To Kill a Mockingbird — When I was a young boy, my mother would spend Saturday afternoons at the laundromat. My dad would take me out to the backyard and say “Don’t tell your mother about this,”  then hand me a Remington Model 8 and force me to shoot squirrels until I could do it without crying. Can’t imagine shooting a mockingbird is much different.


The Bible — My dad was a born-again Christian, and we lived on a fundamentalist “settlement” for a year. I remember going to Bible study during our stand-off with the FBI.


The Grapes of Wrath — Every time me and the Peewees lost the Tri-State Area Little Leagues, my dad would refuse to let me go to Dairy Queen with the team and take me home to taste his leather belt instead. He loved baseball. 


Invisible Man — I could write about cross-race underground activism in my sleep. That chapter about Sibyl? Wattpad BDSM garbage. Ras the Exhorter? Talk about a half-baked character. I was invisible to my father.


Little Women — When I was a cub scout in Troop 392 I failed my scuba diving merit badge and my dad drove me to a girl scout meeting and left me there for four days. I subsisted on thin mints and self-hatred. 


The Color Purple — What are “authors” writing books about these days, goddamn colors? What’s next, a book about red, white, and blue? (This is something I easily could write.) 


The Jungle — This book was trash, the movie was worse. What kind of a father figure is a wolf? The only highlight was the “Bare Necessities” song, and even then, Upton “Smoothbrain” Sinclair rhymed “necessities” with “necessities.” 


The Great Gatsby — This book is uninventive. Fitzgerald gets Yale completely wrong. If Tom Buchanan truly was the Ivy-bred golden boy he was made out to be, he should have known how to keep his wife in check. As a Yale graduate and a husband thrice over, I would know. 


Dreams from My Father — My father died at 7:52 p.m. on June 15th, 2009, from a myocardial infarction, and now there is a hole in my heart that is forever left unfilled. He was a cruel, old man, but I loved him. I’ll never be able to tell him that. I’ll never be able to say to him, “Dad, I respect you.” He’ll never be able to respond, “You are no son of mine.” 


Ishmael — My dad banged a gorilla.

—T. Bhat