DC Reads is back, and this year, it is bigger, better and more D.C. than ever. In partnership with the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, we are inviting the community to read and discuss three different titles written by members of D.C.'s literary community. We will host three different online book discussions culminating in a live conversation with all three authors at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in February. You will be able to check out each of the books with your library card or look for giveaway copies of the book at your neighborhood library courtesy of the DC Public Library Foundation.
DC Reads is a DC Public Library program that promotes citywide conversations focused on a single book. Past titles have included How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith, Good Talk by Mira Jacob, and Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires. We are delighted to expand the program to three titles this year and focus on writers from right here in the D.C. community. The PEN/Faulkner Foundation champions the breadth and power of fiction in America. Their participation in DC Reads is made possible by Shreve Williams Public Relations.
Creatures of Passage
About the Book
With echoes of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Yejidé’s novel explores a forgotten quadrant of Washington, DC, and the ghosts that haunt it.
Nephthys Kinwell is a taxi driver of sorts in Washington, DC, ferrying ill-fated passengers in a haunted car: a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere with a ghost in the trunk. Endless rides and alcohol help her manage her grief over the death of her twin brother, Osiris, who was murdered and dumped in the Anacostia River. Unknown to Nephthys when the novel opens in 1977, her estranged great-nephew, ten-year-old Dash, is finding himself drawn to the banks of that very same river. When Dash arrives unexpectedly at Nephthys's door one day bearing a cryptic note about his unusual conversations with the River Man, Nephthys must face both the family she abandoned and what frightens her most when she looks in the mirror.
Creatures of Passage beautifully threads together the stories of Nephthys, Dash, and others both living and dead. Morowa Yejidé's deeply captivating novel shows us an unseen Washington filled with otherworldly landscapes, flawed super-humans, and reluctant ghosts, and brings together a community intent on saving one young boy in order to reclaim themselves.
About the Author
Morowa Yejidé, a native of Washington, DC, is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Time of the Locust, which was a 2012 finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize, long-listed for the 2015 PEN/Bingham Prize, and a 2015 NAACP Image Award nominee. Her most recent novel, Creatures of Passage, was shortlisted for the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and a 2021 Notable Book selection by NPR and the Washington Post. She lives in the DC area with her husband and three sons.
Virtual Book Club | Dec. 4, 7 - 8:30 p.m.
- How did the book make you feel regarding the delicate topics being written about?
- Do you think the title would have worked without the magical realism aspect?
- If you are a native of Washington, D.C, do you think the author captured the city well? Why or why not? Would this book have worked as well as a more modern story?
- If you’ve read any of the read-a-like titles, how is this book is similar or different from them?
- The maps at the beginning of the book are in the style of a fantasy novel–how does that shape your expectation for a book that’s set in a real city you know?
- The book takes direct inspiration from Egyptian mythology, but weaves in iconography and narratives from many different traditions. What mythic elements stood out most to you?
- What was the most surprising thing about DC you learned from this novel?
- Why did Nurse Higgins’ decide to send Dash to Nephthys instead of his mother? How would sending him to his mother have changed the story?
- Magic seems real and concrete in this world but is often blended with (or could just be) mental illness, drunkenness, or other conditions or issues that cut someone off from reality. How did the author blend these themes together?
- All the key spaces are so vividly realized and described with all five senses–Amber’s house (the microclimate, the watery-ness, the blackout-proof porch light), Nephthy’s apartment (the clutter, the smell, the darkness). Did the imagery bring you more into, or take away from the story in any way?
Upcoming DC Reads
Jan. 10 | Loot by Tania James
Wednesday, Jan. 10, 7 p.m. | Virtual Event
Our first January discussion will focus on Tania James's Loot, a spellbinding historical novel. Set in the eighteenth century, Loot is a hero’s quest, a love story, the story of a young artist coming of age, and an exuberant heist adventure that traces the bloody legacy of colonialism across two continents and fifty years. Tania James is the author of the novels The Tusk That Did the Damage and Atlas of Unknowns and the short story collection Aerogrammes. Her fiction has appeared in Boston Review, Granta, Guernica, One Story, A Public Space, and The Kenyon Review. She lives in Washington, D.C.
Jan. 31 | The Sunset Crowd by Karin Tanabe
Wednesday, Jan. 31, 7 p.m. | Virtual Event
Our second January discussion will focus on Karin Tanabe's The Sunset Crowd, a cool, suspenseful page-turner. Check out the book with your library card or look for giveaway copies of the book at your neighborhood library courtesy of the DC Public Library Foundation. Register below, and we will send information about the online conversation as well as the following event in February.
About the book: Meet LA darling Evra Scott. The daughter of an Oscar-winning director and a Brazilian bombshell actress, Evra is the city’s reigning style queen. By day, she’s at the helm of Sunset on Sunset, the store beloved by Hollywood’s young and beautiful. By night, she’s on the arm of Kai de la Faire, Hawaii’s hottest export, and the screenwriter of the moment.
Enter Theodora Leigh. Theodora’s got the talent and instincts, but she’s not willing to wait. Luckily, getting ahead by any means necessary is LA’s mantra.
Observing it all is Bea Dupont, a photographer for Rolling Stone and Vogue, who never misses the party, but always keeps to its fringes. A Manhattan blue blood turned West Coast bohemian, Bea holds Evra’s Sunset crowd together.
But in Hollywood, no one stays on top forever. And it’s not long before Theodora’s unrelenting ambition sets in motion a dramatic quest for power in an industry that is as glamorous as it is duplicitous.
About the author: Karin Tanabe is the author of over half a dozen novels, including A Woman of Intelligence and The Gilded Years. A former Politico reporter, her writing has also appeared in The Washington Post, Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, and Newsday. She has appeared as a celebrity and politics expert on Entertainment Tonight, CNN, and CBS Early Show. Karin is a graduate of Vassar College and lives in Washington, D.C.
Feb. 7 | DC Reads: Voices of D.C. Panel Discussion
Voices of D.C. with Morowa Yejidé, Karin Tanabe, and Tania James
Wednesday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m. | Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
To culminate DC Reads, join the Library and the PEN/Faulkner Foundation for "Voices of DC," a PEN/Faulkner Literary Conversation.
Voices of DC will bring together DC writers Morowa Yejidé, Karin Tanabe, Tania James, and moderator Lauren Francis-Sharma for a conversation about the craft of historical fiction, and the ways in which their work helps us make sense of the present day. The event will include a Q&A with the audience, and the Library will provide ASL interpretation.