literary-history

A few literary suggestions for Black History Month

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Originally posted by imnot12

Maybe you know Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from when Beyoncé sampled her TEDx talk, “We should all be feminists,” or maybe you’ve been following her emergence as one of the most prominent voices of African literature over the last two decades. Her latest novel, Americanah, was selected by The New York Times as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013.

Edna Lewis

Originally posted by robtrujilloart

Edna Lewis had a hell of a career. She worked her way up as a seamstress, eventually fashioning a dress for Marilyn Monroe. Then she became the first African-American celebrity chef. Then she broke her leg, so she wrote a cookbook. The Taste of Country Cooking was interspersed with personal stories of growing up in a freed-slave settled town in Virginia, and redefined what many thought of Southern food.  

Roxane Gay

Originally posted by lastnightsreading

Roxane Gay (@roxanegay), famed author of Bad Feminist, is a Tumblr favorite, and not just because you can follow her. She writes about what it means to be a woman of color. She’s the first Black woman to write for Marvel, and she’s writing queer WOC into their storylines. She pulled her unreleased book from publishers Simon & Schuster after their deal with Milo Yiannopoulos was announced. It’s easy to admire her actions as much as her writing. 

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Don’t miss our upcoming BHM Answer Times. This week and next week, we have:

Pauline’s book recs : a MASTERPOST

It’s time for a summer cleaning, so I thought I would organise my book recs once and for all. I’ll try to update this post once in a while and I also added it to my info page so that you can access all those links super easily. HAVE FUN.

CLASSICAL LITERATURE (ANTIQUITY)
The fundamental works
The mythology-oriented works
An overview of Greek literature
The versions of Antigone
The versions of Elektra
The versions and translations of the Odyssey
Greek and Roman myth interpretations and rewritings

CLASSIC BOOKS (ALL ERAS)
A list of favourites (but not limited to—)
Reading fiction : best of 2015
An overview of classics reading
Which classics to start with ?
Favourite plays : a list
Favourite French writers : a list
Contemporary writers : a list
Contemporary literature : a list
English literature fundamentals : a list
French Medieval literature : a list
Modern Italian fiction : a list
German literature : a list
Tackling Russian literature
Children literature and poetry
Children literature for adults : a list
Renaissance : the fundamentals
Victorian literature : the fundamentals
Short-length books recommendations
The prettiest books : editions to die for

POETRY
Reading poetry : best of 2015
Favourite poems : a list
A list of arbitrary recommendations
Which poetry books to start with ?
Richard Siken : what to read
Story-telling poetry recommendations
Poems about separation and longing
Poems about love
Poems about happiness, hope
French poetry for beginners

NON-FICTION
Feminist books and authors
Biographies and non-fiction
Art history recommendations 
Literary interviews, a short list
Writing theory works
Miscellaneous essays collections

THEMATIC LISTS
By character
A list of works featuring Persephone
A list of works featuring Kassandra
A list of works featuring mermaids
A list of works with introspective characters
A list of works with narcissistic characters
A list of works featuring the femme fatale archetype
A list of works featuring female villains

By theme
Spiritual growth : books for change
Melancholy recommendations
Happy recommendations
Atmospheric and symbolist recommendations
Great love stories recommendations
Unusual love stories recommendations
Literary dystopias recommendations
Moral corruption recommendations
Decadence-themed recommendations
The female rage in literature
Queer literature recommendations
Summer reading list : 2016
Summer beach reading recommendations
Reading while traveling recommendations
2015 - 2016 releases recommendations

By book
Books similar to The Secret History
Books similar to Wuthering Heights
Books similar to A Grief Observed
Recommended editions of Romeo and Juliet
Literary movies and their adapted books

By author
Roland Barthes recommendations
Priya Sarukkai Chabria body of works
If you love Angela Carter : recommendations
If you love Louise Glück : recommendations
If you love Virginia Woolf : recommendations
If you love Sylvia Plath : recommendations
If you love Marguerite Duras : recommendations

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March 20th 1852: Uncle Tom’s Cabin published

On this day in 1852, American author Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published. Previously published as a serial in the anti-slavery periodical the National Era, Uncle Tom’s Cabin tells the story of a black slave and recounts the harsh reality of his enslavement. Stowe was an ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery, and wrote the novel in response to the passage of the controversial 1850 Fugitive Slave Act which was part of the Compromise of 1850. The Act ordered Northern citizens to assist in the return of runaway slaves from the South, thus forcing the generally anti-slavery North to become complicit in the continuance of the ‘peculiar institution’. The popular discontent over the slavery issue helped make Uncle Tom’s Cabin the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century and saw its translation into sixty languages. The novel helped keep the flames of anti-slavery sentiment alive, and is therefore sometimes attributed with helping start the American Civil War. While still hailed as a great anti-slavery work of its day, the novel falls short of modern expectations with its stereotypical portrayal of African-Americans.

“So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war”
- what, according to legend, Abraham Lincoln said upon meeting Stowe in 1862

Did you know? Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra fought at the Battle of Lepanto (1571), was wounded, captured, imprisoned; he escaped, was enslaved and finally ransomed. Returning to Spain, he worked as an army quartermaster but spent several spells in jail on financial charges.

Then, at the age of 58, he wrote the world’s best selling novel, Don Quixote.
In his modest house in Madrid’s Calle de León, Cervantes died on April 23, 1616, perhaps the saddest day in literary history ― for on the same day, the world also lost William Shakespeare.

JUNE 25: Anne of Green Gables is published (1908)

From Nancy Drew to Little House on the Prairie, most women have that one book series from their childhood that still sticks with them today. For a lot of young lesbians, it was in books that prioritized girls and girls’ relationships with each other that they saw the first glimpses of themselves in media – one such book series that continues to be loved by wlw today is Anne of Green Gables, which was first published on this day in 1908.

One of the original 1908 book covers for Anne of Green Gables shows a portrait painting of a young girl sporting Anne’s famous red hair (x). 

Lucy Maud Montgomery, better-known as L.M. Montgomery, wrote the first novel in what would eventually become the 12-book long Anne of Green Gables series as she sat at her bedroom window watching the sun set over the fields of Cavendish. Growing up in the rural area of Prince Edward Island, Canada, the aesthetic of Lucy’s childhood along with a photo of Evelyn Nesbit found in a magazine served as the blueprints of the series. The first novel tells the story of Anne Shirley, an orphan who is sent to live with an elderly brother and sister, as she settles in to her new home, makes new friends, and ultimately finds a family at the sleepy seaside farm called Green Gables. The book was an immediate hit  and to this day it has sold over 50 million copies worldwide and has been translated into over 20 languages. 

The 1989 television series shows Anne sharing a hug with her “bosom friend” and “kindred spirit” (and first love) Diana Barry (x).

Aside from its hazy, quaint depiction of childhood, wlw flock to the Anne of Green Gables series for its depiction of Anne’s relationship with her “bosom friend,” Diana Barry. In the first book, Anne describes a bosom friend as, “an intimate friend, you know—a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life. I never really supposed I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true all at once that perhaps this one will, too.” Anne’s dream of a bosom friend comes true when she meets Diana, who remains her closest friend for the entire series. Throughout each novel, Anne and Diana’s relationship is described with the most flowery, romantic language implemented in the whole series: “I’ll never have another bosom friend—I don’t want to have. I couldn’t love anybody as I love you,” “If you love me as I love you, nothing but death can part us two,” “I can give Diana half [my chocolate], can’t I? The other half will taste twice as sweet to me if I give some to her. It’s delightful to think I have something to give her.” In the latest Netflix adaptation of the series, “Anne with an ‘A,’” the writers even incorporated a canon wlw character in the form of Diana’s Aunt Josephine and gave a nod to the frequent lesbian readings of the novels:

Diana: [My aunt] is disinclined to stay at home since her companion died.

Anne: Her companion?

Diana: Her best friend forever and ever. Aunt Josephine never married. Neither of them did. They lived with each other their whole lives.

Anne: I’d live with you forever if I could, but I know you’ll leave me the day you get married to some wealthy and handsome gentleman. I hate him already.

Is it any wonder little lesbians who may or may not have a crush on their very own “bosom friend” read those words and somewhere deep down see themselves in Anne? Diana perhaps puts it best when, after meeting Anne for the first time, remarks, “You’re a queer girl, Anne. I heard before that you were queer. But I believe I’m going to like you real well.”

-LC

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Chicago’s South Loop harbors the neighborhood of Printer’s Row. It’s the home now of Printer’s Row Literary Festival each year, hosted by the Chicago Tribune, but many visitors don’t realize where the name itself came from. 

Printer’s Row was once the center of a flourishing printing and publishing industry in Chicago, located to take advantage of the rushing waters and barges of the Chicago river and it’s proximity to a hub of freight transportation. You can no longer see freight trains at Dearborn Station (built in 1885), but the oldest train station in Chicago is still standing. 

The M.A. Donohue & Co Book Publishers building was once Cox and Donohue, Bookbinders, a children’s book publishers established in 1861, and later M.A. Donohue & Co, known for inexpensive editions of popular works of fiction—focused on publishing ‘libraries’ of books (sets and series). It was in business until the 1960s, and the building is now the home of some reportedly gorgeous lofts. 

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January 28th 1813: Pride and Prejudice published

On this day in 1813, British author Jane Austen published her novel Pride and Prejudice. Austen, born in Hampshire in 1775, began writing as a teenager. Her brother Henry encouraged her writing talent, and helped negotiate with a publisher to ensure her work would be shared with the public. Jane Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, was published in 1811. Pride and Prejudice appeared three years later to critical praise, which was particularly important to Austen as she called this novel her ‘own darling child’. Pride and Prejudice tells the story of Elizabeth Bennet, and her relationship with Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth’s father wants her to marry a wealthy man, but the novel focuses on marrying for love rather than due to social pressures. Austen’s later works include Mansfield Park and Emma, solidifying her status as one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved writers. However, Austen published her work anonymously, so she was not a household name during her lifetime. Jane Austen died in 1817, two hundred years ago, aged 41. She left two novels - Persuasion and Northanger Abbey - which were published posthumously. Jane Austen’s novels are still enjoyed today for their witty insight into social mores in eighteenth century England.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”

Perfer et obdura, dolor hic tibi proderit olim.”

“Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.

— 

Publius Ovidius Naso, known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus.  He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom he is often ranked as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature.  Ovid enjoyed enormous popularity, but, in one of the mysteries of literary history, was sent by Augustus into exile in a remote province on the Black Sea, where he remained until his death. Ovid himself attributes his exile to “carmen et error,” “a poem and a mistake,” but his discretion in discussing the causes has resulted in much speculation among scholars.

Ovid is today best known for the Metamorphoses, a 15-book continuous mythological narrative written in the meter of epic which is how we know much of Roman mythology, and for works in elegiac couplets such as Ars Amatoria (“The Art of Love”) and Fasti.  His poetry was much imitated during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and greatly influenced Western art and literature.

Beautiful bookstores from around the world:

The bookstore El Péndulo started off as a combination coffee shop and bookstore in 1992—today, with six branches in total, it is one of the most important cultural centers in Latin America. It even has a bar inside named after Bukowski. Oh, and there’s nothing quite like that sleek curved staircase for a glamorous, book-filled entry down to the main floor. Photo by @danielae


Istanbul might not be the first to come to mind when you think of cities with unique bookstores, but it sure is now. FiLBooks describes itself as “a space dedicated to photo books, artist talks and workshops in Karaköy.” I mean, swings in a bookstore? Are you kidding me? Amazing. Photo by @sezgiolgac


With our headquarters in San Francisco, we’re honored to live in a city that is home to a bookstore so heavily steeped in literary and Beat Generation history—City Lights Bookstore. As the first all-paperback bookshop in the United States and publisher to Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, the store mantra couldn’t be more fit: “A literary meeting place since 1953.” Photo by @cestchristine


Just as we’re suckers for a hand-painted storefront, we’re equally suckers for bright neon signage; something about neon gas pumping through the word “Books” in cursive has us swooning. The amazing display of books stacked in a never-ending tier doesn’t hurt, either. Photo by @chloeferres


See the rest on our blog!

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January 19th 1809: Edgar Allan Poe born

On this day in 1809, the American poet and writer Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts. The young Poe barely knew his parents, with his father leaving the family and his mother passing away when he was just three years old. He lived with another couple as foster-parents, and was forced to gamble to pay for his tuition at the University of Virginia, which he had to drop out of due to financial difficulties. He soon joined the army and was accepted into West Point, though he was expelled after a year. After leaving the academy, Poe turned his full attention to his writing. He then traveled around Northern cities, including New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore; it was in Baltimore, in 1836, that he married his young cousin Virginia. In Richmond, Poe worked as a critic for various magazines, occasionally publishing his original work which included short stories and poems. In 1841, Poe published his ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’, which many consider the beginning of the detective fiction genre. His most famous work, the poem ‘The Raven’, was published in 1845 to critical praise. Sadly, his wife died from tuberculosis two years later, leaving the writer grief-stricken and nearly destitute, as he never had great financial success.  On October 3rd, he was found ill in Baltimore and taken to hospital, where he died on October 7th aged 40. It is still unknown what his precise cause of death was, but alcoholism is widely believed to have played a part. While not appreciated in his lifetime, Poe is now considered one of the great American writers.

“Lord, help my poor soul”
- Poe’s last words