Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Book List For My Bestie

One time my best friend moved two states away and one time we went too long without talking. And then, one day we talked on the phone for two hours and then she said, "So, do you have any book recommendations."

And I gave her like three and then got kind of quiet and she was like, "I should go."

"No," I replied firmly, "I'm sorry I got quiet. I started a Word document of my recommendations for you and opened up Goodreads so I can remember what I read and you asked for book recommendations so you're in this conversation now you can't leave."

"Of course you did."

And if I spent an hour on a book list and I believe that sharing is caring, I should also share it with you. This is definitely a bestie-to-bestie list of books, not a "I am an expert on any of these topics" books, and I would LOVE to add books to these topic lists.

Bestie’s Book List
Feminist Books
·        How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran – funny “modern feminism” (listen to on audible because it’s amazing)
·        all about love: new visions, bell hooks – serious “feminist theory” but really delightful and feels like going to therapy
·        The Color Purple, Alice Walker – fiction, but really good and kinda queer

Anti-Racist? Books (aka books about black people that I think has helped me come to terms with some systemic issues in society)
·        Americanah, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie – kind of a modern Jane Austen – comments on society, love story, funny, but really long and sometimes drags….
·        The UndergroundRailroad, Colson Whitehead – I looked at it like “ugh I know about the underground railroad” and then realized I’d never (at least since elementary school) read a book about the underground railroad. And it blew. My. Mind.
·        I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual, Luvvie Ajayifull disclosure: I’m only like ¼ of the way through this book but I would say it’s kind of a mix of How to Be a Woman & like….more of a magazine/blogger feel? Definitely more about how to be better to women/people including black women which Caitlin Moran might not have included (I literally don’t remember, so probably not).

Romance-y Books
·        My Lady Jane, Cynthia Hand – kind of like The Princess Bride, funny, adventure, SO GOOD
·        A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas – the first one is not great. And it starts really slowly. But then you realize it’s Beauty and the Beast and then it gets really really amazing like at the end and the second one is so good I read it three times
·        Matched – it’s not good. But it also is? YA Dystopian
·        Heartless, Marissa Meyer – Cinder author, I can’t believe you haven’t read it.
·        Caraval, Stephanie Garber – fantasy, I liked it. Kind of like Night Circus, but I liked it better.

·        I’ll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson – it’s beautiful and I love it. 

Do you love these books too? TELL ME
Do you disagree? TELL ME
Do you want to add on to my list? TELL ME
The only thing I love more than telling you about the books I love is finding more books to love. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mark of the Mage (3)

Mark of the Mage, by R.K. Ryals
And now for something a bit lighter. The news is depressing enough, I've decided to run away to fantasy land where people may be burned at the stake for being mages BUT on the plus side, it's a work of fiction and I don't need to write a letter about how this is obviously not ok.

First, I want to thank my friend who recommended this book to me, and I want to apologize for not loving it as much as you did. I have a hard time taking it seriously after reading three books in a row about racial/social justice - it's not this book's fault, it's mine.

In the year of the Dragon, a kingdom will be divided. Twins will be born to the sovereign. These male heirs will be greedy. They will seek power. They will war amongst themselves, and their kingdom will be split in two. 

Mark of the Mage is about Drastona, a 16-year-old girl living in Medeisia. In Medeisia, King Raemon has outlawed mages, and they are being systematically rounded up and burned alive at the stake. Mages are born, not made, and midwives have been trained to feel their power at birth and turn them in.

Drastona (Stone for short) is the daughter of the Medeisian Ambassador to Sadeemia, Garod, and wants nothing more than to study to become a scribe. But when King Raemon outlaws scribes and her father is called to King Raemon's court, her life is thrown into chaos. When her maid is burned at the stake for being a mage, Stone is marked as a scribe, and begins to find her own mage's powers as well. Stone is marked once but twice cursed and becomes part of a group of Rebels, meets dragons, and trains to be part of the resistance.

This is the kind of book I like to read in one sitting on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But I didn't finish it in one day so it took me three weeks to finish it because I have a hard time focusing on dragons who can take human form when the actual news is as terrible as it is. Again, that's more of a personal problem. I needed a nice sunny summer day to read this, not ground zero of the resistance. And it is still a little too close to home. In Medeisia, mages and scribes are branded, hence "mark of the mage," which seemed a little ridiculous. But here in the real world we've seen people branded (Nazi's made Jew's wear stars, and eventually tattooed ID numbers on their arms), and America's banning Muslims fleeing terror, or working for the country, from enterering or re-entering the country. So maybe my problem isn't that Mark of the Mage is too fluffly or far-fetched, but that it's too close to home without giving me steps to fight back. In books, evil is fought with swords and magic. I don't have swords or magic, only pens and the internet, but I want to be part of the Resistance too.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Small Great Things (4)

Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult

It seems more than perfect that I am writing this on the day after the historic Womxn's March. A march that fundamentally asked the nation to listen to those less privileged.
"In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us." - Women's March
In Small Great Things, we are introduced to Ruth Jefferson, the only person of color in the labor and delivery ward of her hospital. Ruth doesn't like to think about how the color of her skin affects how others treat her, at least not the way that her sister Adisa, shouts about it all the time. But one day, Ruth starts her shift by caring for a newborn and his mother, Brittany When Ruth begins to help Brittany nurse baby Davis, his father asks to speak to her supervisor. The family are white supremacists, and they do not want a person of color caring for any of them. But when Ruth is left alone with the baby, she has to face some quick decisions. Decisions that ultimately lead to a

And so begins what is being considered a "remarkable achievement, tackling race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn't offer easy answers." (Goodreads). 

 I decided to listen to this book solely because Audra McDonald was listed as the narrator and I love her.

Audra McDonald, winner of six Tony's and one of the most interesting people to follow on twitter

In the "pro" column:
- I finished this 16 hour audiobook in about 3 days. I NEEDED to know what was going to happen. 
-It is a good primer on current race relations - think Racism 101: What is privilege?

In the afterward, Picoult talks about her personal journey to write this book, and her purpose for writing this book. She says that she wanted to write a book about race for awhile, and felt uncomfortable as a white lady discussing racism. She decided, finally, to write a book for her fans - white ladies - about racism. She definitely did her research and confronted her biases and privilege. I hope her readers will do the same. I hope that people who read this book don't just applaud Kennedy for confronting her own brand of "colorblind" racism without reconsidering a bit of what they think. 

Around midnight I was listening to the story and wrote myself the note, "if you think this is going to to be a book about a woman of color, you'd be right. Until her white defense attorney is introduced and then it becomes a story of the white girl confronting her racism and really the woman of color saved HER!" And I think that's the only way I can sum up my thoughts on this book. Like, yes, I needed to know how it ended. But this story is only groundbreaking if you like to write #AllLivesMatter. We all have more work to do. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Underground Railroad (5)

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Underground Railroad follows Cora, from her days as a field hand on the Randall plantation to her experience escaping on the Underground Railroad. Whitehead imagines the Underground Railroad as a literal railroad built underground. You got to see her grow from someone who is treated like a sub-human, who is hopeless, who is alone to someone who gets to experience freedom and begins to be able to trust others and build relationships and create a life and future for herself.

I had heard about The Underground Railroad when it won the National Book Award last year. And I thought to myself, well I know a fair amount about the Underground Railroad. I learned about it in school. Why is this book important now? And then I read it and realized oh, I may have a broad picture of what life was like under slavery or what sort of dangers someone who worked on the underground railroad may have faced but I did not take into consideration the specific impact being a slave or working on the underground railroad could have had on a person's life. I never thought about which means I never really thought about what the historical impact of slavery really has on today's society.

After reading it i'm left thinking about how much things haven't changed. I don't think it's enough to say "slavery is over" if we haven't really looked at the impact slavery had on everyone - both white and black - in the system. If you grow up being treated like property because of the color of your skin, that affects you. And as generations pass and, let's be honest, white people keep fighting to make sure you are being treated as less than them from legal segregation to the current #BlackLivesMatter vs. #AllLivesMatter debate. I wonder when, and if, and how we can work as a society to actually treat everyone equally.

So much of The Underground Railroad showed how afraid white people were of the black people they were subjugating. This fear lead to more and more atrocities being committed against people who were just trying to be alive.
"True, you couldn't treat an Irishman like an African, white n***** or no. There was the cost of buying slaves and their upkeep on one hand and paying white workers meager but livable wages on the other. The reality of slave violence versus stability in the long term. The Europeans had been farmers before; they would be farmers again. Once the immigrants finished their contracts (having paid back travel, tools, and lodging) and took their place in American society, they would be allies of the southern system that had nurtured them." (Whitehead, p 164) 

5/5 - Changed the way I think about the world while being interesting and entertaining from cover to cover. Heartbreaking and powerful.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Americanah (4.5)

A short note...
Americanah is a lovely, satisfying book. If I had to compare it to something else I've read, I would say Americanah is most like a Jane Austen novel. If Jane Austen was a modern woman born in Nigeria and living in the U.S.

Ifemelu is Nigerian-born, lives in America, and blogs about race. The story follows her decision to move back to Nigeria with frequent meanderings back to the past to show why she chose to come to America and, perhaps, why she wants to return home. Leaving Nigeria meant finding opportunity as a student and as a writer, but it also meant leaving Obinze, her boyfriend and, perhaps, love of her life.

My first experience with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was watching her TEDTalk "The Danger of a Single Story," as part of my grad school program. Which is great and you should totally watch it.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2017 Reading Challenge (3/52)

I am a sucker for stickers and badges. I thought I had outgrown them, but what is a to-do list other than a list of things you can give yourself a sticker for doing? How good does it feel to put a line through that thing and to loudly proclaim, "I did that! I accomplished that!"

My favorite list of all is the "books to read" list. Mine has gotten completely out of control thanks to GoodReads, my Kindle, Half Priced Books, and constantly being obsessed with new things. But you know what can help a person sort out all of their goals? A LIST! And what makes the list fun? A CHALLENGE!

But what kind of a challenge? In general, there are a lot of good ones out there. The POPSUGAR one is probably the most fun and well known, which of course I know because I like to read about reading almost as much as I like to read. Don't worry about it. Anyway I like it because it is well balanced for fun, diversity & trying new things! I get stuck in a reading rut because I've read too much of the same thing. And Lord knows Amazon, GoodReads, and every other algorithm out there just throws the same stuff at me over and over again (read one John Green novel and you will never escape the angsty teen bestsellers again).

If you want to play along, comment with your list and we can help each other complete the challenge. :) If you want a clean copy, follow the link here

2017 Popsugar Ultimate Reading Challenge
1. A book recommended by a librarian
2. A book that's been on your TBR list for way too long

3. A book of letters

4. An audiobook Small Great Things (1/16/17)

5. A book by a person of color The Underground Railroad (1/07/17)
6. A book with one of the four seasons in the title
7. A book that is a story within a story
8. A book with multiple authors
9. An espionage thriller
10. A book with a cat on the cover
11. A book by an author who uses a pseudonym
12. A bestseller from a genre you don't normally read
13. A book by or about a person who has a disability
14. A book involving travel
15. A book with a subtitle
16. A book that's published in 2017
17. A book involving a mythical creature The Mark of the Mage (1/28/17)
18. A book you've read before that never fails to make you smile
19. A book about food
20. A book with career advice
21. A book from a nonhuman perspective
22. A steampunk novel
23. A book with a red spine
24. A book seet in the wilderness
25. A book you loved as a child
26. A book by an author from a country you've never visited Americanah (01/02/17)
27. A book with a title that's a character's name
28. A novel set during wartime
29. A book with an unreliable narrator
30. A book with pictures
31. A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you
32. A book about an interesting woman
33. A book set in two different time periods
34. A book with a month or day of the week in the title
35. A book set in a hotel
36. A book written by someone you admire
37. A book that's becoming a movie in 2017
38. A book set around a holiday other than Christmas
39. The first book in a series you haven't read before
40. A book you bought on a trip

1. A book recommended by an author you love
2. A bestseller from 2016
3. A book with a family member term in the title
4. A book that takes place over a character's life span
5. A book about an immigrant or refugee
6. A book from a genre/subgenre you've never heard of
7. A book with an eccentric character
8. A book that's more than 800 pages
9. A book you got from a used book sale
10. A book that's been mentioned in another book
11. A book about a difficult topic
12. A book based on mythology

Friday, November 25, 2016

Ready Player One (5)

I hope you all had a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving. I hope you spent time with family and only screamed about politics a little. If you would like to take a little bit of the edge off of the current national screaming match, perhaps pick up this book and escape into a world where things are even more screwed up. 

Ready Player One

Wade Watts is a poor kid in an ugly time in history. Basically everything has collapsed: the economy, the climate, civilization in general. Fortunately, most people spend all of their time in the vitural world of the OASIS, a free digital utopia where you can hang out with friends, go to school, work, game, the possibilities are endless. Of course, the most exciting part of the OASIS is searching for creator James Halliday's hidden easter egg. Whoever finds it first will inherit James Halliday's entire fortune and control of the OASIS itself. 
I just finished the audiobook to this one. I actually listened to it with my husband, which is probably the nerdiest thing we have done. Do other people have the conversation, "Honey, do you want to sit around the house this Friday and listen to Ready Player One?" Or is it just us? 

If you generally are into nerds solving puzzles and going on adventures, you will love this. I was originally told that it's all about 80's pop culture and video games, so I thought I wouldn't be able to follow it and it wouldn't be my cup of tea. And while it is all about 80's pop culture and video games, you can totally follow it even if you know approximately nothing about either. 

BONUS: You have approximately 18 months to read it before you see the movie, which should premiere in spring 2018.