Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper: This book was enchanting and grabbed me from the beginning. However, when I finished it I had that feeling of not knowing for sure how I felt about it. The realistic story was not always done favors by the author's decision to pepper fantasy elements throughout. I felt like the sparse storytelling was beautiful and precise, but at the end I also felt like I could have used a few more scenes to boost my understanding of the characters' relationships. Overall, a good read.
Pax Romana by Jonathan Hickman: D recommended this one, and as is the case with all of D's recommendations so far, I would have never chosen this one for myself but I loved it. The Catholic church has a time machine and decides to send back a team to rewrite history since the future for the church and humanity have gone off course. Since this is a graphic novel, the pictures are an essential part of the story, something D has to remind me so I won't just read the words and keep moving.
Dietland by Sarai Walker: This book devoured me. Walker tells the story of a woman named Plum who is planning weight loss surgery. Her life is then interrupted by a woman who ends up leading her to a group of women trying to change the world. Walker will make you uncomfortable; it's part of how a book with a cupcake on the cover ends up being a study of how we treat women, how we treat our bodies, and how society as a whole is failing.
The Fall of Princes by Robert Goolrick: Meh. I saw this one recommended and grabbed it. I guess it was along the lines of The Wolf of Wall Street, which I did not see and was not interested in. Not my thing.
Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo Crucet: I was terrified when I put this book down. So rich and real was the story that I feared I would never be able to pick up another book and love it like I loved this one. Crucet's story of a Cuban American woman recalling her life in Miami as well as her college life in New England is funny and heartbreaking. She examines what it means to be American but considered other, what it means to find your place in the world, and what it means to be home.
In Progress: Ghettoside by Jill Leovy: I plan on wrapping this one up by the end of March. In this non-fiction book, Leovy, through the stories of families and detectives, explores a problem in America that few want to talk about: black-on-black crime and how it is hugely ignored and rarely prosecuted. Her goal is to offer a solution, a simple one that some detectives in places like South Central have tried: stop making black lives cheap. Filled with facts and emotions about people the reader grows to care about, this book is engaging and heartfelt. Leovy doesn't take shortcuts, instead exploring this problem to its depths and putting the hard facts on display for all to see and hopefully be affected by.
The power of books, it always amazes me. D and I started listening to Ta Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me in the car on our trip today, and though I had already read it, I still found myself nodding at certain points, coming just short of saying Amen. After reading Dietland, I wanted to give up the few leftover insecurities I carry about my appearance and focus that energy on actual real problems women face. When a friend saw me reading Ghettoside this week, I told him the premise and he said, "Wow, sounds good, but this isn't exactly a topic you could discuss with the general public, know what I mean?" My answer: "I know why you say that, but I think we should talk about it. If we can't have honest conversations, how can we ever hope for honest change?" Tonight as I read from the Bible about Jesus' command that we serve like He served, I remembered that the answers to all of this, to helping make it on earth as it is in heaven, are in a book, the greatest one ever written, and all the problems we have go back to a garden in Eden where a decision by humans led to the day we will remember tomorrow. Good Friday, a day of atonement when the one who never sinned paid for all of ours. I'm grateful for this hope, especially in the midst of all the loss and injustice surrounding us. I'm grateful for the book I go back to time after time that never fails to offer sustenance. I'm thankful for grace and mercy and for the day eternal justice will reign. And I ache for that day, even as I look for ways to serve and understand and see the kingdom come in the here and now. Still, I ache.