Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Books, barn doors, bugs and other ruminations

by Michele Young-Stone, author of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, and the forthcoming novel, Where I Am Born.

I am currently between books.  After finishing my latest novel, WHERE I AM BORN, I now have the opportunity to start reading fiction again.  

I just finished Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.  Let me tell you: it is one of the most extraordinary novels I’ve ever read.  It’s now up there as one of my top five reads of all time.  Beautiful Ruins was incredible.  Beautiful!  I felt like I’d been given a gift, something precious and holy to hold in my hands.  I will read this one again. 

Next, I read Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer, one of the most creative, original love stories I’ve ever experienced.  Actually, it is the most creative, intelligent, character-driven, intoxicating love story I’ve ever read.  The whole concept and story telling was wholly unexpected and weirdly wrought, like nothing I’ve experienced.  I loved it.  I highly recommend it. 

I also read We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo.

In 1990, I was taking a class called The Politics of Southern Africa, and while enrolled in the course, as I was learning about apartheid and its effects on the whole of southern Africa, Nelson Mandela was released from prison and the state of Apartheid was dismantled.  It was an incredible time to study the southern region of this continent.  I did a semester long project on Zimbabwe, formerly northern and southern Rhodesia, and back then President Robert Mugabe was supposed to be a liberator, a real man for the people.  Here we are, over two decades later, and he is a dictator.  He is stripping the country of its diamond and gem wealth.  Additionally, he is bullying all white farmers who came to know Zimbabwe as their home, to leave.  These are farmers who support whole villages with good jobs, and he’s making them leave the only home many of them have ever known.  If threats don’t work, the famers are beaten and sometimes murdered.

Simultaneously, he's invited the Chinese communists to do what the former colonists once did: mine and rape the nation's wealth. 

This novel was sad and alarming.  It was the truth.  It was hard to put down.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys character-driven novels, novels based on historical events, anyone with an interest in African politics, or anyone who enjoys a good read.  This was a page-turner.      

I am currently reading Robert Goolrick’s newest novel, Heading Out to Wonderful.  This book, like The Reliable Wife, is a real page-turner.  Only a few chapters in, there is an ominous tone that permeates the pages.  Smart.  Wicked.  

I am also thinking about my next novel so I am getting ready to start The Waterman’s Song by David S. Cecelski.  This book is research for my next novel.  It’s about “Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina”—where I currently reside.  

Like most writers, I MUST stay busy so in addition to reading, I am on a quest to avoid all Chinese products (not possible when it comes to electronics).  We had a very homemade Christmas.  I turned an extra bedroom into Santa’s workshop.  I was the top Elf, the only Elf most of the time.  I started making bug jars for yard art, and I made a barn door for one of my bathrooms.  I plan to make another one for my upstairs bathroom.

I am a novelist and barn door bug builder.  Cheers.

Concerning Where I Am Born, I am pleased to tell you that it will be released in Spring, 2015.  I am very grateful to share some early blurbs with you.  I am grateful to Lydia Netzer and Tracy Guzeman for taking the time to read and comment on my manuscript. 

REVIEWS for Where I Am Born:

"Where I Am Born is a raw, beautiful, unforgettable book that folds unfathomable horrors and unfathomable love into a story of incredible power. Young-Stone is a master writer, and her deft control of this novel's many moving pieces puts her in the highest echelon of our craft. Yet at the center, literal and figurative, of this novel is a story so brilliantly simple and deeply moving, you'll forget you are reading a book. This story shook me to my core, and I can't wait for the rest of the world to experience it." -Lydia Netzer.  Her debut novel Shine Shine Shine is not to be missed.

“The beautiful prose in Michele Young-Stone’s Where I Am Born flies off the page. A stirring meditation on resilience, the ties that bind us to our past, and what it means to have wings.”—Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds. 

Please check out my updated website, and as soon as the novel can be preordered, I’ll let you know.   www.micheleyoung-stone.com  


  1. Thanks for all the book recommendations. It's nice to be able to read again, isn't it? Love the barn door, too!

  2. Michelle, I'm reading this late but loving your voice, and the ramble through other people's work. I loved Beautiful Ruins and Shine, Shine, Shine is on my TBR list...As is your book. Apologies...someday..soon!

  3. Can't wait to read your newest, and I'm off to order new books for my TBR stack!