Welcome to the Book Marks Questionnaire, where we ask authors questions about the books that have shaped them.
This week, we spoke to the author of Looking for Miss America, Margot Mifflin.
Book Marks: First book you remember loving?
Margot Mifflin: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
BM: Favorite re-read?
MM: More a re-browse: Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book. It’s time travel.
BM: A book that blew your mind?
MM: Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison.
BM: Last book you read?
MM: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner.
BM: A book that made you cry?
MM: Most recently, Luis Alberto Urrea’s Nobody’s Son, specifically the chapter “Sanctuary” that describes the second family that partially raised him.
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
MM: The Gallery of Regrettable Food (“This is not a cookbook!”).
BM: Classic book you hate?
MM: Philip Roth’s The Dying Animal. I can’t remember ever being so repulsed by and resentful about what I was reading for the duration of an entire book.
BM: Favorite book no one has heard of?
MM: A 1999 poetry chapbook called Purple 5 by my former student John Rodriguez, who died since it was published. He was a truly original, incredibly disciplined writer whose poems were about his life in the Bronx.
BM: Favorite book of the 21st century?
MM: One favorite: Sarah Hall’s The Electric Michelangelo. It says so much so artfully about the psychology of tattooing in general and specifically about women’s perception/control/presentation of their bodies.
BM: Favorite book you were assigned in high school?
MM: The Scarlet Letter. It may have planted the seed for all my later writing about women’s bodies.
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
MM: Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall.
BM: Favorite children’s book?
MM: Early on, Nutshell Library—not just the stories but the object itself, which is so perfectly scaled for children’s hands. Later, E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It. I’m the fifth kid and saw my own family in these adventures when I read it at 10. I remember telling them all what was happening chapter by chapter as I read it.
BM: Book you wish would be adapted for a film/tv show?
MM: Danielle Evans’ novella The Office of Historical Corrections.
The author of Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo and The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman, Margot Mifflin has written for The New York Times, Vogue, VICE, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine, The New Yorker, and many other publications. Mifflin is a professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York (CUNY) and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. Find out more at margotmifflin.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @msmifflin and on Instagram at @mmifflin.
Margot Mifflin’s Looking for Miss America is out now from Counterpoint Press