Yaa Gyasi’s second novel Transcendent Kingdom instantly hit the New York Times best seller list when it published earlier this month. We’re chatting with our Guest Editor Yaa Gyasi about the stories behind her story and what books she’s reading now. Here is what Yaa Gyasi reads.

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What Yaa Gyasi reads

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

“Natasha Trethewey is one of our best poets and I’m really looking forward to reading her memoir, Memorial Drive.”

Natasha Trethewey’s childhood takes a turn for the worse after her former stepfather murders her mother. Throughout this touching and intimate memoir, Trethewey explores her process of grieving and coping with the tragic loss. She recounts the life of her mother in a segregated South, as well as her own feelings of displacement growing up in Mississippi. Memorial Drive bursts with emotion as it examines domestic abuse, American racism, and a girl’s ties to her beloved mother. 

Yaa Gyasi also reads:

Luster by Raven Leilani

“Kaitlyn Greenidge called the narrator in Raven Leilani’s Luster ‘a black-female flaneur’ and that was all I needed to know to add Leilani’s debut to my list.” 

Edie is dissatisfied with her life in her below average apartment and dead end job, expressing her angst through sexual encounters. She meets Eric, a man from New Jersey with a family and an open marriage. Soon after, she finds herself living with Eric and his family where she becomes acquainted with his wife and a proper role model as a Black woman to his adopted daughter, Akila. Raven Leilani writes a comical novel filled with passion. 

Intimations by Zadie Smith

“While I’m not sure it will ever be possible to ‘make sense’ of the present moment, a moment so characterized by senselessness, I’m still very much looking forward to reading Zadie Smith’s Intimations, where she writes about the pandemic in real time.”

Zadie Smith’s Intimations takes a deeper look into the human experience and reality of self. She urges readers to question relationships between time and work, and between one another. These six essays are brimming with compassion and humanity as Smith opens up a world of self-reflection for the reader.

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