ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Tuesday

17

January 2017

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COMMENTS

March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Written by , Posted in Politics, Reviews

Five Stars

Best for: Anyone who thinks we don’t still need the voting rights act.

In a nutshell: This is the final – and longest – of three graphic novels about the life of John Lewis. It covers the mid-60s, culminating in the march from Selma to Montgomery and the passing of the voting rights act.

Line that sticks with me: “In Mississippi that summer we suffered more than 1000 arrests, 80 beatings, 35 shootings, 35 church burnings, and 30 bombings.”

Why I chose it: Because the first two books were great and I wanted to learn more.

Review: This final book covers a lot of ground, starting with a church bombing that killed four little girls, through voter registration drives that were accompanied by murders, and a peaceful march that ended up dubbed Bloody Sunday thanks to the vicious actions of the police.

It’s a rough read, but a critical one. I learned so much in the 250 pages, including more detail on some events that I had vaguely heard about previously. For example, I knew that the 1964 Democratic National Convention was contentious, but I didn’t know any of the details. It was so impressive to read about the very deliberate attempts to get the voices of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party heard.

Reading about the people who stood in line all day, not allowed to leave to drink water or use the bathroom, only to not be allowed to register to vote – or to be ‘allowed’ but then face ridiculously complicated literacy tests – was infuriating. Then to read about the passing of the voting rights act, and the triumph it was, only to be reminded about how the Supreme Court gutted it recently, leading to voter suppression during this most recent election. It’s like 20 steps forward, 19 steps back (forty years later).

Friday is going to happen, and some people will refer to the PEOTUS as President. Anyone who finds that deplorable but isn’t as well-educated on the past as they should be (like me) would be well advised to read this series to recognize what the fight for rights can look like.

Monday

16

January 2017

0

COMMENTS

March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Written by , Posted in Politics, Reviews

Five Stars

Best for: Anyone who doesn’t know about John Lewis. Also, anyone who does. Also, judging from the latest Pajiba post, Rob Schneider. Ooof.

In a nutshell: This is the second of three graphic novels about the life of John Lewis. It covers the early 60s, focusing on the Freedom Rides and the March on Washington.

Line that sticks with me: “We found out later that [Birmingham Police Chief ‘Bull’ Connor] had promised the Ku Klux Klan fifteen minutes with the bus before he’d make any arrests.”

Why I chose it: I really enjoyed book one and wanted to read the next part of the story.

Review: After I finished this book, I took a minute to wander over to Facebook and was greeted by a whole lot of crap being posted on the Pajiba article about Rob Schneider’s ignorant statement about Congressman Lewis and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It clearly was shared in some cesspool connected to the white supremacist movement, and it brought out some of the worst our country has to offer.

After finishing this book, I have no doubt that some of these same commenters would have thrown rocks and bottles at the Freedom Riders if they had been nearby. The same ones who claim that MLK ‘won’ civil rights, and that ‘reverse’ racism is the real problem, talk as though they would have supported the fight for integration and equal rights. But I see in them the people Congressman Lewis is talking about, who beat peaceful protestors sitting at lunch counters or who scoffed at those marching on Washington D.C. I see in them the same people who were angry that Black people were trying to buy tickets to see a movie in the whites-only theater, as opposed to the people who should have been angry that a whites-only theater even existed. I think I used to buy into the idea that racism would fade away as the old racist whites died off, but the last few months have shown me – a bit late, I know – that the old racist whites are being replaced by young racist whites who are just champing at the bit to spit in the faces of people seeking the equal rights that this country is still denying to so many.

This book was harder to read than Book One, but I also think it was a bit better. In discussing the freedom rides and other actions, it really gets into the discussions and disagreement that can arise when movements have the same goal but different methods. I think it is naïve to believe that everyone who is ostensibly fighting for the same causes and outcomes will agree on how to do that, and it’s inappropriate to judge the efficacy of a movement just because not everyone agrees on how to act.

Monday

16

January 2017

0

COMMENTS

March: Book One by John Lewis, Adrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: Anyone who doesn’t know about John Lewis. Also, anyone who does. Also, the PEOTUS, because damn.

In a nutshell: This is the first of three graphic novels about the life of John Lewis. It covers his childhood through early college, including his participation in lunch counter sit-ins.

Line that sticks with me: “The police, conspicuously absent while we were beaten, arrived quickly after the mob wore themselves out.”

Why I chose it: My husband purchased the three books last year and just finished the last two this weekend. I haven’t enjoyed graphic novels I’d read previously, but given the shameful comments the soon-to-be President shared this weekend, I thought I’d give it a go.

Review: I have a feeling that this is going to happen a lot with the books I choose this year, but wow, my mostly white, all-suburban California public education failed me in many ways when it comes to U.S. history and current affairs. Also, my parents didn’t express any interest in making sure I was aware of the civil rights movement. I wish I’d recognized then how critical it would be to learn about that part of history, but I’m catching up as much as I can now.

I appreciate the storytelling device, which follows Congressman Lewis through the day when President Obama is inaugurated, and provides opportunities for him to tell his story to a constituent who happens to stop by. We learn about his childhood on a farm, his segregated schooling, his attempt to attend a white college that ignored his application, and finally his work organizing and participating in nonviolent protests of racist policies.

I know there is a naïveté in what I’m about to say, but even though I know it is real, I still have a challenging time accepting that there are people who will shout the n-word and beat up black people, and police who stand by (or actively participate). I just cannot understand. I know it happened – and still happens today – it’s just that it’s so. Fucking. Ridiculous.

The focus on nonviolent protest also intrigues me, because while I can see how effective it can be, I also do wonder about the effectiveness of violence as self-defense. One of my best friends is Quaker, and we’ve had many discussions about the Quaker commitment to pacifism, and the challenges of how we’d like the world to be (one where people do respond to nonviolent protest) versus the world we live in (where that isn’t always the case).

I’m looking forward to reading the next volume, both to learn more about Congressman Lewis and to see what I can learn from his actions that can help as I fight against the injustices going on right now.

Sunday

15

January 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading: January 15, 2017

Written by , Posted in Childfree, Feminism, Politics, What I'm Reading

At this time next week, President Obama will be former President Obama. He did many things I disagree with, but I will miss him so much.

Fight Back

  • “During a town hall meeting, an ex-Reagan campaigner — who initially opposed Obamacare — stood in front of Paul Ryan and thanked President Obama, saying that without the ACA, he would be dead today. Ryan essentially offered him a lie, saying something to the effect that after the ACA is repealed, it will be replaced with high-risk pools, which do not work. But don’t worry. Paul Ryan also showed the town-hall audience that he knows how to do The Dab. SAVED!” The Appalling Last 24 Hours Of GOP Politics (by Dustin Rowles, @Pajiba)
  • “The platform supports increased accountability for perpetrators of police brutality and racial profiling, demanding the demilitarization of American law enforcement and an end to mass incarceration. It calls for comprehensive antidiscrimination protections, health care, and gender-affirming identity documents for LGBTQ people. It calls unions “critical to a healthy and thriving economy” and aligns the march with movements for the rights of sex workers, farmworkers, and domestic workers.” The Women’s March on Washington Has Released an Unapologetically Progressive Platform (by Christina Cauterucci, via @Slate)
  • “That’s right: Sessions was apparently too racist for the GOP of Ronald Reagan but will likely pass muster with the GOP of Donald Trump. And when critics say Sessions’s confirmation would be a blow to equality, it’s not just about comments from his past — it’s about his present-day views. His positions on voting rights, criminal justice, and immigration mean confirmation would represent a massive setback for civil rights for African Americans and other people of color.” If you want the truth about racism, listen to the Sessions hearing, not just Obama’s farewell (by Jenee Desmond-Harris, via @vox)

Ableism

  • “The outrage over the mocking stems from a perception of disability that is stigmatizing in and of itself: We’re a defenseless group, already leading pitiable lives. Never mind that Kovaleski is a successful, established reporter. Because of his disability, he’s viewed as an underdog. Streep’s speech directly played into this stigma, referring to Kovaleski as “someone [Trump] out-ranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back.” Though that’s true in that Kovaleski is just a journalist while Trump is a wealthy President-elect with a major following and constant media coverage, it’s evident that Streep meant what she said in reference to Kovaleski’s disability. Kovaleski has now become a shallow symbol of disability, a poor guy being bullied, while the rest of his humanity is ignored.” I’m A Disabled Woman Who’s NOT Celebrating Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes Speech (by Emily Ladau, via @ESTBLSHMNT)

Capitalism

  • “As a businessman, he said it was fair enough for him to be concerned about protecting his properties from abusive partners who might smash his doors down. He admitted that the system was stacked against single people on average or lower incomes — but said poor people were not his concern.” Kent landlord bans ‘battered wives’ and single mothers from renting properties (by Charlotte England, h/t @ACallToMenUK)

Representation

“Justice” System

  • “Although Mosby’s attorneys said she had immunity from prosecution for actions taken as a state’s attorney, Garbis noted that her office had said it conducted an independent investigation.” Federal Judge Allows Malicious Prosecution Lawsuit Against Marilyn Mosby to Proceed (by Monique Judge, via The Root)
  • “Police officers are starkly divided by race, about race. Among white officers, 92 percent say the country has made the changes needed to give black people equal rights to white people. Just 6 percent of white officers say the country needs to continue making changes to give black people equal rights. Among black officers, those percentages are 29 percent and 69 percent, respectively. The racial gap on the issue among police officers is much wider than it is among all Americans. Among both white and black Americans, civilians are far more likely than officers to say the country needs to keep changing to address racism.” Police Officers Say Scrutiny Of Police Killings Has Made Their Job Tougher (by Carl Bialik, via Five Thirty Eight)

Reproductive Choice

  • “Once you have kids, you start to want them to do better, to be better off, than everyone else, and you make decisions that may be good for your own family but not for society or the world. People always talk about having kids as an unselfish act. And it is true that once you have them, you, in some sense, subordinate yourself to them. But you also subordinate everything else to them, as an extension of yourself, which makes you far more, rather than less, selfish. When you say, “I’d give the world for you,” you mean it, and you do.” My wife and I don’t want kids. Ever. So I decided to get a vasectomy. (by Baynard Woods, via @Vox)
  • “H.R. 490 (legislative text found here) would prohibit abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected. This can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — a time period before many women know they’re pregnant.” A New Bill Introduced in Congress Would Constitute a Total Abortion Ban (by Gabriella Paiella, via @NYMag)

Sexual Assault

  • “Preventing colleges from investigating sexual assault incidents until the conclusion of a criminal case, which typically takes anywhere from six months to three years, sometimes even longer, would directly conflict with what the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights says schools must do under the gender equity law Title IX.” Georgia Lawmaker Wants To Stop Colleges From Investigating Rapes (by Tyler Kingkade, via @BuzzFeedNews)

Sunday

15

January 2017

0

COMMENTS

On Living by Kerry Egan

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for: Someone who wants to provoke (a bit of) deeper thinking on the ways we live our lives.

In a nutshell: A hospice chaplain uses stories from families and individuals she has assisted to make sense of life.

Line that sticks with me: “The things you lose do shape who you become. But the losses don’t obliterate what came before.”

Why I Chose It: This was an impulse buy only in that it was on my list and I didn’t yet own it. I added this one when I saw it being mentioned in multiple different forums. But yesterday, as we were wandering a book store, I thought maybe it would be a somewhat profound choice to read as I celebrated my birthday.

Review: I enjoy reading books like this, which involve health or medical information intertwined with personal stories. Ms. Egan is a hospice chaplain who, years earlier, experienced months of postpartum psychosis after a very challenging childbirth. She weaves that story throughout the book, providing a lens through which the reader can connect the sometimes-philosophical items to the realities we live in.

The stories were all interesting but not overly sentimental or heart-wrenching. Everyone is dying, so that obviously sets a certain baseline, but I did not find myself tearing up at all, which I often find myself doing when reading books like this one. Some moments were funny, some were sweet, and some were sad.

The nuggets of wisdom that come from these stories and the ways Ms. Egan connect them to her own life experiences are relatable. Ideas about how to be kinder to yourself and others, the things we put off, the ways we live based on other people’s opinions, all were within the realm of my reality. I underlined quite a few passages that I know I’ll go back to.

As a final aside, I am not a religious person, so I appreciated that while there was definitely talk of religion, the stories rarely involved discussion of God or religion, but when they did, they certainly weren’t off-putting.

Sunday

8

January 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – January 8, 2017

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Politics, What I'm Reading

The horror show of the incoming administration continues to unfold. The latest? Paul Ryan seeking to deny access to medical care to millions of women who rely on Planned Parenthood. The misogyny is strong with that one.

Fight Back

  • “The use of the rule would not be simple; a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment. At the same time, opponents and supporters agree that the work of 2.1 million civil servants, designed to be insulated from politics, is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.” House Republicans revive obscure rule that allows them to slash the pay of individual federal workers to $1 (by Jenna Portnoy and Lisa Rein, via @WashingtonPost)
  • “Call it what you want. I don’t care. Complain that we’re making shit about race — you know what? We are. Complain that we’re keeping the left from focusing only on class — yup, and proudly so. Complain all you want because I am not and will never be ashamed of focusing on the politics of identity. I will not feel a moment’s guilt for slowing this whole train down to make sure that everyone can get on and we’re on the right track. I will proudly own up to making shit hard for you.” Thank God For Identity Politics (by Ijeoma Oluo, via @ESTBLSHMNT)
  • “Paul Ryan said that he would roll defunding Planned Parenthood into the reconciliation bill that will also include repealing Obamacare. That it’s a reconciliation bill means that in the Senate, they need only 50 votes to pass it. Republicans have 52 seats. As Kylie pointed out, defunding both Obamacare and Planned Parenthood would be a double whammy for low-income women and could be seen as an attack on human rights.” The Nightmarish Last 24 Hours of GOP Politics, Summarized (by Dustin Rowles, via @Pajiba)
  • ““We have got just a tremendous number of calls to our office here and district offices concerned about this,” Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) said, according to Bloomberg News. Jones’ Communications Director Allison Tucker told ThinkProgress the congressman also received numerous emails and messages on Facebook from constituents.” Flooded with phone calls from voters, House GOP drops effort to gut ethics panel (by Kira Lerner, via @ThinkProgress)
  • “I hate to disappoint anyone, but the breaking point for me wasn’t the trolls themselves (if I have learned anything from the dark side of Twitter, it is how to feel nothing when a frog calls you a cunt) – it was the global repercussions of Twitter’s refusal to stop them. The white supremacist, anti-feminist, isolationist, transphobic “alt-right” movement has been beta-testing its propaganda and intimidation machine on marginalised Twitter communities for years now – how much hate speech will bystanders ignore? When will Twitter intervene and start protecting its users? – and discovered, to its leering delight, that the limit did not exist. No one cared.” I’ve left Twitter. It is unusable for anyone but trolls, robots and dictators (by Lindy West, at The Guardian)
  • “These days everybody from left to right — from Dean Baker to conservative Arthur C. Brooks — addresses this breakdown of the labor market by advocating full employment, as if having a job is self-evidently a good thing, no matter how dangerous, demanding or demeaning it is. But “full employment” is not the way to restore our faith in hard work, or in playing by the rules or whatever. (Note that the official unemployment rate is already below 6 percent, which is pretty close to what economists used to call full employment.) Crappy jobs for everyone won’t solve any social problem we now face.” Column: Why we need to say goodbye to work (by James Livingston at PBS)

“Justice” System

  • ““[Cuomo] has rejected a groundbreaking and bipartisan fix to our deeply flawed public defense system and left in place the status quo, in which the state violates the rights of New Yorkers every day and delivers unequal justice,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.” New York governor celebrates New Year’s by denying effective counsel to the state’s poor (by Kira Lerner, via @ThinkProgress)
  • “According to the report, Dajerria Becton and her legal guardian, Shashona Becton, filed a complaint last month claiming that former Police Cpl. Eric Casebolt violated the teen’s constitutional rights through the use of excessive force and holding her without probable cause. The family is also saying that the city and the Police Department are responsible for her injuries by not training officers properly.” Black Teen Slammed to Ground at Texas Pool Party Sues Ex-Cop, City for $5,000,000 (by Breanna Edwards, via @TheRoot)
  • “Organized by the Arundel Bay Area Chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc., “Race & the Law” was one of more than 225 similar events held around the country last year and more than 50 such events scheduled across the nation in the first three months of 2017. They are places where anxious black parents bring their children in hopes of preparing them for potentially fateful encounters with the police. They are, in essence, mini boot camps for children about how to be black in 21st-century America.” Black parents take their kids to school on how to deal with police (by Janell Ross, via @WashingtonPost)

Sports

  • “In the first half of the Sugar Bowl, ESPN’s Brent Musburger embarked on a bumbling broadcast booth thought experiment about Mixon. He called the punch “troubling,” an adjective the (relative lack of) severity of which would be better applied to his own words than Mixon’s actions, before wishing the running back luck in the NFL. In and of itself, the soliloquy was tone deaf, not to mention what Musburger didn’t say. He uttered not a word about Molitor, and it would have been so easy. He could have wished her well in her recovery, or acknowledged that the video of the punch, released in December, seemed to show both students’ anger issues. At the least he could have expressed hope that both had dealt with that anger and would move on healed from that night. But not a word.” Joe Mixon’s actions, and how we’ve viewed them, cast shadow over Sugar Bowl (by Joan Niesen, via @JoanNiesen)

Sunday

1

January 2017

0

COMMENTS

Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: Anyone interested in fighting back.

In a nutshell: A mixture of interviews and speech transcripts that seeks to connect struggles for freedom across the world.

Line that sticks with me: “But those protest movements would not have been necessary – it would not have been necessary to create a mid-century Black freedom movement had slavery been comprehensively abolished in the nineteenth century.”

Why I Chose It: I decided to kick off participation in my fifth Cannonball Read with this book because I am hoping to be more intentional with my life, including my reading. Sure, there will be the occasional airport purchase, but what I’d like to do is choose books this year that can help me be a better activist, citizen, partner, and friend. Part of that means reading up on topics I don’t know enough about, and part of that means choosing authors that don’t look like me.

Review: Hopefully you’ve heard of Ms. Davis. She is a legendary activist and academic – you can read about her on her faculty page at UCSC or just employ the Google machine. I had only a passing familiarity with her work and life, but was motivated to pick up her writings after seeing her in Ava Duvernay’s excellent film “13.”

This book is deceptively brief, comprising only ten chapters and 145 pages. But those pages contain enough ideas to keep my mind going non-stop for years. One area that receives the focus of Ms. Davis’s work is prison abolition and its connection to the overall struggle for freedom. I have – partly due to my upbringing and the space I occupy in the world – found it challenging to fully understand how a world without prison could look, but I am learning, and this book helped direct me to further resources.

More importantly, the essays in this collection make the case for connection between so many struggles that may not be immediately obvious to those not well versed in history. I recall seeing murals depicting solidarity with Palestine when I was visiting the Catholic parts of Belfast in the north of Ireland, but I haven’t done the work to connect fight against occupation in Palestine with other fights for freedom. Ms. Davis makes a compelling case for the ways so many of these struggles are connected, and how much we have to learn from each other.

There are just two areas that kept me from rating this a five-star read. The first three chapters are in the form of an interview, and while Ms. Davis’s responses are full of interesting information, complex connections and suggestions for further exploration, the choice of interviewer left something to be desired. Condescending is probably too strong of a word to describe his questions, but I would have preferred to read Ms. Davis’s words uninterrupted. The second area is that while it makes sense that there would be a constancy of theme across the book, the chosen talks included often contained some repetition. For a relatively short book, I would have like to see a bit more variety.

Sunday

1

January 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading: January 1, 2017

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

We made it through 2016. I think it is reasonable to say that 2016 ended on a serious down note for the country. It was also a time when we lost so many artists that worked directly against convention. I know some people have said 2016 wasn’t any worse than any other year, and for them personally that might be the case. For me, I’m happy it is over. Now I’m looking at 2017 with intentionality, because we have a lot of work to do.

Fight Back

  • “No matter how much we’d like to hide in our homes for the next four years, we know that we cannot do that. We must fight for equality and justice. But the question is: how? What action can we take in the aftermath of such a heartbreaking defeat? As we start this new year, here are some resolutions for resistance.” Here are seven ways you can keep fighting for justice in 2017 (by Ijeoma Oluo, via @Guardian)
  • “Evil settles into everyday life when people are unable or unwilling to recognize it. It makes its home among us when we are keen to minimize it or describe it as something else. This is not a process that began a week or month or year ago. It did not begin with drone assassinations, or with the war on Iraq. Evil has always been here. But now it has taken on a totalitarian tone.” A Time for Refusal (by Teju Cole, h/t @summerbrennan)
  • “Calling rape a “controversial sexual encounter”? Calling a hate crime a “racially charged incident”? Calling an outright lie a “mistake”? Calling White Supremacists the “Alt-Right”? Call it out, each and every time, ask your friends and community to do the same, and keep your readership with publications who are not willing to coddle hatred in order to project a false sense of “objectivity.”” Your Guide To Overthrowing Media In 2017 (by Ijeoma Oluo, via ESTBLSHMNT)

Women in Science and Technology

  • “Rubin dealt with a lot of shit as a female astronomer. A science teacher initially told her to stay away from the field, she recalled in an interview. After calling her thesis “sloppy,” one of her Cornell advisers said that since she was pregnant, he could present her work for her at the American Astronomical Society meeting—under his name. “I can go,” she said. Since she was the first female astronomer to use the telescope at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, there were no women’s bathrooms, so she picked a bathroom and taped a paper cutout of a woman to it. When she applied to Princeton University for graduate school, she was told, “Princeton does not accept women,” according to the Washington Post.” The Woman Who Convinced Us That Dark Matter Existed Was Never Awarded a Nobel Prize (by Ryan F. Mandelbaum, on Gizmodo)

Racism

  • “Because we don’t teach real history during the K-12 years when history class is mandatory, by college, many Americans are left with the idea that racism is over because slavery and Jim Crow are over. That’s why there are many Americans with the flawed perception that the U.S. is post-racial, and that electing a Black president is proof we’re beyond our history.” We Need To Talk About Racism In Education (by Mikki Kendall, via @ESTBLSHMNT)
  • “Trump’s victory was applauded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who tweeted that he’s optimistic the people Trump is surrounding himself means “Americans are on the way to taking back our government.”” Bill O’Reilly embraces white nationalism (by Aaron Rupar, via @ThinkProgress)

Trans Rights

  • “Whether or not dad approves often signals how everyone else should feel about a child’s transition, specifically about the “loss” of a “son.” The roots for this are deeply steeped in misogyny, and established before the child is even born. Both times that my own ex-wife was pregnant, when I was still male-presenting, everyone would always ask if I wanted boys. Even when I replied that my child’s sex truly did not matter to me, I still got pushback: “yeah, but you REALLY want boys, right?” The expectation was that I would love any of my kids, but as a presumed man, I would REALLY love boys more. Interestingly, upon coming out as trans, more than one person has remarked “So THAT’S why you really wanted girls.”” The Media’s Unfair Focus On Trans Kids’ Moms Is Pure Misogyny (by Katelyn Burns, via @ESTBLSHMNT)

Reproductive Rights

  • “Women know what is at stake. That is why they have been rushing to see their doctors and to fill prescriptions before Mr. Trump takes office in January. Paradoxically, cutting women’s health care services is contrary to Republican goals. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s health plan states, “Prevention requires efforts and investments today that are expected to provide long-term cost savings and other benefits.” That is exactly what covering contraception does: provide women significant benefits to their health and socioeconomic status, while in many cases saving money for the health care system over all.” How Donald Trump’s Health Secretary Pick Endangers Women (by Allison K. Hoffman and Jill R. Horowitz, via @NYTOpinion)

Thursday

29

December 2016

0

COMMENTS

My Year In Books

Written by , Posted in Reviews

At the end of each year I try to look back at the books I’ve read. This year I read 73 books, which is 15% more than my previous best of 63. I have Pajiba and the Cannonball Read to thank for this, because I know that if I hit 52 in a year that helps fund the fight against cancer. But because we also must review the books, it means I spend at least a few minutes reflecting on everything I read. It’s made me a better reader, it’s exposed me to books I wouldn’t have previously considered reading, and it’s introduced me to a lovely community of fellow readers.

So – what did my year look like?

Starting with the most obvious … I read a lot of white women authors. Nearly 60%, in fact. That’s not great. 20% of the books I read are the thoughts of white men, which means that just over 20% come from non-white authors. Most of those are women, but clearly I need to make a more concerted effort to read diverse voices. So next year’s goal: never read two white authors in a row.

Another yikes here – I read SO MANY books from authors who are from the USA. Eighty-six percent, to be precise.

Okay, this is much better. There are clearly some types I gravitate to, such as memoir and sociology. I like to learn about people and things, apparently. But look, there are 17 different genres or types of books on here, including a play, a collection of short stories, and even a cook book. And I know one of those memoirs was also a graphic novel, so that’s 18. That’s good!

Finally, how wisely did I choose my books?

Eh … not bad. Not great – a lot of middling books. But only a handful of bad choices and nothing so wretched that it earned the not-at-all coveted one star.

What can I do better for next year? I do not want to stop reading white women authors altogether, mostly because I just ordered Carrie Fisher’s entire catalogue. But I need to be more intentional in my choices of books, and step back more often to see if going on a ‘kick’ has really meant that I’m just reading a whole lot of the same type of author or book.

As far as my favorite book this year, my recommendations are:

Alright, on to Cannonball Read Nine!

Thursday

29

December 2016

0

COMMENTS

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Quick Take-Away:
On the cusp of four stars, but something didn’t click for me. The middle 350 pages or so really pulled me in, but I felt that the last 50 pages fell short.

Longer Review (with the mildest of spoilers):
The writing in this book is beautiful. I believe this is the first of Ms. Atkinson’s books I have read, but I gather she is someone known for her prose. The premise of the book, for those who are unfamiliar, is that Ursula is born in February of 1910 in England, and immediately dies. And then she is born again, but something slightly different keeps her alive. This replays over and over again, without any real sort of pattern that I could detect; we don’t always get to a certain age and start over, or always start at the same point, or even necessarily get clued into *exactly* what it is that she may have changed to prevent her death.

Ursula dies at least a couple dozen times if not more, and only a few of the storylines get in-depth treatment. One of the more fascinating stories is of her choosing to marry a German in the early 30s and what that leads to; a different route leads her into a bad marriage. There are also some moments that at the time seem important, but now that the book has ended I can’t figure out what purpose they served (was her mother having an affair in one of the storylines, and did it matter?).

I think the most frustrating component for me was that everything felt like it could be more developed – I wanted to see more connections, learn more about what Ursula was thinking and feeling that lead her to make a shift in her life that prevented her death. I just don’t think we got that, so even though I found myself sucked in, upon reflection I can’t quite recommend it to others.