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A Tragedy Recreated: Reading “Clap When You Land”

As I was reading the last few chapters of “Clap When You Land” news broke of a horrible plane crash in Pakistan that I can’t help but find similar to the crash that acts as a catalyst in Elizabeth Acevedo’s novel.

The crash that inspired Acevedo was Flight 587, which due to pilot error and mechanical failure, crashed in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens shortly after take off.

The flight was en route to the capital of the Dominican Republic, and as Acevedo writes in her author’s notes at the end of the novel, ninety percent of the passengers were of Dominican descent, many of whom were returning home. She shares her personal experience as a young girl as the New York Dominican community was shattered.

Twenty years later, Acevedo was able to use that tragedy and the stories from her community that came out of the event to craft a poetic novel of family, of resilience and the strength that can be found when one is able to meet their history head on, even if in grief or anger or betrayal, and make it their own.

Now, in a city on the other side of the world, another plane destined for another capital city has crashed into a heavily populated area. Mechanical failure is again seemingly to blame, with reports of malfunctioning landing gear preventing a safe landing at the nearby airport.

But that certainly won’t comfort the families of the 99 people on board or the dozens believed to have been killed on the ground. Families who, like Acevedo’s main characters, will oscillate between denial and hope and heartbreaking grief in the weeks ahead.

One further tragedy of Flight 587 is how it was overshadowed by 9/11 as it occurred two months and one day after that event. When the cause of the crash was ruled pilot error and not terrorism the story seemed to be abandoned by the media and many of us not affected by it probably have little or no memory of it even happening.

I would hope that our memory of Flight PK8303, overshadowed this time by a global pandemic, is not so short as it was in 2001. But as Acevedo proves by so powerfully and poetically capturing the dynamic and turbulent grieving process of her characters, and her own memories and experiences two decades ago, there will always be those who remember, who transform their memory and heartbreak into something tangible and shareable, and in doing so welcome those of us not touched directly by tragedy into their community.

A Crime Filled Reading List Tangent—Mainlining Richard Stark’s ‘Parker’ Series

So, one thing led to another and I may have read four Parker books instead of just the one I planned on for May.

Now, in my defense, some of the other books I wanted to read had wait-lists with the library… and also, they’re all around only 200 pages, so they’re quick reads.

And they’re everything I thought they’d be—the only surprising thing is how unintentionally funny Parker is; throughout all the books Parker is constantly interacting with people who want to be around him, want to work with him, want his attention, want to hire him—and he just wants to be left alone. He wants to plan his job, do the job, not get double crossed, and then go off alone to live off his take. And that never happens.

I had only ever read the first couple volumes of Darwyn Cook’s incredible graphic novel adaptations, and seen the film versions of “The Hunter”, ‘Point Blank’ with Lee Marvin, and ‘Payback’ with Mel Gibson (which Point Blank’s director once remarked read like a script him that Lee Marvin had thrown out of his window in fury at its awfulness, and that a young Mel Gibson must have been passing by, and picked it up.)

After enjoying all these adaptations I’ve been loving actually getting to dig into the originals.

Rabbit Holes and Reading Lists

I’ve been a little behind filling out my reading checklists, mostly because I’ve been having a hard time reading or listening to books and really concentrating on what’s happening.

Two of the books I’ve read this month, “The Thin Man” and “Eight Perfect Murders” I’ve had to go back and listen to chapters over and over.

Finishing a book is a little difficult when you have to reread a chapter six times before it sinks in.

And it wasn’t the books themselves either—true, I didn’t care much for “The Thin Man”, I mentioned that the other day. But “Eight Perfect Murders” was fantastic and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a well plotted, well paced mystery.

Not only did it revolve around a great list of thrillers (and their film or stage adaptations) that would keep any reader busy for a while, but in general it would make anyone who loves books want to dive right into a used bookstore and stay there for a few days.

Getting over (or trying to) my mental reading block I’ve at least filled out my May checklist. I also have plenty of backups of course, because only amateurs bring just enough books.

Of course, I’ve already gone down a detective fiction rabbit hole as I tend to do lately, and my list might be a little shot.

That’s ok though, a few of the titles I have on here might not be available through my library for several weeks, so I have enough time to read a bunch of Richard Stark’s ‘Parker’ series and maybe even read Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep” back-to-back with Robert Kroese’s “The Big Sheep”.

I assume that’s how Chandler intended it to be read, right?

Follow me on Goodreads to see what else I’m reading or interested in, or to give me some suggestions from what you’re reading…
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