By: Keesha Chung
Letticia Cosbert Miller is a New York raised, Toronto based writer and editor, and is currently the Director of Koffler.Digital at the Koffler Centre of the Arts. Letticia studied Classics, earning a B.A. from the University of Toronto, and an M.A. from Western University, where she specialized in erotic Latin poetry. I had the pleasure of meeting Letticia at Sophomore magazine. And when I thought about someone who would be able to recommend some great reads for the CC family, Lettcia immediately came to mind. In addition to working at Kofler, Letticia has a great reading blog on her website. Click the books below to read her personal reviews and check out our brief interview about the coming of age books she selected for our readers!
Keesha Chung - Why do you recommend these books?
Letticia Cosbert Miller - Well, they all offer something unique, I think. Sula is well documented, so there’s not much I think I can add to the conversation, except to reiterate that it is about a young Black woman who decides to live her life differently than what is prescribed. Toni Morrison is very good at writing about Black girlhood, situated in the time after slavery and shortly before the systemic implementation of Jim Crow, her characters are often unconcerned with whiteness in a way that I envy. Heads of the Colored People is similar in its diffusion of whiteness to focus on the Black American middle class, a community from which I hail, and have never seen in literature in this very palpable, vivid manner. Freshwater offered me a truly unique psychoanalysis of mental health from an Igbo perspective, and reoriented my engagement with psychology and mental illness. I hope these three books offer you the same.
KC - What drew you to the books?
LCM - I meticulously comb the internet for news about the publishing world. I love to know what’s selling really well, what's coming up next, what people are looking forward to, and what critics are saying about recent releases. In the case of both Freshwater and Heads of the Colored People, I had no idea what the books were about or much about the writers, except that I was aware of Akwaeke Emezi through their sister, Yagazi, who is now a renowned photojournalist, but in my youth was a popular tumblr girl who frequently posted quotes and YouTube yarn braiding tutorials. Even so, it is part of my ethic and practice to support Black writers, especially debut authors, no matter the subject or form. I often preorder to signal to the publisher the level of demand — this aids in determining print runs, advances, royalties, and tour stops. That’s how those two, and many other releases, arrived in my collection. As for Sula, I’ve been on a journey of rediscovering and deeply engaging with Toni Morrison’s work. I plan to read her entire opus, filling in my gaps of knowledge. Sula, unexpectedly, happens to be my favourite to date.
KC - Why are diverse coming of age stories important (even when you are no longer the age which you are reading about)?
LCM - This question is shade, lol, but I’ll bite. I am always reliving and ruminating on my childhood. It was, of course, a more carefree time filled with many happy memories, but in many ways, it was very difficult. There’s something transformative, retroactively, about reading a novel about the childhood you wish you had, or a novel that helps reorient your perspective or view of childhood more generally. I am drawn to this kind of story because I want to unlearn, to probe, to come to a new and better understanding of self-love, acceptance, and expectations. All three of these novels/short story collections fulfill some combination of those desires.
KC - How have these books impacted you personally?
LCM - I can’t think of a piece of literature that hasn’t affected me. Everything I read stays with me —not every single word — but usually some emotion, some effect. There are articles I’ve read a decade ago during my undergrad that I still think of today. These books, in particular, validated me in very specific ways.