July Reads

During the month of July I’ve read quite a bit – romance, poetry, historical fiction, contemporary literature, nonfiction, and others! In this list you’ll find my picks for Disability Awareness Month as well as the controversial ReadingRush Readathon (which I won’t be continuing next year). Overall, I’m pleased with the diverse reads I’ve engaged with this month and look forward to Women in Translation month this August!

All Photos Courtesy of Goodreads

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

The world wasn’t split into unhappy endings and happily ever afters. There were blessings everywhere and a thousand shades of joy all around him.

Short Description: A shy security guard asks his crush, a PHD studying feminist to fake date him for his charity – she agrees, so long as there’s some no-strings-attached benefits as well – but things don’t turn out the way she expects.

Critic Quote: “Funny, deep, and romantic as hell. Will leave you smiling for days.” –Kirkus Reviews

My Verdict: Sweet, cute, funny, and spicy — an absolute must for fans of romance!

Notes of A Native Son by James Baldwin

Most people are not naturally reflective any more than they are naturally malicious, and the white man prefers to keep the black man at a certain human remove because it is easier for him thus to preserve his simplicity and avoid being called to account for crimes committed by his forefathers, or his neighbors

Short Description: A collection of essays focused on literary criticism and traveling from the perspective of James Baldwin.

Critic Quote: “The expression of so many insights enriches rather than clarifies, and behind every page stalks a man, an everyman, seeking his identity…and ours. Exceptional writing.” –Kirkus Reviews

My Verdict: Though some of the literary criticism went over my head, I enjoyed this short collection and would recommend for the travel essays alone.

Eye Level by Jenny Xie

If only the journey between two people didn’t take a lifetime.

Short Description: A collection of poetry that works off sound, place, and memory from Vietnam to NYC.

Critic Quote: “The poems dazzle in their local details, even as they pine for global reach and scale.” –The New Yorker

My Verdict: Unfortunately this poetry collection simply didn’t resonate with me.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

Nothing can grow in the shade of secrets, she would say, love needs light and space to flourish.

Short Description: An expansive, epic tale of a couple forced together, through tragedy, who escape the Spanish Civil War for Chile, and their turbulent story of endurance, love, and hope.

Critic Quote: “In that vein, Allende allows her writing to breathe. It’s light and fast. . . her work moves with the economy of a fairy tale, as she collapses the long lives of her characters into a quick 13 chapters. Her language is direct and compressed. There is no ornament to her description of Spain and Chile, but rather than feeling brutalist or cold it comes across as melancholic.” –LA Review of Books

My Verdict: Though this book was a bit difficult to get into at first, once again, I’m astounded by Allende’s ability to tell stories across vast stretches of time and all the various Spanish/Chilean/World’s political struggles therein, all while keeping her characters sharp and in focus. Definitely recommend!

Read full review HERE

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

I am doing my best to not become a museum of myself.

I am doing my best to breathe in and out.

I am begging: Let me be lonely but not invisible.

But in an American room of one hundred people, I am Native American—less than one, less than whole—I am less than myself.

Only a fraction of a body, let’s say, I am only a hand— and when I slip it beneath the shirt of my lover I disappear completely.

Short Description: A collection of poetry focusing on indigenous rights and struggles.

Critic Quote: “Here, Diaz revels in one of the greatest marks of her poetic genius: her move from realism to the fantastic made real, bound and anchored by theme, language, metaphor and allusion.” –NPR

My Verdict: Masterfully constructed, memorable, and visually rich, this is a poetry collection you must pick up!

The Great Passage by Shion Miura

They had made a ship. A ship bearing the souls of people traveling from ancient times toward the future, across the ocean rich with words.

Short Description: A brief tale of a small publishing houses’ venture to create a new dictionary, with romance brewing beneath the surface.

Critic Quote: “ ‘The Great Passage’ is stylistically adept, with the shift in narratives smoothly connecting as characters’ stories overlap through time and space. The novel leaves readers with plenty of thoughtful insights on life, words and the importance of finding your greatness.” –Japan Times

My Verdict: This was such a cute, light, romantic tale. Though not particularly memorable, this is quick, enjoyable, and easy to breeze through!

Voices of Cherokee Women collected by Carolyn Ross Johnston

Since Cherokee Women had more freedom and power than their counterparts in Europe, Europeans viewed this reversal of patriarchal values as deviant, uncivilized, sinful, and deeply threatening.

Short Description: A collection of essays, letters, songs, and diary entries of Cherokee women during the European invasion of the US.

Critic Quote: “ The book also reveals how the rather warped European attitudes about topics like sex, power and responsibility changed the Cherokee people, deeply diminishing the power of women under challenges from a white, patriarchal society.” – Kirkus Reviews

My Verdict: A welcome addition to indigenous texts – read for the history, the heartbreak, and the endurance these women reveal.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

People don’t find it very sympathetic or endearing, a woman who puts herself first. 

Short Description: The riveting history of a mysterious Hollywood star is examined through the eyes of a young reporter, who must discover the brilliant and brutal truths of the dynamic trailblazer.

Critic Quote: “This book has a way of making you feel. I’m not ashamed to say I cried at some parts. It is written in a way that you connect with the characters, particularly with Evelyn.” –The Nerd Daily

My Verdict: Just as good as everyone says. Read for the hollywood drama, thrilling love story, and a bold protagonist who refuses to give up.

Care Work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha

Disability Justice allowed me to understand that me writing from my sickbed wasn’t me being weak or uncool or not a real writer but a time-honoured crip creative practice. And that understanding allowed me to finally write from a disabled space, for and about sick and disabled people, including myself, without feeling like I was writing about boring, private things that no one would understand.

Short Description: A rich text that dissects a variety of aspects surrounding disability justice and experiences as well as how disability intersects with race, gender, sexuality, and class.

Critic Quote: “Written very accessibly, these essays cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on the ways that disabled people, particularly those also marginalised due to race, gender, sexuality and class, work to help each other survive through ‘care webs’, when the state and non-disabled people will not provide care, or when the existing systems do more to harm than help. This book is full of both eloquent personal reflection on what it’s like to live as a chronically ill person of colour, and hard-won practical experience and wisdom about community organising.” –Spoonie Hacker

My Verdict: An essential text on disability justice – dense with knowledge and empathy and a book I’ll be reading again and again and again and again.

Read full review HERE

Sula by Toni Morrison

I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.

Short Description: Two best friends drift apart only to reunite through betrayal.

Critic Quote: “. In “Sula,” Morrison rewrites the very act of writing — making it seem like a new phenomenon, a secret blasted open and gifted to you in sentences that breathe like human beings.” –LA Times

My Verdict: A short, but well-written and beautiful read.

Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole

She was a successful Black woman in online nerd culture, which took stamina and thick skin to say the least. She didn’t let anything get in her way — she knocked social media trolls off their bridges like she was the biggest billy goat gruff. When she navigated her wheelchair through crowded conventions, people parted before her like the Red Sea or got the backs of their ankles fucked up.

Short Description: A leader in nerd culture teams up with a game developer to create the perfect project . . . and end up falling in love.

Critic Quote: “There are a whole lot of small details of disability representation that make it clear that Cole really did her research for this.” –Sense Disability

My Verdict: Super cute and well-written. My only gripe was how rushed the ending was – a longer book would have done this story justice. Still, I’m always glad to see a fluffy story with diverse representation.

Disfured:On Fairytales,Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc

Give me a story about a disabled man or woman who learns to navigate the world and teaches the world, in turn, to navigates its own way around the disabled body. Give me power and also weakness, struggle but also reams of joy. Our lives are made of this fabric–our stories deserve nothing less.

Short Description: An analysis of how disability is represented (or more accurately, misrepresented) in various European fairytales, interlaced with the author’s childhood.

Critic Quote: “Read this smart, tenacious book.” –The Washington Post

My Verdict: A bit circuitous at times, but an overall insightful and well-written exploration of ableism in European fairytales. I especially enjoyed how the author wove her own adolescence with her analysis and found her dissection of The Little Mermaid, The Maiden with No Hands, and Beaty and the Beast expertly done

Read full review HERE

Frida in America by Celia Stahr

Duality was ultimately at the root of Frida’s sense of self—not a divided self, but one that was at peace with the search for a unification of opposites, as the Aztecs and alchemists espoused. It related to her bisexuality, her androgyny, her ethnicity, her marriage, and her art.

Short Description: A historical overview of Frida Kahlo’s three years in the USA and how her professional career blossomed during this time.

Critic Quote: “Featuring meticulous research and elegant turns of phrase, Stahr’s engrossing account provides scholarly though accessible analysis for both feminists and art lovers.” –Publisher’s Weekly

My Verdict: A wonderful intro for those interested in learning about Frida Kahlo. I enjoyed many of the details Stahr provided, offering a very full view of Kahlo’s years in the USA and her complex personality, art style, and political views —though, perhaps the descriptions were a bit too full. The book felt a somewhat overwritten at times, especially in its second half and would have greatly benefitted from having Kahlo’s works interwoven throughout the text to accompany the art analyses. All in all, I would still definitely recommend this book!

Dietland by Sarai Walker

We can’t hide it or fake it. We’ll never fit society’s idea for how women should look and behave, but why is that a tragedy? We’re free to live how we want. It’s liberating, if you choose to see it that way.

Short Description: The electric tale of how a plus-size advice columnist’s pursuit of weight loss intersects with a radical feminist terrorist organization that seeks to take revenge on rapists, abusers, etc.

Critic Quote: “Disguised as a light chick-lit novel about body image, Sarai Walker’s debut is scathing about the images to which women have tied their value and worth.” –The Guardian

My Verdict: I was expecting a bit more from the ending, but overall this is a fantastic, electric read.

Felon by Reginald Dwayne Betts

If I told her how often I thought

Of prison she would walk out

Of the door that’s led just as much

To madness as any home we

Desired, she would walk our & never

Return; my employers would call

Me a liar & fire me. My dreams are

Not all nightmares, but this history

Has turned my mind’s landscape into

A gadroon. I do not sing…

Short Description: A sharp collection of poetry that examines the before, after, and lived experiences of prison abuse and injustice.

Critic Quote: “The book shows how poems can be enlisted to radically disrupt narrative: stanzas interrupt the flow and sequence of time by constantly hitting refresh . . .” –The New Yorker

My Verdict: A visceral, stunning collection of poetry. Though not all poems have equal power, this is such a unique book, I have to recommend it.

Disability Visibility collected by Alice Wong

I shared my stories. I received others in return. We were compelled, I think, to make this exchange. There were stories about injuries, about illness, about operations, about depression and mourning and love. We’d pause when we finished sharing. We’d sit comfortably in the silence. We didn’t have to explain how we felt.

Short Description: A series of essays by various disabled writers on disability justice, perspectives, and experiences.

Critic Quote: “In a way, many of the pieces in this collection call for a similarly necessary and well overdue consideration: for the lives of disabled people to be acknowledged for their irreducible humanity, brought in from the sidelines, and included within the frame of human society, as part of its tissue.” –Columbia Journal

My Verdict: Powerful and a breeze to read though (which is not to say that the material is particularly light), this is a great entry for those eager to learn more about disability justice.

The Red Moon by Kuwana Haulsey

It has taken me a very long time to begin to understand that freedom needs no validation.

Short Description: A young Kenyan girl pursues her dream of education and becoming a great writer all while carrying on her back the pain of her parents and the racial/gendered barriers she faces in the present.

Critic Quote: “Despite the clearly evident sincerity, disappointingly unaffecting.” –Kirkus Reviews

My Verdict: Full of beautiful imagery, but also a confusing plot. Consider your own tastes before picking it up.

Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee

Because I had been unfair to my body, I had been unfair to myself. I began to value my own resilience and strength.

Short Description: A young woman endures a life-altering stroke which breaks her life apart — and now it’s up to her to rebuild it again.

Critic Quote: “ ‘Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember‘ seems unfinished, as if pieces have yet to be written to complete its translation from blog to book. Lee writes primarily in short, idiomatic sentences and paragraphs whose plainness appears to be designed to emphasize the drama of events. This reads cleanly on the internet (the book grew out of a BuzzFeed essay that went viral), but it doesn’t lend stamina to a 250-page narrative.” –The New York Times

My Verdict: Mixed feelings with this one. The actual story, the content, is quite good and I especially loved the author’s honesty and her depiction of her childhood. Still, the chronology was somewhat confusing, the medical detail a bit too in depth for someone who hasn’t studied the impact of strokes on one’s body, the metaphors a bit drawn out, and overall, the message being circuitous. Though I’m happy to have read this book, it took me a while to get through because of the above points. Consider your own tastes before picking it up!

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

“ ‘We all have a void,’ Del said a moment later. ‘Something that’s missing in us. Something we need but don’t want to admit or don’t even know we’re missing until we find it in that other person. If you want to fix this thing with Thea, figure out what she’s missing inside. Stroke that broken part of her until it doesn’t hurt anymore. That’s how to say I love you to Thea.’”

Short Description: Baseball superstar Gavin Scott must save his crumbling marriage through the help of The Bromance Book Club – a group of men who read romance novels to forge stronger relationships with their spouses.

Critic Quote: The Bromance Book lived up to every bit of last year’s buzz. It’s a terrific romance AND a marvelous story about relationships at the same time. So if you’re looking for a book to really pick you up and make you smile, The Bromance Book Club is a winner.” –Reading Reality

My Verdict: It was alright! I think the main reason I didn’t enjoy this as much was because of the way children/pregnancy was a major focus of the book, and those themes/elements don’t resonate with me , especially in romance.

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