Becka Oliver, Executive Director
This Is My Body by Cameron Dezen Hammon
Michael Noll, Program Director
Watershed by Mark Barr
As a first-time congressman, a young LBJ made rural electrification his top priority. He’d grown up without electricity and knew that going from electrified Austin to the dark Hill Country was like traveling to another country and another time. In his debut novel Watershed, Mark Barr plays up the drama caused by the changes that electricity brought. If your house had lights, if your kitchen had an electric stove and refrigerator–if, in other words, your entire world order was upended by a transformation nearly as drastic as moving from The Flintstones to The Jetsons–what would you do? In this passage, one of the main characters, a young mother named Claire whose husband has given her a venereal disease, begins to get a taste for what other transformations might be possible.
Her anger ran like a strong, black current. It puzzled her how easily love rolled over to become something darker, colder. And beyond the sting was the surprise at how easily it all fell away. Everything that she’d worked toward since she was a girl, finding a man to marry, starting a family, making a home, Travis had soiled with his betrayal, leaving her life split open along the seam that had joined her to him. Her sudden freedom was bewildering and a shock, but pleasing as well, though she couldn’t quite put a name to the sensation. She knew she’d have to go back to him, for the children’s sake, if not her own. But not yet. Let him stew a while more. Let him drive that car around alone for all the town to see. She knew there’d be gossip, but she was beyond caring about that now.
Samantha Babiak, Member Services Manager
How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones
This memoir is a must-read for absolutely everyone. Its visceral, lyrical prose grabs you from the first sentence to the last. Jones weaves his coming (out) of age story with short vignettes that paint a vivid and honest portrait of what it is like to grow up as a gay, Black man in the South.
Jones is a master storyteller. There is so much to learn about craft in terms of narrative structure, language and the possibilities of memoir, but also about trauma, childhood, and family dynamics. I cried, laughed, gasped, and ached reading this. At once healing and heartbreaking, How We Fight For Our Lives is one of my favorite books of the year and I can guarantee, it will be one of yours too.