Saturday, December 29, 2018

Eight essential Midwestern novels by women

Meghan O'Gieblyn is a writer who lives in Wisconsin. Her essays have appeared in Harper's Magazine, n+1, The Point, Boston Review, The Guardian, Ploughshares,, The Paris Review, and Tin House, and have been included in the Pushcart Prize anthologies and in The Best American Essays 2017. She is the author of the essay collection Interior States.

At LitHub she shared an essential reading list of Midwestern novels by women. One title on the list:
Angela Flournoy, The Turner House

This novel, set in Detroit, is an epic family history that toggles between the 2008 housing crisis and the Great Migration. It is also a ghost story: Cha-Cha, the eldest of the 13 Turner children, is haunted by an apparition that once visited the bedroom of his childhood home and shows up again, unexpectedly, as he is approaching late middle-age. But the hauntings of this story also point to the elusive nature of race relations in the industrial Midwest. When the family patriarch, Frances, arrives in Michigan Central Station in 1944, coming north from Arkansas, he notices that prejudice in Detroit is more insidious than it was in the South: “There was cruelty in the country too, but it was plain. Not veiled beneath promises of progress, nor subtle when it manifested itself.” In the Midwest, the daylight oppression of Jim Crow is sublimated into the more shadowy practices of redlining and racist real estate pacts. In the end, the novel conceives of Detroit through the conventions of the gothic, in which the repressed returns in shadowy guises that are no less malevolent. Just as the members of the Turner family are haunted by family secrets, so the past continues to haunts the present, and the legacy of the south persists in the north.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue