March flew by – and with it, Women’s History month. Fulfilling WeirdZeal’s bingo chart (shown below) with the listed reads was a treat and I’m glad to have read so many diverse works. Though we’re in the midst of scary times, I’m hoping to read more in these upcoming months now driven by the themes, messages, and stories I’ve read.
All photos courtesy of Goodreads
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
Other people’s life stories are not a topic for debate. One should hear them out, and reciprocate in the same coin.
Short Description: An elderly animal advocate finds herself investigating a series of gruesome murders.
Critic Quote: “Though the book functions perfectly as noir crime – moving towards a denouement that, for sleight of hand and shock, should draw admiration from the most seasoned Christie devotee – its chief preoccupation is with unanswerable questions of free will versus determinism, and with existential unease.” – The Guardian
My Verdict: A so-so book that, though well-written, wasn’t quite memorable. If you’ve enjoyed the author’s past works, then perhaps give it a try.
See full review HERE
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
It all made sense: my shyness, all the times I was dismissed for not being “black enough,” my desire to reframe the images of black film and television, which I started to do when I created a series in college called Dorm Diaries, my inability to dance—these were all symptoms of my Awkward Blackness.
Short Description: Creator of of the hit HBO TV show Insecure, Issa Rae documents her awkward experiences growing up in this memoir/collection of essays.
Critic Quote: “At the heart of Rae’s memoir, however, is a story about her climb out of an unconventional family life: living between two homes, moving from the East Coast to the West Coast, and the secret that shattered her parents’ marriage. While there’s no shortage of funny stories about her Senegalese father and his kooky family, Rae writes with dry wit and surprising candor about their rocky relationship in her teen years.” – Huffpost
My Verdict: An unfortunate collection of essays that doesn’t quite carry the same narrative power and humor of Rae’s others works. I’d recommend skipping this piece.
Read full review HERE
Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros
You bring out the Mexican in me.
The hunkered thick dark spiral.
The core of a heart howl.
The bitter bile.
Short Description: Cisnero’s famous collection of Chicana poetry.
Critic Quote: “These poems–short-lined, chantlike, biting–insistently rework the same themes to tap them. In the end, however, despite the accessible boldness of the writing, the poems lack the depth, the complexity and the lyrical magic of the author’s fiction.” – Publisher’s Weekly
My Verdict: A magnetic collection of poems — even if they didn’t all stick with me, I’m glad to have read them and would encourage others to pick this collection up and try it for themselves.
Hard to Love: Essays and Confessions by Briallen Hopper
To give us back to one another—there lies the great, the singular power of learning to lean on others. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: One runs away to find love, and finds only oneself.
Short Description: Hopper examines the many manifestations of non-romantic love, the importance of forming and relying on one’s many relationships, and how these observations developed throughout the scope of her own life.
Critic Quote: “Part of what Hopper does so artfully in her work is to disrupt the foregone narrative conclusions imposed on American women by 21st-century late capitalism.” – LA Review of Books
My Verdict: Powerful, skillfully crafted, and moving, Hopper’s essays are a must-read for all!!!
The Book of X by Sarah Rose Etter
Did you know we’re all engines, because by their most basic definition, engines are machines that convert energy into motion?
Short Description: The story of Cassie, a woman born with a knot at her stomach, and how she navigates girlhood, work, and love.
Critic Quote: “This novel is an incredible example of surrealism in current literary fiction. Etter blurs the line between the grotesque and real life, normative experiences.” – The Nerd Daily
My Verdict: Despite its minimalist writing, this book is striking and memorable, its message on gender clear without being didactic.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
You think this is a big deal because, no offense, you’ve had a lot of people in your life who claimed to care about you but didn’t act like it. That’s not me. I can cook, and right now, you can’t. So I’m doing it for you because that’s how people should behave; they should fill in each other’s gaps. Don’t think about it too hard.
Short Description: After a brush with death, Chloe Brown decides to take her life by the reigns and create a list of things to achieve, asking for the help of (and perhaps falling for) her superintendent along the way.
Critic Quote: “Talia Hibbert’s Get a Life, Chloe Brown is a tour-de-force romance that tackles tough problems like insecurity and chronic pain while still delivering a laugh-out-loud love story full of poignant revelations about human nature.” – NPR
My Verdict: A light-hearted romantic read starring characters with emotional depth and electric chemistry.
To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
They celebrate love as though it’s power, even though it has killed far more humans than I ever have.
Short Description: When a prince-killing siren is sent on land as a punishment for her rebelliousness, she crosses paths with a prince determined to end her kind.
Critic Quote: “TO KILL A KINGDOM is a must-read for lovers of the fantasy genre. If you prefer more realistic stories then this book might not be your cup of tea (even so, it’s always a good idea to try out a new genre). However, if you’re an active reader of magic-based stories, star crossed lovers, or awesome trips then you should definitely add this book to your list!” – TeenReads
My Verdict: An average YA fantasy with a strong concept and fairly bland characters. Consider your own tastes and preferences within YA and compare it with other reviewers to see if this will work for you. Unfortunately for me, it was a miss.
Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz: Selected Works by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
Where is the evil in my being a woman?
Short Description: Poems and letters written by the famous 17th century intellectual nun whose work inspired generations of feminists.
Critic Quote: “Thus, Sor Juana transmutes her historical and personal ill fortunes, makes victory of her defeat, song of her silence, liberty of her submission.” – LA Times
My Verdict: Though not all poems (and especially letters) didn’t grab me, the ones that did were incredible. Please give Cruz’s work a read, even if only to pay homage to her incredible legacy.
Colonize This! edited by Daisy Hernandez & Bushra Rehman
Some may choose to call me a rebel, but I am simply a woman searching for a happier life. One in which I am allowed to love myself, and not sacrifice that love in favor of society’s values.
Short Description: A revised edition of the 1980s classic, Colonize This! is a collection of essays by WOC on what today’s feminism means to them and how they engage with it in their own lives.
Critic Quote: One of “18 Books Every White Ally Should Read” – Bustle
My Verdict: A strong introduction to intersectional feminism, this collection of essays is a must-read for anyone (especially WOC) who feel ostracized from mainstream feminism and are apprehensive on calling themselves feminists.
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
I grew to be certain about who I was, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a time when I was learning the world, unsure, unstable, wobbly, living somewhere between confusion, discovery, and conviction. The fact that I admit to being uncertain doesn’t discount my womanhood. It adds value to it.
Short Description: Writer, TV host and Trans Rights Activist Janet Mock looks back on her youth and how she came to realize herself.
Critic Quote: “An enlightening, much-needed perspective on transgender identity.” – Kirkus Reviews
My Verdict: Beautifully written and told with great emotional maturity, Mock’s journey was a pleasure to read. I’d recommend it for all!
American Sunrise by Joy Harjo
Be who you are, even if it kills you.
Over and over again.
Even as you live.
Break my heart, why don’t you?
Short Description: Nobel Laureate Joy Harjo recounts the Mvskoke people’s forcible removal from their land, intertwining their pain with her own family’s inherited trauma.
Critic Quote: “Her work is also a stark reminder of what poetry is for and what it can do: how it can hold contradictory truths in mind, how it keeps the things we ought not to forget alive and present.” – NPR
My Verdict: Well constructed and poignant, while not each of those poems landed with me, they’re all strong enough to encourage me to continue reading Harjo’s work.
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Life’s all about the revolution, isn’t it? The one inside, I mean. You can’t change history. You can’t change the world. All you can ever change is yourself.
Short Description: Teenage Andi has nearly given up on life when she travels to Paris with her father and becomes enamored with the diary of a young woman living during the French Revolution.
Critic Quote: “This is a great example of young adult fiction: beautifully written and thoroughly researched yet not, to borrow Patrick Ness’s phrase, ‘an adjective novel’. There is an emotional vividness and a delight in story that will speak strongly to teenagers.” – The Guardian
My Verdict: The book that got me back into reading at fourteen, this novel is one I’m so glad to revisit, loving it all the same today (even if its initial melodrama was a bit off-putting). A wonderful YA read.
Blood Sisters by Kim Yideum
I’m just a defeated youth, a scream, a lamentation thrust into the sky.
Short Description: Jeong Yeoul navigates the political landscape and personal sufferings of 1980s South Korea, finding her own authentic way to live.
Critic Quote: “Blood Sisters is a thought-provoking work on how control and violence are interwoven in all aspects of these students’ lives.” – Korean Literature Now
My Verdict: An introspective and vivid portrayal of a young woman’s trials and victories — I found myself reading this in one sitting, as Yideum’s writing is addicting, sharp, and always propels the action forward.
A Planet to Win by Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen, Thea Riofrancos, Naomi Klein
That’s why the Green New Deal must combine climate action with attacks on social inequalities. Only then can we build enough public support and grassroots organizing to break the stranglehold of the status quo, and give people reasons to keep fighting for more.
Short Description: A brief, comprehensive analysis on why a Green New Deal is necessary to combat the current environmental crisis.
Critic Quote: “As grand as some of the schemes can sound, the authors use compelling historical analogies to defend their plausibility.” – Foreign Policy
My Verdict: Well-written and accessible, the text is definitely recommended for those new and eager to learn about the environmental changes necessary for the USA to helpfully contribute to the current climate change crisis (even if some excerpts seemed a bit too optimistic or mind-numbingly boring).
She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo
“Should I dream you afraid
so that you are forced to save
Short Description: Nobel Laureate Joy Harjo observers women’s victories and sufferings in this poetry collection.
Critic Quote: “Harjo’s poems ache with grit, grief and nature. They feel like that moment of insomnia when twilight breaks. ” – The Rumpus
My Verdict: This collection didn’t particularly resonate with me, despite Harjo’s obvious skill.