Reading Journal || May

May was a great month for me. I got back to running after having a hurt knee for a good 6 weeks. I studied a lot of Portuguese, picked up some new clients, and am very close to getting my Brazilian residence visa. The weather has turned to be cooler and the days are both sunny and rainy, so it's the best of all the worlds.

I want to do a quick numbers count of books I've read this year.
written by men: 18 / 35%
written by women: 24 / 46%
non-white authors: 14 / 27%
non-fiction: 14 / 27%
YA: 10 / 19%
Conclusion: I need to read more YA! Any suggestions??

Adult Fiction

The Hundred Secret Senses // Amy Tan
A Chinese-American woman whose marriage is on the rocks goes on a documentary work trip back to China with her crazy Chinese sister and her husband. It made me laugh out loud with its perfect descriptions of Chinese logic, and the writing is so on the nose that I enjoyed every minute of reading it. This book came highly recommended from two friends and I seriously loved it!

Longbourn // Jo Baker
If you love Pride & Prejudice and ever wondered about the other issues besides upper crust courting concerns that were going on in Georgian England, give this a shot. As for me, I found that I didn’t really care about the servants or the war because I was went into it searching for another juicy angle on the Bennet sisters’ love interests.

Young Adult Fiction

A Gathering of Shadows // V.E. Schwab
Fast, fun, spunky, modern, this is the second book in a fantasy trilogy that jumps through Londons… all four of them. I am such a fan of this series, guys. The only thing bad about reading this book now is having to wait until next year for the next one!

The Orphan Queen // Jodi Meadows
YA TROPE ZONE ALERT!!! The writing is so, so, so bad. And the story is incredibly predictable. BUT I read a good 33% and by then it had me so sucked in that I had to finish it (because what if my predictions are wrong??). And now I’m on the hold list for the next book in this series. SUE ME. All you need to know is: fantasy, magic is illegal, a badass orphan girl is going to take back her kingdom.

The Raven Boys // Maggie Stiefvater
People who I trust love this series, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. I like it but I’m still not exaaaactly sure where it is headed. The beginning of the book was pretty slow-paced and I felt lost for a while because of how it meanders around, but the writing itself is so tasty. Yummy books. I stuck it out, and I’m going to continue. The other bookclub member (my boyfriend) liked it too.

O Pequeno Príncipe // Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Ugh, finally finished this. Am I perhaps the only person in the world who thinks this book is boring and pretentious? I kept getting the feeling that the author was writing to adults under the guise of writing to children. gag.

Poetry / Non-fiction

Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful // Alice Walker
Approachable poems about social justice topics. This is the kind of poetry I like.

The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts // Laura Tillman
The second read for the #SJBC was so-so. This is a journalist’s personal journey into trying to understand what caused a man to snap and stab his three toddlers to death. Along the way she debates questions of capital punishment ethics with… herself. It was interesting but I wish I had known it was just as much about the author (if not more so!) as it was about the story, because maybe I would be less critical of it.

The Ragamuffin Gospel // Brennan Manning
A very down-to-earth, honest-about-the-dirt book about what it means to follow Jesus’ teachings without trying to earn love and blessings from God. I missed the discussion questions in the back, so when I reread (which I will definitely do!) I will journal along with those. Seriously the best book to read if you are burned out with religion.

Top Ten-ish TBR For Beach Haters

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about beach reads!

Two problems:
1. I hate the beach. Mountains ftw.
2. It’s delightfully fallish and rainy and cold down here in the southern hemisphere! I’m currently wrapped up in blankies and sweaters and leggings.

One thing that kinda really bothers me is how northern hemisphere seasons dominate content of what is going on in the other half of the world, where, btw, things are opposite! This is not the fault of The Broke and the Bookish by any means. But, for example, I’m talking advertising and seasonal products from McDonald’s say things like “Cool down with a refreshing smoothie” in Portuguese in July… the coldest part of the year for São Paulo, when a normal day is overcast, rainy, and has a high of 15C/60F. Or like right now Starbucks is all decked out in summer colors and selling cold-drink tumblers, and all I want is brooding and some hot tea.

/rant (for now)

Cold and rainy weather makes me want to curl up with dark thrillers, pessimistic thinkers, supernatural spooks.

So here’s my wishful thinking TBR for the next few months (good thing I’ve been reading at double my normal pace this year!):

All the Haruki Murakami books that I have not yet read. 
Which ones? I’ve read 1Q84 (and want to reread one of these days), Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore, After Dark, and What We Talk About When We Talk About Running. So, all the rest = approximately a small mountain, right?

The entire Harry Potter series 
I read the series for the first time 4 years ago, so it’s time to refresh and fall in love all over again. Yes, first time was only 4 years ago. Yes, my mom believes they are devil books.

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me edited by Kate Bernheimer
A collection of fairy tales that promises to be at least as disturbing as the traditional ones.

Columbine by Dave Cullen
This is an award-winning investigative study into the lives of the killers and the survivors of the Columbine massacre.

The Raven Boys series by Margie Stiefvater
I listened to The Raven King already and it has supernatural stuff, murder, darkness, yaaassss.

The Bell Jar and The Colossus by Sylvia Plath
Feminist, dark, heavy, madness = two must reads

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Uhm, three characters headed towards something that looks like a disaster.

Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi
Dystopian evil government possesses a girl who kills people with her touch and she has to choose which side she is on?? Serve me a slice of that dark and brooding trope cake!

MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood
I purposefully don’t know much about this because I want to be very oh so surprised, but it’s sure to be the kind of book that makes my eyes widen and my jaw clench.

Sorry (jk not really) to be such a downer on all you summery folks! Do you have any dark and scary recommendations for me?

Reading African-American Authors

Norma Impressions by Kara Walker (source)

A few months ago, I loaded up my twitter account with a lot of book critics, educators, and activists who are involved with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. I wanted to know what kinds of conversations they were having, and why. At first I didn’t understand a lot of academic-y terms they threw around, so I had to google and read a ton. I still have to google, but I’ve gained a lot of understanding into the conversation. Every day there is something new, but it really can be boiled down to: White people, why aren’t you listening?

I know I have a case of white guilt that has more than once tempted me to unfollow and stop listening because I feel ashamed and out of place. I don’t dare chime in to the conversation because these women are fierce, strong, educated, and I would be both out of line and out of my league to think that I had something to add. This has been humbling in a painful way.

Sometimes I want to feel like I belong with them because I’m a woman living in a severely misogynistic society (After I moved to Brazil, I understood why women become anorexic out of an attempt at control over their own bodies… I struggle with eating in certain situations here). But I can’t say I face the same thing that a woman of color is up against; I consciously use my race and gender to get in and out of situations that other people would not be able to, and I have done so my whole life. For example, one time I boarded a plane without any form of legal ID because I had forgotten and packed mine in my checked luggage. I can think of scores of personal examples like this.

I know a British guy who is so quick to point out horrendous racial crimes that ‘my people’ have done. I think it’s because he is deeply insecure and tries to criticize others whenever possible. But I was so gleefully happy when I read Longbourn and the global capitalist inheritance system clicked into place in my brain: white Americans got rich from the bodies of slaves, but so did white Englishmen, and even if this guy I know did grow up poor and does have ancestors who slaved in the fields as he so frequently claims, he too is reaping the profits of slavery by the mere fact that he was able to afford a university education and make a living using his native language in Brazil. There is a reason that English teachers are in such worldwide demand, and it is directly linked to money that was made by, cities that were built by, and advantages that were gained by African bodies.

The thing I've learned (that this dudebro doesn’t understand yet) is that white privilege does not mean an absence of hardship of any kind. L.L. McKinney tweeted recently: ...yes. All white people are privileged. No this does not mean they don’t struggle or are not marginalized in some form fashion. (source)

Nowadays, I’m careful to check out an author before I bother checking out a book. I’m pretty tired of reading books by white men. Not because white men are evil, but because I’ve been reading books by them my entire life and I’m ready to stop now. There’s lots of other people who deserve to be heard, and a lot more that I need to learn that I’m not going to learn by listening to the same thing all the time.

My Recent Reads

Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson)
Stevenson is a lawyer working primarily in Alabama, fighting against injustice (racism and otherwise) in the criminal justice system.

Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehesi Coates)
A letter from a father to his teenage son about what it means to have a black body in a country that constantly seeks to control it.

The Book of American Negro Poetry
(various, ed. James Weldon Johnson)
An anthology that sets out to prove that African American poets are equal and often superior to white poets.

Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful: Poems (Alice Walker)
Tangible and accessible poetry that contemplates race, exploitation, and colonialism.

Parable of the Sower duology (Octavia E. Butler)
Set in a dystopian America, a strong, young black woman makes her way from Southern California to better lands in the north, all the while developing a new religion based on acceptance and equality.

Good Links

Lemonade Syllabus (and on Goodreads so you can add 'em to your TBR already.)
The Sublte Linguistics of Polite White Supremacy (an essay by @YawoBrown)
White Fragility (an essay by Robin DiAngelo)

Three Books with Empire Waists

In the past month I’ve read three books set in times past, and I realized that though the purpose and language of each book is different, they all have this in common: protagonists wearing empire waists!

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover (Sarah MacLean) is the second book in the Rules of Scoundrels romance novel series (judge me, haters), set in Regency England. In this book, the independent, smart, aint-gonna-take-nothin-from-nobody Lady Philippa unwittingly seduces the silent and closed-off owner of a sleek gambling club. She uses her wits, brains, and nerdy-girl charm to save the day. I don’t think this book is particularly historically accurate, but Princess Peach rescuing Mario, so there.

The House of Mirth (Edith Wharton) was written and set in turn of the century New York. The story gets way too melodramatic at the end, but I really enjoyed watching the tailspin of the life of the protagonist Lily. She reminded me a lot of Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse because of how quick she is to snub those who aren’t good enough, only to later realize how much she needs to be in the good graces of others. The whole book uses language straight from theatre to emphasize that everyone is playing a role and wearing a mask. No wonder my favorite character, Lawrence Selden, is the fresh of breath air who criticizes all the superficiality. Fun trivia: Edith Wharton’s maiden name was Jones—it was her family that inspired the phrase “Keeping up with the Jones’s” because they were the richest and showiest family in Old New York.

Longbourn (Jo Baker) is Pride & Prejudice retold from the servants’ perspectives. This answers questions such as: Does Hill have children? What happens to servants’ children when they do have them? Wasn’t there a war going on, and why wasn’t anyone concerned about it? Was the abolitionist movement before or after this? How did Darcy and Bingley become so rich? I really, really liked all of the choices that Jo Baker made in adding details to the original cast. She brought a deeper and more rounded perspective to all of the characters. Wickham is a pedophile, for example. And Elizabeth is more self-absorbed in a way that highlights the ugliness of her pride.

I disliked where Baker quotes exactly from P&P (though she always does it in a clever way), and my favorite parts were where she diverged completely from Austen. There is a very informative discussion of the role of slavery in producing the wealth of the British upper class and its contribution to England’s economic development. The story also explains more details about the class differences between soldiers who self-enlisted in the army and those who bought their way in (like Wickham). As a particularly sharp criticism, one of the footsoldiers is in a rural village in Spain, “saving” the Spanish from the French, when he sees obscenities in English scrawled on the walls of a sacked house. He realizes that he is a pawn caught in a rich person’s game.

In spite of all the things I enjoyed and the writing being lush and really well developed, I thought the book was okay. My personal preference is that P&P adaptations be set in other times and places than the original, because can anyone really top that?