RHC 2017: Lightning Bug by Donald Harington

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.

Ugh. This book. Here we go.

So, Donald Harington is the Arkansas novelist (but props to Charles Portis) – not only is he himself an Arkansan, but his Stay More series is set in a fictional Ozark town called Stay More (Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks is the best known of the set), just south of Jasper in Newton County and easily within 100 miles of my house here in Fayetteville. His work positively drips Arkansas, and while he isn’t the best known novelist in the world, he’s definitely the name to bring up if you want to appear cultured and with-it in this particular state.

I’d read Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks a long time ago, and was happy enough to return to Stay More for Lightning Bugthe first of the Stay More cycle.

Lightning Bug has a number of commendable qualities. It plays with perspective, tense, and format to get at a hallucinatory dream state where multiple accounts of events play out simultaneously, contradicting each other without being contradictory. It’s also raunchy as anything, sometimes hilariously so (“Some people keep a lot of cats because they like cats, but Latha kept cats because she liked to watch them fuck. I know this for a fact.”) and sometimes awfully off-puttingly so (a virgin is colloquially defined as “a five year old who can outrun her daddy and her brothers”).

RHC 2017: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.

This is cheating a little bit, since this is a 32 page picture book. But the American Library Association named it the most frequently challenged book from its publication in 2005 to 2010, with the exception of 2009, when ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r by Lauren Myracle temporarily knocked it out of the top spot (caveat: there are some very real questions about ALA’s data gathering practices in these matters). I’m starting this challenge three months late and I’m not duplicating any titles, so I’m going to absolve myself for this selection.

[And another caveat:  a challenged book is not the same thing as a banned book. A challenged book is a book that a community member has requested be removed from the library’s collection or relocated to another area of the collection. The library may or may not honor the request, depending on its collection development policy, and most public libraries have very carefully crafted policies approved by their boards designed to protect controversial acquisitions. You will not be prosecuted for reading or possessing a challenged book. This is an important distinction.]

RHC 2017: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: read a classic by an author of color.

Alternates: read a book published between 1900 and 1950; read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey; read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. 

I feel like I need to tell you about my hometown before I attempt to clumsily talk about race.

I’m originally from Harrison, Arkansas, a small town in the beautiful north central part of the state with a terrible reputation. Harrison’s problems started in 1905, when a white mob ran a large portion of Harrison’s black population out of town and then finished the job in 1909 after a black man was accused of raping a white woman (seriously). After the 1909 violence, there was literally one person of color remaining in town. You can read the whole shameful story here if you’re interested (to be fair, Portland, Oregon has a strikingly similar history  – the idea that racism is a uniquely southern problem isn’t helpful for anyone, though I won’t argue that it doesn’t have a uniquely southern mode of expression).

Harrison was a particularly violent example of a sundown town – as in, “[slur], don’t let the sun set on you.” It wasn’t the only such community. North Central Arkansas aggressively established itself as a predominantly white region by actively discouraging non-white people from living there. Most rural communities in the region are still pretty white, though demographics are changing.

RHC 2017: Touching My Father’s Soul by Jamling Tenzing Norgay

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read a book that is set more than 5,000 miles from your location.

Alternatives: Read a book about sports. Read a travel memoir. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey. 

I’m taking a stab at Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge this year, the first task of which is to read a book about sports. I clean up in Trivial Pursuit except for that damned green pie piece, and sports narratives, real or printed, just don’t do a whole lot for me.

I felt like I’d found a way around this initial hurdle, though, when I came across Touching My Father’s Soul: A Sherpa’s Journey to the Top of Everest by Jamling Tenzing Norgay. I’d gotten entirely fixated on Himalayan mountain climbing during my maternity leave (as one does), and it sounded like a perfect workaround to having to read an entire book about sports.

I’d just been through an intense physical struggle culminating in a burst of euphoria that was completely unprecedented in my entire life experience, and summit stories felt like satisfyingly parallel narratives (I guess?). Still, though, after lots of bleary-eyed 3 am internet vortexing on the subject, I’m not at all convinced that climbing the tallest, hardest peaks is a worthy use of one’s time or resources. It seems like such an arrogant and wasteful risk and the cause of completely unnecessary damage to a fragile environment. Which brings me to Mount Everest.