Friday, March 31, 2023

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, 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 202067 books in 2021 and 41 books in 2022). Recently, 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:

  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde - Last month I decided because it was Black History Month that I would be intentional about reading all Black authors, so since this month is Women's History Month I thought I'd do something similar. I'll be honest and say I am embarrassed that I haven't read any of Audre's work before, but I am so glad I finally did. Audre is a black lesbian feminist and if you want to talk about intersectionality she definitely has a lot of that covered. Her writing is not only eye opening, it is inspiring. She is a poet, but this book is technically a collection of speeches and essays. As an activist growing up in Harlem in the 1930s, she definitely saw a lot of challenges and changes in her lifetime - many of the changes are in part due to her work of bringing awareness to the issues that marginalized people face. Her words definitely don't sugar coat the truth, but somehow it is still encouraging while being a little bit of tough love at the same time. I hope that when people read this book, they don't just fly through it, but actually sit with and marinate on the topics that Audre focuses on (which will hopefully lead to growth and action in all of our lives!). Her words are just as relevant now as they were when she wrote them BACK IN THE 70S and 80S! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen - I had originally saved this book to get through in February, but I didn't have time to listen to it, so March it is. I'm so glad I downloaded this one. The novel is fast paced, is very real and relatable, made me smile, cringe and tear up, had me shaking my head and cheering for all of the characters. I was super grateful that the author really shows that love comes in all kinds of forms - whether that's self-love, familial love, love for community, love in friendships, romantic love, etc. I also really appreciated that no topic was off the table - from racism and police violence to mental health and health insurance. It was heartwarming yet didn't feel corny. It was a quick listen and I felt like I was trying to find time throughout my day to find out what would happen next. And you better believe that as soon as I saw this was part of a series I downloaded the next book (before I even finished the first ;)). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Black Girls Must Be Magic by Jayne Allen - Like I mentioned, I downloaded the second book in the series before I had even finished the first, so I'm sure you could have guessed it would have been the next book on the list ;). Normally sequels, for me, are just so-so, but this was the perfect continuation of the story. I would even venture to say I liked this one just as much as the first - the only bummer is that my Hoopla app doesn't have the third book available (yet) to borrow... Fingers crossed it comes sooner rather than later (I don't want to forget where things ended)! I loved seeing the relationships (familial, work, romantic) and characters change and grow over time. (I'm pretty sure Ms. Gretchen is my favorite character.) I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Women Talking by Miriam Toews - I saw this on my Hoopla app and was intrigued. It's a novel, but based on a historical event. The format of the book is written in "minutes" (a record of women in the community having a meeting and what they're discussing), which I found very interesting. Although the recorder wants to remain an observer, his feelings and experiences are brought into the story. The "issue" that these women are discussing in the two days of meetings is that eight of the men in their Mennonite colony have been accused of drugging and then raping the girls and women in the community. The men have gone to the nearby city to try and post bond for one of the accused and the women take the time to discuss what, if anything, they plan to do. The options seem to be - do nothing, stay and fight or leave. The book dives into the potential conversations these women may have had and all of the different outcomes and issues they needed to consider. While reading it, I felt like it was similar to The Handmaid's Tale (which is another one of my faves). (And while grabbing the link for the book I noticed it was mentioned that the book has been turned into a film so I may have to try and track it down, although we all know that books are better {99% of the time ;)}.) I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • From Junkie to Judge by Mary Beth O'Connor - The title of this book caught my attention while scrolling through my Hoopla app, so I thought I'd give it a listen. This is a memoir written by Mary Beth who was a meth addict while growing up and is now a federal judge. I appreciated Mary Beth's willingness to dig into her past traumas to share what she overcame. Her story shows that people do have the ability to change (and that recovery cannot be a one size fits all approach). This was not an easy listen because she does not hold back about the abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, verbal) that she suffered, but golly gee it's a huge reminder to never judge others. We have no idea what battles people are facing, so we should be kind, considerate, respectful and helpful when at all possible (PS it's always possible). I do wish there was more of a focus on the "after", but other than that it was a heart wrenching and eye opening book. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Ain't I a Woman by bell hooks - I am ashamed to say that I have not read anything by bell hooks before now (even though I know she is a MUST read for feminists). I am embarrassed it has taken me this long, but that is on me. This book specifically (she published around 40 and you better believe I am going to try to start working through them once I got a taste of how amazing of a writer she is) kept bringing to mind some very specific words - "systematic", "intersectionality" and "once we know better, we need to do better". bell does a deep dive into the history of black women and feminism. She critically looks at everything from slavery to the civil rights and women's movement. The book was originally published in 1981, so some parts of it seems slightly outdated or could be added/ expanded upon, but golly gee, how sad is it that this still rings true another 40+ years later?! If you consider yourself a feminist, I'd highly recommend adding this to your reading list if you haven't read it yet (and then add it to your personal collection while you're at it). I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • A Girlhood by Carolyn Hays - I'm sure you know by now that I enjoy memoirs, so when I saw this title pop up in the "new to Hoopla" list I was super interested. Let me start off by saying I loved this book! It is written by a mother to (and about) her transgender daughter [written under a pen name to keep everyone's privacy]. Not only is the story about their family, but she also dives into history of the LGBT movement, other cultures and their views on transgender people, etc - so this book is so much more than just a memoir, it's educational and inspirational as well.. The author is very open and vulnerable about her privilege (being a white cisgender  heterosexual woman) and the phobias that have surfaced in her life while learning and relearning about things such as gender, sexuality, religion, raising children, etc. Obviously this is one family's experience (a very understanding, welcoming and encouraging family), but it was heartwarming to see how much this family rallied around their youngest child and love her unconditionally. I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • Finding Me by Viola Davis - I really enjoy following Viola on IG, so when I saw she was releasing a book I was hoping it would hit the Hoopla app. Ask and you shall receive ;) Let me say - WOW! I didn't know much of Viola's personal story before listening to her memoir. I first noticed how amazing of an actor she was when I got hooked on the TV show How To Get Away With Murder. Since then, I've pretty much loved everything I've seen her in. Her story is pretty intense. Strike that. Her story is very intense. Her story reminds us that we have no idea the battles those we come in contact are fighting (unless we take the time to see them and find our about their lives). Her story shows how important representation matters. Her story exposes how prevalent racism, sexism, colorism, intersectionality, etc are and how it isn't "history" or "old news". For goodness sake, my mom is older than Viola so thinking of the experiences she has had during her life in terms of that, it really hits home. Her story requires us to look at society and HELP TO FIX IT. I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson - After a few memoirs I thought it was time for a YA book. I saw there was another of Tiffany's books on my Hoopla app and I've really enjoyed all of her other books that I've had in the past so I downloaded this one right away. I am normally NOT a horror fan (like I have to close my eyes even when scary previews come on the commercials), but I was hoping that since it was a YA book it wouldn't be more than I could handle. Thankfully for me (and maybe for you) I would say it was more suspenseful than horror. I really enjoyed listening to it as an audiobook because there were many different performers and points of views, so it was cool to have all of them in a different voice so you could keep things straight. Apparently it is a retelling of Stephen King's Carrie (but because I steer clear of that genre I didn't know until I was getting the link for this post ;)), but with a social justice twist. I would give it an 8 out of 10. 

With that, March has come to a close. My reading may have slowed down a bit (especially compared to years past), but I hope it never stops. If you have suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my "must read" list! 

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read so they're in one place. Feel free to check it out!

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

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