Books read, early February

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey. Kindle. Reread. Reread but not since my teens, so while I knew the details from that and from general cultural discussion, a lot of the details had faded. I maintain that Henry Tilney is the best Austen hero: he is nice to his sister, he interacts with art in a non-socially-normative way (being a dude who reads and discusses novels!), and he has a Newfoundland puppy. Hard to beat that really. Meta, funny.

Leo Damrosch, The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped An Age. I was hoping for more of the rest of the club–more Joseph Banks, more Edmund Burke, more Adam Smith, generally more…of anybody but Johnson and Boswell. This was very much their book. Ah well; Damrosch is outstandingly good at remembering that women and servants exist, and much can be forgiven for that. And I’m not not interested in Johnson and Boswell, just…Joseph Banks. Sigh.

Francesca Forrest, Lagoonfire. Discussed elsewhere.

Dina Gilio-Whitaker, As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, From Colonization to Standing Rock. This is very much an overview of the Indigenous Environmental Justice movement, so its ideal reader is someone who will be reading with pen or phone in hand, taking notes on what they want to find out more about later. If you’re already pretty well educated in Indigenous EJ, this will not be as useful for you.

Elias Lonnrot, Kalevala. (Francis Peabody Magoun edition.) Reread. I still love Magoun’s focus on preserving the specific cultural aspects of this saga, not blunting the insults by making them generic, making it clear that these people get awls and milk from hell. On a reread, I am startled and aghast that he is willing to use s***w (a slur for Native women) to mean large fish or water fowl. Sir: what? I could not find dictionary support for this usage, and it was very very weird. I still love it, though I’m also motivated to do translation comparisons.

Heather McGhee, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. Discussed elsewhere.

Mahvesh Murad, ed., The Apex Book of World SF: Vol. 4. This struck me as more horror-y than the previous volumes in the series, but there were interesting stories by favorite writers like Zen Cho and Isabel Yap, and a welcome English translation of a Nene Ormes story. (It is taking me a very long time to read the novel I have from Nene, because my Swedish is terrible, and I’m missing a lot of nuance. Yay for translation.)

Sharon Kay Penman, The Sunne in Splendour. Reread. We lost Penman last month, and this was the thing I read in memoriam. I hadn’t reread it since college, and it was still a giant engaging brick of a book, and I still am a fiend for Richard III stuff. With the perspective of twenty+ more years, I feel like she overcorrected previous propaganda making Richard III an unmitigated villain (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, SHAKESPEARE) into a book that makes him nearly an unmitigated saint, but there was still a lot of fun to be had here, and I will probably be motivated to reread others of her work.

Eden Royce, Root Magic. This is a middle-grade Gullah Geechee fantasy novel, ownvoices. The protagonist is trying to navigate school and family life while learning to do root work, a traditional Gullah Geechee practice. The pacing is not standard for this category, and some of the timing of how stuff is revealed to the reader is a little off for my tastes (several instances of telling the reader something after the fact that would have been reasonable and useful to know beforehand, in ways that produced less suspense rather than more), but it’s in general a fun book, and I’m so glad it exists.

F. C. Yee, The Shadow of Kyoshi. The second in this duology. Kyoshi comes into her own, and it’s great fun, and if you liked the first one this is definitely a good read. (If you didn’t read the first one, probably do that first, it’ll be much better that way.)

Kevin Young, African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song. A magisterial tome of poetry, highly varied, divided by era so that you can find commonality and contrast between poems and between eras. Pays careful attention to lyric and spoken word as a source for these poems. Some favorites already in here and a bunch of poets I’d never read before. Extremely good resource.

Ovidia Yu, The Paper Bark Tree Mystery. The third in its series, but I think it’d actually be okay as a place to start, everything is inclued reasonably well. The setting is barreling toward WWII, but the protagonist is still navigating her immediate Singapore surroundings, infused with colonialism and politics, and of course murder. Eager to read the next one.

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