Books read, late January

Tola Rotimi Abraham, Black Sunday. This is a beautifully written Nigerian family novel, tracing the lives of a group of siblings from earliest childhood well into their adult years. The things that happen to the family in question spiral significantly downward to the end, so it is not a pick-me-up sort of cheerful book, but it’s extremely good at what it’s doing.

Michael J. DeLuca, Cecile Cristofari, Leah Bobet, et al, eds., Reckoning Issue 5. Kindle. I enjoy every year’s issue of this speculative/environmental journal, but each one in a slightly different way, I think possibly because of the rotating cast of guest editors. The poetry selections were particularly strong this time around, with stand-out poems from Julia da Silva, Catherine Rockwood, and Jennifer Mace.

Melissa Faliveno, Tomboyland. A collection of essays that…hmm, I need a new term. Because I do not identify with Melissa Faliveno here, I neighbor with her. I see her in these essays, she is someone who is unlike me in a lot of ways but whose perspective I find familiar in the sense of, oh yes, here is someone unlike me who is very like a lot of people I like to be around. I wouldn’t say that it’s because these essays are necessarily warm and friendly! There’s a lot of dark content here (well handled). But for me, her musings about gender and sexuality and pain and Wisconsin are a very congenial kind of completely-not-me. If that makes sense. (Those of you who have experience with sexual harassment in the SF field…Melissa Faliveno is from Wisconsin, and there’s a thing in here…well. Be braced for some very specific familiarity that is not named, and yet: if you know, you know. I was startled to come upon that here, and would like others in my position to be more braced for it. In a good way, definitely still worth reading! But. Oof, solidarity, Faliveno.)

Kendra Fortmeyer, Hole in the Middle. I find that there’s a sweet spot in somewhat-surreal speculative fiction, between explaining too little to be coherent and explaining too much to make sense. While the emotional core of this book rings true, the handling of the speculative elements was overexplained for my tastes–the technobabble really, really did not work scientifically, and it would have been fine if Fortmeyer had just let the speculative elements be symbolic instead. Ah well.

Isabel Ibanez, Written in Starlight. A follow-up to Woven in Moonlight, exploring more of that world and those characters. The ending was the strongest part, in my opinion–I really would like to spend more time in this world, but the middle suffered a bit from not being as strongly conceived as the first volume.

Robert P. Jones, White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. Jones is himself a Southern white Christian, so on the one hand, do not let his be the only voice you encounter on this topic, and on the other hand, he knows whereof he speaks and is attempting to grapple very honestly with cultural elements he encountered, took for granted, and in some cases participated in. He also runs a religion-focused polling institute and does a lot of stats on this issue, so if you want hard numbers for some of the things you might suspect on this topic, Jones is there with the data.

R. A. Lafferty, The Best of R. A. Lafferty. Discussed elsewhere.

Priya Parker, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters. Parker is extremely thoughtful, and encourages her readers to be extremely thoughtful, about the purpose and structure of various parties, meetings, and get-togethers. I feel that a lot of people who run conventions and gaming groups could benefit from reading this book. She is relying on good faith participation from both planners and guests, and in some ways I think that’s a missed opportunity for one of the most important topics, which is how to deal with people who are not acting in good faith in a social and/or professional gathering. But this is valuable for what is discussed, more than it’s frustrating for what isn’t.

Neil Price, ed., The Archaeology of Shamanism. I would love to read a magisterial work by Neil Price with this title, but this is instead a collection of papers edited by Neil Price. Still interesting, world-spanning and considered about shamanism in various places, but be aware going in that it will not be the kind of large work Price has done on shamanism in the Norden in the Viking Age. Maybe someday.

Eva Saulitis, Into the Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss Among Vanishing Orcas. This has a satisfying amount of orcas per unit memoir. I wanted to read about orcas for my grandfather’s birthday, and this was an interesting contemporary book about studying orcas and all the feelings that come with dealing with their current habitat situation.

V. E. Schwab, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. A really interesting take on the deal-with-the-devil story, with a particularly satisfying ending. The parts that are and are not spelled out early on, that unfold to the reader’s eye…well, it’s a fun balance, I can see why this is popular enough to be hard to get.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies. Discussed elsewhere.

Lauren Wilkinson, American Spy. Short, snappy story about an American spy in Africa grappling with the interpersonal and international system that brought her to this point. Definitely interested in whatever Wilkinson does next.

G. Willow Wilson et al, Ms. Marvel: Teenage Wasteland and Ms. Marvel: Time and Again. Apparently the end of G. Willow Wilson’s run on Ms. Marvel, and I had good fun with it–it had a lot of the elements that I have enjoyed about the previous volumes, with enough new elements to keep things fresh.

Terri Windling, The Wood Wife. Discussed elsewhere.

F. C. Yee, The Rise of Kyoshi. Usually when an author whose work I have enjoyed gets a gig writing media tie-ins, I’m happy for them and sad for me (money! exposure!…time away from projects I will be more interested in!). But in this case the story of Avatar Kyoshi seemed far enough removed from the main arc of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: Legend of Korra that I thought it would be worth a try. I was right: the temporal distance gave Yee the room to do very different things with the world and characters without contradicting the show’s canon. This was delightful, and I will be happy to read the sequel. (…and also will still hope for more of Yee’s own original work soon.)

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