Well, I'm back.
You know how sometimes you start a blog because your freelance career, and your full-time painting job, and you volunteer leadership position with a storefront theatre company, and being a Company Member with two other theatre companies, and having a social life just don't seem like enough so you think "sure, why not, let's set lofty book reading and blogging goals"? Then you start a blog and let it fade to the background of your life. Then you restart it AND THEN decide to leave all those other things and move across the country to pursue completely new, different, and uncomfortable opportunities and the blog gets lost again?
Hi. I'm back.
I don't know if anyone is reading this, and I certainly haven't done anything to "boost my followers" the last couple years. And yet, Facebook keeps telling me I'm getting new views. I don't trust Facebook. At all. Not even a little. But somehow, those notifications are keeping this blog to the forefront of my mind.
So, I'm back. For real this time? I don't want to set anyone up for disappointment, but I really don't know. I started this blog to adjust my reading habits to seek out authors who were doing better by female characters. My personal politics weighing in, I would say this has expanded to seeking out authors telling the stories of trans characters, non-binary characters, leading characters of color, inclusive stories of cultures other than my own, and always, ALWAYS, looking for authors shutting down the white patriarchal norms we have come to expect from literature. Here's the thing, it worked! I have read some truly great books with some truly fascinating characters. And I want to share that with others. Absent of a local book club and even a lot of "book nerd" friends, I turn to you, oh internet community.
Done is better than perfect. It's the new motto my perfectionist soul is daily working to embrace and in so many ways, it can be applied here. So I am destroying the rules (I've said it before, my blog, my rules) and personal expectations, and we'll see if maybe this doesn't become the thing it was meant to be from the beginning. I am not a writer, nor an expert in literature. I have a degree in Theatre, not English. So, I can only come to this blog with myself, my opinions, and perhaps some titles to add to your reading lists. And on that note, let's talk books!
Starting simple, today is the Summer Solstice and who among us isn't looking for additions to our summer reading lists? I'm seven books into 2019, so I bring you my top 5.
1. Someone Knows My Name, by Lawrence Hill
Y'all. This book. It ripped me apart with the cruelty that humans can inflict on one another and yet there is just so much hope within; a perseverance of the soul that brings to life the ringing gospel tones of "We Shall Overcome." The story centers around Aminata Diallo who is stolen from her African home, brought to America and enslaved by a family in South Carolina. She escapes during the chaos of the Revolutionary War and begins a quest to get back to Africa and the home she was ripped from. This story is a powerful testament to what odds a woman can overcome with (a little bit of good luck and) heartful determination.
Original Published Title: The Book of Negroes
2. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah is a gorgeous novel about two people learning, growing, and experiencing the world as they work to find truth in themselves and each other. It's also a brilliant examination of race, class, and the immigrant experience. If you haven't seen Adichie's TEDTalk, I would 100% recommend. It's what piqued my interest in this book, and she did not disappoint. Adichie's writing flows like poetry, painting brilliant pictures in your imagination and every step of the way you are rooting for these two characters, most especially in their missteps.
3. Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter, by Kate Clifford Larson
Hi, have we met? (oh, actually, no we haven't) I love history, and most especially the history left out of our history books. So, raise your hand if you knew who Rosemary Kennedy was? Larson's dive into the never-not-intriguing Kennedy family and the developmentally disabled daughter they tried so hard to hide is well researched and beautifully written. Without casting clear good and bad guys (ok, Joe Sr. is pretty terrible) , Larson gives us an insightful look into a complicated family and the expectations of the time in which they were living while shining a light on the culturally poor treatment of the persons living with disability that continues to plague us today. Also, please read this so we can talk about how Eunice Kennedy Shriver's love for her sister led to the founding of the Special Olympics.
4. Last Night at the Blue Angel, by Rebecca Rotert.
I have no idea how this book ended up on my bookshelf, and I grabbed it quickly on my way out the door to the airport a couple months ago. This one is going to hit some "guilty pleasure" boxes: a sexy lounge singer with a secretive past, performing in a second-rate jazz nightclub in 1960's Chicago. Here's the best part: half the story is told through the eyes of her 10 year old girl, Sophia. There's a whole level of objective observation that comes from the eyes of children and it's an intriguing choice to tell this very adult story from a place of youth. With a deep fear of giving away the larger plot twists, I will just say this is a story of vulnerability, and how the structures that seem steadfast and strong can still fail. Also, I cried in the airport. Twice. And again on the airplane.
5. If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, by Jon McGregor
Admittedly, this book is what we in the theatre world call "an ensemble cast" but I think it still fits into the rules I've recently claimed to throw out the window because all the characters (regardless of gender or age) are treated with honesty. No stereotypes here. An intimate look at a single day, on a single street, with one single moment in time bringing together the lives of neighbors who barely know each other. To me, it's prose that feels like poetry.
6. Good and Mad, by Rebecca Traister
Ok, I can't not bring up this book. It's the first book I read in 2019 and I still think about it daily. It breaks all the rules - it's non-fiction and closer to a collection of essays. There are no characters, so they can't be better. In and of itself, it is breaking the rules of how women are most often culturally depicted and the societal rules that define "the weaker sex," putting a real lens on what happens when women throughout history put the full force of their anger behind a singular cause or political movement. Just read it.
Ok, well, no fancy sign-off here. I'll be back again. At least for the next post. Hopefully also one after that.