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Books read, early December

Diane Ackerman, I Praise My Destroyer. Reread. I find that I am less enthusiastic about this over a decade later, but the science- and scientist-related poems are still of interest. I think other Ackerman volumes will be where I find my favorites. I may find that I am wrong.

Zen Cho, Spirits Abroad. Usually when I read a short story collection I like to call out particular favorites. This whole thing is my particular favorite. Read the whole thing. This is so good. I–so from the very beginning, if you have any Malaysian friends, the dialog. Oh, the dialog. There is this comfortable confident feeling that she is telling the truth about your friends, and that makes you feel like she is also telling the truth about whatever speculative element. This is what good dialog does. (See also: good whatever else.) If you give readers the sense that people don’t really talk like that, it’s a short hop to these aren’t really people, they’re just ink marks on a page. These are really people. They are really particular, beautifully drawn people. Doing various things with heart and interest. I liked Sorcerer to the Crown a lot a lot, but this–I love this so much.

A.M. Dellamonica, A Daughter of No Nation. Discussed elsewhere.

Angelica Gorodischer, Prodigies. This is about the house of a poet, in Berlin. It is not the masterwork Kalpa Imperial is, and it makes me so very happy to have the chance to read something secondary, to get a translation that isn’t the One Biggest Best Thing. What a great future it is where I can read not just one Angelica Gorodischer book, oh yay yay yay. I mean, this is an interesting book. I just…don’t take translations for granted.

Ryan North and Erica Henderson, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power. Extremely exuberant. Punny. Pugnacious. I heard someone say that it talks like the internet; yep. There are better audiences than me for this book, but I smiled at bits of it all the same. It pretty much does what it says on the tin, though.

Nnedi Okorafor, Binti. I feel like this is a book that is doing a lot–a lot–to try to reach audiences who are unfamiliar with some aspects of African cultures and get them African-based alien interaction SF that they can be okay with. I love alien interaction SF and am pretty comfortable with less hand-holding through African cultures, so rock on.

Greg Rucka, Lazarus Three. Near future dystopian comic continues. Don’t start here, see if you like the early ones. I’m feeling pretty lukewarm at this point and would rather have his prose in something like Alpha, but writers are allowed their choice of projects and not mine. (What is this free will nonsense. What.)

Steve Silberman, NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity. I keep saying that things do what they say on the tin; this does not. I am deeply interested in the future of neurodiversity, and there is almost nothing about that in this book. It is substantially Awful Things People Have Done To the Autistic Through History. I wanted to read it to see what mainstream people will think about my autistic/other neurodiverse friends and family, since it’s a pretty popular pop-science book, and aside from a few moments of historical diagnosis (staaaaaap) it didn’t have a lot that I’m going to have to beat out of people with my shoe. But it’s not very much fun to read if you already know the Awful Things Etc., and it does pretty much nothing for the future of neurodiversity if you’re a nerd/proto-activist in that direction. Well. We’ll just have to build it ourselves, folks. (And by “we’ll just have to build it ourselves,” I mean “I will be calling on you to build this with me, so saddle up.”)

Molly Tanzer, The Pleasure Merchant. Eighteenth century…science fiction? ish? or just historical fiction, depending on how you read it. Not like anything else out there, that I know of. Proto-mesmerism, and sex, and people’s best and worst natures, and oh my goodness so very eighteenth century. I love the eighteenth century, and Molly hits on so many things about it. Recommended.

The Hmong American Writers’ Circle, How Do I Begin? A Hmong American Literary Anthology. Quite a lot of poetry, some fiction, a little nonfiction, some art. An interesting mix. I’m a little frustrated by how many people told these writers that they had to “speak for their people” when white writers are put under no such constraint, but having a forum for their voices to be heard is a good thing regardless of whether you’re leaning that on them.

Derek Walcott, The Poetry of Derek Walcott, 1948-2013. Lots to love here. Some political, some highly personal, and not clustered at one end of his career or another, either. You can watch him struggle with the legacy of colonialism pretty explicitly and in a fantastically erudite way. You can also just revel in what he does with language. Gorgeous, great. More.

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