Oh, I am so excited! I just got a package from Amazon with four books from my CNF (Creative Non-Fiction...learning the acronyms of my craft) reading list. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, Memoirs by Pablo Neruda, News of a Kidnapping by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Persian Girls by Nahid Rachlin. This is my homework! I'm sorry I can't do the dishes, I have homework to do. How much do I love grad school??
Since I have yet to read these books, I won't recommend them, but look for those titles to show up in the near future.
However, I am in the middle of reading a great memoir that I can recommend: All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg. Just after reading the prologue alone, I realized just how far I need to go in my writing. Every sentence he writes is art. Bragg's stories are his personal experiences, but the way he tells them is like an anthropological study on the poor in Alabama. I now know what it's like to be raised on a cotton farm in north Alabama by a momma who didn't buy herself a new dress for seventeen years because she used every dime she earned to help get her three boys through school.
"My grandmother, who fried me whole boneyards of chicken, who got midly drunk on her prescriptions, played "Boilin' Cabbage Down" on the banjo and stomped so hard on the planks so hard it sounded like Jehovah pounding at the door, was gone."
This book reminds me of why I love (and am haunted by) my southern heritage. Bragg writes,
This is not an important book. It is only the story of a strong woman, a tortured man and three sons who lived hemmed in by thin cotton and ragged history in notheastern Alabama, in a time when blacks and whites found reason to hate each other and a whole lot of people who could not stand themselves.
All Over but the Shoutin' is a beautifully written memoir about a tragic, but triumphant life lived out in the humid and dirty air of a small southern town.