I’m taking a break from my beloved Brooklyn at the moment, living and teaching in Oberlin, Ohio this spring, so there’s no subway or waiting room to speak of here. That said, I’m reading Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring for a class on speculative fiction from the African diaspora, and Craig Steven Wilder’s Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities. Both are books that I can’t believe I’m reading for the first time now, but they are right on time. I’m learning about the relationship between Caribbean mythology and sci-fi and the links between African-American and Native American history, and contemplating the history of the academy.
What book popped for you in 2015?
2015 was marked by a long and strange reading drought. I wondered if I’d ever finish reading a book again. But there were a few that I did finish, and many more still to be read. Among the ones I enjoyed were Asali Solomon’s Disgruntled, James Hannaham’s Delicious Foods, and Hanya Yanigahara’s A Little Life. I started Dionne Brand’s In Another Place, Not Here and was taken away by and then lost within it.
Whose words do you return to regularly?
For a long time, I read a few books almost yearly – Shay Youngblood’s Soul Kiss, Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John and June Jordan’s Soldier: a Poet’s Childhood. I love all of these books for the way that they tell a slant version of black girlhood. Each, in their own way, helped me to understand myself and to write my first novel.
Is there an author you can’t wait to read next?
2016 is a year of literary anticipation. Summer can’t arrive quickly enough for the June release of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing! I’ve been pumped to read Kaitlyn Greenidge’s We Love You, Charlie Freeman and Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Here Comes The Sun since I heard them read excerpts. I’m also looking forward to the release of Nayomi Munaweera’s What Lies Between Us and Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes’ The Sleeping World. I’m hopeful that Darryl Pinckney’s Black Deutschland will offer a balm now that I can no longer obsessively watch Passing Strange and its offshoots. I’m very curious to read Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, this May.
What are you working on now? What can VIDA fans look forward to from you next?
I’m working on a historical novel about a family of Afro-Caribbean women set in Brooklyn from the 1930s to the 2000s.
Naomi Jackson is the author of The Star Side of Bird Hill, which was longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize and nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Jackson studied fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and traveled to South Africa on a Fulbright scholarship, where she received an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town. A graduate of Williams College, her work has appeared in literary journals and magazines in the United States and abroad. She is the recipient of residencies from the University of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Writers House, Hedgebrook, Vermont Studio Center, and the Camargo Foundation. (Photo credit: Lola Flash)