Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book. Here are my reads for September, 2017…
Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians #1), by Kevin Kwan – I really enjoyed this fun romp through the highest of high Singaporean society. Rachel Chu, all-but “ABC” (American-Born Chinese) little knows what she is getting into when she accepts her boyfriend’s invitation to spend the summer with his “traditional” Singaporean family and be his date to his best friend’s wedding. It turns out that the wedding is the biggest society event in the country and that Nick is heir to a massive fortune and the most eligible bachelor in Asia. As Rachel navigates the treacherous waters of Nick’s disapproving family and the legions of women who will do anything to snatch Nick away from her, Nick’s cousin Astrid is dealing with her own private heartache – oh, and Nick’s mother Eleanor and her Bible study group are determined to get rid of Rachel once and for all. Great literature this is not – but good fun it is, and I am anxiously awaiting the movie.
It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis – I had been waiting and waiting – months, in fact – to cycle to the top of the library wait list and take home Sinclair Lewis’s eerily prescient classic. In It Can’t Happen Here, Lewis illustrates, with terrifying specificity, how Fascism could take hold in America and what the consequences could be. The book was written in 1935, when Fascism was on the rise in Europe but most Americans were blissfully ignorant of the fact, and was Lewis’s wake-up call to a sleeping public. But after the 2016 election and everything that has happened since, it seems all too frighteningly real. Lewis paints in shuddering strokes the picture of an American politician who rides into power on a tide of Populist resentment and then proceeds to grab power from left to right until he has created a dictatorship and Fascist kleptocracy with himself as the center and primary beneficiary. Sound familiar?
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel – This was another one that had been on my list for awhile. Fun Home is Bechdel’s memoir of growing up in a funeral home, her relationship with her father, and her coming out as a lesbian. It’s really engagingly written and drawn, and a fascinating glimpse into another life. (I also know that Bechdel’s work has helped a lot of people on their coming-out journeys, and I think that is really something to celebrate and admire. She has lent her voice and her cartooning skills, and used her platform, in such an admirable way.) I found Bechdel herself to be an engaging and lovable figure in the memoir, and was completely fascinated by her relationships with her parents, and her father in particular. (I also loved the little glimpses into the library of her dad, who was an English teacher and avid reader, and the connection that Bechdel’s own enjoyment of reading gave them – complex and tenuous as that connection may have been.)
The Birchbark House, The Game of Silence, The Porcupine Year, Chickadee, Makoons (Birchbark House #1-5), by Louise Erdrich – Somehow, I only just learned of the Birchbark House books, thanks to a social media post. Someone in my Twitter (or Facebook?) feed wished for a Native American series akin to the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and another user piped up, “There is one – the Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich.” I immediately dashed (well, cyber-dashed) to my library’s website and reserved the entire series, and I spent about a week and a half tearing through them, laughing and crying and making mental notes about how to make pemmican and preserve seeds (useful information, I think). I laughed a lot, and cried a lot, too. The books follow the life of Omakayas, a young Ojibwe woman, from girlhood through adulthood and motherhood. Omakayas means “Little Frog,” and she was so named because “her first step was a hop.” Adopted as a baby, Omakayas grows up as a treasured daughter, granddaughter, sister and friend. Her life is not without hardship – her family is torn apart by smallpox in the first book (a scene in which I cried floods while reading and floods more while telling a work friend – our firm librarian; hi, Susan! – about the book) but is not without its joys, either. Had these books been published when I was a young reader, I know I would have devoured them. As it is – I devoured them.
So – eight books this month, and seven of the eight were from diverse or underrepresented groups (Asian, Native American, and LGBT+) – and all fantastic. It’s hard to pick a highlight, since I pretty much loved everything I read this month. But It Can’t Happen Here is an incredibly important classic that I’d been wanting to read for a very long time, and the Birchbark House books were absolutely marvelous. Another great month of reading! I’m so glad I am a reader. Books bring joy to me every single day.