epistolary fiction

Summer Fun for Adults Week 5: Reach Out

In these times it is easy to feel isolated and disconnected. This week’s theme encourages us to reach out and reconnect with others. For inspiration, here is a list of books featuring collections of real life correspondences and fictional stories that revolve around letters and emails. Perhaps there is a letter brewing inside you that you’ve been meaning to write?

Descriptions in italics provided by the publishers.

Correspondences and Collections of Letters

Sister Love: The Letters of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker 1974-1989 edited by Julie R. Enszer with an introduction by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan  
Poets Audre Lorde and Pat Parker first met in 1969; they began exchanging letters regularly five years later. Over the next fifteen years, Lorde and Parker shared ideas, advice, and confidences through the mail. They sent each other handwritten and typewritten letters and postcards often with inserted items including articles, money, and video tapes. SISTER LOVE: THE LETTERS OF AUDRE LORDE AND PAT PARKER 1974-1989 gathers this correspondence for readers to eavesdrop on Lorde and Parker. They discuss their work as writers as well as intimate details of their lives, including periods when each lived with cancer. SISTER LOVE is a rare opportunity to glimpse inside the minds and friendship of two great twentieth century poets.
A 2019 Over the Rainbow Booklist Selection for Nonfiction.
Print copy from OPL 

Letters of the Dragon: An Anthology of Bruce Lee's Correspondence with Family, Friends, and Fans, 1958-1973 by Bruce Lee, edited by John Little
So much has been written about Bruce Lee—the martial arts superstar [and Oakland resident] whose combination of strength, agility and charisma are legendary—but seldom are we able to see beneath the veneer of Lee's public image to view his inner self. Bruce Lee Letters of the Dragon does just that—offering a highly personal view of the man through the letters he wrote to his close friends and family from his teenage years right up until his untimely death in 1973 at the tender age of 32.
Print copy from OPL / eBook always available on Hoopla 

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, Food, Friendship, and the Making of a Masterpiece selected and edited by Joan Reardon
This dishy and delightful, never-before-published correspondence between America's queen of food, Julia Child, and her confidante and mentor Avis DeVoto, shows not only the blossoming of a lifelong friendship, but also an America on the verge of political, social, and gastronomic transformation.
Print copy from OPL eBook always available on Hoopla 

Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford edited by Peter Y. Sussman
A collection of irreverent and insightful letters by the larger-than-life wit, memoirist, investigative journalist, and activist [and Oakland resident] chronicles Mitford's experiences in the worlds of politics, journalism, the arts, publishing, and society, in correspondence with Katharine Graham, Betty Friedan, Miss Manners, Julie Andrews, Maya Angelou, Harry Truman, and her family.
Print copy from OPL 

Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times edited by Carolina de Robertis
Radical Hope is a collection of letters-to ancestors, to children five generations from now, to strangers in grocery lines, to any and all who feel weary and discouraged-written by award-winning novelists, poets, political thinkers, and activists. Provocative and inspiring, Radical Hope offers readers a kaleidoscopic view of the love and courage needed to navigate this time of upheaval, uncertainty, and fear, in view of the [2016] US presidential election. Includes a number of local contributors including Carolina de Robertis, Alicia Garza, Jewelle Gomez, Achy Obejas, Kate Schatz, Aya de León, Jeff Chang, and Cristina García.
Print copy from OPL 

Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has attracted one of the world’s largest online followings with his fascinating, widely accessible insights into science and our universe. Now, Tyson invites us to go behind the scenes of his public fame by revealing his correspondence with people across the globe who have sought him out in search of answers. In this hand-picked collection of 101 letters, Tyson draws upon cosmic perspectives to address a vast array of questions about science, faith, philosophy, life, and of course, Pluto. His succinct, opinionated, passionate, and often funny responses reflect his popularity and standing as a leading educator.
Print copy from OPL / eBook from Overdrive 

Migrant Longing by Miroslava Chávez-García
Drawing upon a personal collection of more than 300 letters exchanged between her parents and other family members across the U.S.-Mexico border, Miroslava Chavez-Garcia recreates and gives meaning to the hope, fear, and longing migrants experienced in their everyday lives both "here" and "there" (aqui y alla). As private sources of communication hidden from public consumption and historical research, the letters provide a rare glimpse into the deeply emotional, personal, and social lives of ordinary Mexican men and women as recorded in their immediate, firsthand accounts. Chavez-Garcia demonstrates not only how migrants struggled to maintain their sense of humanity in el norte but also how those remaining at home made sense of their changing identities in response to the loss of loved ones who sometimes left for weeks, months, or years at a time, or simply never returned.
eBook always available on Hoopla 

A Love No Less: More Than Two Centuries of African American Love Letters edited by Pamela Newkirk
A paean to African American love, this treasury of fifty letters written by well-known figures and ordinary folk alike resonates with the joy and tenderness of romance, and offers glimpses into the social, literary, and political lives of black Americans for more than two centuries.
Print copy from OPL 

Inside a Thug's Heart: With Original Poems and Letters by Tupac Shakur with Angela Ardis
Rikers Island is the centerpiece of the New York City Department of Corrections, a sprawling prison city of concrete and steel with housing for more than 16,000 inmates. Early in 1995, it was also the temporary home of legendary rapper and actor Tupac Shakur, incarcerated for a crime he swore he did not commit. And it was there that Angela Ardis, acting on a late-night wager among her friends and coworkers, sent a letter, along with a photo and her phone number. To her utter delight and amazement, Angela's phone rang a short while later. Tupac Shakur was on the line. Over the next several months, Angela and Tupac shared a near-daily exchange of letters, poems and phone calls, and their the relationship quickly grew into something neither of them could quite define, a kinship of souls that touched each in unexpected ways. Those original poems and letters, many of them written after Tupac's transfer from Rikers to Dannemora State Prison, are presented here, along with the increasingly passionate and personal phone calls that touched on every subject imaginable.
Print book from OPL / eBook available through Enki 

Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience compiled by Shaun Usher
This collection of 125 letters offers a never-before-seen glimpse of the events and people of history--the brightest and the best, the most notorious, and the endearingly everyday. Lots more to see on the the Letters of Note website, an online museum of correspondence: https://lettersofnote.com/.
eBook always available on Hoopla 

Epistolary Novels 

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Celie has grown up in rural Georgia, navigating a childhood of ceaseless abuse. Not only is she poor and despised by the society around her, she's badly treated by her family. As a teenager she begins writing letters directly to God in an attempt to transcend a life that often seems too much to bear. Her letters span twenty years and record a journey of self-discovery and empowerment through the guiding light of a few strong women and her own implacable will to find harmony with herself and her home. The Color Purple's deeply inspirational narrative, coupled with Walker's prodigious talent as a stylist and storyteller, have made the novel a contemporary classic of American letters.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction.
Print book from OPL / eBook from Overdrive / eBook always available from Hoopla 

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
The white tiger of this novel is Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture, the world of the Bangalore entrepreneur. On the occasion of the president of China’s impending trip to Bangalore, Balram writes a letter to him describing his transformation and his experience as driver and servant to a wealthy Indian family, which he thinks exemplifies the contradictions and complications of Indian society.
Winner of the Booker Prize.
Print book from OPL / eBook from Overdrive / eAudiobook always available from Hoopla 

The Mixquiahuala Letters by Ana Castillo
A series of letters focuses on the relationship between two strong and independent Latina women and traces the changes in their lives from their travels together in Mexico during their youth to their lives in the United States as they reach middle age. 
Winner of the American Book Award.
Print book from OPL 

The Correspondence Artist by Barbara Browning
For three years, a rather unremarkable woman named Vivian has been carrying on with an internationally recognized artist, largely via e-mail. Fame contaminates things. There are people who stand to profit from the most trivial information about this affair, and others who stand to lose. So she creates a subterfuge: a series of fictional versions of her lover.
Winner of a Lambda Literary Award.
Print book from OPL 

The Invention of Exile by Vanessa Manko
Wrongly accused of attending anarchist gatherings and deported to a war-torn early-20th-century Mexico, Russian immigrant Austin Voronkov maintains a daily correspondence with his wife in the United States while struggling against challenging political forces to reunite with his family.
Print book from OPL 

Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence written and illustrated by Nick Bantock
A novel in colorful postcards and letters depicts the enigmatic relationship between British artist Griffin Moss and Sabine Strohem, a mysterious woman living on a Pacific island who can see Griffin as he works in London.
Print book from OPL 

Bass Cathedral by Nathaniel Mackey, with a preface by Wilson Harris
Los Angeles, October 1982: Molimo m'Atet, formerly known as the The Mystic Horn Society, is preparing to release its new album Orphic Bend. The members of the jazz ensemble—Aunt Nancy, Djamilaa, Drennette, Lambert, N., and Penguin—are witness to a strange occurrence: while listening to their test pressing, the moment Aunt Nancy's bass solo begins a balloon emerges from the vinyl, bearing a mysterious message: I dreamt you were gone.... Through letters N. writes to a figure called Angel of Dust, the ever-mutating story unfolds, leaving no musician or listener untouched.
Print book from OPL 

The Parting Gift by Evan Fallenberg
An unnamed narrator writes a letter to an old college friend, Adam, with whom he has been staying since his abrupt return to the States from Israel. Now that the narrator is moving on to a new location, he finally reveals the events that led him to Adam’s door, set in motion by a chance encounter with Uzi, a spice merchant whose wares had developed a cult following. From his first meeting with Uzi, the narrator is overwhelmed by an animal attraction that will lead him to derail his life, withdraw from friends and extend his stay in a small town north of Tel Aviv. As he becomes increasingly entangled in Uzi’s life—and by extension the lives of Uzi’s ex-wife and children—his passion turns sinister, ultimately threatening all around him.
Print book from OPL / eBook from Overdrive 

Be My Knife by David Grossman, translated by Vered Almog and Maya Gurantz
When Yair, an awkward, neurotic seller of rare books, encounters a gorgeous stranger named Miriam at a class reunion, he begins writing her letters, which ignites a powerful love affair of words between these two people who are dissatisfied with their lives and desperate to find that special connection that has eluded them. 
Print book at OPL 

Four Letter Word: Invented Correspondence from the Edge of Modern Romance edited by Joshua Knelman & Rosalind Porter
An original compilation of short fiction created in the form of a series of love letters--notes, e-mails, postcards, personal letters, and more--by forty of today's most celebrated writers includes contributions from Jonathan Lethem, Francine Prose, A. L. Kennedy, Jan Morris, Douglas Coupland, Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. Le Guin, and others.
Print book from OPL 

I love Dick by Chris Kraus
In 1994 a married, failed independent filmmaker, turning forty, falls in love with a well-known theorist and endeavors to seduce him with the help of her husband. But when the theorist refuses to answer her letters, the husband and wife continue the correspondence for each other instead, imagining the fling the wife wishes to have with Dick.
Print book from OPL / eBook from Overdrive

Did you know that five Oakland Public Library locations are now offering sidewalk pickup service? If you've been missing print books, you can now pick up holds for books, DVDs, CDs, and WiFi hotspots at our doors. More information can be found here