My February reading stack looks cute next to my kitty Julius. We recently got a new cat (named Bluebell) and they love each other, but if Bluebell sits on his pink chair, he chases her away.
Here’s what I read in February, with some explanation of how or why I read them.
The Map Of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar: I read this for my recently started Feminist Book Club. Most of us (professors) agreed that the writing was poor but that the story the author attempted to tell was an important one. It is about a Syrian family who is torn apart by the war there (still happening) and how they journey to safety and reunite. There are some magical/mystical/unbelievable elements. I gave it 2 stars.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward: This is such a gorgeous and important novel! I read it for my faculty book group and we picked it because Jesmyn Ward is going to visit our campus at the end of March. I was enthralled by the prose, the connection and disconnection of the family members, and the grittiness of it all. This one also has magical/spiritual elements to it, but they aren’t necessarily unbelievable. They moved the narrative forward in a way that worked. The ghosts of the past help to explain and tell the stories of the present. Poor Jojo is the young man in this story, and his parents are drug addicted losers. He has his grandparents and his younger sister and he finds a way to keep going despite the chaos. I gave this 4 stars.
The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson: I really really wanted to like this one! I picked it for a neighborhood book club. (Do you see a theme? I belong to too many book clubs. I need to post about that!) It is about a young woman who apparently suffers from multiple personality disorder (dissociative identity disorder now) and the chapters switch among her many voices and the thoughts of her doctor and her aunt. Critics interpret the novel as representative of the way patriarchy splits women into many roles and identities and perhaps doesn’t allow them to have their own. I’m not convinced that the novel did this well, or at all. I didn’t like it. But I did get to make bird’s nest cookies for my book club! This one is only 2 stars for me. I still love Shirley Jackson!
Dominic by William Steig: I started reading this to my 8-year-old daughter. She got bored, so I finished it without her. It is about a dog who goes on a journey and meets up with all kinds of other animals who are struggling with a mean gang of animals. It was an adventure story with silliness. This is 3 stars for me, but if I had been a child when I read it, I probably would have loved it.
One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly by Ashmae Holland: This is a reread for me. I assigned it to my rhetoric class because we are studying Mormon feminist rhetorics. The class loved it. We decided that it is soft. There aren’t many big arguments being made. It is composed of small incidents and stories from the author’s life to demonstrate how she comes to understand faith. She is an artist, and some of her art in the book is gorgeous. Definitely 4 stars.
The Collected Stories Of Katherine Ann Porter: I marked all of my favorite stories as I read, since I was reading it for (yet another) book club. I wanted to be able to share the ones I liked most. And they turned out to have a theme. I marked all of the murder stories or the gruesome ones. Apparently, that appeals to me! This is a Pulitzer Prize winner and I gave it 4 stars.
The Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks: This is also a reread and one that I assigned to my rhetorics of Mormon feminism class. It is more analytical than the other one. Brooks organizes her writing through stories as well, but they are more neatly packaged and didactic in ways that aren’t too overt or corny. I really like this book. My class did too. Her metaphor of a big table where everybody is welcome always gets me. I like the idea of peace and community, especially within and among religions. I gave it 4 stars.
Living Out Loud by Keri Smith: This is a fun workbook with ideas for getting your creative juices flowing. I tried to get my document design class, when working on branding themselves for an assignment, to use the drawing of a superhero to draw themselves and highlight their best qualities. They balked. We did a branding worksheet with words instead of pictures. Their faces made me laugh, but these drawings and brainstorming activities are awesome! I gave it 3 stars. It was a quick and easy read!
Transit by Rachel Cusk: I read this while I was “transiting” in Paris. My dad took my oldest daughter and I there just for fun. We had a great time visiting the sites, admiring famous paintings, and eating all the food. But while I read this book there, I realized it wasn’t at all about traveling in the conventional sense. It is more about the transitions between relationship and people. How do we transition when we meet resistance or conflict with others? Cusk explores this expertly in this second novel of her series. My friend Amy picked the first book in the series, Outline, for our feminist book club. I wanted to read more so I did. I am waiting for the third book to arrive in my mailbox soon! I give this 4 stars.
What did you read in February? And why did you read it?
I also loved Sing, Unburied, Sing. What a great opportunity to meet the author!
It is such a good book! I’m glad you agree. 🙂
From that list, I’ve only read Transit. I am not such a fan of Cusk. Here’s what I read in Feb.: The Queen of the Caribbean by Emilio Salgari, Melmoth by Sarah Perry, A Harp in Lowndes Square by Rachel Ferguson, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, Widdershins by Helen Steadman, The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd.
It took me a while to appreciate Cusk. I’ll see how I feel about all three of them once I finish the series. How did you feel about Lincoln in the Bardo? I thought that was a strange book!
Yeah, I agree. I got tired of the dead people.
Wow, what a list! But what did you love?
My favorite of this group is Sing, Unburied, Sing. It is so great!
Now I’m interested in your Mormon Feminist Rhetoric course. Did your class read Educated?
We did not read that one. It is a great book, but as Westover explains in the opening, it really isn’t about Mormonism. We used as our main textbook a collection of essays from Mormon feminists starting in the 1970s. It is called Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, edited by Brooks, Steenblik, and Wheelwright.
It has been such a fun course! The students are loving it and so am I. We used the two memoirs above as their midterm project to compare and contrast some of the rhetorics we have already traced through the other collection.