UP Monthly Book Club: April 2023 Edition

UP Features Editor Melanie Gomez provides insight on some of her favorite book recommendations for April.


Melanie Gomez, Features Editor

The University Press Monthly Book Club is a series where UP staff members provide their insight on some of their favorite reads for the month and encourage readers to follow along with them. For this inaugural edition, Features Section Editor Melanie Gomez will be providing some of her favorite reads for the month of April.

Sula by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is often regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time and for good reason. She fearlessly tackled difficult and often taboo

subjects, such as racism, slavery, and the African American experience, and through her writing, she challenged readers to confront uncomfortable truths about the world we live in. Morrison’s novels are not only beautifully written, but they also resonate deeply with readers like myself.

While not the most popular novel within Morrison’s extensive catalog of award-winning stories, I consider Sula to be among my favorite reads of the past year and among my favorites of the celebrated author. 

A cover of Sula.

The story itself focuses on a pair of friends, Nell Wright and the novel’s namesake character Sula Peace. The two girls live in a fictional town named Medallion, Ohio, and reside in a majority Black populated neighborhood named the Bottom. Set primarily in the 1920s continuing into the 1960s, the novel tackles race relations, mental illness, addiction among black veterans, gender roles, and, most importantly, motherhood and friendship. 

The two girls both grew up with a lack of a proper father figure since Nell’s father is at sea, and Sula’s father died when she was a toddler. However, that is the only remote similarity that the two friends have. Nell comes from an uptight, traditional, household run by her controlling mother, Helene. Sula, however, comes from a highly unstable environment in a home run by her grandmother Eva and her mother Hannah. 

The tragedies, including the accidental death of a little boy, would follow the girls and eventually change the course of Nell and Sula’s lives as they would slowly grow apart well into adulthood. 

While the novel focuses on the tragedies of Nell and Sula and their self-destruction, there is another side character that deals with his own struggles, Shaddrack. A young Black World War One veteran from the Bottom, Shaddrack suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and spends some time institutionalized until he is sent back to the Bottom. Shaddrack becomes scared of the impending doom of someday dying and he isolates himself in his home unless it’s January 3rd.  

Moving forward from the plot, I believe that Sula is perhaps one of the best books to read if you want to get into Toni Morrison or if you are just interested in reading more American literature. The book is a reasonable length and is fairly easy to follow in comparison to other more popular Morrison novels such as the lengthier, Beloved. The unique cast of characters that Morrison introduces in each novel is always notable, but the characters in Sula are among my personal favorites due to how authentic the characters are. Overall, I would recommend Sula as a timeless yet underrated classic that anyone could enjoy.

No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai

Osamu Dazai’s “No Longer Human” is a masterpiece of Japanese literature that explores the depths of human despair and isolation and is one of the best-selling classics from Japan. Dazai himself has become a cultural literary figure in Japan much like how Ernest Hemingway is to American literature long after his death.. The novel was originally published in 1948 and is a semi-autobiographical haunting reflection on the human condition that continues to resonate with modern readers. 

 This novel caught my attention a few months ago. While the cover caught my eye it was the first page that had me sold. The novel was in fact my first proper introduction to Japanese literature and the first novel that I read that wasn’t originally published in English. However, I was pleasantly surprised with this novel and its translation done by Donald Keene was able to perfectly capture the emotion of the original text.

A cover of No Longer Human.

The novel follows the story of Yozo, a young man who struggles to find his place in society and feels disconnected from the world around him. Throughout the novel, Yozo is faced with personal troubles such as an abusive childhood, alcoholism, drug addiction, and unstable relationships with women. Eventually, Yozo’s depression consumes him and sends him on a further personal spiral till the very end.

Through a series of confessional notes, Yozo shares his innermost thoughts and experiences with the reader, revealing a complex and troubled psyche that is both relatable and deeply unsettling. Dazai’s prose is both poetic and authentic, conveying the depth of Yozo’s pain and loneliness with remarkable clarity. The novel’s exploration of mental health and societal expectations is just as relevant today as it was when it was first published.

While the novel can be hard to follow at times, it is also an incredibly powerful and moving work of literature. The emotional depth and complexity of the cast of characters are perfectly crafted, and the themes of identity, belonging, and the search for meaning are explored with great sensitivity.

Overall, “No Longer Human” is a must-read for anyone interested in Japanese literature or even understanding the human condition. Dazai’s prose is excellent, and his ability to capture the complexities of the human experience is unparalleled. I can also attribute that the translation of Donald Keene being well done also contributed to my appreciation for the novel. It’s a relatively short read and would be a great book to add to any reading list.


Readers are encouraged to submit some of their own ideas for book recommendations for an upcoming monthly issue of the UP Monthly Book Club to Features Editor, Melanie Gomez. Contact her at her email [email protected] for submissions with the title labeled “UP Monthly Book Club Submission” in order to be considered. 

Melanie Gomez is the Features Editor for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, you can contact her at [email protected] or on her Instagram page @cupidfloats.