The Shape of My Library and Its Art, by Bibiana Ossai
This post by 805 contributor Bibiana Ossai is part of our“My Home Library” series that features writers and artists enjoying their home libraries during the pandemic and beyond.
According to Dr. Seuss, the author of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” I still remember the moment I fell in love with reading and how it propelled my curiosity about how the world functioned. Books for me goes beyond pretty words and constructive plotting. It is an access or a window into the world that I am often restricted from exploring by myself. Books teach me how to operate in this world.
Thus, some of my favorite books that also happen to have some of the most artistic, original, and metaphorical covers are: The Hidden Star by Sello Duiker, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Born A Crime by Trevor Noah and Hybrida by Tina Chang. For both The
Hidden Star and The Sky is Everywhere, I prefer their first edition covers and book structures. They resonated with me because they were very personable although, Sello Duiker as an author was not given as much recognition as I expected before his passing. There is so much magical realism, female empowerment, adventure and folklore in the teenage story of The Hidden Star.
Taking another dimension, one of my favorite phrases from a book is “He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it,” by Edgar Allan Poe in his short story The Tell-Tale Heart. The phrase reminds of this common saying, “the eye is the gateway to the soul.” It is grotesque, descriptive and sort of like a film or camera. I, also thought it is an interesting way of using oxymoron by the author. In that Poe describes this character has one who bears evil and a covering of fake strength.
On the other end of the spectrum is Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime, which is comical. For me, his experiences were relatable. I love how raw and gritty the narration is. It is humane and true to itself. My favorite sentence has to be: “There is something magical about it, profound even. I think God made humans shit in the way we do because it brings us back down to earth and gives us humility.”
Another book that I particularly enjoyed reading is Tina Chang’s poetry collection. From the book cover you are drawn into it. The cover makes you wonder what young life is buried within the pages. Each poem is brutally honest, emotional and bears within it, the ills of our society today, what loves means and what our very actions are doing to our planet and relationships. The author writes in her book, “Love and love and love and love and / love and love and love and love and love / and love and love and love and love and …” I discovered her poems at a book reading during my graduate program and I was enthralled by how vulnerable yet impactful the words are. She writes about racism, what being different really means, losing a loved one and cherishing the family that you have been giving. In her book, Chang also evolves from race into feminism by exploring the darkness, strength and light of what it means to be woman in this century.
Moving on to my favorite book in a series is Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. It thins the separation between the Nigerian culture, its politics and that of America. It merges the border of racism, identity and discrimination. Although, I have only read the first part, I have a copy of the sequel in my book case. I have been procrastinating when to read it as I juggle my time between job, personal career, writing and living.
Furthermore, StarBook by Ben Okri helped me during my stay at the boarding house in my home country, Nigeria. I was in senior high school when I left my parents’ house to live in the female boarding house with my school mates. I loved the short stories in the book, how they all connected together, and how much of home it felt like whenever I remembered it was my Mom who bought it for me.
Currently, I am reading These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. It is an adapted chinese version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The story is set in historic China, where Britain, Russia and France are trying to take over the political system in one of its main cities— Shanghai. The story plot is centered around two chinese families who rule over two popular gangs, “Scarlet Gang and The White Flowers,” and the tragic romance between both the heirs of the two families—Roma and Juliette.
Bibiana O. Ossai is the winner of the Equinox Journal 2019 Poetry Contest and a graduate of Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus where she was awarded the Marilyn Boutwell Creative Writing Award for Fiction. Her works appear in The River, The Book Smuggler's Den, Refractions (iō literary online journal), Sad Girls Literary Blog, and The Republic Journal. She is a writing tutor at LIU Brooklyn and volunteers her time as a prose reader for Anthena Review.