Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha, eds., Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. I was a little confused at first about why these stories tended to be heavy on exposition. Then I realized that when you’re trying to do things that are not very well aligned with what has gone before–when you’re trying to break new ground, examine new territory–sometimes that ends up heavily weighted towards having to tell people what you’re doing. Go figure.
Christopher Hibbert, Garibaldi: Hero of Italian Unification. Nineteenth century Italy is deeply, truly weird. I mean, totally bizarre. This is an older book–from the 1960s–so you’ll still find people referred to with racial terminology that, while not deliberately offensive, is not what we would use in my lifetime. Also, there is not a great deal on Garibaldi’s early life. With those caveats, it’s a fascinating book about a strange, strange place/time.
Luis Martin, Daughters of the Conquistadores: Women of the Viceroyalty of Peru. This author had very firm ideas about what convents are Supposed To Be Doing and how nuns are Supposed To Act. If you can get past him telling colonial Peruvian nuns, rather frantically, that they were Doin It Rong, this is a fascinating study about women of many walks of life. The other caveat is that the author was focused on Spanish-descended women and plaintively called for someone else to write a study of the roles of native and African-descended women. Amen, brother. I am with you on that. But Peruvian women had some really interesting cultural quirks that you would not guess from first principles, and this was very much worth my time.
Gerald Vizenor, Chair of Tears. This is the third of Vizenor’s short novels I’ve read, and it occupies a conceptual place between the other two as well as a temporal one. The satire explores both university culture and Native families, it draws on the trickster stories so clearly dear to Vizenor’s heart, and it divides the book into stylistically and tonally different sections. It’s interesting to watch Vizenor change and stay the same with time, and I will probably read more of his stuff.