Food, memories and emotions are closely linked in our brains. A taste of something can transport you to another time and place, or maybe you avoid certain foods based on past experiences or connections. In addition to cooking, I also enjoy reading about cooking because everyone approaches it in different ways: through passion, survival, nostalgia, or luck. My friend taught a culinary writing course at Portland State University recently, and many of the food memoirs I read in 2021 are included in the course reading.
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Whatever grand plans I originally had about the books I was going to read in 2020 went entirely out the window about halfway through March, along with many other plans. I still tried to focus on authors who were Black, indigenous, immigrant, queer or part of other marginalized groups, but when the libraries unexpectedly closed, my reading options was suddenly limited to whatever I bought from my local bookstore or was already in the house. These 42 books span 81 years, from 1939 to 2020. Several of the books link to comparisons of the original texts and film adaptations.
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The Color Purple is a 1982 novel by American author Alice Walker. The book was adapted into a 1985 movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. The book has also been made into a Broadway musical that was nominated for 11 Tony Awards in 2006, as well as a radio serial adaptation for BBC Radio 4. It was recently announced that a film adaptation of the musical is in development that will be produced by Spielberg, Winfrey, Quincy Jones and Scott Sanders.
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The Joy Luck Club, the debut novel of American author Amy Tan, was published in 1989. It has been adapted into a stage play that premiered at New York’s Pan Asian Repertory Theater, as well as the 1994 drama film “The Joy Luck Club” directed by Wayne Wang. The film’s screenplay was written by Amy Tan and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ronald Bass.
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“To Kill a Mockingbird” is the first novel by American author Harper Lee, published in 1960. The book was adapted into a 1962 drama that was directed by Robert Mulligan, starring Gregory Peck and Mary Badham. Arguably one of the most influential and beloved pieces of 20th Century American literature, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is still widely taught in schools more than 50 years after it was first published.
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“The Secret Life of Bees” is the first piece of fiction by American author Sue Monk Kidd, published in 2001. The story is set in the American South of 1964, and follows fourteen-year-old Lily as she searches for clues to her past and discovers the power of divine femininity. The book was adapted into a 2008 drama that was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, and stars Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah and Alicia Keys.
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Many contemporary movies are created from existing source materials: novels, memoirs, comic books and graphic novels. Some of them are faithful adaptations, and others share little more than a name and a few major themes.
“Beasts of No Nation” is the 2005 debut novel by Nigerian-American author Uzodinma Iweala. The title comes from a 1989 anti-apartheid album from Nigerian musician and Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. The book was adapted into a war drama film in 2015 that was directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.
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