Great nonfiction, continued!

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It’s been great exploring nonfiction this year because there are many interesting perspectives.  Going in-depth on one topic is so satisfying. Also, I love reading blog posts, and reading essays has been a similar experience. It’s personal yet informational.

Here are three nonfiction books I read recently, that I have enjoyed.

Labor of Love by Moira Weigel is about dating. It talks about how dating came to be so much like work. When we use metaphors like “on/off the market,” it’s really not a metaphor because a good part of dating is transactional! Weigel describes the history of dating from the beginning of the 1900s to now, through the eras of “calling cards,” to going steady, to online dating.

One thing that Weigel does well is that she is mindful of the fact dating is not the same experience for middle class White daters and LGBT and/or Black daters. For example, working (and dating) outside the home might have been liberating and a big change for White women, but Black women have always had to work outside the home. The history of dating is a constant shift in power between dating partners. The book explores these shifts by answering these questions:

  • Where does dating take place? In the home, outside, on the internet?
  • How do social forces like schooling, technology, and feminism affect dating?
  • In what ways does dating become work?

I really enjoyed this book. Weirdly, I did not come away feeling pessimistic about relationships. I agree with the author’s conclusion — dating (and to that end, procreating) is incredibly creative and changes the world.

The Pretty One by Keah Brown

I follow Keah on Twitter, and just like on social media, she is vulnerable and speaks candidly about being a disabled, queer, Black woman. She created the #disabledandcute hashtag. She loves pop culture and is an entertainment journalist. She’s a big fan of Paramore. It was like getting to know a friend, and I love how The Pretty One is not strictly a memoir but also her thoughts on pop culture. The truth is, pop culture does a really poor job of representing people like Keah, but that doesn’t stop her from being a fan of it and talking about it. And I’m very glad she has a voice.

Read alike: This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

Period Power by Nadya Okamoto

Nadya is incredible! I got into the menstrual movement last year and even though periods are just one out of many forms of inequality that comes with having a female body, it is worth talking about. It’s such a basic need that when it is ignored or not being met, it has a huge impact on daily life. Okamoto talks about how talking to homeless women about their menstrual needs, opened her eyes.

From these three books, I’m learning that for any feminist discussion to be productive, it has to be intersectional. It’s not enough to say that women are being short-changed in dating, in disability, and in menstruation. There is a hierarchy within those forums. Being able-bodied and cis-gendered means that I have privileges that make my experience more comfortable.

I’m grateful to these writers for sharing their knowledge and perspectives.

Fiction

A Tear in the Ocean by H. M. Bouwman

I loved A Crack in the Sea. It was such a unique cross-genre book! I loved Rayel, Artie, and Putnam here too. Rayel’s character spoke the most to me. She has been hurt many times, and the saddest part of the book was when Una/Nunu had a falling out with her. I like that the book doesn’t shy away from child abuse, arranged marriages and how strong children are. They survive these hardships and go on to build new lives, even if the scars remain. You’re not going to get better or be as happy as before those traumas. But you can build a new life – and that’s an encouraging message.

Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship by Chitra Soundar / illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy

I love short stories! This was such a fun read. The stories are like riddles / brain teasers. If you like Encyclopedia Brown, you will enjoy this. The prince Veera and his best friend Suku take court and solve a variety of dilemmas that citizens have. Neighborhood quarrels and greedy merchants are put in their place.

Here’s to short stories and essays, written by women and written for everyone!

Healing from wounds

This is really meaningful to me because each of these books, except “How to Read a Novelist,” have to do with wounds. My therapist recommended Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents to me and it felt like the book was written for me. The book talks about different types of emotionally immature parents, and my parents are two of the types. I really appreciate the anecdotes in the book because they made me feel seen. Once I know this exists for many people, and I’m not alone, I can begin to recognize and heal from it.

Along with that, Darius the Great Is Not Okay also talks about feeling distant or even rejected by a parent. I’m really liking this wave of Muslim-American authors like Adib Khorram and Tahereh Mafi. They do a good job of writing well-rounded characters whose religion is only one part of who they are.. in fact, these characters have much greater obstacles to overcome than being Muslim. They have to battle depression, micro-aggression, and peer pressure. I loved Darius and I’ll be rooting for more characters like him.

Speaking of self-involved parents, Rapunzel was raised by one in the form of Mother Gothel. So, Disney Hyperion has this series that are origin stories for villains. I came across Mother Gothel’s and was curious. Disclaimer: I love fairy tales and dark fairy tales (and Rapunzel.) I always thought Gothel is a well-rounded villain and I think part of her does love Rapunzel even if the glowing flower motivated her to keep Rapunzel around. I like that we are getting a different POV on the classic villains.

Lastly, I LOVE A Crack in the Sea!!!!!! I wish this book became huge but I can see why it’s kind of an obscure book in the MG/fantasy market because it is different from popular fantasy. There aren’t paranormal creatures or heroes who wear capes. The story has a complex set up with twins during the transAtlantic slave trade, siblings who are Vietnam boat people, and aa trio of kids from a fantasy Second World, the Raft and the Island. The author pulled it off very well and the story was a joy to read. If I was a writer, I would definitely want commercial success, but I’d also like to take narrative risks such as Bouwman did here. Will be reading the sequel!

I skipped “How to Read a Novelist” because it was just too dry. I think my wheelhouse is still kidlit and contemporary fiction written by women. ❤