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Sep 30
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Scholastique Mukasonga & Maaza Mengiste ONLINE EVENT Brookline Booksmith and City of Asylum Bookstore
Sep 30
Talk
Scholastique Mukasonga & Maaza Mengiste ONLINE EVENT Brookline Booksmith and City of Asylum Bookstore
Sep 30
Talk
Scholastique Mukasonga & Maaza Mengiste ONLINE EVENT Brookline Booksmith and City of Asylum Bookstore

Week in Review: July 6, 2020

Before you scroll any further, be sure to check out our most recent reading list, Must Read/Must See: Thinking Blackness, Identity and Racism. You’ll find works of all genres addressing racism, discrimination, representation, unrest, identity, policing and justice, and more. 

The list includes integral classics like Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (Grove Atlantic, tr. Richard Philcox), as well as contemporary works like Françoise Vergès’ The Wombs of Women: Race, Capital, Feminism (Duke University Press, tr. Kaiama L. Glover), which exposes the legacy of the racialized violence of slavery and colonialism on the island of Réunion. (You can check out the introduction here.)

We’re hoping this list will serve as an opening for conversation—so, if you have books that have helped shape your experience regarding these issues, we’d love to hear from you. Tweet at us with #readbetter. 

 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the Real Father of Psychoanalysis?

A century before psychoanalysis, there was Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), the Swiss-born writer, philosopher, and political theorist whose works served as inspiration for the Romantic generation, as well as the leaders of the French Revolution. In the last twenty years of his life, he became obsessed with the exploration of the self, and, in the midst of self-isolation, pioneered the genre of deep personal autobiography. 

In his essay, The Full Revelation of the Self: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Birth of Deep Autobiography, English poet and academic Peter Abbs recounts how Rousseau undertook this type of psychological self-examination before formal psychoanalysis even existed, especially in his twelve-part work, Confessions, available here to read for free. 

Taking the name of the Catholic sacrament, Rousseau takes his confession, his in-depth exploration of his own character and its flaws, not to a deity or a priest, but rather to his readers, seeking self-understanding in the place of absolution. Laying bare his secrets—like how he actually enjoyed spankings from his governess as a child—Rousseau not only reveals his perceived flaws, but also forges the important connection between childhood experiences and adult selves. 

 

Scholastique Mukasonga on Grief

For the June 22 issue of the New Yorker, award-winning author Scholastique Mukasonga wrote “Grief,” a profound short story about a young Tutsi woman in exile who discovers that all the family members she left behind in Rwanda have been killed in the genocide there. 

A fictional story with autobiographical elements, it grapples with feelings of pain and powerlessness, and reflects on the harrowing experience of “returning to the country to search for traces of those who risked disappearing forever into the anonymity of genocide.” 

In a New Yorker interview in tandem with the story, “Scholastique Mukasonga on Writing and Mourning from Exile,” the author delineates her inspiration and the choices she made in writing this story, as well as how it connects to her larger oeuvre. Both the story and the interview are must-reads.

And if you’re interested in discovering more of Mukasonga’s work through film, you can also check out the film version of her acclaimed book Our Lady of the Nile (Archipelago Books, tr. Melanie Mauthner) here.
 

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