Nonfiction November: Fiction + Nonfiction Pairings

This week’s prompt for Nonfiction November is Book Pairing (hosted by Julie @ Julz Reads)…and I’m just giddy to read all of your posts!

After some of my fictional reads this year, I was introduced to some topics that I’d love to learn more about. In the following list, I’ve read all the fictional books and none of the nonfictional books so my pairing may be off. 🤷🏼‍♀️ If you have another suggestion for the fictional book mentioned (or any book recommendation, for that matter), please drop me a comment! I can always use the help!!

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham + The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 by Tim Madigan

Dreamland Burning is a YA historical fiction book examines the Tulsa race riot of 1921. Never once in my entire life of learning about American history or race relations in the United States had I heard of this terrible tragedy (is any one really surprised? Of course not.)! Historians estimate that 300 Black people died at the hands of white rioters when thrity-four blocks of Black community burned to the ground. This story alternates between a present-day mystery and the 1921 timeline; I found the older timeline of the story to be more compelling, but learned a lot throughout the entire story.

The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 sounds like a great follow-up to Dreamland Burning. From the synopsis on Goodreads: “On the morning of June 1, 1921, a white mob numbering in the thousands marched across the railroad tracks dividing black from white in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and obliterated a black community then celebrated as one of America’s most prosperous. Thirty-four square blocks of Tulsa’s Greenwood community, known then as the Negro Wall Street of America, were reduced to smoldering rubble.”

The Overstory by Richard Powers + The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries From a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben

Let me start off by saying that The Overstory will not be for everyone. It is an incredibly slow build and the payoff isn’t enough for some readers. But, for whatever reason, this story did something to me and I find myself still thinking about it months after finishing. There’s an underlying love letter to nature – specifically, trees – and their contribution to humanity that I never really thought about or appreciated. Their silent witness to the life around them and their selfless contribution to providing oxygen to all of life struck a chord with me. This isn’t the kind of book I would normally read, but like I mentioned, something about the story really touched me.

As I read The Overstory, I got incredibly curious about the idea that trees communicate with each other in ways we’re just starting to understand. From the Goodreads synopsis, The Hidden Life of Trees sounds like the perfect exploration into this phenomenon: “Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. As a result of such interactions, trees in a family or community are protected and can live to be very old. In contrast, solitary trees, like street kids, have a tough time of it and in most cases die much earlier than those in a group.”

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi + Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff

I can’t imagine the pain of losing someone I love to drugs, and Yaa Gyasi did such a moving job trying to relay that pain to her readers in Transcendent Kingdom. The book explores themes of addiction, depression, and spirituality. My favorite part of this book was how Gyasi seamlessly explored the intersection of faith and science. After Gifty’s brother, Nana, dies from drug addiction, the dynamics of her family are changed forever. Her mother slips into a deep depression, and Gifty felt like the only way she could gain her mother’s attention back was to be the “perfect” child; therefore, she sets her life’s course to explore reward-seeking behavior as a neuroscientist at Stanford. She’s ultimately trying to figure out how her brother, who was a rising athletic star with his life seemingly laid out in front of him, could fall into the throes of addiction so quickly and so devestatingly. As she conducts experiments on mice, the tragic events of her life have made it hard to forge any real relationships – romantic or otherwise – and she escapes into her research.

Beautiful Boy follows this same concept, except it’s about a father questioning how he’s lost his son to drug addiciton. From the Goodreads synopsis: “What had happened to my beautiful boy? To our family? What did I do wrong? Those are the wrenching questions that haunted David Sheff’s journey through his son Nic’s addiction to drugs and tentative steps toward recovery. Before Nic became addicted to crystal meth, he was a charming boy, joyous and funny, a varsity athlete and honor student adored by his two younger siblings. After meth, he was a trembling wraith who lied, stole, and lived on the streets. David Sheff traces the first warning signs: the denial, the three a.m. phone calls—is it Nic? the police? the hospital? His preoccupation with Nic became an addiction in itself. But as a journalist, he instinctively researched every treatment that might save his son. And he refused to give up on Nic.”

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah + Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler by Lynne Olson

Vianne and her sister, Isabelle, are living in France on the cusp of the Nazi invasion. Vianne’s husband has just left for the Front and Isabelle is a rebellious teenager who is searching for a productive way to help the Resistance. Both sisters are on their own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France. The Nightingale is one of my all-time favorite books!

I don’t know much about Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, but here is the Goodreads sysnopsis: “In 1941, a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour became the leader of a vast Resistance organization–the only woman to hold such a role. Brave, independent, and a lifelong rebel against her country’s conservative, patriarchal society, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was temperamentally made for the job. Her group’s name was Alliance, but the Gestapo dubbed it Noah’s Ark because its agents used the names of animals as their aliases. Marie-Madeleine’s codename was Hedgehog. No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence as Alliance–and as a result, the Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its three thousand agents, including her own lover and many of her key spies.”

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia + War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race by Edwin Black

Probably the most atmospheric book I read all year, Mexican Gothic had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up! This story has all the creepy elements – a haunted house, a crazy cousin, and ghosts – but maybe scariest thing about the book is the part about eugenics. After the Mexican Revolution, the Mexican government became very interested in eugenics – a social philosophy that tries to influence the way people choose to mate and raise children, with the aim of improving the human species.

From Mexican Gothic, I became interested in eugenics. After a Google search, War Against the Weak caught my attention. From the Goodreads synopsis: “Based on selective breeding of human beings, eugenics began in laboratories on Long Island but ended in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Cruel and racist laws were enacted in 27 U.S. states, while the supporters of eugenics included progressive thinkers like Woodrow Wilson, Margaret Sanger and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Ultimately, over 60,000 “unfit” Americans were coercively sterilized, a third of them after Nuremberg had declared such practices crimes against humanity. This is a timely and shocking chronicle of bad science at its worst—with many important lessons for the genetic age in which an interest in eugenics has been dangerously revived.”

One To Watch by Kate Stayman-London + Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman

Long-time fans of Bachelor Nation have expressed criticism of the show’s lack of diversity or inclusivity. One To Watch takes on some of those challenges and reinvents a season with a plus-sized lead. Even with a premise such as this, the book lacked bringing diversity to this make-believe plot and that was disappointing (there was only one larger male “contestant”). However, I found Bea to be a delightful lead – strong-willed and determined, never one to back down from her convictions, and a character that tried to redefine the boundaries. (I wasn’t crazy about her final choice, but let’s be honest, I rarely am on the tv series either.)

From the Goodreads synopsis: “Bachelor Nation is the first behind-the-scenes, unauthorized look into the reality television phenomenon. Los Angeles Times journalist Amy Kaufman is a proud member of Bachelor Nation and has a long history with the franchise. She has interviewed dozens of producers, contestants, and celebrity fans to give readers never-before-told details of the show’s inner workings. Kaufman also explores what our fascination means, culturally.”

Betty by Tiffany McDaniel + The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Honestly, I’m only about halfway through Betty, but The Glass Castle vibes are strong! Betty is written by Tiffany McDaniel and in the beginning of the book, she mentions that it is loosely based on her own mother’s childhood. There are a ton of triggers in this book: rape, incest, and mental abuse. It’s a story that feels completely unbelievable, but unfortunately, we know all too often is true. The family is poor and they drift around from place to place, trying to find their place in the world. Betty’s relationship with her father is the most heartwarming aspect of the book and I’m curious to see how this one continues.

The Glass Castle also follows a nomadic family. The father, Rex, is also a cental figure in the family – at least when he’s sober. Walls remebers how he taught her and her siblings all kinds of things and instills an imagination in them. As the money ran out, the family becomes more and more dysfunctional, leaving the kids to fend for themselves. Through it all, there is a deep love for her parents even though the things they put the kids through were atrocious. Unconditional love is hard to shake in a family, but it’s a strong thread that’s hard to break.

If you’re interested in checking out other Nonfiction November posts, you can find them here:

2019

20 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: Fiction + Nonfiction Pairings

  1. Oh yes, eugenics is such a creepy and horrific part of our history. Difficult but important to know about. Mexican Gothic has been on my list and now I’m even more intrigued.

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  2. Wow! This is an impressive list of pairings. Seeing Betty paired with The Glass Castle, makes me really want to read it and before now I’ve been on the fence about that one.

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    1. It’s a liiiiitle long, but it wraps up so nicely that it left a good taste in my mouth and I ended up rating it higher. Honestly, I’m between a 4 and 5 star…settling on 5 because it truly is right up my alley. (It’s along the lines of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things and My Absolute Darling…have you read either of these?)

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  3. I haven’t read any of these except for Bachelor Nation, but all of your pairings sound good to me! I might also suggest In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts to pair with Transcendent Kingdom. It really made me see addiction in a new way.

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  4. Really great pairings! I also picked Transcendent Kingdom and paired it with Smacked- both deal with addiction and its effect on the family. I loved Dreamland Burning!

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