I thought it would be nice to include little reviews of all the books I’ve read each month on this blog. Between this and Instagram, I’m hoping to peer pressure myself into reading more consistently. It was pretty successful this month!
While I enjoy a lot of young adult fiction, contemporary fiction is very hit and miss for me. But I adored this book. Aristotle and Dante become friends as teenagers, and the story follows their relationship over time. The portrayal of all the characters, but especially Aristotle’s inner world, was so vividly explored and revealed so much of the pain and beauty of growing up. If you’re anything like me, prepare for waterworks in the final stretch, but this book is definitely worth it.
By sad coincidence, I finished reading this book just as the news of the Orlando shooting was breaking. Benjamin Alire Sáenz wrote a beautiful post in light of the shooting titled ‘A Safe and Sacred Space’.
Sisters In The Wilderness, Delores S. Williams – 4 stars
For the most part this book was incredible. It is one of the first books written about womanist theology, published in 1993. Delores Williams draws on the story of Hagar to explore African American women’s experiences with regard to exploitation and oppression under and after slavery, and discuss the implications of this for black women’s experiences of faith and the development of womanist theology. The most interesting part of it for me is what Williams calls a ‘survival or quality-of-life’ hermeneutic, which she contrasts to the belief of liberation theology that God is committed to, and actively bringing about, the liberation of the oppressed. It is very difficult to see God’s actions in Hagar’s story as ‘liberating’ Hagar from the oppression she faces, so Williams provides another interpretative framework which claims that God is equally concerned with ensuring the survival and quality of life of those living under oppression. She claims that God is intimately involved with black women’s struggle for survival and quality of life, especially in circumstances where securing full liberation isn’t possible at the time. I had to dock a half star because the last chapter goes in the strangest direction (I skimmed it so you don’t have to – you can and should skip the last half of the final chapter entirely), but other than that I would highly recommend it.
The Queen of Attolia (Book 2 of the Queen’s Thief Series), Megan Whalen Turner – 5 stars
This was a reread for me. I adore this series, and this book is probably my favourite of the four. I could never do it justice, but these two reviews of the series are brilliant. (I should also note that ‘Made Herself Queen’ is a reference to one of my favourite passages of this book.)
Authority (Book 2 of the Southern Reach Trilogy), Jeff Vander Meer – 3 stars
This book, like the first in the series, was pretty bonkers. I thought the thing that was fascinating was that, in the first book, you’re frustrated because you can tell that there is some logic, some underlying principle of (super)natural science governing Area X, but it’s impossible to make sense of. It’s so beyond what we can imagine that you’re left with no real key to interpret the events unfolding in front of you. In this book, while that element remains, most of the intrigue and mystery is related to Southern Reach, the agency responsible for figuring out what the hell is going in Area X, and it’s governing body, Central. Which means a good portion of the frustration you have is at fellow humans who are keeping you in the dark for goodness knows what reasons. Personally, I find stubborn humans more agitating than weirdly creepy and disturbing, so I didn’t love it quite as much as the first book. But I think my favourite elements were the unreliable and strange narration, the haphazard way the writing style went back and forth to disorientate you and create an increasing sense of unease, and the satisfying string of revelations at the end (even if we don’t get ‘answers’ as such). I enjoyed this look behind the curtain of what is going on at Southern Reach. I can’t wait get into Acceptance, the final book in the series.
Redefining Realness, Janet Mock – 4 stars
I was struck by how deeply personal and relatable this book was. Janet Mock masterfully explores how intersections of gender identity, race, and socioeconomic status come together and shape the lives of trans people, particularly young people, low income people, and women of colour. But her openness with her life, with her most painful experiences, with her flaws and mistakes, with her deepest thoughts, is what makes this book so remarkable. This book will break your heart, and then fill it to the brim with its wisdom and courage.
I also posted last week about what this book taught me about reading across difference, if you want to check it out.
Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans – 4 stars
It’s funny now that I was so uncertain about reading this book this month. When I started it I was still reading Redefining Realness, and I was ambivalent about reading it because I have read very few memoirs and wasn’t sure if I liked them enough to read two at a time. But, like Redefining Realness, I was blown away by how open and deeply honest Rachel Held Evans was in this book as she takes us through her journey with the church throughout her life and reflects on her experiences. While she challenges the church and the traditions she was brought up with, she also challenges herself and doesn’t hesitate to share her doubts, her fears, her mistakes, and her pain. She also shows a deep love for the church, its traditions and community, despite recognising its flaws. Rachel also begins a chapter with a quote from one of my (many) favourite Taylor Swift songs, which is always a reliable way to endear yourself to me.
So I might be learning to love memoir. Which is a wonderful thing because I’ve got a couple more eagerly waiting their turn on my shelves.