Today I have a review of Cora’s Kitchen by Kimberly Garrett Brown. A big thank you to Caitlin Hamilton Summie Marketing for sending it to me and to Angela on Goodreads for bringing it to my attention.
My friend, Angela M., on Goodreads, brought this beautiful book to my attention. Cora’s Kitchen is the story of Cora James, a Black librarian living in 1920s Harlem.
Cora sends a letter to Langston Hughes after relating to one of his poems. She wants to be writer. Langston Hughes responds, encouraging Cora not only to write but to enter a writing contest.
In helping her cousin, Agnes, Cora becomes a cook in a white family’s home, the Fitzgeralds. In that role, she finds she has more time to write. Ultimately, she forges a friendship with Mrs. Fitzgerald who gives her The Awakening to read (The Awakening is one of my very favorite books, so I loved this connection). These happenings lead to Cora penning a story she shares with Langston Hughes. The missives continue to pass back and forth, and Cora keeps writing; the process of which may cost her everything.
Cora’s story shares her perspective on being a woman, a Black woman, during this time in history. She aspires for something more, to be w writer, and as she encounters hurdles and attempts to navigate them, she keeps going. I really enjoyed the letters she shared with Hughes. Cora’s honesty and authentic voice are what grabbed me from the start of her story.
Cora’s Kitchen is a quick, but richly told read; full of emotion and heart, and one in which every woman can relate, especially if she aspires for something more for herself.
I received a gifted copy of the book.
About the Book:
It is 1928 and Cora James, a 35-year-old Black librarian who works at the 135th Street library in Harlem, writes Langston Hughes a letter after identifying with one of his poems. She even reveals her secret desire to write. Langston responds, encouraging Cora to enter a writing contest sponsored by the National Urban League, and ignites her dream of being a writer. Cora is frustrated with the writing process, and her willingness to help her cousin Agnes keep her job after she is brutally beaten by her husband lands Cora in a white woman’s kitchen working as a cook.
In the Fitzgerald home, Cora discovers she has time to write and brings her notebook to work. When she comforts Mrs. Fitzgerald after an argument with Mr. Fitzgerald, a friendship forms. Mrs. Fitzgerald insists Cora call her Eleanor and gives her The Awakening by Kate Chopin to read. Cora is inspired by the conversation to write a story and sends it to Langston. Eventually she begins to question her life and marriage and starts to write another story about a woman’s sense of self. Through a series of letters, and startling developments in her dealings with the white family, Cora’s journey to becoming a writer takes her to the brink of losing everything, including her life.