March officially kicks-off National Reading Awareness Month. To celebrate the occasion, the CultureWorks team is sharing our must-reads for the month. Grab your favorite snuggle blanket and beverage of choice - we've got a little a bit of everything to satisfy the curious mind.
Alexa Sarkuni, Business Operations Coordinator
No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July. This book of short stories was a gift that I received from my partner, that jumped priority over several other books in my "queue." A favorite author of hers, Miranda July speaks to the awkwardness in all of us, to the strange thoughts and incomprehensible musings that we all experience, and frames them in a way that is both heartbreaking and breathtakingly beautiful. I'm taking my time with this one, partly because I want to savor the novelty of discovering a new author and book for the first time, and partly because Miranda's stories are dense with emotion and resonance. I highly recommend reading this if you've ever felt awkward or like you shouldn't be thinking about what you're thinking about.
Beth Warshaw, Co-Management Director
An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon. It's a tough one, and beautifully written, about his life, his writing, and his experiences living in his body. Also, if you are looking for a few more page turners this month, Beth also recommends:
How To Change Your Mind (What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence) by Michael Pollan. It's a current read for me, though it came out last year, and touches on history, psychology, and brain chemistry to see how we can potentially reshape and reframe our own narratives and views about ourselves.
How To Date Men When You Hate Men by Blythe Roberson. Much more of a vacation read & very funny - but still about how to be a straight cis-woman navigating dating and heterosexual romantic relationships while acknowledging we live in a patriarchy.
Jamaine Smith, Chief Commons Director
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Toni Morrison's writing is like a balm for my creative soul. Her ability to make words the impetus for such beautiful imagery and emotional stimulation is unlike any other author I've read. To be honest, sometimes I confuse whether a scene from Song of Solomon is something I've read or watched in a movie theater. That's how vivid and impactful Morrison's writing is.
Melissa Hamilton, Engagement Director
Meaty by Samantha Irby. Samantha Irby and her writing bring me immense JOY! Irby is one of the funniest, sharpest writers I've ever encountered. In this book of short essays, her wit, wisdom, and honesty are incomparable. Whether she's talking about taco feasts or her mother's decline in health, I promise you that you'll be moved to connect and, often times, laugh aloud with the author. Also, she has a hilarious blog called "bitches gotta eat".
The Body is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor: Overwhelmed by oppressive systems obsessed with "beach bodies" instead of authentic happiness? Then, this book is for you. No words can do it justice, but this book is a treasure. Taylor writes, "Liberation is the opportunity for every human, no matter their body, to have unobstructed access to their highest-self; for every human to live in radical self-love". Read it before toxic diet culture encourages you to buy yet another gym membership - and then give it to your Aunt Susan to read as well.
Rashanda Freeman, Brand Awareness Director
Becoming by Michelle Obama. Where do I begin? A huge fan of the Obama's, I have been waiting years for the former First Lady to pin a memoir. It's funny while also be heart wrenching. She doesn't shy away from very intimate details from her childhood, to the white house, to struggles with fertility. Each page is filled with integrity, honesty, and wisdom. It's the kind of book you want every women in your life to read and discuss. Anyone else missing 2008?
Wilfredo Hernandez, Community & Consulting Director
World Making: Race, Performance, and the Work of Creativity by Dorinne Kondo. I came across this recently published title while strolling Penn Book Center. I was hoping to dive into some fiction finally, but was taken by the scope of inquiry and the timeliness of critique in Dorinne Kondo's exploration of how both the artistic and economic forces and structures of theatre and performance work (both on, off and backstage) and contribute to reinforcing racial narratives and inequities in the field. Kondo explores these issues through an informed ethnographic lens by sharing her experiences as a dramaturg and playwright, with a front row seat to some of the most prolific work of our generation created by artists Anna Deavere Smith and David Henry Hwang.
It is a bit on the academic side of things (as Kondo is a Professor of American Studies, Ethnicity and Anthropology at USC), but is balanced with real world observations. These ideas are worth consideration by any artist or producer (in and outside of the theatre) who is striving for equity and impact in their work - especially for those whose work is focused on race and culture.