Thursday, March 31, 2022

March Books

Can you believe that reading wasn't my jam growing up?! Clif Notes were my best friends in high school - I'd "read enough" to get by for a paper or test, but other than that I did not enjoy the act of reading so never did it... like ever. Maybe I wasn't reading things that held my interest or maybe it was because it was "required" so I didn't find it enjoyable, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I challenged myself to add the goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (which turned into 88 books in 201777 books in 201867 books in 201966 books in 2020 and 67 books in 2021). In the last year or so, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks since I don't have as much time to sit and read physical books (not to mention I walk to work and walk on my lunch break so have two-ish hours a day I can listen to something). Even still, holding a physical book is the bomb diggity and I hope to get back to adding more reading vs listening. Just like in years past, writing a monthly recap of the books I get through is a great way for me to both record what I'm reading and to stay accountable. So here are the books I finished in March:

  • Pushout by Monique W. Morris - I came across this book while scrolling through my Hoopla app and was intrigued immediately. As per usual, I didn't know anything about it, other than the title and subtitle, but I knew I would be all in. Monique not only shares statistics about how Black girls across the country are often pushed out of education and into confinement, but she sits down with many girls and young women and shares interviews about their personal experiences. This book does an amazing job at focusing on the intersectionality of race, gender and socioeconomic class. So often in the mainstream media, you hear about the school-to-prison pipeline for Black boys, but Black girls are left out of the conversation. This book really dives into how the public school system treats (and is obviously failing) Black girls. I'll be honest, while listening to this book I kept thinking how I would love to go back to school so I could become a teacher and be the type of advocate these girls need, but then struggled with the white savior ideology. I appreciated the appendix at the end that dove into questions to ask (whether it be to Black girls in your life, school administrators or educators, etc), but wish it gave more action steps as to how we could help. [Note - it is my understanding that the author wrote a follow-up book "Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues" that gives a blueprint for healing and liberation, but I think it might have been helpful to at least allude to actionable steps for the reader.] I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • I Am Enough by Margy Jackson - I always enjoy biographies. Everyone has a unique story to tell, so I find it fascinating to hear about individual lives. Margy has quite the story, filled with mental illness, domestic abuse, addiction, etc. I sat there thinking, "I can totally see how her circumstances would drive her to self medicate with alcohol". I also really appreciated that it was the author who read the audiobook. You could hear her get emotional and choked up when talking about the passing of her father. She also loves music/ performing and treated listeners to a few bars of singing every once in a while. Although her story kept me engaged, I was hoping to hear more of the "after". It seems as though she was able to find her way through some of her battles, but I would have been equally interested in hearing about how she did it (rehabs were mentioned, and it's not like I am looking for specifics, but I would have loved more than "here is all the trauma that she had, here is how here life fell apart, and {poof} she realized she was enough and worthy" [note - I am not trying to trivialize anything she went through, I just felt like 5+ hours were spent on the "before" and maybe 30 minutes were spent on the "after" without really digging into how she got there]). I would give it a 7 out of 10.

  • Felix Ever After by Kacen Callendar - Figured it was time for another YA book, so I grabbed this one. I didn't know anything about it, but I sort of fell in love with it. Like most Young Adult books, it's a book centered around a love story, but it's also so much more. It's a book about acceptance, identity, self-discovery, etc. The story is full of queer kids and the main character, Felix, is a transgender teen. We need more books with a plethora of characters. REPRESENTATION MATTERS! I also appreciate that these kids felt real - they didn't have everything figured out (whether it came to their future, their sexual orientation, their friendships). The characters, the interactions, the relationships felt authentic. It's not about getting everything perfect, it's about growth and unconditional love! The author did a great job addressing intersectionality (race + gender identity + sexual orientation + class), transphobia and marginalization as well. I would give it a 9.5 out of 10.

  • The Light Streamed Beneath It by Shawn Hitchins - I enjoy memoirs. I enjoy biographies. I enjoy learning about other people's lives, especially ones that are different from my own. Maybe it's from living in the "reality" TV culture, maybe it's due to a genuine curiosity, but whatever the case, I tend to be drawn to this genre regularly. This book was about love and loss. The author tragically lost two of his loves in a very short time (within five months of each other) - don't worry, that isn't a spoiler, he starts the book by telling you that fact. Although there were a couple of parts in the book that made me blush (it was very "sex positive"), I found it incredibly moving and heartfelt. The author is a comedian and author (great with words), so although the subject matter was real and raw, he left the reader feeling hopeful and inspired. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow - As per usual, I didn't know anything about this book when I downloaded it on my Hoopla app other than it was in the YA genre. There were definitely a few things that I enjoyed about this one. I really like when books switch back and forth between different characters' perspectives (and especially when the audiobook is read by different people because it tends to make it easier to keep who is speaking straight) - which this one did on both fronts. I appreciated that it touched on some serious topics such as racism, sexism, etc - especially since it is a Young Adult book and I would love for kiddos to think critically about these topics. I also really loved the fact that a love story wasn't necessarily the focal point of the book (yes, there were some romantic relationships, but friendships, self-discovery and family were more the heart of the story). The one thing that threw me a bit was it was more of a sci-fi/ fantasy book than is normally my jam. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was entertaining, but I guess I didn't 100% connect with mythical "creatures". Had I read more about the book prior to downloading it I probably would have realized I wasn't the intended audience, but it was still enjoyable. I would give it an 8.5 out of 10.

  • Bravey by Alexi Pappas - I had been wanting to read this book for quite some time but hadn't gotten my hands on a copy until a few days ago (I swapped a couple of my books with a friend and this was one I got in return). I started it one evening that I couldn't sleep (a pro is that it didn't put me to sleep, a con is that I still couldn't fall asleep for a while after reading a couple chapters ;)). I knew a little of Alexi's story from social media, but I always love the memoirs because it is a deep dive into the not often seen sides of people's lives. As some of you may know, I've been dealing with some health issues lately and although I would never wish it on others, I would say I felt a little less alone reading that other runners (especially elite, Olympians) have had similar issues - whether it be mental illness or physical injuries. I appreciated Alexi's honesty and her willingness to be an open book to her readers. I definitely doubt I will ever be on her level (obviously not as in her times as a runner, but even in terms of her dedication and determination), but it is still always great to see what others do - especially to become successful. #RealTalk - It seems like so often we see successful people (in whatever medium they may be in) and we want their success but we don't want to put in the hard work to get there. I'm grateful that Alexi went into not only the hard work that went into what she's accomplished, but also the sacrifices she made to pursue her dreams. I can't wait to see what she does next. PS I'm stoked that I got a physical copy of this book because it's definitely one I want to keep in my library. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, March has come to a close. My reading may not be going gang-busters like it has in the past, but I hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my library wait list! 

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read and would recommend to others. Check it out!

What's the best book you've read lately? 

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