Howdy, y’all. I know I haven’t been too great about posting regularly for the past six months but it’s 2017 now, and, new year, new me? Nah, more like new year, America as we know it is sliding deeper and deeper into fascism and everything is terrible, so I’m going to try to make sense of the world through books and writing and making writing about books more of a routine again.
In addition to chronicling the books I read each month and picking a favorite, I’m also going to gently nudge you towards books that will either help you process the dystopian nightmare that is this country or motivate you to fight back. Bibliotherapy is a real thing, and this month I shifted from wanting only to consume books that helped sooth my painful amounts of anxiety by making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to books that fuel my resistance. Sometimes that fuel is made of history, because making connections between the past and present is what intellectually curious people should try to do, and sometimes that fuel is made of analysis of the present and suggestions for direct action. Either way, I will be denoting my “reading for the resistance” books with a handy dandy little asterisk in case you want to jump straight to them.
So, without furter ado, here is what I read in January:
The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (re-read, audiobook, read by Carolyn Seymour)
Gast by Carol Swain
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
*March, Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
*March, Book 2 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
*March, Book 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
The Princess Bride by William Goldman (re-read, audiobook, read by Rob Reiner)
Which brings me to ten books for the first month of what promises to be a truly stressful year. Woo…hoo?
My desert island book is a toss-up, because March, in its entirety, is so freaking good, but more on that in “Reading for the Resistance.” The book I would love to read all over again for the first time, and then again and again on a desert island, would have to be Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Beyond being the best book I read in January, it’s one of the best books I’ve read, ever, one of those rare gems that has a perfect balance of storytelling, art, and just plain old literary merit. Gyasi captures the essence of intergenerational trauma in an almost disgustingly perfect nutshell, and her ability to breathe life into so many distinct protagonists (and in her debut novel!) is intimidating.
Honorable mention and the “best foul-mouthed madam with a heart of gold ever to grace a book” goes to Out of the Easy; this book is too rich and wonderful to not get a special little nod, so, if you like historic fiction with strong female characters and a setting that pops inside your brain, this is a GREAT bet.
*Now, if you want some reading for the resistance, and also just like books that are awesome, please, please, please, please, please read the three graphic novels that make up John Lewis’s incendiary March, an account of Lewis’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. There are so many parallels between the past and the present; between the rampant Islamophobia and the repugnant racism that he fought against; between the rhetoric of people who think they have the “religious freedom” to discriminate against gay people and the racists who thought it was within their rights to refuse to serve black people at a lunch counter. In fact, I wish I could smack people who are somehow still supporting all of Trump’s bullshit with these books in the hopes that maybe they would realize that they, like those racists of yesteryear we all now recognize as disgusting, will also be on the wrong side of history. But beyond being illuminating in the way that reading about history often is, March is inspiring. It’s inspiring to read about a man who has, quite literally, dedicated almost his entire life to helping people, a man who was arrested repeatedly and beaten to within an inch of his life because he believed in the rights of all humans to be treated with dignity. I cried repeatedly while reading, because it was so moving, because it was so graphically unsettling and disturbing, and because we cannot allow this country to continue to disintegrate back into our shady as shit history. The good news is, this book is also super motivating, and is basically like one big fat literary brochure as to why community organizing and direct action have been and will continue to be our most potent weapon against fascist pigs.
Read in power, book punks.