An Early Summer Reading List

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I have not been thinking very bookishly lately, I’ll admit. I have also not been reading so much as I’ve been writing.  Brian and I are STILL plugging through re-writes of the novel, although we are getting about 4 chapters done per week.  My original self-imposed deadline was August 1, but I have amended that to September 1st.

I am giving up on my summer reading challenge, and so I’ll post what I’ve read so far down below.  I didn’t get nearly as much read as I wanted to, and for that I am a bit upset with myself.  I am keeping all those books on the To Be Read pile, though, and hope that I will get to them soon.  Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is top on the list.  I’m giving up because I’ve just lost the will-power.

It was SO HARD to keep to this challenge.  I can’t even express.  I am used to being able to grab books on a whim and read them, whatever the subject. I expected that Person Of Color books would be harder to find, that I would have to look longer and deeper to find them.  What I didn’t expect was that I would NEVER find a book about certain topics by POC.  This was especially true in the non-fiction realm, and even more so in History.  I mean, I decided I wanted to read about the California Mission system and could not find a book that wasn’t written by a white author.  THE CALIFORNIA MISSION SYSTEM, guys. If that isn’t ironic, I don’t know what is.

I am a white historian, and it still made me horrified a bit to realize that our history, perhaps especially the history of POC, is largely being written by white people.  It makes me distrust everything just a smidge.  Like, I’m sure all the facts are correct but there has to be an angle on this stuff that isn’t being explored; that didn’t even occur to us.  What are we missing that we don’t even know about?  I’m certain we are missing something.  It makes me uneasy.

I fell in love with several new authors, though.  The last time I did a summer reading challenge, I actually enjoyed only about 4 of the books and read thirty six (The Graveyard Book, Of Plimoth Plantation, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Watership Down, if you’re wondering).  This time I enjoyed SO MANY, and only read twelve.  In that respect, it was a success.

I can only wrangle myself so much, and so I’m letting myself go back to comfort books while I try to keep myself on track to finishing this novel.  I am leaving this challenge with a greater determination to fold books by POC into my regular reading habits.  I am counting the days until Renee Ahdieh releases that sequel to The Wrath and The Dawn.  I’m following Varian Johnson and Jenny Han on Social Media.

Here are the books:

  1. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – I was unsatisfied by the ending, because I didn’t feel like either boy was really good enough. But there were so many parts of this book that felt imminently familiar, especially the dregs of how we all try to cope when the capable one is gone (even if they are just a phone call away).  A GREAT read.
  2. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han – I did not know that a book could replicate so much of my own life. There are differences, of course, but living in someone else’s house by the beach every summer is something I’m very familiar with.  The book broke my heart, in the best way.
  3. Bud, not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis – Weird to be in the head of an unreliable, and not that bright narrator. Bud falls for some stuff he shouldn’t (heads I win, tails you lose?).  But I can ultimately see why it won the awards it did, and it’s a great slice of depression-era life.  Plus music, how can you not appreciate a kid with a saxophone?
  4. The Wrath and The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh – Holy CRAP is this book good. I could not put it down. I have been longing for a more feminist Scherezade tale, and wondering if I should write it (and how I would), but this is it tenfold.  Better than I could imagine, everything I’ve wanted.  Could not put it down.
  5. Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson – In a setting completely foreign to me, but great just the same. It’s about the juxtaposition of good Christians and bad Christians, self-fulfilling prophecies, and  the nature of goodness.  I loved Maddie and her spunk so much.
  6. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan – A beautifully written book that deals with a lot of the problems facing migrants and others during depression-era America. Esperanza’s growth was less than I would like, though.  Ryan leaves a lot unresolved with strike issues etc. in the end.
  7. We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han – Not as good as the first “Summer” book, but still good. I do like the way Belly is just as flawed and makes as many mistakes as the boys, even though it makes me exasperated with her sometimes. Is the parental story happening in the wings more exciting than the kids’ in this book?
  8. Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston – Not my favorite, because THE ENTIRE THING was written in phonetic spelling; i.e.: hard to read. After I got about ½ way through part one, I skipped it and went to the Voodoo stuff at the end.  More an anthropological curiosity than something I enjoyed.  I loved Tell My Horse, so go read that one instead.
  9. S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han – Why do I always want Han’s leads to get together with the one they don’t? It’s frustrating.  But it’s also so good, and I can’t stop reading them.  Rooting for the wrong guy at least keeps me guessing.
  10. Kindred by Octavia Butler – Holy crap. I was expecting it to be hard to take, but not THAT bad… trigger warning for  rape and huge amounts of violence.  It’s well written and compelling, though.  Hard to put down, it’s just that I wasn’t sure I wanted to pick it back up once I had put it down. Didn’t finish it because I was having nightmares, but maybe I’ll go back.
  11. Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier – A strange mashup of literary fiction and high school coming of age. I liked it, but I didn’t feel pulled by it.  It was beautiful, but didn’t possess me.  Perhaps it was just that I hated Gwen a bit and didn’t understand why everyone else loved her so, especially Dimple.
  12. Same Sun Here by Neela Vaswani and Silas House – CRAZY good, although I do wish that each of the protags got a little bit more of an ending.  Especially Meena, who I felt didn’t have as much of an arc as River.  But it was a beautiful book, nice to see contemporary issues represented, and a well-done exploration of Redneck/Immigrant stereotypes and the problems both groups face – similar yet different.
  13. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz – Oh SO good. I loved rooting for the boys and their complicated lives, but I loved the writing so much, too.  Deserving of all the awards it won.

You should also know that I cheated (full-disclusure) and read:

  1. When Beauty Tamed The Beast by Eloisa James – I just CAN’T get over these names… can’t we call them something less embarrassing? But this one, I think, was her best yet.  The men in romance novels often don’t feel real, but Piers was such an ass that he was perfect.  Or maybe I’m just married to a rather endearing ass myself.
  2. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman – The resolution seemed a bit easy to me, but otherwise this book was perfect. I love that his children’s books have hard things in them, and that this one was about Norse Gods.  His writing is so beautiful.
  3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Oh, this book is my favorite thing ever. I fell in love with it the first time because of the Cath/Levi relationship.  I fell in love with it this time for the Cath/Regan relationship, and the quips.  Which I kept reading out loud to my husband, who laughed in all the right places.
  4. Sunshine by Robin McKinley – I forgot how violent this book is. But Con, man… You have to love him even while he frightens you.  The world is so robust that I wish there were more books.  McKinley has said there won’t be, though.  As vampire books go, it’s one of the best.
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