January Reads

I’ve read a lot of interesting books this past month, and I’m so excited to share them all with you. Though not each book was a hit, I am still glad to have read them all, as I felt they all provided a unique voice and story. As always, this is based on my personal opinion/enjoyment.

All photos courtesy of Goodreads.

It Would be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo

Death takes place in language first, in that act of wrenching subjects from the present and planting them in the past.

Short description: In modern-day Venezuela, Adelaida, alone and without family, does what she must to survive.

Critic Quote:It Would Be Night in Caracas is a painful, angry book, full of melancholy and rage at the loss of a woman’s nation.” – NPR

My verdict: A solid three stars, though I do appreciate the oppressive environment Borgo creates, the story’s wandering narrative had little resonating impact.

The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino

Our gods did not come to us in any specific form, but we held them in our hearts and understood them in our own way.

Short description: A retelling of the Japanese creation myth told from a priestess’ perspective.

Critic Quote: ” In her skilful hands we see that the divide between man and woman is greater than the one between humans and gods. Kirino’s retelling is a taut, disturbing and timeless tale, filled with rage and pathos for the battles that women have to fight every day, battles which have, apparently, existed from the moment of creation.” – The Guardian

My verdict: Lush and simple, but never boring, this tale is a beautifully told classic.

Review HERE

Beauty is a Verb by Sheila Black, Jennifer Bartlett, and Michael Northen

The boy flaunted limp wrists. I shot all my birds in mid-flight.

Short description: A collection of poetry from a variety of disabled writers, all accompanied by a thorough overview of disability poetry in the United States.

Critic Quote: “This powerful anthology attempts to—and succeeds at—intimately showing…disability through the lenses of poetry…What emerges from the book as a whole is a stunningly diverse array of conceptions of self and other.” – Publisher’s Weekly

My verdict: A great addition to anyone’s poetry collection, I definitely appreciated the combined analysis and poetry of these skilled writers.

I’m Telling The Truth But I’m Lying: Essays by Bassey Ikpi

Because I know how that dog-eared page persists and insists you return to it. I know how the brain and the heart and the spirit fight daily to stay in the book and not write themselves out of the story. I know. I know. I know.

Short description: Nigerian writer Bassey Ikpi recounts her experiences with Bipolar II in the U.S.

Critic Quote: ” . . . heartbreaking … this collection is raw, courageous, and unsettling. People struggling with mental-health issues will appreciate Ikpi as a talented kindred spirit as she raises such universal questions as: What does it mean to be crazy anyway? Haunting and affirming.” – Booklist

My verdict: Though at times disorienting, perhaps it is this exact weaving of memories, relationships, and emotions that makes this memoir so powerful.

The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho

But there was something odd about these spirits. They were not weeping like the spirits of tenth court, made craven by prosperity. There was peace in their eyes, a serene understanding of unhappiness. They had come a long way. They knew themselves better than any living human was allowed to.

Short description: In the Chinese afterlife, young Siew Tsin is unnerved when her husband brings home a terra-cotta bride, unfolding a series of events that will change both of their lives forever.

Critic Quote: “The writing is spare yet descriptive; the story is inventive and intricate.” – Dear Author

My verdict: Though running only about fifty pages, the scope of humanity, theology, and science fiction that this book covers is unfathomable. Highly recommend.

Museum of the Americas by J. Michael Martinez

the paper carcass seals/word to image / postscript to passage / the Mexican — all virgin talisman / when mailed in a sepia ruin /whose only wound is postage — /the distance the body travels /to know another.

Short description: A collection of poems examining the Mexican-American and Mestiza experience.

Critic Quote: ” Through Museum of the Americas, Martinez places together his parents’ wedding photograph, postcards created during the Mexican Revolution, and the visual rhetoric and language in which Mexican-American and Mestiza consciousness is both visualized and denied.” – Columbia Journal

My verdict: Though the poems were a bit too abstract for me to grasp, it’s a short collection, so feel free to check it out if the description catches your eye!

Feminism for the 99% by Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, and Nancy Fraser

In capitalist societies, then, gender violence is not freestanding. On the contrary, it has deep roots within a social order that entwines women’s subordination with the gendered organization of work and the dynamics of capital accumulation.

Short description: An intensely researched analysis on an intersectional socialist feminism.

Critic Quote: “Woven throughout the book, the authors outline their vision for a movement based on the understanding that true equality for women cannot be achieved under our current exploitative capitalist system.” – Socialist Alternative

My verdict: An exciting and refreshing read full of rich analyses and understandable theories – if the description sounds interesting to you, definitely pick this book up!

Two Old Women by Velma Wallis

They forget that we, too, have earned the right to live! So I say if we are going to die, my friend, let us die trying, not sitting.

Short description: During a harsh Alaskan winter, two old women are abandoned by their tribe and must survive on their own.

Critic Quote: “The story speaks to many modern concerns–abandonment or isolation of old men and women in nursing homes and retirement communities; the elderly’s perhaps unwitting view of themselves as a privileged elite, but one which greatly underestimates its capabilities; the way in which the greatest good for the greatest number can lead to injustice and even cruelty, and in which trust, once broken, takes time and hard work to repair. Full of adventure, suspense, and obstacles overcome–an octogenarian version of Thelma and Louise triumphant.” – Kirkus Reviews

My verdict: Short but enjoyable — though it may not be my most memorable read, it provided a light, uplifting tale in-between many of the my more depressing books.

The White Book by Han Kang

Within that white, all of those white things, I will breathe in the final breath you released.

Short description: A collection of connected vignettes observing the significance of the color white in the author’s life.

Critic Quote: “And this fragility is a topic to which the book comes back again and again, whether in the form of snow (‘mysterious hexagons melting away’) or in a bombed city’s ‘white glow of stone ruins’. It is something that even the book as a physical object replicates in the reader’s hands.” – The White Review

My verdict: Full of subtle emotion and nuanced observations, though the book’s message eluded me without referring to other reviews, I still view it as a worthwhile and lovely read.

Thus Were Their Faces by Silvinia Ocampo

On the surface, there is no distinction between our experiences—some are vivid, others opaque; some are pleasant, others cause agony upon recollection—but there is no way of knowing which are dreams and which are reality.

Short description: A collection of dark and strange stories of the normal rendering abnormal, and the people who witness it all.

Critic Quote: “Few writers have an eye for the small horrors of everyday life; fewer still see the everyday marvelous. Other than Silvina Ocampo, I cannot think of a single writer who, at any time or in any language, has chronicled both with such wise and elegant humor.” – Alberto Manguel

My verdict: Unique, haunting, and spellbinding, this book has lingered on my mind far longer than most – recommend!

Review HERE

Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis

It seemed, at times, that this was the only way the world would be remade as the heroes had dreamed: one woman holds another woman, and she in turn lifts the world.

Short description: Five women navigate their sexuality, relationships, and aspirations during an oppressive government regime in 1970s Uruguay.

Critic Quote: “In this way, De Robertis’s storytelling feels trauma-informed, even healing-centered.” – Lambda Literary

My verdict: Heart-breaking and heart-mending, De Robertis is able to access and reveal the complex stories of these women with incredible empathy and beauty.

The Pretty One by Keah Brown

I promise you, I don’t need your cures or poorly thought-out pieces of advice, but I’ll take free designer clothes, cheesecake, and a first-class plane ticket.

Short description: Activist and writer Keah Brown offers her perspective on various topics: pop culture, self-love, and religion and how they intersect with disability.

Critic Quote: “Like most of her writing, The Pretty One is at once funny and uplifting, thoughtful and sobering. Brown draws you in immediately to her tales of success and otherness.” – Bustle

My verdict: Though sometimes circuitous, Brown’s voice is a welcome breath of fresh air, her insights illuminating and necessary.

Review HERE

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