Sunday, January 12, 2020

2019 Reading List

Here we go with my 2019 reading list summary! I moved and started a new job in the last couple weeks, so forgive me for being a few weeks late! The grand total of books I read this year was 126, written by 104 authors. I did a rough calculation, which required me to make a few assumptions, of the demographics of the authors (so take these stats with a grain of salt since they are not exact): out of 104 total authors, 82% were women, 47% were people of color, 10% were LGBTQ identified, and 17% were not from the United States.

As usual, not all 126 books are listed below since many were re-reads. This took forever to compile so please enjoy!

Know My Name by Chanel Miller
I cannot overstate how incredible this book is. Chanel Miller, previously only known as "Emily Doe," was sexually assaulted in early 2015 on campus at Stanford University. She decided to write a book to tell her story and go public with her identity in 2019. The book is heart-wrenching, devastating, uncomfortable, unflinching, honest, fearless, and hopeful account of surviving sexual assault. Chanel Miller's story is not my story but there are many commonalities between our stories, and in this book she describes things I have wanted to say so much more eloquently than I have been able to do. It's also a difficult read that can be triggering, so I have tried to be clear about that every time I talk about it as well--if you are able to be in the mind-set to read a personal account of surviving sexual assault, I truly recommend this book.

And now for everything else:
Favorite Essay Collections
The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby

Other Essay Collections I Read This Year
Life Will Be the Death of Me... And You Too! by Chelsea Handler
What Do We Need Men For? by E. Jean Carroll
Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom
Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott
Women, Culture & Politics by Angela Davis
Don't Call Me Princess by Peggy Orenstein

Favorite Historical Fiction Novel
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I Watched Her Netflix Show & Got Real Into Marie Kondo
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

A Truly Fascinating Book About the Long Term Effects of Trauma on the Body
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel A. van der Kolk

Two Excellent Books About Women & Anger
Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger by Rebecca Traister
Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly

Two Books About the Anti-Gun Violence Movement that the Parkland Shooting Ignited
Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen
#NeverAgain by David Hogg & Lauren Hogg

Two Books Written by Parents After Their Stories Became Internationally Famous When Their Sons, Young Black Men, Were Gunned Down in the Street by People Who Claimed to be Upholding the Law
Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin by Sybrina Fulton & Tracy Martin
Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil by Lezley McSpadden (mother of Michael Brown)

YA Novels with LGBTQ Protagonists (I realized that about half of the YA novels I read this year had LGBTQ protagonists so figured it merited its own category.)
Spinning by Tillie Walden
Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
The Fever King by Victoria Lee
Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

Other YA Novels I Read This Year
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Blended by Sharon Draper
Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Puddin' by Julie Murphy
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Books About Care Work & Gender
All the Rage by Darcy Lockman
Women's Work by Megan Stack

Favorite Contemporary Fiction Novel
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Lots More Novels
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Intercepted by Alexa Martin
The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory
Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
Sula by Toni Morrison
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson
Dream Work by Mary Oliver
Wild Beauty/Bella Salvaje by Ntozake Shange
The Woman I Kept to Myself by Julia Alvarez

A Very Interesting and Delightful Biography on the Friendship Between Pauli Murray and Eleanor Roosevelt 
The Firebrand and the First Lady by Patricia Bell-Scott

Black Women Writing About Feminism
Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks
Reclaiming Our Space by Feminista Jones

A Book I Started About 10 Years Ago and Finally Finished This Year
Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel (this one also wins the award for most infuriating error in a published book I found this year--describing Laredo as being across the border from Juarez... since I had that particular copy of the book for a while, I sure hope someone else caught that error and it was fixed in a later printing.)

Presidential Candidates (I aspired to read more of these but there were so many presidential candidates, most of whom had written books and tbh, much more interesting books I wanted to read instead.)
A Politics of Love by Marianne Williamson
Where We Go From Here by Bernie Sanders
This Fight Is Our Fight by Elizabeth Warren

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
The Doctor Is In: Dr. Ruth on Life, Love and Joie de Vivre by Ruth Westheimer
Rita Moreno: A Memoir by Rita Moreno
Trans: A Memoir by Juliet Jacques
UnSlut: A Diary and a Memoir by Emily Lindin
American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures by America Ferrera (ed.)

This Would Probably Be Classified As Somewhere Between a Memoir and Humor Essays, But Really Is an Unflinchingly Honest and Often Hilarious Look at What It's Like Living With Severe Depression
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

I Watched Black Earth Rising on Netlfix and Wanted to Learn More About the Rwandan Genocide
We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch

Some Very Well-Written Books That Gave Me a Lot to Think About
How To Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
The Recovering by Leslie Jamison
She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

Favorite Audiobook (it was a tie!)
This Will Only Hurt A Little by Busy Philipps (I had little awareness of Busy Philipps before her short-lived E! late night show, but I quickly fell in love with her enthusiasm and sense of humor and that spurred me to listen to her book. It's a mix of heart-wrenching and hilarious, funny stories and celebrity gossip, and what makes it so great to listen to is how she imitates the voices of people she talks about--she's a storyteller!)
Dear Girls by Ali Wong (Ali Wong's stand up is extremely funny and her book does not disappoint. It's full of great stories from her life--many of them just as raunchy as her stand up is. But it also includes some heartbreaking stories, such as her experience with miscarriage.)

For Some Reason I Thought It Would Be Fun to Read Multiple Re-Tellings of Pride & Prejudice
Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal (I think this one was my favorite of these)
Pride & Prejudice & Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz
Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Catch-All Category for Graphic Novels/Comics/Illustrated Adult Books
Vietnamerica by GB Tran
Arab of the Future 3 by Riad Sattouf
Illegal by Eoin Colfer
Seeing Science by Iris Gottlieb
Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun
Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda
oh no by Alex Norris

Holiday Themed!
One Day in December by Josie Silver
Merry & Bright by Debbie Macomber
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
Pride & Prejudice & Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz* (also included in the Pride & Prejudice re-tellings section)
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber

Most Underwhelming!
Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith
(One of my favorite books of all time is Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn so I decided to look up some other books she wrote and picked this one for its similarity to my tattoo--it was a sweet story but depressing at times and just kind of mundane.)

Most Confusing! 
99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown (I thought this was a more straightforward biography, but it was... not. I don't really know how to explain it but basically some of it is true and other parts are just made up and I don't know if that would have been easier to understand in written form (I listened to the audiobook) or if I would have always found it confusing. Anyway, I can't recommend this one because I was so confused.)

Least Favorite Book of the Year
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (this book had gotten a lot of hype so I gave it a shot and maybe it's because the premise hits too close to home, but I just didn't like it.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Naomi's 2018 Reading List

Second year in a row doing this summary of the books I read in the past year. In 2018, I read upwards of 120 books--this isn't all of them but it is a lot of them. 

Favorite Book of 2018
Becoming by Michelle Obama
This was so many people's favorite book of 2018 and with good reason! Michelle Obama is our Forever FLOTUS and her memoir is equal parts sweet, poignant, funny, and incisive. 

Second Favorite Book of 2018
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
It's funny to me to have my top two favorite books of 2018 to be memoirs but this was another really excellent one--a vulnerable and raw account of a life living with addiction and then the never-ending journey of recovery.

Other Favorites I Read This Year
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
Tempests & Slaughter by Tamora Pierce
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Well, That Escalated Quickly by Franchesca Ramsey
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
Make Trouble by Cecile Richards

Best Book I Listened To On Audiobook
The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jenifer Lewis (This was a truly fascinating memoir anyway but most definitely listen to it on audio--Jenifer Lewis is such an amazing performer and storyteller! I listen to a LOT of audiobooks but this is one that I truly believe must be better in audiobook form.)

Favorite Book That Was Basically A Rom-Com in Book Form
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Favorite Intergenerational Novel
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (As I mentioned last year, I LOVE stories that span generations, so this exquisitely written story that won many awards in 2017 was a real hit with me.)

Favorite Collection of Poetry I Read
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

Other Poetry I Read This Year That Was Also Excellent
A Place Called No Homeland by Kai Cheng Thom
Hard Times Require Furious Dancing by Alice Walker
Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace
Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni

Favorite Essay Collection
Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit

Other Essay Collections That Are Also Great
The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
Meaty by Samantha Irby
Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

Favorite Graphic Novels I Read This Year
Marbles by Ellen Forney
Tomboy by Liz Prince
Chronicles of Jerusalem by Guy Delisle (I learned a LOT about the occupation of Palestine from this one.)
Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans by Roland Owen Laird, Jr.
Aya: Life in Yop City & Aya: Love in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet (this is one of the few fiction graphic novels I've read--I tend to stay in the memoir/historical, but this series was super fun!)

These Graphic Novels I Read This Year Were Only OK
Poppies of Iraq by Briggite Findakly
Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches From Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden (I really enjoy reading nonfiction graphic novels about different countries--this one was from a journalistic perspective and while parts of it were interesting, it got a little too deep into the 
Am I There Yet? by Mari Andrew (I follow this artist on instagram and I have always enjoyed her posts, however I think her art is geared to be consumed in smaller segments at a time, so I didn't enjoy this collection as much.)
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (probably not really fair for me to say this was "only OK" since it was a middle grade readers book--it was cute but not my fav.)

More From Rebecca Solnit Focusing on Hope
Call Them By Their True Names & A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit (One of my favorite books I read in 2017 was Rebecca Solnit's Hope In The Dark, and I really appreciate how Solnit works hard to be realistic but also not give in to panic--making the argument in both of these that hope is an essential component of our work for a more just world.)

Books About Body Positivity
Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons
The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor (I can't recommend this one highly enough--all about taking ownership and pleasure in our own bodies and undoing the endless socialization of fat-shaming culture.)

When You Are In The Sexual Violence Field, You Read A Lot About Sexual Violence, So Here Are Some I Read This Year
Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson (The novel was originally published in 1999 and then a graphic novel was published in 2018--having read both, there are advantages and disadvantages to both forms--since so much of the story focuses on the character's art, it was really cool to see it visualized in the graphic novel.)
Becoming Unbecoming by Una
Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture by Roxane Gay (Ed.)
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
I Still Believe Anita Hill by Amy Richards (Ed.)
The Round House by Louise Erdrich

A Self-Help Book I Liked
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

I Read This Because I Am A Social Worker And Jane Addams Is Considered The Mother Of Social Work And This Book Was Informative But Very Dry So It Took Practically All Year To Finish
Twenty Years at Hull House by Jane Addams

2018 Was The 50th Anniversary of The Assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So I Read These
The Mountaintop by Katori Hall
April 4, 1968 by Michael Eric Dyson

I Loved Learning More About Coretta Scott King's Story Not Just In The Shadow Of Her Rightfully Famous Husband 
My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King

A Treatise For Gun Control
Enough by Gabrielle Giffords & Mark Kelly

A Long History of Class in the U.S. and How Poor White People Have Demonized People of Color Instead of Rich White People
White Trash by Nancy Isenberg

A Book About U.S./Cuba Relations From The Perspective Of A Former Diplomat in Cuba
Our Woman in Havana by Vicki Huddleston (This was interesting but definitely a narrow point of view. Also not sure if it was just the e-book edition I got from the library or what, but it had a weird amount of typos in it.)

A Really Fascinating Look Into Apartheid in South Africa From The Perspective of a Biracial Person Who At The Time of His Birth Was "Born A Crime"
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

Famous Books I Finally Got Around To Reading
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

A Heart-Wrenching, Chilling (Fictional) Account of a Family Weathering Hurricane Katrina
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Another Beautifully Written, But Painful Story
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Books I Read Because There Was A Movie or TV Show Based On Them That I Liked
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
To All The Boys I've Loved Before & P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Books About Grief
Option B By Sheryl Sandberg (I know how problematic she can be in her involvement with Facebook & her "lean in" philosophy, but this book focused on the journey through grief in a very compelling way and I really liked it.)
Modern Loss by Rebecca Soffer
I'm Just A Person by Tig Notaro (This is a memoir so it isn't strictly only about grief but it is a big part of Tig's story and I think she works through it in a very interesting and funny way.)

Books About Church and Faith and Spirituality
Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice by Brené Brown
Everything Happens For a Reason & Other Lives I've Loved by Kate Bowler
For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Interesting & Well-Written Books About Race
Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie
When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston
We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith

Badass Books About Feminism By Badass Black Women
Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper
Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Stories Centering Women
Halsey Street by Naima Coster
Waiting to Exhale & Getting to Happy by Terry McMillan
Heart Berries by Therese Marie Mailhot
The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by F.G. Haghenbeck
Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende
Tar Baby by Toni Morrison
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Bloodhound & Mastiff by Tamora Pierce
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Postcards From the Edge & The Best Awful by Carrie Fisher
The Women of the Cousins' War by Philippa Gregory
Crumbs From the Table of Joy by Lynn Nottage

Two Books About Young Women Exploring Europe That Take Place Almost A Century Apart
Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Skinner
I See London, I See France by Sarah Mylnowski

The Second Half Of The Epic Novel About World War II That I Listened To On Audiobook
War & Remembrance by Herman Wouk

Historical YA Novels (I really loved this series when I was a preteen but hadn't read any of the ones released post-2003ish, so every now and then I will read one of these. It's a snapshot into history in a very accessible way.)
Dear America: The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson (About the internment of Japanese people in the U.S. during WWII.)
Dear America: Like the Willow Tree by Lois Lowry (About the 1918 flu pandemic.)
Dear America: With the Might of Angels by Andrea Davis Pinkney (About integration of the public schools post Brown v. Board.)

YA Novel About A Trans Girl
George by Alex Gino

A Very Weird YA Fantasy Novel Based On Folk Tales
Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I Thought This Murder Mystery Was Only OK
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

But This One Was Really Captivating
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I Like To Get Festive In My Book Choices At That Time Of Year
The 12 Daves of Christmas by K.L. Brady
The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor

I Wanted To Like These Books More Than I Really Did
The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich
LaRose by Louise Erdrich
Woman Hollering Creek & Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros

Last and MOST DEFINITELY least:
Least Favorite Book of 2018
Wideacre by Phillipa Gregory
This is one of my least favorite books I've ever read. I don't particularly have a good reason for finishing it except I am weirdly stubborn about finishing things once I've started them and I love this author. The main character is terrible and this book is all about how far she will go to gain power, including quite a bit of incest and.... no thanks.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Naomi's 2017 Reading List

I started a new year's resolution of reading 50 books a year for the first time in 2012. The first year I actually achieved that was 2014, the first year I significantly surpassed that was 2016 (87 books) and so for 2017, I set the loftier goal of 100--I closed out 2017 having finished 138 books in total. This is the first year that I spent the entire year not in school or in full time employment, so I found myself with a bit more time to read.

I thought about doing one sentence book reviews but then I saw Roxane Gay's post about her reading list from 2017, and I liked that format better, so here we go! (138 books is a lot and several were re-reads or not really noteworthy enough so I'm not going to literally write about each one)

Favorite Book of 2017
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This book is SO GOOD. I love novels that follow many generations of families, which this is, so I was already predisposed to like this book. But it blew me away with the fascinating interwoven stories of these characters and a look at the struggles of Black families in the US as descendants of kidnapped Africans who were enslaved and also the stories and struggles of African families who are descendants from the families that weren't kidnapped and enslaved, and sometimes benefited from the transatlantic slave trade themselves. It's such an epic novel and if you are a fan of good stories and beautiful writing--highly recommend.

Second Favorite Book of 2017
Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit
This book was important timing. I read it in March 2017, as things were not looking too good. Originally published in 2004, it outlines reasons for hope in what often seems like a very bleak world. Solnit writes about times when organizing and campaigning and working hard for positive change actually made a difference. It helped me re-frame where we are right now in terms of social justice and remember one of the most important tools we have is the hope that things can change for the better.

Other Favorite Books
I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama XIV & Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Crunk Feminist Collection by Brittney C. Cooper (Ed.)
Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times by Carolina De Robertis (Ed.)
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine & the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Davis
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn Ward (Ed.)

In My Continuous Quest For Self-Improvement, I Read:
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
Grit by Angela Duckworth

Books I Read Before Traveling To Japan & Taiwan
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
The Third Son by Julie Wu
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
The Setting Sun by Osamu Dazai
Vignettes of Taiwan by (This was probably my least favorite book I read this year mostly because it was just dumb. But it was hard to find books in English about Taiwan so I finished it anyway.)
Lost Japan by Alex Kerr

Books I Read Before Traveling To Mexico City
Black Dove: Mamá, Mi'jo and Me by Ana Castillo
Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

In-Depth Look At Why More Women Than Ever Are Choosing to Stay Single (And Not In A Way That Looks At That As A Bad Thing)
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister

A Look At How [Traditional] Women's Labor Has Been Devalued In Capitalism But Y'all Couldn't Have Done All This Without Us
Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?: A Story About Women & Economics by Katrine Kielos

Klein Really Tears Into The Whole Idea Of Disaster Capitalism And Shock Doctrine As A Viable Economic Strategy And I Read This Right After Hurricane Harvey Hit And Got Very Angry Because You Could Already See It Happening Again
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein

A Horrifying Intimate Look At The FLDS Church From A Woman Who Escaped And Helped Put Warren Jeffs In Prison
The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice by Rebecca Musser

Another Book About Women In Fundamentalist Religions, But Islam This Time
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Very Well Articulated Argument For Ethics Outside Of Religious Belief Framework
Beyond Religion by Dalai Lama XIV

A Book That Made Me Really Mad Because It Is Still So Accurate And It Was Written Over 20 Years Ago
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen

I Wish Everyone Would Read This Book Because It Explains The Moral Argument For Accessible Abortion The Best I've Ever Seen
Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice by Dr. Willie Parker

Beautiful And Powerful Poetry By Beautiful and Powerful Women of Color
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur
Salt by Nayyirah Waheed
Nejma by Nayyirah Waheed
Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire

Historical Fiction Based on the Plantagenet and Tudor Women (All by Philippa Gregory--I had read about half of this series before 2017 but re-read them and read the others for the first time. Philippa Gregory is one of my favorite historical fiction writers--she bases her books in historical facts and though she takes strange creative license choices sometimes, mostly I really appreciate her imagining of these moments lost to history behind the real stories of these women. And her whole approach is centering women in her stories--some more well-known than others, but all part of pivotal historical eras.) 
The White Princess
The Kingmaker's Daughter
The Lady of the Rivers
The Last Tudor
Three Sisters, Three Queens
The King's Curse (This one was my favorite of hers I read this year, maybe my favorite out of all of them. It follows the story of Margaret Pole, one of the last Plantagenets and the oldest person executed by Henry VIII in 1541, at age 67. It's a morbidly fascinating look at how insecure Henry VIII felt on the throne and how tyrannical he became--having any dissidents and practically all of his extended family executed.)

A Book I Read Because I Was Trying To Better Understand The Complicated Plantagenet Family Tree But I'm Not Sure I Do Even Though I Read This
The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones

A Really Long Novel About WWII That I Got In An Audible Sale But Ended Up Really Liking Though Turns Out It's Only Part 1 of 2 Books Which Irritated Me Since I Had Already Listened To It for 55 Hours And We Only Got Up To Pearl Harbor
The Winds of War by Herman Wouk

I Got Into Historical Graphic Novels
A.D.: After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld
The People's History of Empire by Howard Zinn
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Deslisle
Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984 by Riad Sattouf
Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1984-1985 by Riad Sattouf
Showa 1926-1939: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki

YA Book That Got A Lot of Praise And It Was Well Deserved
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Enjoyable Fiction With Interesting Characters 
Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange
Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner
I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan
Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Stella By Starlight by Sharon Draper

The Rare Case Where the Film Adaptation is Better Than the Original Novel
Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile
If you haven't watched the TV adaptation on OWN, do it! Such a good show with really interesting stories and characters. It was based on this book, but I think the changes they made actually really improved the story.

A Novel By An Author I Love That Was Sort Of Interesting But Also Felt A Little Too Preachy About Climate Change
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Dystopian Futuristic Novels That Eerily Predicted The Current World We Live In (That Most People Read In High School But I Didn't)
1984 by George Orwell
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Other Books I Finally Got Around To Reading (I started Maya Angelou's autobiography collection many years ago, but finally finished it in 2017.)
The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou
A Song Flung Up to Heaven by Maya Angelou
Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
An Autobiography by Angela Davis
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

A Book That Very Accurately Describes Life as a Twenty-Something Without a Mom
Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This Book Is So Painful To Read, For All The Parts I Identified With And All The Parts I Didn't. Vulnerable, Raw, Powerful, Beautifully Written.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Powerful Feminist Essay Collections
Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti
The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion by Meghan Daum
Lost in Language and Sound by Ntozake Shange

Interesting Autobiographies/Biographies on Important Women
This Child Will Be Great by Ellen Sirleaf Johnson
Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird
I, Rigoberta Menchú by Rigoberta Menchú
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston

And last but not least,
Carrie Fisher Memoirs Because I Miss Her
Wishful Drinking
The Princess Diarist

Monday, August 14, 2017

We are like this. We ARE like this. We are LIKE this.

And we have to mourn this and we have to be sad that we live in a town, a state, a country where shit like this happens. I mean, these are people trying to distance themselves from this crime. And we need to own this crime. I feel. Everyone needs to own it. We are like this. We ARE like this. WE are LIKE this.
Time and time again, this quote from The Laramie Project pops back in my head. Every time there's an extreme act of violence, the "good" people have a knee-jerk reaction: they say "this is not us" or "we are not like this." It's the "good" cishet people that condemn murders or discrimination against LGBTQ people (such as the source of this quote--a reaction to the hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard.) It's the "good" men who condemn the sexual violence that women face daily (#NotAllMen). It's the "good" Christians who condemn violence done in the name of Christianity. And it's the "good" white people who condemn white supremacist rallies and violence, attempting to distance themselves from them, saying #ThisIsNotUs.

But you know what? We are like this. We ARE like this. We are LIKE this.

I understand this reaction in a visceral way. In February 2015, when three Muslim students were murdered in Chapel Hill--in a community where I'd spent most of my life, I not only mourned their loss and felt anger at the occurrence--I was also offended and horrified, that indeed, this HAD happened in MY community, a place I'd thought was better than that. It was a stark reminder that, yes, it could happen here. It could happen anywhere. And it does happen everywhere.

Because we live in a patriarchal, sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic (etc., etc.) society and all of us "good" people benefit from our privileges every day.

We are like this. We ARE like this. We are LIKE this.

We live here. We participate in this society.

We have to own it. We have to reckon with it.

We must not look away.

When we try to ignore what is happening in front of us, we are actively ignoring and participating in the oppression in marginalized people. And I write this today in response to the "Unite the Right" white supremacist/neo-Nazi rally that occurred in Charlottesville this past weekend. No, as a white person, I absolutely do not want to be categorized in the same sentence as Neo-Nazis. But it is vital that I, and other "good" white people recognize that if Neo-Nazis got their way, we would be protected, simply by the color of our skin. That we ARE protected, daily, by the color of our skin.

You want to be an actual good person? Listen to people who are suffering from oppression. Do not discount their experiences and for the love of God, do not make it about your feelings. Take what they tell you and share with the other "good" people. Use the resources you have to actively dismantle the structures of oppression that exist. Recognize that you are sacrificing preferential treatment due to your privilege, but if we are going to a build a more just world, you have to do it. Also recognize that the people who are currently marginalized OWE YOU NO THANKS for making that sacrifice. Because it is your DUTY as a human being and a good person to do so.

We don't have to be like this. But we cannot pretend that we aren't right now. As they say, the first step of recovery is admitting you have a problem.

We are like this. We ARE like this. We are LIKE this.

But there is a different way.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Dear Governor McCrory (On HB2)

Dear Governor McCrory,

I am writing to express my frustration that you are still upholding HB2 as having a positive impact on the state of North Carolina. I thought maybe you and the GA would finally back down when the economic impact hit--but even after PayPal, the NBA, multiple smaller events including concerts by well-known artists, other states limiting all official state business with NC and now the NCAA have pulled their business away from North Carolina, not to mention the effects on the tourist industry and small businesses... You have still not backed down. You are still supporting a heterosexist, transphobic, classist, racist law and further alienating more and more of the citizens of North Carolina and the rest of the country.

And! You saying that the federal government is acting outside of their power in challenging HB2 is just ridiculous. The whole point of HB2 is overreach over local government!

HB2 can't even be enforced when it comes to the bathroom part... We can't spare law enforcement to bother with checking birth certificates in every bathroom in the state. Nor would it make any sense to hire security guards. And despite what you and the GA seem to imagine, you can't actually tell someone's gender based solely on what they look like. We've been taught that but it's not true. It's one thing to be ignorant because no one's ever taught you differently. But you have no excuse at this point. You are willfully defending discrimination, claiming that you are looking out for the people of North Carolina. This shouldn't, but might, come as a shock to you--you don't get to choose who lives here. 

You are further marginalizing people that are already some of the most marginalized in our society. You are pathologizing gender nonconformity. You have made a "solution" for a problem that doesn't exist.

See, one of the oft repeated justifications of Hate Bill 2 is that it is meant to protect women from sexual assault. Sexual violence is a VERY real problem that is pervasive and incredibly damaging. It does happen in bathrooms sometimes. You know who gets assaulted a lot in public restrooms? Trans and gender nonconforming people. You know who is usually doing the assaulting? Straight, cis-gender men. 

Cis-gender women are indeed sometimes assaulted in restrooms, but here's the thing--HB2 is not going to have any effect on that. Why? Because perpetrators of sexual violence that might be looking for someone to prey on are not going to change their behavior. HB2 does not create an invisible barrier for anyone walking into a restroom. Perpetrators of sexual violence seek out victims in vulnerable situations. A person alone in the restroom, where no one will witness the perpetrator going in--fits the bill. 

But as I mentioned previously, we are not going to have bathroom police at every public bathroom--so is a perpetrator really going to change their mind about following a victim into the restroom based on the sign outside the door? How does that even make logical sense? You are selling the illusion of safety. HB2 is not protecting anyone from sexual assault. Realistically, it could very well increase assaults, because you are sanctioning discrimination. You are telling the bigots of North Carolina that they have the right to know anyone's genitalia and then police where they use the bathroom. When did our genitalia become information we are required to make public? HB2 encourages vigilante justice in one of the most private matters there is--using the restroom.

I know you think you're right. I know how big a deal it is to admit being wrong. I suspect you think this will help you win re-election (of course, had the discriminating voting laws remained in effect, that might even have been true). 

But you are on the wrong side of history. Already in the last six months, HB2 has brought on lasting damage to the state. We will not forget that you led this fight. (Nor will we forget all the other damage you've done to NC, but I don't have time for that in this letter.) Historically, you will be remembered as the governor of North Carolina that cared more about being "right" and maintaining your bigotry than providing a safe and equitable environment for the people of your state.

Is that really what you want your legacy to be?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Good Girls

In no particular order and no attribution to who said these things to me or in my hearing, here are some things I was taught about good girls:

Good girls don't have sex until they're married.

Good girls don't wear tight clothing, short skirts or low cut shirts. Good girls don't show too much skin.

Good girls don't sit with their legs open.

Good girls eat their greens so they will grow Barbie doll hair.

Good girls don't hang upside down from trees or monkey bars so you can see their underwear.

Good girls are polite and say things like, yes ma'am, no ma'am, yes sir, no sir, please and thank you.

Good girls don't talk back.

Good girls are nice.

Good girls don't walk alone at night. 

Good girls go to church.

Good girls follow the rules and keep quiet.

Good girls are pretty but only because they don't put effort into it.

Good girls are patient.

Good girls keep secrets.

Good girls aim to please.

Good girls will get married and have children.

Good girls want to get married and have children.

Good girls respect authority.

Good girls do what they're told.

Good girls get the highest grades.

Good girls don't stay out too late.

Good girls dont make trouble.

Good girls don't have a problem doing the right thing. They're good. They do what's expected of them.

Good girls don't let their bra straps show. Good girls never go out in public without a bra on.

Good girls dress feminine.

Good girls don't laugh at fart jokes. Or crude jokes.

Good girls don't curse.

Good girls are only friends with other good girls.

Good girls use proper grammar.

Good girls know that if a boy picks on you, it's just because he likes you.

Good girls play hard to get.

Good girls aren't physically violent.

Good girls don't get into arguments.

Good girls know how to and like to cook.

Good girls don't cheat.

Good girls call their grandparents.

Good girls don't laugh too loud.

Good girls don't complain.

Good girls don't get in arguments with their parents.

Good girls don't spit.

Good girls are princesses.

Good girls aren't aggressive.

Good girls don't brag about themselves.

Good girls don't drink or do drugs.

Good girls conform to conventional beauty standards.

Good girls don't kiss and tell.

Good girls don't have one night stands.

Good girls don't even like sex.

Good girls aim to please.

And if someone has sex with another person without consent, that may be called rape, but only if you're a good girl. If you're not, it wasn't rape, it was just sex. 

Monday, July 25, 2016


This morning I accidentally stumbled onto some "pro-life" web pages and got extremely irritated. Because, I'm sorry, but you cannot call yourself "pro-life" if you are only "pro-life" for unborn fetuses (which apparently these websites like to call "preborn children") aka anti-abortion. (The other "pro-life" issues addressed on this website are birth control and euthanasia. I searched for "death penalty" on the website. No results.)

Here is what being "pro-life" means according to the American Life League:

  • Anti-abortion
  • Anti-Planned Parenthood because they have facilities that provide abortions
  • Anti-abortions of fetuses that have been screened and found to have a disability
  • Anti-birth control because then the possibility of fertilization is prevented, thereby "killing the preborn child inside of her" (Note: every time I type "preborn" it gets autocorrected to "reborn" because PREBORN IS NOT A THING)
  • Anti-euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide (I wondered if maybe this was where they would talk about the death penalty; maybe euthanasia was meant to include lethal injection, but turns out, no, that's not a life issue they are concerned about.)

Here is what being "pro-life" reportedly does NOT include:

  • Pro-healthier environmental practices to slow climate change
  • Pro-universal basic income
  • Pro-universal childcare
  • Pro-free college
  • Pro-paid maternity leave
  • Pro-"welfare" (in quotes because that includes several programs, such as TANF, SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, etc.)
  • Pro-living wage
  • Pro-gun control
  • Pro-comprehensive sex ed
  • Pro-immigration/pro-refugee
  • Anti-police brutality
  • Anti-mass incarceration
  • Anti-capital punishment
  • Anti-war
  • Anti-imperialism

Because, you know what? It is EASY to be "pro-life" when that means demanding someone else carry a pregnancy to term. But if you are not creating a better, cleaner, safer, more equitable world for that child to live in once they are born--HOW is that considered being "pro-life?"