Madeline Miller is a renowned classicist and author of The Song of Achilles, which won the 2012 Orange Prize, and Circe, which was a #1 New York Times bestseller and won the 2019 Indie Choice Award, was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and was named on numerous Best Books of 2018 lists.
Miller joined us on January 28th for the second event in our 2020-21 Portland Arts & Lectures series. While interviewed by Omar El Akkad, Miller shared some books she has recently loved. Her recommendations are below.
Girl, Woman, Other
by Bernardine Evaristo
From Grove Atlantic: Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize.
Bernardine Evaristo is the winner of the 2019 Booker Prize and the first Black woman to receive this highest literary honor in the English language. Girl, Woman, Other is a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women that paints a vivid portrait of the state of contemporary Britain and looks back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.
I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem
by Maryse Condé
From University of Virginia Press: This wild and entertaining novel expands on the true story of the West Indian slave Tituba, who was accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, arrested in 1692, and forgotten in jail until the general amnesty for witches two years later. Maryse Condé brings Tituba out of historical silence and creates for her a fictional childhood, adolescence, and old age. She turns her into what she calls “a sort of female hero, an epic heroine, like the legendary ‘Nanny of the maroons,’” who, schooled in the sorcery and magical ritual of obeah, is arrested for healing members of the family that owns her.
by Min Jin Lee
From Grand Central Publishing: In this bestselling novel, four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family fight to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan, exiled from a home they never knew.
Profoundly moving and gracefully told, Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them. Betrayed by her wealthy lover, Sunja finds unexpected salvation when a young tubercular minister offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a new life. So begins a sweeping saga of exceptional people in exile from a homeland they never knew and caught in the indifferent arc of history.
Visit this episode of The Archive Project to hear Min Jin Lee discuss Pachinko. This talk was recorded in Portland as a part of last year’s Portland Arts & Lectures series.
by Omar El Akkad
From Penguin Random House: Winner of the Oregon Book Award for Fiction. An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.
Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.
“Fill your mind with knowledge—it’s the only kind of power no one can take away from you.”Min Jin Lee, Pachinko