Since its release in June, Tania James’s novel Loot has been at the top of “must read” lists everywhere, from NPR to O, The Oprah Magazine to the New York Times. Though generally classified as historical fiction, the novel is also a coming-of-age tale and a love story:
Seventeen-year-old Abbas is conscripted to help build a life-sized mechanical tiger for Sultan Tipu. Though he leaves his family reluctantly, at the palace he finds both a mentor who hones his gifts as a woodcarver and the girl who will capture his heart. The novel is full of delight, adventure, and charm.
But Loot also challenges readers to consider colonialism’s bloody history and its current claims of ownership. Tippoo’s Tiger is an actual object in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, made by an anonymous Indian artist during the 18th century and looted by British soldiers after the Siege of Seringapatam in 1799.
“I’d never seen a work of art—mechanized or otherwise—that was so bold in its contempt of British power, so irreverent and anti-colonialist,” Tania told me about the object that inspired her story.
It’s a rare book that can hold charm and subversion in equal tension, and I can’t wait to hear what else she has to say about this exceptional novel. Register here to attend the book talk at the Academy Art Museum on September 15!
What I’m Reading:
Maybe it’s the start of the fall semester that has me feeling decidedly group-discussion oriented. This month, I’m reading books I want to discuss in community:
There, There by Tommy Orange. This novel, which focuses on the interconnected lives of “urban Indians” in Oakland, California, earned a million awards when it came out in 2018, including a Pulitzer nomination. It’s the One Maryland, One Book selection this year, and it’s also this month’s Easton Book Group pick. All are welcome to join the conversation at TCFL’s Easton branch on 9/18.
The Floating Opera by John Barth. People tend to love or hate Barth, and this novel is no exception. It follows Todd Andrews, “the best lawyer on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the most determinedly eccentric citizen of Cambridge,” on the day he decides to commit suicide. Local lit nerd Sam Van Nest is leading a discussion group on the novel at Chesapeake Forum this November.
True Biz by Sara Nović. Born deaf, fifteen-year-old Charlie never learned ASL. Now thrown into a boarding school for deaf teenagers and immersed in a vibrant and functional deaf world, Charlie grapples with her feelings of isolation from both the hearing and non-hearing communities. The novel was selected as a 2022 “Best Book of the Year” by NPR, the Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly, and Book List. Join the Talbot Equity Diversity Inclusion Book Club for a discussion on 10/12.
What Else I’m Looking Forward to on the Shore this Month:
There’s an abundance of great local festivals this month, including the 31st Annual Native American Festival, Frederick Douglass Day, and the Chesapeake Film Festival, as well as the inaugural event in the Spy’s new Spy Nights reading series, featuring poet Sue Ellen Thompson. I’m also planning to check out the events below:
Theater: Much Ado About Nothing @ Adkins Arboretum, Ridgely
2:00 Saturday & Sunday, September 2 & 3
Shore Shakespeare’s 2023 production brings the Bard’s wittiest rom-com to a plein air venue near you: In addition to the Arboretum dates, it will be playing at the Oxford Community Center 9/8-10 and Wilmer Park in Chestertown 9/15-17.
Film: Love & Friendship @ Norman James Theater, Washington College, Chestertown
7:00 Monday, September 18
Whit Stillman, Academy Award–nominated screenwriter and beloved chronicler of the urban haute bourgeois, will be at Washington College’s Rose O’Neil Literary House as a visiting writer this month, offering a post-screening Q&A and a craft talk the following day.
Community Conversation: Read the Room @ Talbot County Free Library, Easton
5:30 Wednesday, September 20
The Needle’s Eye Academy aims to create interdisciplinary literacy programming and empowerment for the Black and Brown youth of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Co-founder Jaelon Moaney will lead a community-based discussion on the critical topic of access and equity of literary experiences on the Shore.
Book Talk: James McBride @ Cape Henlopen High School Theater, Lewes
1:00 Sunday, October 1
Perennial award-winner James McBride—whose latest novel, Heaven and Earth Grocery Store, is one of the biggest books of the summer—will close out this year’s History Book Festival, a true gem of an event featuring 20+ author presentations in a range of genres. Tickets are required for McBride’s talk and include a copy of the book; the rest of the events are free.
Shore Lit aims to enhance cultural offerings on the Eastern Shore with free community author events. This newsletter is written by Shore Lit Founder and Director Kerry Folan. If you see her walking her greyhound Pilot around town, stop and tell her what you’re reading!