January in Review
Updated: Mar 15, 2020
I have lots of books from January to talk about today: books I read, one I stopped reading, my current reads, and two I’m looking forward to reading this February. Plus, I’ll update you with my reading challenge progress!
… I read 8 books.
Quiet by Susan Cain. Reading Cain’s informative book led me to feel better about being an introvert. I especially appreciated the chapter explaining the concept of the highly sensitive person, the research underpinning that construct, and how it relates to introversion. (When I attempted to read The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron, I couldn’t handle the author’s pandering tone despite having interest in the material.) I finished Quiet with the newfound belief that being a sensitive introvert is a source of strength rather than weakness.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan is about four mother-daughter pairs in which the mother immigrated to the United States from China, and all the daughters are American-born. Each relationship has distinct stories and challenges, but the common thread comes down to identity, where choosing one—Chinese or American—means neglecting the other.
Ask Me About My Uterus by Abby Norman is a memoir about Norman’s journey to self-diagnose endometriosis after doctors fail to take her pain seriously. While the fulcrum of the book rests on the day she first encountered that particular pain, Norman also includes her upbringing and her experience with illnesses after obtaining the endometriosis diagnosis.
I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya. On the back of this slim volume are the words “MEN ARE AFRAID OF ME.” For Shraya, a trans woman, this is often true, and that fear fuels the hate they direct toward her, perpetuating her own fear of them. She calls on the people with power—the men—to break that cycle, asserting that the fear fueled by hate must stop before the fear fueled by self-preservation can end. As a cis-woman, I picked up the book specifically because of the title: I too, am afraid of men.
Kitchen By Banana Yoshimoto. Do not mistake simple writing for a light story. In this novella Mikage, a young woman grieving her grandmother, addresses the meaning of suffering as a way to deepen one’s joy. The edition I read also included a short story called Moonlight Shadow which I enjoyed even more than Kitchen. Moonlight Shadow also addresses the pain of grief, but includes a bit of magic and a second chance at goodbye.
Like a Mother by Angela Garbes. One of my favorite things that Garbes does is to repeatedly remind us of the importance of women in the story of birth: “There are no babies without us” (46). Each chapter covers a topic of pregnancy and the post-partum phase from a feminist perspective. Ways to improve systems around pregnancy are presented chapter by chapter as well, rather than saving all of the solutions for the end.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey tells a fairytale in the style of magical realism in one of my favorite settings, Alaska. I found the novel paired well with Kitchen because they hold similar themes. Mabel and Jack, homesteading in 1920s Alaska, face sorrow but also find joy, and each gives greater depth to the other. You can read more about it in my previous post “A Mind of Alaska”. (Plus I learned about animals I’d never heard of before, martens and ermines. They’re both so cute!)
Something New: Tales of a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley, who seems like someone I could befriend. The content was simple, the author likeable, and of course the stories were relatable to my own bridal experience (of which I still have stress-dreams!). Being a graphic novel memoir, the simple prose and fun illustrations made it a perfect before-bed book.
… The one book I did not finish was Little Weirds by Jenny Slate. This book is strangely serious for the actress who plays Mona Lisa in Parks & Rec and gives voice to a dog named Gidget in The Secret Life of Pets. I expected to laugh, but I didn’t laugh once. If you’re into poetic experimental books, then you might like it, but I only got to page 28.
… I completed six of the twenty-six prompts for the Reading Women challenge and three of twelve books for the Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge. I have yet to read a book for the Native literature challenge.
With January behind me, here’s what I’m up to this February.
I’m currently reading:
Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey. I just finished the first chapter, and it’s already SO GOOD.
Followers by Megan Angelo. I’m nearly done because I can hardly put it down! As someone who prefers character-focused literary fiction, I’ve been blindsided in the best way by this plot-heavy dystopian futuristic novel. It’s both well-paced and plausible enough to feel creepy.
I’m looking forward to reading:
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui, another graphic novel memoir, but in a totally different style than Knisley.
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez, which predictably covers medicine, but also talks about data bias in the workplace, private life, and public life.