“Necessary reading”: a recommended reading list from the Washington College English Department

By Kaitlin Dunn

Elm Staff Writer

As the spring semester starts to wind down, many students may be wondering how to spend their free time during the summer. 

Here are some recommendations from the Washington College English Department they feel students may enjoy. 

Water I Won’t Touch” by Kayleb Rae Candrilli 

“Water I Won’t Touch” deals with the tension of transgender people living in rural areas. 

According to the anthology’s summary, the poems in the collection were “written during the body’s healing from a double mastectomy―in the wake of addiction and family dysfunction―these ambitious poems put new form to what’s been lost and gained.”

“’Candrilli’ is a phenomenal poet who writes at the intersection of queerness and rurality. Their first two books are great as well, but this latest is a real triumph,” senior Justin Nash, vice president of the WC Writers’ Union, said. “Personally, I’ve always been drawn to their use of form, and ‘Water I Won’t Touch’ has one of the most captivating sestinas I’ve ever read.”

“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi

“Homegoing” is examines the relationship and lives of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, born in separate villages in 1700s Ghana. 

The novel follows the contrast of the two sisters’ lives — while Effia is married to a rich Englishman living in a castle on the Cape Coast, Esi lives as a slave in the dungeons of that very castle and is later sold off to the United States. It includes the stories of Esi’s descendants leading up to the present day. 

According to Professor of English and American Studies Dr. Alisha Knight, “‘Homegoing’ is a novel that looks at the legacy of slavery from both sides of the Atlantic.”

“March” Series by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

“March” is a series of graphic novels written by late Congressman John Lewis and respective comic book writer and graphic novelist, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell respectively.

According to Goodreads, “‘March’ is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, mediating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation.” 

The graphic novels each follow a different time period during the progression of the Civil Rights Movement, beginning with Lewis’ life as a young man in rural Alabama, following his journey with Martin Luther King Jr., and eventually to the nonviolent revolution campaign of 1963 that would lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Recommended by Assistant Professor of English Professor Sufiya Abdur-Rahman, “March” is “necessary reading.” 

“Made for Love” by Alissa Nutting

“Made for Love” is the story of Hazel, a woman attempting to carve out a new life for herself in uncharted territory after her contemptuous fleeing from her CEO and corporate tycoon husband. 

As she tries to make a new life for herself, her husband is continuously abusing his power in order to force her home, driving her to take drastic measures to escape. 

“Nutting’s writing is always whip-smart and hilarious, and ‘Made for Love’ is no exception. It was also just adapted into a series, which is now out on HBO Max — 10 out of 10,” Nash said.

“Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison

One of many books in Toni Morrison’s repertoire, “Song of Solomon” follows the story of “Milkman” Dead III from the time of his birth to his adult experiences. 

“I have to recommend a Toni Morrison novel, because, well, it’s Toni Morrison,” Dr. Knight said. “‘Song of Solomon’ is one of my favorites.”

Within this list, there is a wide selection of literary genres, from poetry to contemporary and historical fiction. 

For any WC student looking to read something new, any of the books on this list would be an enjoyable read.

Featured Photo caption: For those always scanning shelves for new books to read, the WC English Department have recommendations students might enjoy. Photo Courtesy of Ed Robertson.

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