The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard
It is nine o’clock on Saturday night, the sky is black and glittering with pinholes, old trees are bent down over the highway. In the dark field behind, the corn gathers its strength, grows an inch in the silence, then stops to rest. Next to the highway, screened in vegetation, a deer with muscular ears and glamorous eyes stands waiting to spring out from the wings into the next moving spotlight. The asphalt sighs in anticipation.
The car is a late-model Firebird, black on black with a T-roof and a tape deck that pelts out in anguish, Fleetwood Mac. My cousin looks just like me, except she has coarse hair and the jawline of an angel. She’s driving and I’m shotgun, talking to her profile. The story I’m recounting to her is full of what I said back to people when they said things to me. She can sing and listen at the same time, so she does that, nodding and grimacing when necessary.
She interrupts me once. “What’s my hair doing?’”
“Laying down. I’ll tell you if it tries anything.” Her hair is short but so dense it has a tendency to stay wherever the wind pushes it. When she wakes up in the morning her head is like a landscape, with cliffs and valleys, spectacular pinnacles.
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Her parents had always been blind to the things that plagued their children: being teased at school for the color of their skin or for the funny things their mother occasionally put into their lunch boxes, potato curry sandwiches that tinted Wonderbread green. What could there possibly be to be unhappy about? her parents would have thought. “Depression” was a foreign word to them, an American thing. In their opinion their children were immune from the hardships and injustices they had left behind in India, as if the inoculations the pediatrician had given Sudha and Rahul when they were babies guaranteed them an existence free of suffering.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us. All of us—all who knew her—felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. Her simplicity decorated us, her guilt sanctified us, her pain made us glow with health, her awkwardness made us think we had a sense of humor. Her inarticulateness made us believe we were eloquent. Her poverty kept us generous. Even her waking dreams we used—to silence our own nightmares. And she let us, and thereby deserved our contempt. We honed our egos on her, padded our characters with her frailty, and yawned in the fantasy of our strength.
And fantasy it was, for we were not strong, only aggressive; we were not free, merely licensed; we were not compassionate, we were polite; not good, but well behaved. We courted death in order to call ourselves brave, and hid like thieves from life. We substituted good grammar for intellect; we switched habits to simulate maturity; we rearranged lies and called it truth, seeing in the new pattern of an old idea the Revelation of the Word.”
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
"Your heart is like a great river after a long spell of rain, spilling over its banks. All signposts that once stood on the ground are gone, inundated and carried away by that rush of water. And still the rain beats down on the surface of the river. Every time you see a flood like that on the news you tell yourself: That’s it. That’s my heart."
Mr. Hunter’s Grave by Joseph Mitchell
”When things get too much for me, I put a wild-flower book and a couple of sandwiches in my pockets and go down to the South Shore of Staten Island and wander around awhile in one the old cemeteries down there. I go to the cemetary of the Woodrow Methodist Church on Woodrow Road in the Woodrow community, or to the cemetary of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on the Arthur Kill Road in the Rossville community, or to one on the Arthur Kill Road on the outskirts of Rossville that isn’t used any longer and is known as the old Rossville burying ground. The South Shore is the most rural part of the island, and all of these centaries are bordered on at least two sides by woods. Scrub trees grow on some of the graves, and weeds and wild flowers grow on many of them. Here and there, in order to see the design on a gravestone, it is necessary to pull aside a triangle of vines. “
A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
“We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and the sensation of desire, though often it is the distance between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between the blue of longing. I wonder sometimes whether with a slight adjustment of perspective it could be cherished as a sensation on its own terms, since it is as inherent to the human condition as blue is to distance? If you can look across the distance without wanting to close it up, if you can own your longing in the same way that you own the beauty of that blue that can never be possessed? For something of this longing will, like the blue of distance, only be relocated, not assuaged, by acquisition and arrival, just as the mountains cease to be blue when you arrive among them and the blue instead tints the next beyond. Somewhere in this is the mystery of why tragedies are more beautiful than comedies and why we take a huge please in the sadness of certain songs and stories. Something is always far away.”
Remembered Rapture: the Writer at Work by bell hooks
“No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much.” Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much.” Considering the centuries of silence, the genres of writing that have been virtually the sole terrain of men, more contributions by women writers should be both encouraged and welcomed. As a professor I sit in the classrooms year after year talking with young women who are uncertain about their voices, who are still grappling with whether they can become “authors.” Many of these young women are afraid to speak, let alone write. When I witness their fear, their silences, I know no woman has written enough. Then there are the exceptional female students who are unable to complete their own writing, who are blocked when it comes to putting their visions on paper, who diligently write work for their males peers or older men who require assistance, uet these females remain too shy to claim their words. When I witness this self-betrayal, I know no woman has written enough.”
“On Keeping a Notebook” from Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were … It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are
Please Don't Kill the Freshman, Zoe Trope
"It feels so good to be in love with the world but you're not here and that makes it difficult. I'm in love with you the most. And it's not something I had to do or work at or even something that grew or expanded. I said, hello, here's my heart, you can have it. You're the only one who deserves it."
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
"As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts."