“Queen Sugar” & “Life Would be Perfect if I Lived in That House”

by Lauren Alwan & Sharon Browning

We invite you to join us as we revisit two exceptional books that have captured the hearts and minds of readers: Queen Sugar and Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House. For readers who appreciate the power of a compelling story, these literary gems are sure to captivate you with their persuasive narratives and leave a lasting impression. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the enchanting worlds that await within the pages of these extraordinary works.

Queen Sugar and Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House

You can find and buy the books we recommend at the LitStack Bookshop on our list of LitStack Recs.

Queen Sugar

Life Would be Perfect if I Lived in That House, by Meghan Daum

The moral of this story might run be careful what you wish for, especially if the house you get doesn’t live up to the fantasy you’ve been harboring. For Meghan Daum, novelist, essayist, L.A. Times columnist and extreme home aficiando, the pursuit is ninety percent of the game. Dreaming of houses, looking at houses online, making the rounds of open houses, even property stalking is all part of the condition Daum refers to as “house lust.” And we’ve all been there—I know I certainly have—pining after a place because it embodies the ideal life that might be lived there.

I bought a house because I was thirty-four years old, had been self-employed most of my adult life, had never been married, was childless, had no boyfriend nor any appealing prospects in that department, and was hungry to the point of weakness for something that would root me to this earth.

Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House is a kind of residential coming of age story, in which Daum tells of how she came be a homeowner. She also tracks growing up in places that never quite lived up to the dream and her formidable mother’s influence in seeking and improving the many homes the family occupied, from Texas to New Jersey.

There’s an inherent narrative to be found in the places we’ve lived, the serial addresses are a document of our peripatetic student years (or, in Daum’s terms, “tapestry-covered, grad-student-style impermanence”), to the single years of work and career, and if we’re lucky, to a relatively stable adulthood. It’s all there in the places we’ve lived, though through it all, Daum is plagued by a persistent nagging sense that there’s a better house down the block, or uptown, or on the coast. It’s that hankering for the indescribable transformation arrival to a new place brings, and it drives this memoir of house-yearning.

…this is the story of what happens when, for whatever reason, your identity becomes almost totally wrapped up not in who you are or how you live, but in where you live.

Daum, the author of a novel (The Quality of Life Report) and essay collections, My Misspent Youth and The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion, has a confessional, chatty style that complements her subject. After all, what is a house but details? Post and beam, tongue and groove, flooring, cabinetry, the colors of the walls and the contours of the land it sits on. And though the detail can at times overwhelm, happily this tale of what it’s like to settle for—and settle down—shows us what it’s like when the house-hunting stops and life finally begins.

—Lauren Alwan


About the Author, Meghan Daum

Meghan Daum is the author of six books including The Problem with Everything and The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, which won the 2015 PEN Center USA Literary Award for creative nonfiction. Her other books include the essay collection My Misspent Youth, and the New York Times bestseller Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, which she edited

From 2005 to 2016, Daum was an opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times. She has contributed to numerous magazines, including The New YorkerThe AtlanticThe New York Times Magazine, and Vogue. A recipient of a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, she is on the adjunct faculty in the MFA Writing Program at Columbia University School of the Arts. She is also the creator and host of the weekly interview podcast, The Unspeakable.

Other Titles by Meghan Daum


Queen Sugar, by Natalie Baszile

“Queen Sugar” is the story of Charley Bordelon, a young, widowed California schoolteacher with an 11 year old daughter who learns after her father’s death that he has left her a Louisiana sugar cane farm – something she had no idea he had purchased. Despite knowing nothing about farming, Charley feels like it’s time to turn a new page in her life so she pulls up stakes and returns to her father’s stomping grounds in the bayou country, reconnecting with family there. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that growing sugar cane is meticulous, back breaking work and running a stand of sugar cane takes a whole heckuva lot more than good intentions.

Along with the horticultural challenges comes the cultural and social considerations of a young black woman living in the South. Add in that Charley’s combustible half brother, Ralph Angel, shows up at the homestead about the same time, with a six year old son and a chip on his shoulder that has been smoldering for years, and you have the makings of a gripping story full of good times, bad times, tension, despair, and a testament to hard work and family.

Author Baszile does a wonderful job with the characters in this book, not just Charley and Ralph Angel, but others who call Saint Josephine Parish home: wise old Prosper Denton, who forgoes a well deserved retirement to help Charley learn the ins-and-outs of cane farming and becomes a mentor and indispensable resource; indomitable Miss Honey, Charley’s devout grandmother, who rules the roost and shows her love through her cooking; Hollywood, Ralph Angel’s best friend when they were boys, who now makes a living mowing lawns… these and others make the book come alive. The action is somewhat predictable, but the characters shine, and make “Queen Sugar” a read to be savored.

—Sharon Browning

About Natalie Baszile

Natalie Baszile has a master’s degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers where she was a Holden Minority Scholar. Queen Sugar has been made into a dramatic television series, produced for OWN by Warner Horizon Television. Baszile lives in San Francisco with her family.

Other Titles by Natalie Baszile

Other LitStack Resources

Be sure and look at our other LitStack Recs for our recommendations on books you should read, as well as these reviews by Lauren Alwan, and these reviews by Sharon Browning.

You can find and buy the books we recommend at the LitStack Bookshop on our list of LitStack Recs.

Queen Sugar

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