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Your Favorite Book with Joe Meno

Your Favorite Book with Joe Meno

Welcome to another installment of a collaboration between the Chicago Review of Books and the Your Favorite Book podcast. Malavika Praseed, frequent CHIRB contributor and podcast host, seeks to talk to readers and writers about the books that light a fire inside them. What’s your favorite book and why?

Our guest is Joe Meno, author of eleven books and most recently, Book of Extraordinary Tragedies, a family saga taking place in Chicago’s south side. Told by twenty year old Aleks, former musical prodigy turned patriarch of his young family, we are shown the limits of human endurance as the family deals with medical crises, desperate poverty, and one heartbreak after another. At the same time there is a real tenderness and creativity underlining these characters, buoying everything with a sense of hope.

Joe chose Jesmyn Ward’s landmark novel, Salvage the Bones, for his episode. Like his own novel, Ward’s book shows a young family in peril and the means they take to survive, but the setting differs entirely. We are taken to rural Mississippi in the days before Hurricane Katrina, as Esch and her brothers live their lives and prepare for the oncoming storm. It’s a haunting, brutal read and one that proves unforgettable for us both.

See Also

Sula by Toni Morrison (with Saeed Jones, Author of Alive at the End of the World) Your Favorite Book

Our guest this week is Saeed Jones, the acclaimed memoirist and poet, whose recent collection ALIVE AT THE END OF THE WORLD takes on both individual and collective grief in the midst of a nation in crisis. Spanning topics from the legacy of Black artists and entertainers to visions of the end of the world as a chaotic rave, Saeed brings every feeling to the forefront and never turns his back to the hard questions. Saeed chose a book stemming from his adolescence and one that continues to generate deeper meaning for him, Toni Morrison's SULA. This book, hardly two hundred pages in length, delves deep into what it means to be a Black girl, and to be both in and out of a community, and the complicated social dynamics it takes to perpetuate said community. The book is luminous at a prose level and never ceases to shock at every turn. There are some spoilers for this episode, but none that take away from the integrity of the novel. Together we chat about all things crafting a poetry collection, why the United States struggles with creating a grief culture, the triumphs and pitfalls of high school literary opinions, and so much more. Books discussed: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel Moniz, Magical Negro by Morgan Parker Buy Saeed's book: https://bookshop.org/books/alive-at-the-end-of-the-world/9781566896511 Follow the show on instagram and twitter @yfbpodcast
  1. Sula by Toni Morrison (with Saeed Jones, Author of Alive at the End of the World)
  2. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (with Joe Meno, Author of Book of Extraordinary Tragedies)
  3. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger (with Adam Levin, Author of Mount Chicago)
  4. The Song of Everlasting Sorrow by Wang Anyi (with Belinda Huijuan Tang, Author of A Map for the Missing)
  5. A Death in the Family by James Agee (with Jean Thompson, Author of The Poet's House)

Listen to this episode of Your Favorite Book at the link above, and stay tuned for more episodes with other writers in the weeks to come. If you enjoy this episode, check out other episodes of Your Favorite Book on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or other major podcast platforms. Reviews on Apple Podcasts and other platforms are also very much appreciated

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