Random House’s Porscha Burke on Her Favorite Summer Reads and Traditions
Porscha Burke, Publishing Manager, Associate Editor, Random House Publishing Group, shares her perfect summer books, her current reading list, and her favorite summer traditions. During her twelve years at Random House, Ms. Burke has acquired works by Dr. Maya Angelou, Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, and Black Girl Nerds founder Jamie Broadnax. She has also spearheaded new editions of THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X and THE BLACK BOOK. A University of Virginia graduate, she is pursuing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Goucher College. Enjoy a glimpse into Porscha’s summer.
In your view, what are some of the qualities that characterize the best summer reads?
My perfect summer reads completely consume me – books that make me lose all track of time and physical space. (Of course, some exceptions are books about a place I’m visiting – say reading Naomi Jackson’s THE STAR SIDE OF BIRD HILL while on a beach in the Caribbean, where the reading experience is enhanced by taking in the sights and sounds she describes in the scenery and accents all around me.) My favorite summertime literary adventures trend toward the mysterious and are generally of a perfect length to pack in a suitcase and finish over the course of a long day (or weekend) of waterfront lounging. And given our current incredible sociopolitical landscape, some nonfiction works grappling with issues facing the nation and critical conversations about improving our world and interior lives also make my vacation shortlist.
My current summer reading list includes books my colleagues have been celebrating since launch and that I’m finally excited to read as they go on sale: THE GIRLS by Emma Cline and WE ARE NOT SUCH THINGS by Justine van der Leun. I’m also enjoying Colson Whitehead’s upcoming novel, THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD – where the celebrated novelist brings his sharp wit and descriptive intensity to the slave plantations and swamps along the path toward freedom in nineteenth-century America. And I am still charged from reading THE FIRE THIS TIME: A New Generation Speaks on Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward and featuring some of my favorite essayists, including Kiese Laymon, Claudia Rankine, and Clint Smith. These powerful writers and thought leaders are pushing the conversation on race out of the ivory tower and think tanks to on-the-ground reckoning and action – an absolute must-read.
One of my all-time favorite beach reads is Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler, where she transported me into worlds I imagine my ancestors once traveled–the rich jungles of Africa, the unforgiving colonial Americas–and beautifully rendered (using science fiction conceits) the magic and strength they held in their bones that allowed their descendants and their stories to survive. Another favorite? DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay – that crime drama and intense family story was better than watching a riveting episode of Law & Order while sitting (on the edge of my seat) outdoors.
What are your favorite summer vacation destinations and summer traditions?
My favorite summer traditions are watching fireworks with my mom (ice cream cones with sprinkles in our hands) and getting away to a tropical beach with my homegirls (sipping Red Stripes in Jamaica or mai tais in Maui).