March Reads

March has been an up and down (but productive) month for me, but I’m glad to have read such a diverse collection of books (including some manga which I haven’t listed here, as they were all continuations of earlier mentioned series.) I also completed weird zeal‘s Women’s History Month readathon bingo sheet, which I shown below. Though I don’t have any particular readathons planned for April, I do plan on selecting a few reads to celebrate Autism Awareness month. Al that being said, I’m excited for what’s next!

All Photos Courtesy of Goodreads

Carry:A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land by Toni Jensen

It’s okay, I’ve learned, to love the things that make you, even if they also are the things that unmake you.

Short Description: A collection of poetic recollections on the intersections of gun violence in indigenous racism, sexism, poverty, and more.

Critic Quote: “This beautiful assemblage of essays braids a visceral reminder of America’s current troubles, and a deeper understanding of how they came to be.” –Publisher’s Weekly

My Verdict: I appreciated the lyrical writing and insights on legacies of violence, though I sometimes got lost in the chronology of the narrative.

Aphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista Matter

I treat my greatest loves like seeds. When I’m ready, I put them down and I seldom look back at what has grown behind me. I keep my eyes trained ahead. There is always more ground to cover.

Short Description: A collection of short poems covering the author’s insights on trauma, sexuality, gender, violence, and more.

Critic Quote: “There was something so unique about this collection and I love that the author included her illustrations and art work. She is incredibly talented and I think she has a lot of important things to say. I am confident that a lot of readers will feel heard by Mateer’s poetry and I found them to be extremely accessible.” –Kristin Kraves Books

My Verdict: The simplistic writing just didn’t do it for me.

Full Review Here

Under Red Skies by Karoline Kan

I was more certain than ever that being poor was the most unfortunate thing in the world.

Short Description: The first English-language memoir by a Chinese Millennial, Under Red Skies documents Kan’s adolescence and career in 1980s China.

Critic Quote: “Kan—a former New York Times writer, and currently an editor at China Dialogue—is a clear and straightforward writer, walking readers through her own life and that of her family.” –Asian Review of Books

My Verdict: A fascinating memoir that, despite its direct, simplistic writing style, provides an engaging in-depth view of growing up in China from the perspective of a Chinese millennial.

The Roommate by Rosie Danan

Isn’t that what all of us want deep down? Someone to hold us at the end of the line?

Short Description: Anxious socialite Clare Wheaton’s world shifts when she moves to Los Angeles to follow a childhood love, only to have him ditch her last minute, leaving her with a handsome, mysterious roommate whose life quickly becomes entangled with her own.

Critic Quote: “A deliciously fresh romance with strong characters and feminist themes.” –Kirkus Reviews

My Verdict: Very sweet and witty. I loved the main duo – though I did wish there was more of an explanation of the inevitable fallout with Clare’s family at the book’s conclusion (also, as someone who is terrified of driving, the driving sequence really did not appeal to me, lol). 

Hunger by Roxane Gay

There is an anxiety in being yourself, though. There is the haunting question of “What if?” always lingering. What if who I am will never be enough? What if I will never be right enough for someone?

Short Description: Professor and writer Roxane Gay recounts the story of her body, covering the intersection of gender, race, poverty, and fat phobia.

Critic Quote: “This memoir of suffering and survival subtly questions not just how we judge ‘fat’, but how we dare to judge at all.” –The Guardian

My Verdict: This is the second time I’ve read this memoir and it still hits just as hard. An outstanding narrative I’d recommend to all.

These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card

Norma tried to warn them, to put fear in them, because it was clear that they had none. Norma would say what her mother told her: fear is what keeps little girls alive. What about blood? they asked Norma.

Short Description: A compact, generational family epic beginning with a Jamaican man who changes his identity, altering the lives of his children and the ghosts surrounding them.

Critic Quote: “Card is a natural storyteller. Whole family histories are compressed into two pages, stories building upon stories like strata of earth.” –The Washington Post

My Verdict: Intense, rich writing with a complicated plot that can be difficult to follow. Consider your own reading tastes before picking up.

Full Review Here

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

The default assumption tends to be that it is politically important to designate everyone as beautiful, that it is a meaningful project to make sure that everyone can become, and feel, increasingly beautiful. We have hardly tried to imagine what it might look like if our culture could do the opposite—de-escalate the situation, make beauty matter less.

Short Description: A collection of essays on race, sexuality, feminism, internet, and “hustle culture” written by prolific essayist Jia Tolentino.

Critic Quote: “And [Tolentino’s] work is marked by that environment – in which you must be swift, bold and flexible, playful but persuasive, willing to perform yourself close-up and ready to be attacked for it, constantly aware of how you’re seen, competing for elusive attention, preparing for immediate counterargument. It would be easy to call this a context in which reflection, robbed of the requisite time and space, simply can’t exist, but Tolentino is one of several examples to the contrary; she’s learned to reflect differently, and part of what her pieces reveal is that harsh, seductive, disorienting environment itself, as bleak and fragmented as it is glossy..” –The Guardian

My Verdict: I unfortunately found Tolentino’s writing superfluous and often predictable. While there were definitely excerpts I enjoyed, I can’t say I’ll be picking up her future works.

Island Queen by Vanessa Riley

Tonight, I’ll tell the young women my story. They’ll hear me, take my words, and work them into their souls.

Short Description: A historical fiction focusing on the incredible live of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a woman born into slavery who later rose to freedom and riches through her business savvy, tenacity, and bravery.

Critic Quote: “Richly detailed, vividly depicted, and sweeping in scope, Island Queen is historical fiction at its absolute finest. A stunning must-read!” –Author Chanel Cleeton

My Verdict: Engaging, visual writing with an interesting story, even if it runs a bit long.

Full Review Here

Fairest by Meredith Talusan

I came to understand that what I wanted was to be seen as my complete self — my gender, my race, my history — without being judged because of it. I wanted people close to me to see an albino person who had learned how to look and act white so the world would more readily accept her, and understand how that had been part of her survival. 

Short Description: The memoir of an albino Filipino transgender writer and her coming of age.

Critic Quote: “Ultimately, Fairest rejects the prescriptive qualities of the gender/sex system and functions as a rallying cry for whiteness to be rethought of as a blank canvas.” –LA Review of Books

My Verdict: I unfortunately did not enjoy this memoir. Personally, I felt like there was a surprising lack of introspection from the author, which is a pretty critical element to a memoir.

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

Solving a problem for which you know there’s an answer is like climbing a mountain with a guide, along a trail someone else has laid. In mathematics, the truth is somewhere out there in a place no one knows, beyond all the beaten paths. And it’s not always at the top of the mountain. It might be in a crack on the smoothest cliff or somewhere deep in the valley.

Short Description: A housekeeper comes to work for a math professor whose memory only lasts eighty minutes at a time.

Critic Quote: “The book as a whole is an exercise in delicate understatement, of the careful arrangement of featherlight materials into a surprisingly strong structure.” –The Guardian

My Verdict: Calm, pensive, and simple, but full of emotion and depth. A quick read worth picking up.

Go With the Flow by Lily Williams

I have three best friends who mean the world to me. With them at my side, I’ve spent the entire school year focusing on making a difference and changing people’s minds about periods.

Short Description: Four high school best friends join together to confront stigma, discrimination, and fears of menstruation.

Critic Quote: “There’s so much to love about the honest, loving friendships in this graphic novel, and the realistic, vulnerable ways conversations about menstruation fit into their lives. Every period is different, and Go with the Flow shows both the physical and financial costs, and empowers women to stand up together to normalize a biological function.” –Common Sense Media

My Verdict: Incredibly sweet and well-structured. I wish I had this book in middle school.

Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Hold it gently, this hungry beast that is your heart.

Short Description: A lush, emotions tale of two estranged two and their otherworldly mother who wishes to see them reconnect.

Critic Quote: “One of the most compelling elements of Butter Honey Pig Bread is the way that it explores trauma. Ekwuyasi does not tie pain up in a bow and endeavour to solve it through the use of cloying cliches. Instead, her work honours its thorny reality. As the book comes to an end, the weight of its impact lingers. Butter Honey Pig Bread is more than a book — it’s an experience.” –Hamilton Review of Books

My Verdict: Absolutely outstanding. Beautiful writing, fluid pacing and structure, a heart-breaking story filled with so much light.

Full Review Here

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

You will never remember the great if you do not remember the small.

Short Description: A fantastical tale of the legacy of a mysterious queen, recounted by an old woman to a wandering cleric.

Critic Quote: “Along with her fine ear for musical sentences, Vo has a gift for this kind of doled-out wisdom. It goes hand in hand with her gift for storytelling, the around-the-fire type. The layers of narration in this novella give us the sense that we are getting a long-lost true tale, passed from person to person, rather than a history coldly recorded by the victors.” –Locus Mag

My Verdict:  Beautiful writing and a compact story (that I had difficulty following at times). I’d still highly recommend this for those seeking a unique fantasy tale.

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

She wanted that satisfaction. She wanted it for herself wanted it like a half-starved alley-rat watching that table through a window on a bellyaching night. She didn’t know how to get it—but she had a feeling that if she stuck with the Librarians for long enough, she might be able to figure it out. How to feast instead of starving.

How to like the person who she was instead of fighting it.

Short Description: In a western, post-apocalyptic United States, a young woman joins a group of Librarians to find a kind of freedom.

Critic Quote: “Gailey wears their heart and viewpoint on their sleeve, and Upright Women Wanted is that much better for it. Couched in tart language, hard-bitten imagery, and pulp-Western punch, the novella benefits from its brevity. There’s not a word or scene wasted, and the world-building hints at the enormity of America’s imagined collapse without overdoing it..” –NPR

My Verdict: A really fun and exciting post-apocalyptic western! Tight structure, enjoyable pacing, with visually rich descriptions.

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