Read aloud to children and adults

CortezBy: Margo Jefferson “Building the Nervous System,” which is awesome and very experimental. I don’t usually read memoirs but I picked it up because I write unconventional memoirs. I usually read literary novels and a lot of picture books with my daughter.

books: What else is your best read?

Cortez: Ocean Vuong’s novel “On Earth we’re cool for a while.” It’s not a diary but it looks like it is. I cried while listening to his audiobook. I listen to a lot of audiobooks because I have a 4 year old. If I’m trying to read, I have to stress over audiobooks while I’m cooking or driving.

books: Was it a natural shift to start listening to books?

Cortez: It wasn’t quite a wild turnaround because before my daughter was born I used to read books out loud with my partner. I wanted him to test a book at the same time as I was. We had this intimate audiobook experience where we take turns reading aloud to each other so we can read a book at the same time. We loved reading Samantha Irby’s funny articles. We’re both big fans of Danzi Cena, so we read her novel “New People” that way.

books: Do you have similar tastes?

Cortez: I will say that except that I read more science fiction than he does. As a kid I read JRR Tolkien, and then I read all white classic science fiction men. When I read Octavia Butler it was the first experience I had of imagining black people in another world or on another planet. There was just something about that that was wild and useful.

books: What are your habits of reading poetry?

Cortez: I always read poetry. It’s one of those kind of books that, like cookbooks, I go back to a lot. I was excited about Robin Coste Lewis’ upcoming collection, “To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness.” Her collection “The Voyage of Sable Venus” is one of my favorite contemporary poetry collections. I also ordered one of the Harmony Holiday sets, “Maafa”. There are a lot of good collections coming out this year.

books: When did you start reading poetry?

Cortez: I got to know him through John Singleton’s movie “Poetic Justice” that came out when I was about 10 years old. The first time I heard poetry was when Janet Jackson read Maya Angelou’s poetry in that movie. I was so impressed by it that I went to the library and checked out all the Maya Angelou books I could.

books: Do you collect cookbooks?

Cortez: I don’t have a fancy collection but I love cookbooks. My daughter loves them too. It’s a nice way to interact with her. We can look at the recipe together. I often refer to Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa” cookbooks. I also love the movie “Jubilee” by Terry Tipton Martin. I can’t do most of the recipes, but the beautiful writing and the way you relate the recipes to black history really moved me.

books: What comic books do you have in heavy rotation?

Cortez: The things we agree on are Faith Ringgold’s “Tar Beach” and Cozbi Cabrera’s Me & Mama. There is a tension between a mother and her daughter that has a beautiful poetic quality that my daughter loves. Some of the comic books are just plain silly or bad, but others are surprisingly poignant and profound. Many of them use hair as a tool. These are the best books that I like because of the language. But my daughter makes me honest. If the book was a little poetic, she would start asking me what we were going to do tomorrow or if she could have a little milk.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland is the author of “Save BennyIt can be accessed at

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