February Reading Recap
Updated: Jun 4, 2020
In addition to Followers by Megan Angelo, I finished four other books in February, including my first Native Literature Challenge book of the year. Here’s my take on each of them.
The Best We Could Do Thi Bui
This graphic novel memoir is about what you pass on to your children, whether purposeful or inadvertent. Bui shows in words and drawings that parenting is a great responsibility, especially given that sometimes all a person can handle is the imperative to keep their child alive.
The graphic novel format elevates the story, adding meaning beyond the words. Bui captures facial expressions perfectly. Plus, unlike some graphic novels I’ve seen, each page shows great care in the art that accompanies her words.
I surprisingly found a thread to connect me and Bui in her immigration story. Coming to the US, her family briefly live in Hammond, Indiana, which is just a few miles away from where I once lived and worked in Munster, Indiana. I laughed when I read the text bubble of her father asking “why is it so ugly here?” It really IS so ugly in Northwest Indiana, and I could understand why they ended up in California instead.
Topics of Conversation Miranda Popkey
Here is another book about a woman who is mother to a son and grapples (obliquely) with her origin story. Each chapter, titled with a city and a year, conveys a conversation the unnamed narrator has had. The conversations encompass themes of sexuality, the roles of women, power, friendship, and family.
While some Goodreads reviewers found the book boring, I found it anything but! Since finishing it I have gone back to close-read sections in order to collect all the layers of meaning.
Dear Girls Ali Wong
Wong’s book, formatted as letters to her two daughters, includes typical Ali Wong humor, in other words, a lot of jokes about butt sex and thick pubes. If you’ve seen her Netflix specials you know how crass she can get, but the raunch is part of what makes her so funny.
However, I think she is better on stage than in written text. The format became progressively cheesy, and with the afterword by her husband, outright smarmy. Still, in particular I enjoyed reading her take on San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles, and what it was like to live in each of them as an Asian-American.
Future Home of the Living God Louise Erdrich
I chose this book to fulfill the Native Literature Challenge Prompt #3, Indigenous Genre Fiction. First of all, I found Erdrich’s writing to be exquisite. Not only did I learn new words throughout, but Erdrich wields words not only to tell a story, but to create images. For example, on page 106 she writes,
And the sky has bloomed, it is verdant with stars.
In response I envision the stars as flowers, the black night tinged green. And, on page 192, the narrator Cedar laments,
To say goodbye we have to cut our minds apart.
I then sense the gravity of her parting more deeply.
The dystopian novel is divided not by chapters but by date: Cedar writes a diary to her unborn baby boy as evolution rapidly reverses. The government falls, and a religious state replaces it. Pregnant women are captured and martyred in childbirth, and Cedar seeks to escape this fate.
Now that I’ve gotten a taste of Erdrich’s writing, I look forward to reading from Erdrich’s long backlist.
Looking back on my February reading selections, I noticed that all include themes of parenthood. I wonder what will emerge as the theme for March? We’ll find out!