Short sentences, long sentences, suspenseful sentences, funny sentences, profound sentences, to-the-point sentences, meandering flowery sentences; young adult, middle grade, romance, literary, women’s fiction, science fiction, fantasy, I love them all. Nothing gives me more joy than than an electric first line of a novel or a short story collection – what Sona refers to as pure agony.
Last year I wrote two book lists over Christmas and New Year on my site: 8 Short Story Writers of Color and First Lines From 36 Novelists of Color, as well as one on travel memoirs that don’t involve middle-class white women or white boys leaving their corporate jobs and going to brown and black countries to discover themselves (and so can you!). I originally wrote the lists because it was perplexing to hear people, including my incredibly diverse and smart creative writing students, drinking the Koolaid and parroting the lie that people of color either aren’t writing novels, or the novels aren’t that “great” (because there aren’t any mediocre novels by white men populating the book lists).
This year my list includes 54 novels and these are just the books I liked. My criteria is not particularly complex and is pretty much the exact same criteria I use in deciding to spend cash money to buy all of these books in the first place (except for Tiny Pretty Things, which I got for free due to my intimate relationship with one of the writers: my wife, Sona Charaipotra).
- A gorgeous first sentence that invites you to sink into a large, fluffy chair, with a warm cup of cha, and an aromatic novel.
- The authors and the content of their stories have some level of diversity. People of color writing novels filled with white people is just not my thing. I’d rather read white people writing about white people.
- Everything was published in 2015. In rare cases where a novel was published in England or South Africa in 2015, but doesn’t come out in the U.S. until 2016 I’ve put a link to the available e-book. Aside from Toni Morrison being on the top of the list, this list is not in any particular order. They all have gorgeous first lines that drew me in.
Let 2016 be the year of more mirrors and windows. And to diverse vampires . . . As usual, Junot Diaz perfectly sums it all up:
“You guys know about vampires? You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?” And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.” ~ Junot Díaz