Books to Thank: March Reading in Review
At the end of each month I like to take an afternoon to reflect on what I read. I hope what I share shapes your own thoughts on reading and encourages you to read more. Being cooped up lately, I have been especially grateful to have books to read.
Looking back on March, I read six books.
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
Despite precise verbiage, the writing was opaque. I’m at a point at which I don’t want to work as hard as Tolentino demands I work to benefit from reading her. Sometimes she attempts to strengthen her writing with neologisms like “ventriloquize,” yet the imagery she evokes is confusing rather than elucidating. (Is ventriloquize transitive? Who’s the ventriloquist and who’s the dummy?)
Trick Mirror left me thinking about what makes for good writing, wielding language in an exacting manner enabled by a massive vocabulary, or ensuring that your readers can actually understand your message? I don’t think smart writing must coincide with tough reading, but here it did. Nevertheless, I especially liked the essays “Always Be Optimizing” about modern feminism and “The Story of a Generation in Seven Scams” about millennials.
Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
Based on a Senegalese folk tale, Redemption in Indigo tells the story of Paama, a woman who finds herself in possession of the Chaos Stick, and a djombi (a god) who attempts to get it back from her. What I love about this novel is the author’s insight into human emotion and behavior. The psychology of her characters is true to life. Lord’s writing has a playful tone, but is full of wisdom.
This Place: 150 Years Retold, foreword by Alicia Elliott
I selected this book to use for the Reading Women challenge prompt #4, a picture book by a BIPOC (black, indigenous, person of color) author. Technically graphic novels were excluded from this prompt, but I found this under “Teen Comics” at the library, so I’m allowing it. Part-historical and part-futuristic, This Place depicts Native experiences in what is now Canada, and envisions a hopeful future for all. Though the anthology targets a younger audience, it portrays horrific actions by the Canadian government against Indian people, such as the Sixties Scoop and the Residential Schools, so I would use caution with elementary-age readers.
While I do enjoy graphic novels (or teen comics in this case 😉) I find that somehow the images don’t fully convey to me what words convey in books without pictures, and this was no different. What almost made up for it though is that the main character in the final chapter has a cute husky pup who travels across space and time with her!
Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
I selected this to fulfill Modern Mrs. Darcy’s reading challenge prompt #5, read a book outside my genre comfort zone. Choosing between poetry and plays, I landed on the latter. Plus, the play is short— only two acts spanning a hundred pages. For me, Arcadia illustrates the point of doing a reading challenge: pick up books in my blind spot and be pleasantly surprised. (I laughed out loud throughout.) I hope Mark and I find the chance to see this play performed; having tried something new on my own paved the way for us to enjoy something new together.
The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon
Fallon tells a story of female friendship between two American army wives living in Jordan. I found most fascinating the details of living in Jordan that differed from the US, cultural customs regarding how men and women behave toward each other, modesty, eye contact, driving, loyalty, political acts. Cassie watches for these differences and sees the worst in every situation, while Margaret disregards proper, safe behavior in favor of carefree adventure now that she is free from caring for her now-deceased mother. Despite Cassie and Margaret’s differences, they have in common the desire to be chosen and loved, which drives them to make choices with irretrievable outcomes.
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
This is one of several books published in the last five years with a black, red, and white cover about some form of injustice toward women. While I feel compelled to read them all, it tires me to read yet another book about how this is a man’s world and my life is harder here just because I’m a woman.
In these pages I saw myself, my mother, and my friends. As a chiropractor I was appalled to find that “there has still been no biomechanics research on the effects of breast size on lifting techniques and back pain” (115). How is this possible? (And why didn’t I think of it in biomechanics coursework myself?) Criado Perez shows us through rigorous research and compelling writing that woman is the new left-handed: we make our way through a world that is in no way designed to ease our way through it.