Kara Lee Corthron, author of DAUGHTERS OF JUBILATION:
When first asked to come up with bookshelf recommendations, I was psyched, but a bit overwhelmed because I wasn’t sure where to begin. So I narrowed down my choices. I decided to stick to books that I read—for the first time or returned to—at some point during the process of writing Daughters of Jubilation. And I immediately noticed a pattern. Each of the books on this list is by a woman I admire and each book genuinely scared me. All of them influenced my work in some way so I’m grateful to each of these divine lady scribes. I hope you enjoy my bookshelf of Scary Brilliant Queens! Just in time for Halloween…
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Before I cracked it open, I briefly thought this book might be casual bedtime reading. A few pages in I realized just how wrong I was. The gorgeous writing, unsettling story, and the shady narrator all pulled me in and I was hooked. And the ending left me speechless. There are multiple lessons about humanity woven into The Paper Wasp. But the most critical IMHO? Never underestimate a frustrated artist.
I almost bought this one because I dug the cover. But I held off until I started to hear the buzz and could no longer resist. The first of two creepy sister novels on the list, this book is sibling rivalry dialed up to 11. Funny, scary and it asks an important question we should all consider: how far would you go to protect your sister…when she keeps killing people? Dark, wicked fun!
“I lost an arm on my last trip home.” This is the first line of this unforgettable novel and the beginning of Dana’s bizarre, frightening, and life-twisting journey. Imagine you’re a modern Black woman and one day a time portal opens up in your house, sucks you inside, and transports you back to the antebellum south. And you’re still Black. It’s unputdownable from page one. (P.S. If you haven’t treated yourself to the peerless Octavia Butler yet, you are missing out.)
One of my all-time favorites. The narrator—Merricat—has a way of slowly getting under your skin that’s both chilling and enthralling. It’s horror, it’s tragedy, it’s warped girl power and it’s all through the eyes of a young woman, who just loves her sister—a love with dire consequences. Eternally haunting. (P.S. My note above about Octavia Butler also applies to Ms. Shirley Jackson.)
Toni Morrison’s quiet masterpiece digs deep into the perspectives of a well-off white trader and landowner, an American-Indian woman who narrowly escaped smallpox, and a 16-year old Black girl, who is very much a teenager despite the fact that she is a slave. It is 1690 in the “new world.” American chattel slavery is still in its infancy, but the hopelessness and destruction it will leave in its wake is moving in like a slow, foreboding fog. A spare and gripping companion to Beloved.