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Margaret Malone’s Favorites of 2010

Congratulations to Margaret Malone, who is one of the 13 recipients of the Oregon Arts Commission’s 2011 Individual Fellowships. Margaret received an Oregon Literary Fellowship in January of 2010.

Here’s some of the books Margaret read and enjoyed this year:

My Abandonment by Peter Rock. What I loved about this book was the voice of the narrator. I was instantly inside the head of a 13-year old girl living in the woods with her father in Forest Park. The book will be fascinating for many Portlanders because the author, a local writer who teaches at Reed, took a real-life news story and used it as a jumping off point for a fictional narrative. The details are so provocative you feel your own bare feet running the trails of the forest. Sweet, heart-breaking and beautifully written, this is one of those books that continues to stay with me.

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton. This is a book from several years ago that other writers would recommend, but I didn’t pick it up until this year. It tells the story of a big ramshackle house in Perth, Australia and the two big families who, by financial necessity and circumstance, end up sharing it for decades. Winton is able to flawlessly jump from one character’s head into another and into another in the span of a single page. His sentences are chock full of detail and beauty and heart in a way only a handful of writers can manage successfully. It’s a book about the ways we both love and hate where we come from. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

Almond Blossoms and Beyond by Mahmoud Darwish. Darwish was a Palestinian poet who died in 2008. This was his last book of poetry translated into English as far as I’ve been able to tell. Forced into exile at a very young age, many of his poems are about displacement and the importance of being grateful if you live in a place where you are able to walk down the street and survive. His poems manage to be both sensual and filled with loss – what we have lost, what we could lose, what we will all lose eventually. When Darwish died in August 2008, thousands and thousands of people filled the streets of Ramallah and wept as they watched his body carried to its burial site. Reading this book reminded me of how small the world is and how we all have the grief of exile in common.

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