Black History Month: Reading List

IMG_0821edit Earlier this week, esteemed writer Hilton Als came to Ginny's Supper Club to discuss a hand-picked list of books. These 10 books reflect different facets of the African-American experience and explore the tensions that are born out of culture, class, and race.

"Tar Baby" by Toni Morrison

"Tar Baby" tells of the tumultuous love story between Jadine Childs and Son, who are of fiercely opposing worlds yet are irresistibly drawn to one another. Jadine is the African-American niece of servants to the wealthy white Street family, who act as her patron, paying for her education at the Sorbonne and giving her the means to live as a fashion model in Paris. Son is an African-American man on the run. The lovers leave the secluded Caribbean island where they met and go to Manhattan, where their fundamental differences in background and thinking surface, fracturing their relationship.

"Brown Girl, Brownstones" by Paule Marshall

In "Brown Girl, Brownstones", Selina Boyce is the daughter of poor Barbadian immigrants living in a brownstone in Brooklyn. Through the many trials she and her family face, Selina must discover her own place in the world.

"Lost in the City" by Edward P. Jones

"Lost in the City" is a collection of 14 short stories that celebrate the community in which they takes place. Jones describes the lives of a varied cast of characters living in traditionally African-American neighborhoods of Washington, D.C.

"A Street in Bronzeville" by Gwendolyn Brooks

"A Street in Bronzeville" is Gwendolyn Brooks’s first collection of poems, taking place in the historic neighborhood that is the center of African-American culture in Chicago. Brooks examines the streets with a poet’s eye and makes the ordinary lives of her neighbors extraordinary.

"Annie John" by Jamaica Kincaid

"Annie John" follows the title character as she grows up in Antigua, a Caribbean island colonized by England. In this coming-of-age story, Annie must reconcile the loss of her childhood and learn how to make her own way in the world.

"Lady Sings the Blues" by Billie Holiday

"Lady Sings the Blues" is the great Lady Day’s autobiography, written after a series of conversations with ghostwriter and friend William Dufty. Holiday does not skimp on the hardships she encountered, telling the harrowing tales of her life with a simple strength. "Lady Sings the Blues" is a fascinating look behind the scenes of the woman who defined a musical genre and a time in history.

"The Gulf" by Derek Walcott

"The Gulf" is a compilation of poems by West Indian poet Derek Walcott, and examines the separation of peoples and cultures." The Gulf" is an attempt to reconcile the opposing forces of attachment and alienation that come with the territory of having a colonial heritage.

"Go Tell It On the Mountain" by James Baldwin

In "Go Tell It On the Mountain", John Grimes is a newly turned 14-year-old living in Harlem in the 1930s. He desperately seeks the approval of his father, who runs a storefront church. The church helps foster spirituality, community, and ultimately deep-running guilt, which are the undercurrents in John’s struggles with his father, his religion, and his approach into adulthood.

"Drown," by Junot Diaz

Down is a series of stories that jump between the barrios of the Dominican Republic and the United States. Diaz writes each story from the perspective of a male Dominican immigrant, revealing a world of hardship and the unending fight to remain resilient.

"Cane," by Jean Tommer

Cane is an important modernist text that captures the lives of African-Americans in the South and North through a series of vignettes, and highlights the contrasts in life and culture between the two sections of the United States.

Salon Series: Hanging with Hilton in Harlem

IMG_0839edit Last night was the second installation of Ginny's Salon Series, featuring writer and critic Hilton Als. The White Girls author chose ten notable books to discuss over dinner, and the reading list included works such as Drown, Tar Baby, and Brown Girl, Brownstones. It was this last book that was Als's mother's favorite—he recalls, "The only way my mother got peace was to lock herself in the bathroom and read."—and was also one of the books that first revealed Als's own passion for literature and his deep need to express it.

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Als examined the tie between literature and hospitality, noting, "The marvelous thing about cooking is how it bring people together." And a full room at Ginny's was indeed brought together with a delicious menu inspired by Als's reading list. The five-course menu was as follows, and also included wine pairings:

Amuse Drown by Junot Diaz Camarones Tostones, Chicharone, Frijoles Negro

First Course Tar Baby by Toni Morrison Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall The Gulf by Edward P. Jones Salt Baked Red Snapper, Roasted Corn Cou Cou Coconut Broth

Second Course Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks Braised Bacon, Butter Beans, Fried Egg Crispy Cockscomb, Corn Bread

Entrée Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday Cane by Jean Toomer Tenderloin of Beef, “Corned” Brisket Croquette Morel- Savoy Cabbage Ragout, Marrow Sauce

Dessert Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid “The Red Girl”

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Salon Series: Celebrating Literature and Food with Hilton Als

You're invited to the second installation of the Ginny's Salon Series on Monday, February  24th at 8pm for an intimate dinner and conversation with writer Hilton Als. The Brooklyn-born cultural critic has written extensively on gender, race, and sexuality. Following his first book, "The Women", Als most recently published "White Girls", a series of insightful essays regarding "white girls" in the abstract. Als will be our honored guest at Ginny's Supper Club to discuss food and history in African-American literature. Als has an exciting and diverse reading list that will be served with a four-course meal that was curated by Marcus and inspired by the very works Als will be discussing. Hilton Als has been writing for The New Yorker since 1989, becoming a staff writer in 1994 and a theater critic in 2002. In addition to his writing projects, Als collaborated on film scripts for "Swoon" and "Looking for Langston", as well as edited the catalogue for the exhibition "Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary America Art" at the Whiney Museum of American Art.

His first book, "The Women", is a series of portraits of subjects who include Als's mother, socialite Dorothy Dean, and poet and lover to Als Owen Dodson. Als examines his subjects in light of their sexual and racial identity, and looks back into himself. He writes in "The Women": "I knew I was a Negress... I glanced at my mother; her face, her body told me that she had been where I wanted to be long before I began imagining being a Negress. ... I saw myself in my mother's eyes; the reflection showed a teenage girl, insecure, frightened, and vengeful."

Ginny's Salon Series Hilton Als