Let’s Be Human(e): A World Voices Festival Reading List from Ananda Naima González
This book list is dedicated to the wild and good. The books here have an energy that is both primal and deeply mythic. Here, there are humans desirous of animal life and gods who grow in grace. Then, there is a falling into nature: a climbing up the trees, a bathing in the mud, a human head that blends in among the calabash fruit. There are bird boys and wolf girls, kings who destroy forest giants, and twin gods who jump into an oven. Each work sinks its claws into your heart, seeking to discover what it means to be human(e). Transcending genre, these books glow with a profound spirit that allow us to hear the human howl. Now is the time to listen. Dear readers, I invite you to look into the sun.
—Ananda Naima González
This is an epic indigenous poem of the K’iche’ people. A sinuous work that flutters in on dark wings and offers you speaking skulls, the crushing of false suns, silence along the sea, and a macaw with teeth of jade. Divine hero twins travel to the underworld to show you that life is not merely the outrunning of death, dear friend.
Let the boys tell you about their boy worlds filled with blood and tiny kisses, a ripped-up wing, and the moon that’ll spit you right out. Here, it’s okay to hang your dreams off ropes, and to want to hug the blue. If the boys call another boy “Bird,” there’s every chance he will soon begin to show feathers.
Drink the nectar of a genius. Dive into the caves and swamps and enter the fourth dimension. Google calls this a book of “psychological fiction.” I say, “You might very well tremble from all this energy, friend, all this glory and terror,” for Clarice is a feral thinker who births the world, remembers the taste of rose jelly, and feels the call to beasthood.
Welcome to the edge of civilization, stuffed with forgotten fur and o-shaped mouths. Find the Bengali wolf girls, the written wreckage of a feral childhood. Bhanu wants to know if we can cradle the spirits of children already gone. Now cross the jungle threshold and kiss the ochre earth, praise the fingers of light, and bury that cotton dress “shredded at the sleeve and hem.”
This is an ancient Mesopotamian epic featuring a wild bull of a king and his savage friend, fed on wild milk and plucked from the forest. Welcome to a land where men walk hand-in-hand, dreams of death are swallowed, young gods grow enraged, and humans learn to shed the skin of fear. Even if we cannot escape mortality, certainly we can “deal justly before the face of the Sun” to become such great bodies of light.
Ananda Naima González is a writer residing in Harlem, NY. She carries a BA and an MFA in poetry and fiction respectively from Columbia University. Currently, she is at work on a collection of short stories. Her work is finely tuned to the tender and brutal realities of humanity, feral and natural energies, dreamscapes, and mythological worlds. Her mission is to honor the inherently sacred ritual of living. In addition to writing, she is also an accomplished dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker.