplate so much of what we call reality, obsession, and life truths.

The narrator, a hypochondriac, lives in constant fear of severe illness, plague, and death. There are phantom headaches and trepidation over even the slightest change in bodily temperament. A throbbing toe, an aching back, “a catastrophic illness is…

Paul Eaton

Host of @rhizoreader (IG) podcast. Writer. Scholar. Resister. Becoming. he/him/his. @profpeaton

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