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Villanova English Faculty Offer 2022 Summer Reading Recommendations

For the past nine years, Villanova’s English Department faculty have offered summer reading recommendations to the campus community. The department has kindly allowed Falvey to reprint the list on the Library’s blog and share it with our patrons. Check out this summer’s features below and explore prior recommendations here.

Kimberly Takahata, Assistant Professor

Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong.

For me, summer is a time to slow down, and Ocean Vuong’s recent collection of poetry demands all the time we can give it. Hauntingly beautiful, these poems weave together worlds of feeling in just a few pages. In one, entitled “Amazon History of a Former Nail Salon Worker,” Vuong collects lists of objects, leaving us as readers to fill in the gaps. I’ll be thinking about that record of orders every time I receive a package.

Book cover of Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong.

 

Crystal Lucky, Professor of English and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs

Two books are at the top of my summer reading recommendations, one that I just finished and one that I just started. The first, Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature (WW Norton, 2021), is a beautiful blend of memoir and cultural criticism. Written by Columbia University comparative literature professor, Farah Jasmine Griffin, the book begins with her memories of her father’s last hours on earth, suffering at the hands of insensitive and misinformed Philadelphia police officers. It then moves readers through a series of important American texts—literary, musical, and visual—to consider the ways Black people have always participated in and contributed to the American democratic project, even when they have been denied its basic freedoms and liberties. Dedicated to TM, the book pays tribute to the late Toni Morrison in each of its ten chapters and offers insight into the work of a wide range of Black artists and thinkers. The book’s title, taken from a note her father left her in one of his many and precious books, invites readers on a journey through the quest for Black freedom, justice, rage, resistance, and death, upwards to love, joy, beauty, and grace. Griffin’s beautiful writing made me cry, laugh, and hope.

Book cover of Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature by Farah Jasmine Griffin.

The second book, Moon and the Mars (Penguin Random House, 2021), is a novel by Kia Corthron. Set in New York’s impoverished Five Points District in the 1850s through the 1860s, the novel is told from the perspective of a young Black and Irish girl named Theo. She is beloved by both sides of her family and lives between the homes of her Black and Irish grandmothers. “Throughout her formative years, Theo witnesses everything from the creation of tap dance to P.T. Barnum’s sensationalist museum to the draft riots that tear NYC asunder, amidst the daily maelstrom of Five Points work, hardship, and camaraderie. Meanwhile, white America’s attitudes towards people of color and slavery are shifting—painfully, transformation ally—as the nation divides and marches to war.” The audiobook is a wonderful companion to the written text and is masterfully read by narrator and actor, Robin Miles. Both the reading and listening experiences are a treat!

Book cover of Moon and the Mars by Kia Corthron.

 

Alan Drew, Associate Professor of English; Director, Minor in Creative Writing

In his New York Times Book Review rave of Mercy Street, the novelist Richard Russo says he was “gobsmacked” by the time he finished reading. Haigh’s last novel, Heat and Light took on fracking, and managed to produce a nuanced portrait of rural Pennsylvanians caught in the grip of big corporate exploitation. Here she wades into one of the most fraught issues in American politics, particularly in our current moment: Abortion. If you’ve ever read Haigh before, you know this novel will be intellectually insightful, emotionally compelling, and will have a lasting impact long after you’ve read the last page.

Book cover of Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh.

 

Evan Radcliffe, Director, English Graduate Program; Associate Professor

I’ve been reading modern-day creative responses to Homer, most recently David Malouf’s Ransom (which turns Priam’s journey to the Greek camp at the end of the Iliad into a novel) and Madeline Miller’s Circe (which develops the Circe episode from the Odyssey into a full account of her life from her own perspective). So one of my books this summer will be Miller’s The Song of Achilles. As she does in Circe, Miller draws on other ancient stories of her characters, and in this novel she expands the story of Achilles and Patroclus, telling it from Patroclus’s point of view and as a love story. In 2012 it won the Orange Prize for Fiction (now called the Women’s Prize for Fiction).

Book cover of Ransom by David Malouf.

 

Travis Foster, Associate Professor, English; Academic Director, Gender and Women’s Studies

Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain.

I listened to the audiobook when it first came out, fell in love with it, and plan to reread it in print this summer. It’s a novel bursting in feelings, a coming-of-age story about a working class gay Scot, and a beautiful representation of the relationship between a boy and his alcoholic mother. If that’s not persuasive enough, it also won last year’s Booker.

Book cover of Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart.

 

Mary Mullen, Associate Professor

I highly recommend Louise Erdrich’s The SentencePart ghost story, part narrative of Minneapolis in the midst of the summer of 2020, this novel celebrates independent bookstores and communities forged through reading (there’s even a reading list at the end) as it thinks about prison sentences, Indigenous remains, policing, memory, and history. Much of the action takes place at Erdrich’s bookstore, Birchbark Books, which is haunted by an annoying customer who just won’t leave. I never thought I’d like a novel that represents the outbreak of COVID-19, but I couldn’t put this one down and am still thinking about it.

Book cover of The Sentence by Louise Erdrich.

 


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Introducing the 2022 Villanova University Literary Festival Lineup

The lineup for the 2022 Villanova University Literary Festival is listed below. All events will take place at 7 p.m. in Falvey Memorial Library’s Speakers’ Corner, except for the Emma Dabiri talk, which will take place in the Presidents’ Lounge, Connelly Center. These ACS-approved events, co-sponsored by the English Department, the Creative Writing Program, Global Interdisciplinary Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, the Center for Irish Studies, and Falvey Memorial Library, are free and open to the public.


JERICHO BROWN

 Thursday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m., in Falvey Memorial Library’s Speakers’ Corner

Jericho Brown is author of the The Tradition (Copper Canyon 2019), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and he is the winner of the Whiting Award. Brown’s first book, Please (New Issues 2008), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament (Copper Canyon 2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. His third collection, The Tradition, won the Paterson Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is the director of the Creative Writing Program and a professor at Emory University.

For more information on Brown, please visit his website: https://www.jerichobrown.com/

Livestream link: https://vums-web.villanova.edu/Mediasite/Play/d7c24d1b0ab3427da371d78e422ed08b1d


EMMA DABIRI

 Tuesday, March 15, at 7 p.m., in the Presidents’ Lounge, Connelly Center

Emma Dabiri, the 2022 Charles A. Heimbold Jr. Chair in Irish Studies, is an Irish writer, academic, BBC broadcaster, and social media influencer who has written two very successful non-fiction books: Twisted (published as Don’t Touch My Hair in Ireland) and What White People Can Do Next. Her work in the arts, fashion, and the media are complemented by her academic teaching and research in African Studies and Visual Sociology. She is currently completing her PhD at Goldsmiths University, London.

For more information on Dabiri, please visit her website: https://www.kbjmanagement.co.uk/emma-dabiri

 

 


CAMILLE DUNGY

 Tuesday, March 29, at 7 p.m., in Falvey Memorial Library’s Speakers’ Corner

Camille T. Dungy’s debut collection of personal essays is Guidebook to Relative Strangers (W. W. Norton, 2017), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is also the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan UP, 2017), winner of the Colorado Book Award. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2019. She is a professor in the English department at Colorado State University.

Livestream link: https://vums-web.villanova.edu/Mediasite/Play/4086caf5425347eeafc1daac395a75c31d

 

 

 


TIPHANIE YANIQUE

Thursday, April 21, at 7 p.m., in Falvey Memorial Library’s Speakers’ Corner

Tiphanie Yanique is a novelist, poet, essayist, and short story writer. She is the author of the poetry collection, Wife, which won the 2016 Bocas Prize in  Caribbean poetry and the United Kingdom’s 2016 Forward/Felix Dennis Prize for a First Collection. Tiphanie is also the author of the novel, Land of Love and Drowning, which won the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Award from the Center for Fiction, the Phillis Wheatley Award for Pan-African Literature, and the American Academy of Arts   and Letters Rosenthal Family Foundation Award, and was listed by NPR as one of the Best Books of 2014. Land of Love and Drowning was also a finalist for the Orion Award in Environmental Literature and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. She is a tenured associate professor at Emory University.

For more information on Yanique, please visit her website: https://www.tiphanieyanique.com/bio

Livestream link: https://vums-web.villanova.edu/Mediasite/Play/a70b3ecc7e914b2f846dc273fc4e1ce01d


Kallie Stahl ’17 MA is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library.

 

 


 


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Last Modified: January 21, 2022