Monday, October 31, 2016

October 2016 Reading Wrapup

October was quite a productive month of reading indeed.  I read in a variety of formats and genres, large and small books, most written by women, LGBTQIA individuals, and people of color. The Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon took place this month, so I devoured a few great books during that time.  I'll give you a rundown of some general thoughts on each of the 11 books that I completed in October.

The books I read were:
  •  Why God Is a Woman by Nin Andrews
  • The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  • My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg 
  • March: Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
  • March: Book 2 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
  • March: Book 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
  • No Surrender by Constance Maud
  • The Anatomy of Inequality by Per Molander 
  • The Woman's Bible by Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

On the island called Island, men are treated as sex objects and often confined to housekeeping and child-rearing.  They are expected to adhere to rigid ideals of grooming, body type, and fashion.  Those men who do work are constantly hounded by women about when they're planning to get married and start a family.  In Why God Is a Woman, Nin Andrews takes traditional, patriarchal, gender roles and completely inverts them.  Through this satirical exploration, the author mines her alterna-reality so that the source of the satire can be more clearly seen as the bizarre concept that it is.  I really enjoyed how the prose poetry played with gender stereotypes, but I found the satire of those stereotypes to be done too obviously and heavy-handedly.  It read as though the author had a checklist of topics she wanted to cover in each poem.  I wished there was more nuance to the poetry, especially in the important messages that the poet was trying to make.

Alison Bechdel's "Dykes to Watch Out For" is a syndicated comic strip that has been running for decades, covering friendships, pop culture, queer theory, romantic relationships, parenthood, and much more.  The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For is a bind-up of those comics, showing the progression of ideas, styles, and other components of society over time.  It's at times hilarious and heartbreaking, and so true to life, no matter your orientation.

The other Alison Bechdel work I read this month was actually a re-read.  I first read Fun Home in 2015 and was blown away by the humanity and empathy that the author put into this graphic memoir.  The author does an incredible job of conveying her grown into adulthood, set against the backdrop of her rather nontraditional family.  As she learns more about herself, She also learns more about what makes her family unusual.  It is a touching and enlightening illustration of society, family, and self.

My Own Words is a collection of legal opinions, speeches, a libretto for a proposed Justice Ginsburg/Justice Scalia opera, dissents, and many other documents.  This book gives the reader a personal glimpse into the life of a person who is not only a brilliant legal mind, but also an engaging speaker and educator, a lover of the arts, and defender of those who have not always had the ability to stand on their own.  She is truly a remarkable human, and we are so lucky to have her as an American Supreme Court Justice. 

March is a three-part graphic memoir of US Congressman John Lewis and his involvement in the Civil Rights Movements in the American South.  Set against the backdrop of the swearing-in of President Elect Barack Obama, John Lewis reminisces about how far society has come from the days of segregation until the modern era when the country could elect a black President.  He grew up as the son of sharecroppers in Alabama, but it was his involvement in lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville that stirred his life-long involvement in non-violent protests.  He is repeatedly jailed and suffers incredible violence at the hands of police, politicians, and everyday people.  His moral fortitude and dedication to the cause of equality is truly inspiring. 

First published in 1911, at the height of the Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain, No Surrender masterfully straddles the line between journalism and historical fiction.  There are factually accurate and stirring portrayals of suffragette protests and incidents, as well as their arguments in favor of giving women the vote.  Read my full review here.

 The Anatomy of Inequality is a terrible tease.  It leads readers toward a fascinating, in-depth analysis and discussion of human inequality.  However, upon arriving at the entrance to the aforementioned in-depth adventure, the reader is instead whisked onto the "It's a Small World" ride and whisked through a short (32-pages short) tour of inequality throughout human history.  The rest of the work gives a surface-level investigation into different economic/social/political factors and religious/secular justifications for or against (in)justice in modern times.

The Woman's Bible, published in the late nineteenth century, is an unbelievably progressive book for its time, and is still progressive for modern times.  In this work, American feminist and suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton presents a critical, radical feminist, thorough critique of the books of the Christian Bible.  She was knowledgeable in history and the Greek language, and was able to offer viewpoints and rationale for a less patriarchal interpretation of the religious text.

Jesmyn Ward's memoir Men We Reaped tells two related stories.  The first, her upbringing and family life in the American South, is told in chronological chapters.  Alternating between those chapters are memoir/biographical sketches of five men, related to or friends of the author, whose lives were taken far too soon.  Each of these chapters is dedicated to one of the five men, and is told reverse-chronologically, ending with her brother's death.  Through these interwoven narratives, the reader not only gets to know the author and her community of friends and family, but also how the systematic racism and poverty played a tragic role in shaping all of their lives. 

Librorum annis