Jan. 2021 Reads

I almost forgot to blog about this, which would be a shame, because I read a crap ton of books in Jan. I don’t know what it was, maybe the start of a new year, a blank slate, but I was starving for literature. I’m surprised Goodreads wasn’t like, “Girl, take a breath.”

But with the new blogger gig, (shameless plug), my little blog that could has looked a little neglected. I’m still in the process of figuring out what this space means for me. I definitely see books as a huge part of this blog.

Without further adieu, the Jan. 2021 Reads:

A Good Neighborhood – This is one of those books where you can see the deadly car crash from the first page, but that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking. Although fictional, there is plenty of truth in this book about gentrification, race, class, and the two justice systems in the U.S. I find myself mixed on if I’d recommend it. Although the author – who is a white woman – does discuss her writing process and how she developed the voices of the two Black characters – whose POV we see along with a few other white characters – it makes me feel uncomfortable. I liked the book, but did I like it because I’m a WW and I felt like her explanation gave me a permission structure to like the book? Is this just “grief-porn” and traumatic to POC? I’m wrestling with all these thoughts. If you’ve read it, let me know what you think.

Rating: If you’re going to read it, read it with eyes wide open.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life – I imagine this book could have been used as a weight in RBG’s famous workouts with her personal trainer. It is neither a quick nor light read. But it is chock-full of information about an exceptional woman. I came away understanding her career trajectory and her sometimes confusing stance on the ruling in Roe v. Wade so much better. It is a must-read about the most notorious, second female SCOTUS justice of our time.

Rating: It’s about one of my heroes, so of course I’m going to recommend it. But it’s also just a very well-written book.

The Vanishing Half – Give Brit Bennett all the gold stars. Kiley Reid (who wrote “Such a Fun Age” – read it) described Brit Bennett’s style as “a bit James Baldwin and Jaqueline Woodson” which is probably why I love her books so much. The book centers around a pair of light-skinned twins in a town where everyone is light-skinned and the different paths they take in life as one decides to “pass” as white in the world and the other does not. Bennett is a glorious storyteller and her characters definitely stay with you long after you close her book.

Rating: Go request it immediately from your library. There’s probably already a waiting list.

Little Eyes – I read this book for my book club and honestly it is not the type of book I naturally gravitate towards. It’s about this new craze – a “toy/pet” (not sure there’s a better name for it) called a Kentuki in which the buyer is the “owner” and someone in another part of the world can “dwell” in the Kentuki. Honestly I kind of picture a Furby with someone operating it from their laptop. The book definitely leaves you feeling off-balance and I would describe it more as a series of short stories than a cohesive novel. Some of the storylines are more thought-provoking than others (my favorites were the little boy from the Caribbean, the artist and his girlfriend, and the old woman in South America.) I’m not typically a science-fiction reader, but I definitely plan on reading more of Samantha Schweblin’s books.

Rating: Read it, you’ll never look at your kid’s toys the same way again.

I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are – This book had all the makings of a Meredith favorite. Babysitter’s Club-inspired cover art, a title that’s a play on a Disney movie, written by an author of a similar age, but it was just, meh. I don’t know. I was expecting more Samantha Irby and got…well, I don’t know what I got. There were some funny moments – the Harry Potter fan-fic is so good – and I appreciated it as a quick read on a cold day, but I was expecting more.

Rating: Take it out from the library, skip to the Harry Potter chapter, return.

Medicore: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America – Real talk: Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Want to Talk About Race?” was my antiracism awakening. It is the first book I recommend to people who, well, want to talk about race. Her writing is accessible and thought-provoking. She has done exceptional work in providing education to white people and we do not deserve her. I have been waiting for a follow-up from her and was elated when her second book, “Mediocre” dropped in Dec. of 2020, just in time for my birthday. And it did not disappoint. She is so good at weaving historical and modern-day events, creating an easy to follow map to better understand how we got here and how we can fix it. The chapter on football alone is worth the read.

Rating: 100000% read it.

And that’s the Jan. round-up! My Feb. challenge is to only read books by Black authors. I hope you’ll join me.

As always, buy from your local independent or BIPOC-owned bookshop and utilize your public library!

x Meredith

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