Episode 55: "Ordinary" by Debut Poet Laura Hyppolite

On this week's dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, our guest is Laura Hyppolite, the author of a poetry anthology about culture, immigration, and identity called "Ordinary." Laura and her family immigrated from Haiti to America when she was eight years old and that experience helped inspire the poetry she finally gets to share with readers! She and I discuss poetry, writing, language learning, and swap some great book recommendations. 

Laura Hyppolite's website and Instagram

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Check out all the books we talked about on the book list 

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Author Laura Hyppolite and her new book, "Ordinary." Laura is our guest on episode 55 of the Library Laura Podcast. 

As a child, Laura Hyppolite moved from Haiti to the U.S. at age 8. She had spoken Haitian Creole in the home, and learned to speak, read, and write in French at school, so English was her third language. She loved reading sci-fi books as a young reader, reading one everyday or every-other-day sometimes. "I was that obsessed," she says. She also really enjoyed reading mystery books in her early years as a reader. She appreciated that there were series and that sci-fi is so descriptive and imaginative. It was very easy for her to picture in her mind what was happening in the story, which helped her improve her language skills. 

These days, she doesn't read as much sci-fi or mystery (perhaps a little burnt out on the genres after being so obsessed as a child?). Laura is trying hard to read "the Classics," which she enjoys some of more than others. She especially enjoyed Jane Austen's Emma, but didn't enjoy The Great Gatsby as much.  She loves the books where she sees an author ahead of their time or predictions that seemed outlandish in their day but technology has made those things possible now. Especially as seen in books like 1984

Laura also really appreciates non-fiction, especially memoir and autobiography. Sometimes an author can tell their story in such a way that it feels like a novel. She loves that. 

Book Recommendations

Laura was just about to start reading Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates because she has heard so many good things about it (and I agree, it's a good read!). She had just finished re-reading "Nervous Conditions" by Tsitsi Dangarembga. It's by a Zimbabwean author and "It's so perfect I just have to re-read it every year," explained Laura. 

As Laura was preparing to write Ordinary, she decided she wanted to read more Haitian authors. Edwidge Danticat is one of the authors she's found to be the most inspiring and moving. She recommends "Breath, Eyes, Memory".

Front Desk, Three Keys and Room to Dream by Kelly Yang - A series of books about a Chinese family that immigrated to California and works for a bad property owner running a hotel. Mia (a 10-year-old) must learn how to express herself better in English and becomes an advocate for herself and others. It's sooooo good. It's also based on the author's own experience...don't miss the author's note at the end! 

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - This book is a story told through poetry (or a novel-in-verse) and it's beautifully rendered. It tells the story of a Black girl growing up in the 1970s. 

The Poet X, With the Fire on High, and Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo - All these books feature female protagonists from the Dominican Republic. I think Laura will love them because of the culture, the poetry, the descriptions, and in Clap When You Land the dad is gone a lot. Acevedo is brilliant and I would read anything she writes. 

Butterfly Yellow and Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai - Butterfly Yellow is more YA and Inside Out & Back Again is more middle grade, but both tell stories of people from Vietnam immigrating to America and living in the deep South (Alabama and Texas, if I'm remembering correctly) and the culture shock thereof. Both are beautifully told stories and excellent on both audiobook or the written page. 

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman - Author Laura recommended this book to Podcaster Laura... A fascinating story about spirituality vs Western medicine and what's a gift from the gods versus a medical diagnosis. 

How to Be an Artist by Jerry Saltz - This short book felt like an inspirational kick in the pants, as well as an interesting set of musings on what it means to be an "artist." Laura (the author) was excited about this one because she loves little tidbits of wisdom. For example, she just bought this book. 

With lots of literary love from my library to yours! 

~ Laura 


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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