|photo: Cory Tyler
Kuwana Haulsey is the author of two novels, The Red Moon and Angel of Harlem. In 2007, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation named Haulsey one of three New Voices in American Literature. That year, Angel of Harlem was chosen as one of the New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age. The Blackboard Bestsellers organization awarded Angel of Harlem the Medal of Courage, a prize created specifically to honor the book. The Red Moon was chosen as a Washington Post Notable Book of the Year and was a finalist for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. Haulsey is an editor and freelance journalist. Her latest book is Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned from My Six Month Old (Viva Editions/Cleis Press, October 15, 2013). Haulsey lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons.
On your nightstand now:
Right now, I'm reading (or re-reading) Personal Power Through Awareness by Sanaya Roman; Blue Nights by Joan Didion; I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't) by Dr. Brené Brown; Spiritual Liberation by Michael Bernard Beckwith; Start Where You Are by Pema Chödrön. All joined together, there is a fantastic through-line in these books that has something to do with release, awareness, acceptance and transformation.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin. I read this when I was very young, maybe nine or 10, but I couldn't put it down. I resonated with James Baldwin in a very intimate way. Of course, thinking back, it could be seen as problematic if you're nine years old and vibing with a hard drinking, chain-smoking, agnostic, mid-century cultural activist. Nah... I'm sure it was just fine.
Your top five authors:
Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck, Pablo Neruda, Zakes Mda, Gabriel García Márquez, Khalil Gibran, Dr. Brené Brown and... I know I just named more than five, but I can't help myself! I'll try to stop here....
Book you've faked reading:
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I haven't really faked reading it. It's more like I've re-read the first five pages about 12 times. Somehow, I never got any further than that. But I have great hope that I will--one day.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston is such a phenomenal book. Again, I am a total sucker for language and Kingston's language is awe-inspiring. Her characters resonate in a spiritual way for me. It's like being in church. I teach this book in classes and pick it up to read randomly when I'm bored. I wish it was required reading for everyone, especially those who fancy themselves to be writers.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I don't think I've ever done that. I buy calendars and notepads with puppies and hearts and swirls on the covers. But not books. I think it would annoy me if the inside were not as arresting as the outside.
Book that changed your life:
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston changed the way I viewed literature. Her characters came alive for me in a way that I had never dreamed of before. Through Hurston, I got to feel what it was like to inhabit someone else's skin for a very short while. Also, Innocent Erendira by Gabriel García Márquez struck me in this way. This book of short stories is not necessarily referenced like his later works, but it was the first of his books that I ever read, and I was captivated from the first sentence. I have a very old, worn copy that is held together by packing tape and hope. But I will never get rid of it. Though I was very young when I first stumbled on his work, I immediately recognized the greatness of his language and the joy of magical realism.
Favorite line from a book:
"If God don't care no more about them than I do, then they's a ball lost in de tall grass," from Their Eyes Were Watching God, and "There is no such thing as undemonstrated understanding," from Invisible Supply: Finding the Gifts of the Spirit Within by Joel Goldsmith.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is angry and rich and confounding and heartbreaking and funny at times. It's one of those great books that actually deserves to be canonized.
Book that was your most challenging read:
I think Sacred Contracts by Caroline Myss really changed the way I view relationships, purpose and potential. It's one of the things that made me begin to question and examine the contracts that I'd made and the relationships that I'd chosen to enter. I began writing about my relationship with my son (my first foray into full-length nonfiction) because of the insights that continued to occur to me when I realized that we had chosen each other. It's the exact opposite of when people say, "Babies don't choose to come here." I began to entertain the idea that we do, in fact, choose to come here for very specific reasons and with some very important lessons to teach.