Tag Archives: black lives matter

If nothing else, I read some good books this year

best-books-of-2016

2016 was . . . certainly an exceptional year wasn’t it?

Stay tuned for my annual year-end roundup. I’ll recap what’s been happening with me, take a look back at the goals I set for 2016, and set some for 2017. Before I get to the books, though, here’s a preview of the two modes of 2016:

2016

I mean, it wasn’t all bad. Here’s one of the good parts:

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But anyway, here are the best books that I read this year. There are 22 books. I know that number doesn’t make sense, but 2016 doesn’t make sense. Here’s to some more great literature in 2017!

Middle Grade/YA

Giant Days – John Allison and Lissa Treiman – My new favorite comic of this year – don’t worry, Squirrel Girl and Saga and Lumberjanes, I still love you –  about a group of friends’ hijinks in college. Great art, too.

Labyrinth Lost – Zoraida Cordova – Innovative urban fantasy set in NYC and magical realms between worlds. A great system of magic featuring Latinx heroines and family love. Great for fans of diverse fantasy like Daniel Jose Older’s Shadowshaper.

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog – Adam Gidwitz and Hatem Aly – Amazing illuminations about a Joan of Arc-esque girl, her dog, a Jewish boy looking for his family, and a too tall African-European monk. Sweet and engaging.

Girl in Pieces – Kathleen Glasgow – Will probably break your heart. Charlie has had a rough life: drugs, cutting, homelessness, and abuse. Her journey from feeling broken to feeling hopeful again is really lovely without being schmoopy.

Outrun the Moon – Stacey Lee – The new best historical fiction author in YA. A story about the 1906 San Fransisco earthquake and unlikely friendship between entitled white girls and a plucky Chinese-American heroine. Mercy is the BEST.

The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis – A tale of teen vigilante justice with some piercing explanations of rape culture.  A hard read but worth it.

When the Moon Was Ours – Anna-Marie McLemore – Two teens fall in love amidst gender issues and magical realism. A lovely story. I knew as soon as I started that it would destroy me in the best possible way. It did. Read it.

Goldenhand – Garth Nix – I was disappointed in his Old Kingdom prequel Clariel that came out last year, but Goldenhand continues the story of Lirael, the most badass Second Assistant Librarian ever. All of your favorite characters from the original three books make an appearance. Yes, ALL of them. You’ll cry too. 🙂

Ghost – Jason Reynolds – A boy trying to out run his problems – “altercations” at school, his dad in jail for threatening him and his mother with a gun, living in a “bad” neighborhood – finds that he can really run. He joins a local track team to find friends, bravery, and forgiveness. A sweet read that I hope gets on many summer reading lists next  year. (I mean, if you have to have a prescribed SR list, this book might as well be on it for 5th/6th graders.)

All American Boys – Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely – Anything Reynolds is involved with turns to gold! This is an important book about a Black teen who gets beaten by a cop, and the white kid who witnesses it. For people who are still wondering about the Black Lives Matter movement read this. (All of you get out of here with your All Lives Matter nonsense. If you’re still saying that, you’re not getting it.)

Echo – Pam Munoz Ryan – A sweet story of three different young people connecting over the same harmonica: one fleeing Nazi Germany, one adopted out of an orphanage in Philadelphia, and one trying to keep her family together in the face of segregation in California. I highly recommend the audio version as music is an important part of the story and the audio does it very, very well.

Saving Montgomery Sole – Mariko Tamaki –  A sensitive coming of age tale mixed in with a reminder that people all contain multitudes and have the potential for compassion. A great quiet, contemporary YA novel.

Adult Fiction

The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood – I read the whole MaddAddam series this year but Year of the Flood is the best. Atwood excels when she’s telling women’s stories and The Year of the Flood is about Toby and other women in her circle. I cried more at the end of the third book, MaddAddam, than I have over a book in a long time. Just thinking about it makes me weep. A timely – yes, sadly just as timely as Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale – and more emotional.

Rush Oh! – Shirley Barrett – A story of a whaling family in Australia and their struggles and triumphs. Sad and sweet and ultimately fulfilling.

The Queen of the Night – Alexander Chee – A huge book encompassing the Franco-Prussian War, opera, and betrayal. Great for those who like epic character studies and music.

The Fifth Season/The Obelisk Gate – N.K. Jemisin – These books are so good it’s bonkers. A science fiction dystopia with strange geological powers and consequences. You will not forget these characters or their situations. You’ll also be reminded of how important the moon is, in case you forgot.

Adult Nonfiction

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates – Required reading for everyone. A heart breaking and honest letter from Coates to his son about how the world isn’t made for him and how American culture and life at large is built on the bodies of Black people.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America – Ibram X. Kendi – I’m only halfway through this book and had to take a break because it’s a slow read and someone else had a hold on it. But it’s incredible. It will, however, show you how little has changed in the U.S. when it comes to race relations. It’s pretty disheartening.

Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present – Alison Mathews-David – An amazing book about not just silly fashion trends that are dangerous – hobble skirts that “hobble” you so you can barely walk – but also the techniques that used to make clothes that will also kill you. May dissuade you from wearing the color emerald-green ever again.

Shrill: Women Are Funny, It’s Okay to Be Fat, and Feminists Don’t Have to Be Nice – Lindy West – A hilarious book with spot on ruminations about feminism and more. Great if you like essays and personal narratives.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – Isabel Wilkerson – This book is a tour-de-force about the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to the North and West from the 1910s to the 1970s. Wilkerson follows three people who made the migration in different years. A fascinating look at history that I didn’t know very much about.

 

 

So that was the best of what I read this year. You can see the rest of what I read over on Goodreads. Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

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Thinking about Ferguson

In so many ways, I feel really unqualified to talk about the events in Ferguson, MO. I’m not from there – I do have some family in the predominantly white South County suburbs of St. Louis and was born in that area, but I don’t really know it. I can’t really say that I’ve experienced damaging discrimination: I’m white, middle-class, straight, cisgendered. I’m a woman which does come with discrimination and fear, in many ways, but not because of my race. I grew up in mostly rural areas of the Midwest. The schools that I attended didn’t have a large black population. My high school had a minority of Chippewa Indians but I was still in that majority group.

I just want to start off acknowledging all of that. I grew up thinking that the police were generally helpful and trustworthy. I don’t know if I’m still there; I have a hard time reconciling the fact that police are supposed to be helpful and yet the accounts of rape survivors who are disbelieved, harassed, and bullied by police make that very difficult. So I don’t know what it’s like to experience the fear and distrust of the police. I don’t know what it’s like to be in that situation.

But I care about what is happening in Ferguson (and in Staten Island and Cleveland and everywhere else) because we are all humans. We all share in our common humanity – the good parts and the bad parts. I know that the stories of black Americans are different than mine and I know it’s important to me to listen to those stories. Why? Because they are our fellow people, our fellow citizens, our library patrons, our friends, and our neighbors. And because it is right.

I’m not sure where to start in my sadness and anger, other than listening and learning. Listening and acknowledging that doing nothing can be complicity. I don’t always know what to do, but I am going to try to listen and respond. I try to read books by all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds. I think it’s incredibly important. My white, straight, rural upbringing is only interesting to a point. I want to know about all kinds of lives and I believe this creates empathy and love. I will treat people of all races and backgrounds with care and compassion, or at least strive to. I know I’ll probably mess up at times but I hope to acknowledge my mistakes along the way.

Let’s let everyone tell their story, and I need to listen. Then I need to think about a way to take that listening and use it in action. I’m not sure how that will look, but I will do what I can. I challenge you to do the same.

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