Updated: Nov 29, 2021
It seems that with every book I read, my writing style shifts, sometimes in a minor and temporary way, and sometimes in big and long-lasting ways.
Here are some books that played a big role in how I went about writing Specks of Dust.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: I read this book while I was in Uganda. The way Plath walks the reader through the the difficulty of mental health and the pressure of finding an acceptable place in society were important models for my main protagonist, Umaru.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: I also read this book while I was in Uganda. Atwood's use of the Bible by characters to justify societal oppression was critical to my own adoption of that strategy.
Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin: I read this book in Cambodia, while I was writing Specks of Dust. This book was incredibly important to increasing my understanding of the intersection of the Black experience in America with religion, coming of age, and sexuality.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: This book was perhaps most important to me. Kingsolver did an incredible job displaying the history of the Congo and its effects on her characters as well as the cultural barriers between religious Americans and native Africans.
American Pastoral by Philip Roth: Again, I read this book while I was in Uganda. The seamless storytelling as Roth switches between time periods is absolutely exquisite. I also admire how fascinating he can make something as simple as gloves by giving the reader such a thorough and inside-scoop-style description of it.
These were, of course, not the only books that played a role in my development as a writer, even for just Specks of Dust. But as I reflect on my novel, these were the influences that most stuck out to me.