The June Selection: Afterland by Mai Der Vang

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be discussing Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. Thus far, I’m finding it a tough read, but well worth delving into. Please refer to the discussion guide as well as the guides available under Resources. For those of you who read the initial posts, I changed the month for the selections. The month indicates when we’ll be discussing the book.

Please excuse the initial hiccups in setting up this online book club for writers. It’s new to me and it will take a bit to get things ironed out. Thank you – I’m looking forward to our book discussion!


Selection: Afterland by Mai Der Vang29939104

Discussion Forum: June 15-30, 2018

Discussion Guide: How to analyze poetry

Synopsis from Goodreads:

“The 2016 winner of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, selected by Carolyn Forché

When I make the crossing, you must not be taken no matter what
the current gives. When we reach the camp,

there will be thousands like us.
If I make it onto the plane, you must follow me to the roads
and waiting pastures of America.

We will not ride the water today on the shoulders of buffalo
as we used to many years ago, nor will we forage
for the sweetest mangoes.

I am refugee. You are too. Cry, but do not weep.

—from “Transmigration”

Afterland is a powerful, essential collection of poetry that recounts with devastating detail the Hmong exodus from Laos and the fate of thousands of refugees seeking asylum. Mai Der Vang is telling the story of her own family, and by doing so, she also provides an essential history of the Hmong culture’s ongoing resilience in exile. Many of these poems are written in the voices of those fleeing unbearable violence after U.S. forces recruited Hmong fighters in Laos in the Secret War against communism, only to abandon them after that war went awry. That history is little known or understood, but the three hundred thousand Hmong now living in the United States are living proof of its aftermath. With poems of extraordinary force and grace, Afterland holds an original place in American poetry and lands with a sense of humanity saved, of outrage, of a deep tradition broken by war and ocean but still intact, remembered, and lived.”

The May Selection: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Selection: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward32920226

Discussion Forum: May 15-30, 2018

Discussion Guide:  Sing, Unburied, Sing – Reading Group Guide _ Book by Jesmyn Ward _ Official Publisher Page _ Simon & Schuster

Synopsis from Goodreads:

An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds.

Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use.

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first century America. It is a majestic new work from an extraordinary and singular author.”