A Book A Month: South And West

As a blogger, my world often revolves around finding new things that interest me and inspire me to share. Whether it is fashion, my children, a life event, a political matter, or the beautiful girl sitting at the cafe. So much of blogging for me is seeing a world through a certain lens. How do we connect what’s soulful and sacred to a format that sometimes asks us to be surface? In a sense, my attempt at displaying this remains my greatest pleasure.

As a writer, reading the words of others and dedicating time to be submerged in another life and set of characters that don’t belong to me–but are strangely familiar–inspires me to continue to write my own stories. When it comes to bodies of works, Joan Didion’s are so far from me, and yet, so tangible in the same. Have you ever felt like that while reading her work? I’ve attributed all of this to her impeccable note-taking skills over the years. She also has this ability to share without truly revealing herself. There’s always a perspective, facts (so many facts), feelings in that moment, but nothing too solid or self-sacrificing. As a blogger and as a writer, this particular talent of her’s has always intrigued and truly inspired me. From Blue Nights, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, to The Year Of Magical Thinking, I am transported in a time that I never experienced. So far beyond my understanding of living, and still, I feel as though I was… living.

Two weeks ago I went and purchased South And West, immediately fascinated with the idea of reading notes from a time when my own mother was my daughter’s age. Here’s my view….

Where I Read It
The tub and the train mostly. The book is small, so it is easy to fit in bag and toted around.

How Long Did It Take To Read?
With a busy schedule, it took me two days. If you aren’t that busy and have a full day of dedication, you’ll eat this right up.

Stand Out Quote
“The isolation of these people from the currents of American life in 1970 was startling and bewildering to behold. All their information was fifth-hand, and mythicized in the handing down. Does it matter where Taos is, after all, if Taos is not in Mississippi?”

In My Eyes
My anticipation of this book was mostly led in my personal fascination of Didion’s note taking. It was led naively in the rooted idea of travel-surface at best. Once I began to read the book, I quickly realized none of this was about her journey, it was about her experience. In Didion fashion, there wouldn’t be a beginning, middle, and end. The book is about what she learned- while not truly saying what she learned- a wide window in the time-warp of the south in 1970. As a New Yorker, this fascinated me. As an activist, this did not surprise me.After the election, many people I know socially remained surprised, outcried at the “white-lash.” How did we ever move so forward and yet so back? As a black woman, my understanding has always aligned with the belief that we have not inched too much towards equality (despite our best efforts), though it may seem so. Racism, sexism, the ideals many hold true still reek at large like bad fish on a Tuesday morning. To truly believe that as a nation, we have come so far and stepped so back, is to ignore people (whether in the north, south, or west), events, and circumstances.I live this dual life. Among the “elite” of millennials that live in this urban spans of a bubble. And among the minority of colored people who are very well aware of where we are, where we were, and where we have been. My father was an immigrant. It is often a hard contrast to swallow. How can I feel so privileged and also so disenfranchised? Can one be both? Certainly. How do people remain so far ahead and so far behind, rotating on the same expanse?In South And West, published timely after the chaos of the election, where we looked to our left and to our right, wondering who in fact missed the memo of progression, Joan Didion reminds us that maybe we’ve just been asking the wrong questions all along. Many of us remain fixated on the illusion of equality and prosperity and not on the reality. Through notes and time stamps, Didion reveals that the past may not be too far from the present.

Required Reading
A must

8 thoughts on “A Book A Month: South And West

  • Reply Meg Grant April 20, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    As a fellow Didion devotee, I raced to the bookstore to grab this petite pocketsized book. I devoured it in a day and was left, as always, with my head both grounded but also wandering. That, for me, is her magic. I, too, thought it was more about the traveling, but was okay with it being more of a notebook read. When I read her books, almost every page is dog eared or underlined, but not this one. I was okay with that because in some weird way, I felt like this book had a different feel. I felt like I was sitting along side her as she read me her notebook. A Year of Magical Thinking is my favorite, but this book was good in a very different way. So intrigued what you pick next, love the format of this post. Made me think about where I primarily read 🙂 Just finished The Hate U Give, a book I do believe everyone should read. Happy reading and thank you for this post, brightened up a dreary Boston day.

  • Reply Chaucee April 21, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    I'm in the middle of reading "The Year of Magical Thinking" and I don't know what took me so long to pick up a book by Joan Didion!

  • Reply Mutaleni April 21, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    What an eloquent book review LaTonya. Thank you.

  • Reply LaTonya Yvette April 21, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Thank you so much for reading it!


  • Reply LaTonya Yvette April 21, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    So that was my favorite! You'll love it. Heartbreaking but so so beautiful.
    I actually want to read it again.
    Would love to hear how you like it.


  • Reply LaTonya Yvette April 21, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Thank you Meg! So with the format, I was just thinking about how book reading for me is an escape from a busy life. It needs to be simple, and although I love in-depth reviews, I image that there are so many people like me. People who need to get down to the meat and find out if it's worth while or not, without spending an hour reading a review in the time it could take to go and buy it. I've been meaning to purchase The Hate U Give, it's all around my local bookstore. But I also always wait until I'm done with one book before purchasing another, so maybe that the next one! x

  • Reply Darin Marie April 21, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    Love the way you formatted this book review =)

  • Reply LaTonya Yvette April 25, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    Thank you so much Darin!

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