Book Reviews: Plural


Hey y’all! 

I had dental work done today. While I’m down and out, I’m reviewing a couple of books I’ve read lately. 

I just joined the Book of the Month Club and was excited to see that a book I’ve been dying to read, An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones, was one of the selections. Five stars! 

This books tells the story of middle class black American, a couple married for only 18 months. Roy and Celestial are college educated, in love, and starting their life together. 

Then, the reality of being a POC in America hits. Roy is wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Should Celestial stay with him? Why and Why not? 

This book made me think. It hits so many big questions, both about racial issues in America, but also about being married, about the commitment it takes to maintain a long-term relationship. I learned from this book.  Definitely pick it up! It was also an Oprah Book Club selection! 

I also just finished When Katie Met Cassidy, an easy to read, perfect for the summer, book by Camille Perri. 3/5

Katie and Cassidy are both corporate lawyers in New York. They happen to meet one day in a meeting, and their chemistry is immediate. The complication is trust Cassidy is a lesbian, and Katie is confused. She’s never been with a woman and feels conflicted over familial and societal expectations. She must decide what is right for her and find the courage to follow through. 

This is a fun, sensual read. I liked there diversity of side characters, and I actually LOLed a couple of times. I also read this book in a day. 

Advertisements

Book Review: Snow Falling on Cedars

“None of those other things makes a difference. Love is the strongest thing in the world, you know. Nothing can touch it. Nothing comes close. If we love each other we’re safe from it all. Love is the biggest thing there is.”

 This book threw me for a loop. I don’t read mysteries or suspense novels, but as I scrolled through Book Riot’s list of literary suspense books, I spotted Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson, and knew it sat on my bookshelf, unread. I don’t know where it came from or how long my husband and I have owned it, but I decided to give it a go. 

I couldn’t put it down. 

The story takes place on an island near the American/Canadian border, the Pacific side. A man has been found dead in his fishing nets. Blame is places almost immediately on a Japanese-American man. 

The story slowly unpeeled layers that reveal unrequited love, racism, the American Dream, and what smashed dreams can do to a person, to an island culture. 

New to the genre, my mind raced to figure out the pieces to the death and how the story would come together. However, the writing and the love story is what kept me turning the pages.  

“That the world was silent and cold and bare and that in this lay its terrible beauty.” 

My only real complaint is that there are a lot of nature descriptions. I mean a lot. Other than getting a little bogged down in those passages, the book switches point of view, revealing different sides to the story of the death and how it took place. 

This novel has a lot to say about love and loss. I recommend it. 

4/5

The Promise of Education, in Graphic Form

I just submitted my final project for one of my graduate courses this year. It’s been a really, really long semester, but I feel like I learned a lot. In particular, I took a mini-course on social justice and multiculturalism in the classroom, and I really enjoyed the learning. Some things I knew already, inherently as a person of color, but I appreciated having scholarly research to give words to my feelings. Also, I learned new things too. We watched a video about the people living in the Appalachian mountains, and I was truly shocked at how terrible the living conditions are for some Americans in that part of the country. I also read a lot of information about the purpose, the whole point of public education.

For my final project, I had to create something that shows what I believe the hope and promise of education to be. One of our options was to create a graphic novel, so I decided to give it a try. I love to read them (I’m currently reading Paper Girls, actually), but I’ve never made one.

So here it is. I used ToonDoo to help in the creation.

Book Review: The Belles #1

thebelles

“Beauty is pain,” my mother would often tell me when I winced or complained about too tight ponytails, or a comb digging and dragging through my scalp. Watery eyes were a small price to pay to look good.

Although in my mind, I feel like I’ve left that problematic mantra behind, the YA book, The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton, forced me to consider the lengths I go through to be “beautiful”.

The novel is dystopian of sorts, but the instead of a grey, war-torn society, we are set in a world where everyone craves to be beautiful. Women and men are born with grey skin and rotten colored hair, and they literally worship beauty and will spend all of their money and resources to achieve it. This is where the Belles come in. They are a gift from the God of Beauty and are able to change peoples features to any way they desire.

The beauty comes with a price. Not only money but pain. The book details the excruciating pain people will sit through to change their image.

As I read the descriptions of these scenes, I noticed words were used that I hear all the time in youtube make-up tutorials, “carve out the cheek-bones,” “reshape the face,” “hollow out” various body parts. And honestly, it made me sort of uncomfortable. The Belles can pull someone’s hair all the way out to force it to grow, and even while I grimaced, I had flashes of sitting in a chair with hunks of hot wax poured on my face.

The Belles is well-written, with beautiful, delicious descriptions, but the sharp social commentary is what makes this book really worth a read. A close read of this book will reveal several parallelisms with modern society.

I’ve been in a bit of a reading rut as of late- I’ve started several books but haven’t been able to get through them. I whipped through The Belles fairly quickly. I can’t wait for book two.

Book Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing


My favorite bookmark, which I used for this book, has an Amy Lowell quote, “All books are either dreams or swords.” Often when I finish a book, I ask myself which category the book falls under. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, is both. 

The novel takes place in rural Mississippi. The narrators shift, from a young teen named JoJo, to his mother, a drug addict named Leonie, and to a ghost named Richie. Yes. A ghost named Richie. 

JoJo’s father is going to be released from prison, and JoJo is not happy about the change. He lives with his grandparents who take care of him and his little sister while his mother comes and goes as she pleases. 

On the drive to and back from the prison to pick up his father, well, things happen. 

Sing, Unburied, Sing won the National Book Award last year because it is brilliant. People sometimes ask why African Americans always have to talk about the past. Why can’t they get over it? they ask. It wasn’t their parents who suffered.  It was generations ago, they argue. 

This novel answers that question. It shows the long reach of institutional racism.  The lessons that permeate families and the ghosts that linger. 

Read it. That all I can say.  

There are some supernatural elements that I think would make this a good novel for discussion. It would be a strong book club selection. 

Spoilers

Richie. I was scared to go to sleep because of him! That final image of all the ghosts/birds in the tree. That will haunt me for a while, as it was probably intended to be. 

Leonie. I feel like she briefly redeemed herself, at least for a few minutes. Michael is a puzzle to me. He seems like his heart is in the right place, but he doesn’t know how to be a parent. 

I love Pop. Love him. 

Book Review: Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan


It’s been a while, y’all! What can I say except, life? 

Anyway, I must say that Jennifer Egan’s last novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad is one of my favorites. So I went into 2017’s Manhattan Beach excited, but I tried not to get too worked up about it being just like Goon Squad and instead, respect it as a different novel in its own right. 

Manhattan Beach is a historical novel that takes place in New York City, during WWII. The novel shifts around to three point of views: Anna Kerrigan, her mysterious father Eddie, and a gangster named Dexter Styles (isn’t that a great name for a character?). As a child, Anna goes with her father to Dexter’s home. Years later, her father disappears, and Anna seeks out Dexter to find answers. It’s dark and smokey. 

Jennifer Egan can write. Simple descriptions become searing. Near the beginning of the novel, I literally found myself holding my breath as I read a description of Eddie and his interaction with another gangster. 

I found one of thre protagonists, Anna, to be interesting and complex. She has a lot of secrets and has a dark side, but the love for her sister, Lydia, a girl with a special needs, is so very pure. Anna is a girl of contrasts. She works in a boring job in a factory, and takes a risk to become the first female diver in the seaport. 

This novel isn’t perfect. I got a little bogged down in a few sections, and the ending leaves some unanswered questions, but I enjoyed this book. I cried through the ending. It’s a slow burn.

Spoilers:

Dexter!!! I can’t believe it went down like that for him. 

The storyline of Eddie being in the ship kind of threw me at first, but I ended up loving it. The scene where Eddie realizes he is like Lydia in the water… I bawled. It was unexpected yet perfect. 

Who would you say is the most important character? I think it may be Eddie, but I also think it could be Lydia. 

Book Review: The First Rule of Punk


Maria Luisa, or Malu, as she prefers to be called, is a seventh grader who is moving cross-country with her mother. She feels a bit like an outcast, but holds punk rock and zine making close to her heart. She is biracial, half Mexican and half white. Also, her mother is constantly pressuring her to act like a senorita,  young lady. But Malu has her own ideas.  In Chicago, she starts a punk band and also comes to terms with her identify. 

I saw myself in this book: a brown girl who loved rock ‘n’ roll, surrounded by people who thought I was trying to be white. The term “coconut” still makes my stomach hurt when I hear it, and Perez addresses it, and lots of other aspects of being a Mexican-American. I literally teared up when she discusses the Bracero Program and the history of Jose Posada and Mexican punk bands because these were all things I never learned about until I was an adult. I can’t help but wonder how different it would have been to have read a book like this when I was a teenager. To see myself in a book. 

I can’t wait to book talk this with my students.  

I think many would really embrace the idea of making zines. It would even be a cool to make a zine as a companion to an essay or a poem. 

I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to see what else Celia Perez comes up with.