Oprah has rebooted her book club after the original format ended in 2011 after running for 15 years. The new club, dubbed Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, began in 2012 but has only selected a paltry 4 titles since then (June 2012, December 2012, January 2014 and now February 2015). I don’t watch Oprah, and admittedly am wary when I find a book with the Oprah stamp on the cover… but I found myself drawn to this selection for a variety of reasons regardless of the Oprah endorsement; Cynthia Bond is an indie writer. She is also a “she” AND is a Woman of Colour. All good things, particularly since Oprah fell firmly into a pattern of white male authors that was fairly irksome given she is a strongly influential WOC herself. Between 2004 and 2011 she included ZERO female authors, and of the numerous male writers she featured only 3 were POC (People of Colour). Womp womp.
So RUBY happened. And oh my goodness does this book ever pack a punch! I am wholly blown away by this literary debut. Ruby tells the story of a woman living with demons, literally, in the South during the 50’s and 60’s. Ephram is a young man who meets Ruby and wants to take care of her in a world where men repeatedly victimize her and the women turn a scornful eye to her suffering. This book ain’t for the faint of heart as there are very graphic depictions of abuse and violence, including violence against children, which may leave readers feeling nauseated. It was a gritty, hard hitting story but I enjoyed it so so much. There are elements of the supernatural that in my mind push this story into the magical realism genre (a genre I love) but with very real depictions of life for POC in the South. There is an interview over on Oprah’s site where Bond explains that she was inspired by the murder of her Aunt in East Texas by the KKK. She also speaks about the ability for anyone to heal the pain that has been inflicted on them, as she experienced in her 15 years as a social worker. The way Bond has built her characters and reflected on how childhood trauma affects survivors in their adult lives is so very powerful and clearly reflects on her time working with traumatized individuals, as well as her own experiences of abuse as a child. I’m not even sure what else to say, I’ve been rendered speechless for the most part. This book is a massive accomplishment for Bond and is destined to be a classic.