The Forgetting Tree

The Forgetting Tree

Recommended Books

  1. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte — Yes, it’s a classic, but it’s so much fun to reread. It was considered ahead of it time in its exploration of a strong female character’s feelings, a proto-feminist text. Plus, you need it fresh in your mind as you learn about the madwoman in the attic, Bertha Antoinetta Mason, for the next book.

  2. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys — My college professor said reading this book will change you, and I agree. The imagery and prose are stunning in their own right, but it is in the telling of an alternate history of the above that the novel really gains its power. Our assumptions and prejudices of the infamous madwoman are turned on their head. It is considered a post-colonial novel in that it tells the story of those whose voice is usually silenced. It deals with racial inequality and displacement. The relationship between the two texts inspired much of the structure of my book.

  3. Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson — This is one of my favorite novels of all time. I’ll admit that I took a long time coming to it; the plot description of two young girls growing up in a small town in northern Idaho doesn’t begin to hint of how beautiful and profound the writing is. Hiding in the trappings of a domestic novel is a deeply subversive story about the freedoms to be found in nature and in throwing out society’s expectations. Ruth and Sylvie will haunt you long after the book is closed.

  4. The Dew Breaker, by Edwidge Danticat — Danticat is an exquisite writer. The book is a series of linked short stories. The title comes from the Creole nickname for torturer, in this case referring to the Tonton Macoutes of the Duvalier regimes. Danticat was born in Haiti, and although she has lived in America most of her life, she writes about Haiti’s history with beauty and thoughtfulness.

  5. The Rainy Season, by Amy Wilentz — This is my only non-fiction book on the list, but it is a fascinating look at Haiti after the “Baby Doc” Duvalier regime and the rise of Aristide. The added bonus (especially for readers of my last book, The Lotus Eaters) is that Wilentz is a female journalist navigating a dangerous and tumultuous country, and her vivid writing brings the experience alive for us.