Alle’s Favorite reads of 2023:

One novel, one story collection, and one non-fiction.

Alle C. Hall
3 min readJan 30, 2024

My favorite read of 2023

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story

By Nikole Hannah-Jones

Why did I love this book?

Reading The 1619 Project revolutionized my concept of the “us” in “U.S.”.

Wherever you find yourself regarding what I shall call Black Lives Matter, 1619 is necessary reading. If you find yourself thoroughly infuriated, insulted, scared, robbed, and you are willing to ask yourself, “Why”: you could move our country forward. If you find yourself the afore-mentioned, yet also nodding with enthusiasm and inspired beyond belief by the grace and depth of the art presented, it’s time to ask: what can I do today?

Since 1619 — the year, not the book — Africans and African Americans have lived with and died by slave ships, auction blocks, plantations, Jim Crow; segregation; Civil Rights brutality, and continued racism. Today, African Americans still fight to be taken seriously as Americans. This very day, they will be made to struggle simply to vote, to keep their children alive. Yet Black Americans create beauty. I remain in awe.

2nd favorite:

The Boy with a Bird in His Chest

By Emme Lund

Why did I love this book?

This novel is wildly weird and wonderful, perfectly logical, and positive as well as painful.

When I read for Emme’s series at Portland’s Literary Arts, she told me she means a bird-in-the-chest literally, rather than a metaphor for gender transition. The main character, Owen Tanner, is hidden by his mother to keep him safe from dystopian powers-that-be. As a young teen, Owen knows: it’s live fully or die. He sets out to live.

When Owen runs away, his physical journey becomes emotional. My favorite kind of book!! Cis-gender, trans, queer, non-binary, inter-sex; sexuality and gender are not (only) what is going to make you love this novel. The Boy with a Bird in His Chest is for everyone who wants to feel, learn, weep, giggle, maybe pray, and luxuriate in a most festive imagination.

3rd fave:

Afterparties: Stories

By Anthony Veasna So

Why did I love this book?

On December 8, 2020, Anthony So died of an overdose. We know he was found cold, in bed, by Alex Torres, So’s partner of seven years; that San Francisco’s official autopsy report determined the cause of death: “gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), methamphetamine, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA);” and that So was doing massive amount of Adderall in order to hit the deadline for his first book (Afterparties).

One of eleven children of survivors of Pol Pot’s Killing Fields, So grew up in a massive extended Khmer family in Stockton, CA. The pre-book-publication of the stories that make up Afterparties appeared in n+1, The Paris Review, and The New Yorker.

They are fantastical and real, funny beyond belief, and dripping with pain, with endings that spiritually amaze. Here’s a final thought about what we know about Anthony So: he would have been a literary superstar. Had he lived.

--

--

Alle C. Hall

Author: As Far as You Can Go Before You Have to Come Back: 1st Place: International FireBird Book Awards: "Literary" & "Coming of Age"