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Although finals season is rapidly approaching, I wanted to use this much-needed fall break as an opportunity to totally unwind and indulge in the books I’ve been aching to read but just haven’t had a moment to touch over the course of this disorienting and all-too-busy semester. Despite this holiday only being a week, I managed to not only binge the entirety of Netflix’s recent holiday special, “Dash and Lily,” but to also get through a couple of books. Here are my thoughts on them:

“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.

It’s indisputable that Toni Morrison is one of the greatest writers in contemporary American literature. She constructs raw and awe-inspiring narratives that are stamped with her unique voice and identity on every page, all while tapping into a universal and shared humanity that brings insight and compassion into issues surrounding love, marriage, womanhood, parenthood, race, gender and class. Needless to say, I adore her.

This brings me to “The Bluest Eye,” her debut novel. In this particular story, Morrison touches on the overarching theme of beauty, framing it from the perspective of the young, neglected Pecola, who believes that beauty will bring her happiness, peace and contentment in a life full of loneliness and misery. 

The narrative is beautifully crafted, not just bringing depth, nuance and humanity to every character, but also providing a one-of-kind evaluation of the way one’s surrounding community and atmosphere affects self-perception. It also offers a much-needed commentary on the divisions that arise within the scopes of race and class, underlined with Morrison’s signature use of magical realism. It’s both enchanting and deeply haunting.

While it’s laden with heavy themes like death, abuse, sexual assault and incest (if you’re a survivor of abuse or trauma, I advise that you read with caution), I found it more direct and comprehensible than “Beloved” (the book famous for winning Morrison a Nobel Prize and another must-read). It’s a wonderful introduction to the style and nature of her writing and a good starting point if you’re interested in diving into her entire body of work.

“home body” by Rupi Kaur.

I have to admit that I pre-ordered a copy of “home body” months ago. I admire Rupi Kaur for a couple of reasons: 1) she knows how to uniquely and thoughtfully condense and express the human experience, and 2) she’s a role model to young South Asian women particularly because she has found immense success in pursuing poetry, writing and other creative endeavors.

“home body” is a thoughtful and provocative response to the tumultuous circumstances that we’re living through, both on a larger, societal level as well as an individual and personal level. Kaur explores a wide variety of themes, most of which overlap with her previous collections, “milk and honey” and “the sun and her flowers.” It also really speaks to the ups and downs of social isolation, along with social commentary on the fight for racial justice. 

However, it seems that “home body” is wrapped in another layer of intimacy that reveals so much about Kaur’s own life, experiences and healing process. I think this collection is another step closer to her uncovering her own raw artistic voice as she toes the line between both wholly inclusive and authentic. The collection also offers its reader the same kind of catharsis you would expect from reading Rupi Kaur’s poetry and, as always, most of the poems are paired with lovely line drawings and illustrations. 

Overall, it’s a nice, light read that temporarily takes a bit of the heaviness out of the strange world we’re living in right now.

Hopefully, by the end of the winter holidays, I’ll have more books to report back on. Otherwise, go support your local bookstore or library by checking out these titles!

Niki is a third-year student at UMKC pursuing double majors in history and English along with a minor in film studies. Outside of writing and re-watching her favorite Tom Cruise movies, you can find her listening to audiobooks while on strolls through the park or walks around her neighborhood. She enjoys talking about travel, literature, health, wellness, and skincare and can never turn down a good cup of tea.
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