#MeToo Reading List

People Holding Banner Near Building

Like many Americans, I watched the Brett Kavanaugh hearings last week. The hysterical behavior of Kavanaugh, Lindsey Graham, and Orrin Hatch, among others, turned the hearings into a pageant of perceived male victimization. For anyone who doesn’t benefit from white male privilege, the performance was a disgusting slap in the face–a reminder that many of our political representatives prefer to believe an angry, unhinged man rather than actually investigate a credible accusation.

Trump’s comments yesterday at the swearing-in ceremony demonstrated the hold white male patriarchy still has on America. Trump gave his new friend a tongue-bath, declaring him “innocent” and apologizing for his having to endure questions at a job interview.

Even if an investigation revealed no evidence of a sexual assault, Kavanaugh’s behavior at the hearing showed a man who can’t control his emotions, can’t hold up under pressure, can’t defend himself without resorting to rage, and can’t address issues without bringing in his personal biases. Can you imagine if a woman had reacted that way? Or a person of color?

So, yeah, it’s a troubled time in America. My plan–besides voting–is to start reading more books that help me understand perspectives that our politicians desperately want to silence.

Below is a list of books I plan to tackle. What are you going to read?

“In Living a Feminist Life Sara Ahmed shows how feminist theory is generated from everyday life and the ordinary experiences of being a feminist at home and at work. Building on legacies of feminist of color scholarship in particular, Ahmed offers a poetic and personal meditation on how feminists become estranged from worlds they critique—often by naming and calling attention to problems—and how feminists learn about worlds from their efforts to transform them.”

 

 

  “In Asking for It, Kate Harding combines in-depth research with a frank, no-holds-barred voice to make the case that twenty-first-century America supports rapists more effectively than it supports victims. From institutional failures in higher education to real-world examples of rape culture, Harding offers ideas and suggestions for how we, as a society, can take sexual violence much more seriously without compromising the rights of the accused.”

 

 

 

  “In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job, Tambudzai finds herself living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare. For reasons that include her grim financial prospects and her age, she moves to a widow’s boarding house and eventually finds work as a biology teacher. But at every turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with a fresh humiliation, until the painful contrast between the future she imagined and her daily reality ultimately drives her to a breaking point.”

 

 

P.S. If you want strong women in leadership, consider donating to Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign. She had the guts to stand up for her convictions at the risk of losing her senate seat next month. I’m proud to be a North Dakotan.

 

Finished. Started. Anticipating.

Finished
If you love time travel, history of the Middle Ages, and the black plague, you must read this book immediately.

It could’ve used a stronger editor because it was a little bloated at times. I can forgive that, though, because the characters were solid and the research really brought this time period to life.

I’m not sure I’ll tackle the sequels right away, but I really did enjoy reading this one.

 

 

Started
Oh, how I love a good unreliable narrator. I’m only about 15% into this one, but the sociopathic narrator is exactly the kind of  manipulative mind I like to examine from afar.

Reviewers are calling it dark. It absolutely is. If you don’t like the kind of psychological thrillers that mess with your head, this one isn’t for you.

So far, it reminds me a bit of You: A Novel by Caroline Kepnes.

 

Anticipating
I have this on hold from the library. I know nothing about it except the blurb below.

 “They were on a lark, three teenage girls speeding across the greens at night on a “borrowed” golf cart, drunk. The cart crashes and one of the girls lands violently in the rough, killed instantly. The driver, Jo, flees the hometown that has turned against her and enrolls at a prestigious boarding school. Her past weighs on her. She is responsible for the death of her best friend. She has tipped her parents’ rocky marriage into demise. She is ready to begin again, far away from the accident.”

I’m pretty sure I heard about it from Liberty Hardy on the All the Books podcast. She rarely steers me wrong!

 

 

 

What I’m Reading Now

What I'm reading.png

I’m reading The Doomsday Book because a trusted reader recommended it to me. So far so good.

I’m reading Animal Farm because I’ve never read it before, and I feel like this is one of those books everyone should read.

I’m re-reading Dear Committee Members in anticipation of Julie Schumacher’s new book. I’m not ashamed to say this is my third reading. Still hilarious.

Five Incredible Historical Novels

Historical Fiction

I always forget that I love historical fiction until I start reading a good historical novel, and I’m like, “Oh, yeah. This is my jam.”

I started reading Varina by Charles Frasier this week, and while I’m not terribly far into it, I’m enjoying it so far. Here’s the description:

Her marriage prospects limited, teenage Varina Howell agrees to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects the secure life of a Mississippi landowner. Davis instead pursues a career in politics and is eventually appointed president of the Confederacy, placing Varina at the white-hot center of one of the darkest moments in American history—culpable regardless of her intentions.

Here are five more historical novels that I loved along with publishers’ descriptions.

  1. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office–leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist–an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

2. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a “baby farmer,” who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum

3. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

Faber leads us back to 1870s London, where Sugar, a nineteen-year-old whore in the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, yearns for escape to a better life. Her ascent through the strata of Victorian society offers us intimacy with a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters.

4. Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue

Born to rough cloth in Hogarth’s London, but longing for silk, Mary Saunders’s eye for a shiny red ribbon leads her to prostitution at a young age. A dangerous misstep sends her fleeing to Monmouth, and the position of household seamstress, the ordinary life of an ordinary girl with no expectations. But Mary has known freedom, and having never known love, it is freedom that motivates her. Mary asks herself if the prostitute who hires out her body is more or less free than the “honest woman” locked into marriage, or the servant who runs a household not her own? And is either as free as a man? Ultimately, Mary remains true only to the three rules she learned on the streets: Never give up your liberty. Clothes make the woman. Clothes are the greatest lie ever told.

5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.

Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem.

What are your favorite historical novels?

Review: Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

Genre: YA Fiction
Publication Date: 2018
Publisher: Delacorte

Elevator Pitch: Five friends at Darrow-Harker School are devastated when their friend Jim ends up dead. A year later, the classmates meet up once again. Beatrice Hartley is determined to find out happened to Jim, her first love. But a tragic car crash happens on a rainy night, and all five characters end up stuck between life and death. In order to stop living the same day over and over again, they have to unanimously vote on who lives and who dies. Only one of them can leave the Neverworld Wake alive.

My Tagline: Edge of Tomorrow (minus the Tom Cruise smarm) meets We Were Liars by E. Lockhart meets a very special episode of Scooby-Doo

The Good: I didn’t love this book, but I did find things to appreciate.

◊ It featured a boarding school, and I will read anything set in a boarding school, even a school catalog. (Unfortunately, the boarding school in this book is mostly tangential, but at least it existed.)

◊ The time travel element was creative and different from other books that featured something similar. Pessl doesn’t get bogged down explaining the physics of time travel. She just sets up an absurd situation and runs with it. I liked the idea of imagining a slip of time just between death and not-death.

◊ The plot is rather large and sprawling, and while I don’t think it necessarily came together elegantly, I do think the pacing was good. Books with this much plot structure can easily be weighed down by too much extraneous information. Pessl was strategic about showing only as much as we needed to know.

The Not Good: The book fell apart for me in a few ways:

◊ I get that this is YA, but the characters were so melodramatic (the level of angst about writing musicals–egads!). They were often inconsistent, which made them feel unknowable. Does Bee love Jim or hate him? Does she go back to see the others because she still likes them? Was the vote unanimous or not? Does Kipling know what an annoying little turd he is every time he calls someone “child”? I’ll stop there lest I ruin the plot for you.

◊ The end is where things got a little Scooby-Doo. Characters are madly tying up plot points by conveniently explaining everything in detail to each other. All that was missing was an elderly haunted amusement park proprietor.

◊ I think there may have been two separate books in here. On one hand, there’s the story of Jim’s death. Was it murder or suicide? On the other hand, there’s the story of being stuck in time. (And the possible third book is why Kipling isn’t immediately voted into death for his personality, child.)

◊ The problem with setting Jim’s death in the past is that everything that led up to it was off the page for readers. It was hard to care about how and why a character died when we don’t know him. Bee is pretty inscrutable, which means we aren’t getting much from her either.

◊ A Goodreads reviewer sums up the other problems quite nicely. Check out her amusing post if you want to hear from someone who really didn’t like it.

Verdict: If you like YA and have a high tolerance for annoying teens, then I say read it. I give Pessl huge props for tackling time travel and a murder mystery all rolled into one. I was entertained, but I can’t say that I would ever want to spend time with these people again. 

 

Old Favorites: Georgia Nicolson

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #1)On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #2)Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #3)Dancing in My Nuddy-Pants (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #4)Away Laughing on a Fast Camel (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #5)Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #6)  Startled by His Furry Shorts (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #7)Love Is a Many Trousered Thing (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #8)Stop in the Name of Pants! (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #9)Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #10)

Whenever I can’t decide what to read next, or whenever I just need a break from reading new things, I always go back to one of my favorite series: the Georgia Nicolson books by Louise Rennison.

Georgia is a British teen who hates her wide nose, her pimples (lurking lurkers), her embarrassing father (an utter madman), Stalag 14 (her school), and Slim (the Oberfuhrer who runs the school).

But Georgia loves her cat Angus (part mad housecat, part Scottish wildcat who spends his time mocking the neighbors’ prat poodle), her toddler sister Libby (who is sweet but smells a little hamsterish), the Love God (an older boy in a band), and the Italian Stallion (an even sexier boy in a band who speaks limited English and has a scooter). Oh, and snogging. Georgia loves to snog, but only if she has just the amount of makeup on so that she appears to not be wearing makeup.

She tolerates her friend Jas (obsessed with her fringe, nature walks, and her boyfriend Tom, a legume heir), Dave the Laugh (who may or may not be in love with Georgia and vice versa), and her basoomas (inherited from her free-spirited mother whose unapologetic middle- agedness is truly a cross for Georgia to bear).

I’ve read all of the books in the series at least twice. No matter what kind of slump I’m in (reading or otherwise), a few hours with Georgia cheers me right up. I’m sad Rennison died in 2016. I’d love to spend time with Georgia in her adult years. I’d like to think she’s still a loon on loon tablets.