My Week in Books // 1-27-21

My kids started basketball last week, so I have a lot of time in my car in between school pick-up and sports drop-off/pick-up. That’s ok with me because it gives me extra reading time!

Last Week’s Reads:

*** The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

I’m trying something new this year! Every month, I want to highlight a favorite book I read from that month. The first installment in this series is going to be The Prophets, so please see this post for a deeper look into my thoughts. (Spoiler alert: I loved this debut!)

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

“But it’s not just those early years without my parents that branded me. It’s the life I’ve led in America as a migrant, watching my parents pursue their dream in this country and then having to deal with its carcass, witnessing the crimes against migrants carried out by the U.S. government with my hands bound. As an undocumented person, I felt like a hologram. Nothing felt secure. I never felt safe. I didn’t allow myself to feel joy because I was scared to attach myself to anything I’d have to let go of. Being deportable means you have to be ready to go at any moment, ready to go with nothing but the clothes on your body.” 

Karla Cornejos Villavicencio, “The Undocumented Americans”

This is an incredible book and I have no idea why I put off reading it for so long! Timely and informative, this is a book that we all should read – Villavicencio seamlessly weaves her personal story with those of other undocumented Americans and the result is an emotional gutpunch that totally wakes you up! Villavicencio travels to specific parts of the United States, and I really appreciated getting an more in-depth look into what is going on behind the headline news (ie: Flint, Michigan). This is certainly a book I will return to over and over again. It’s powerful!

*** Outlawed by Anna North

When Reese’s Book Club and Belletrist picked this for their January 2021 selection, it moved up on my TBR quickly. And it has one of the very best opening lines I’ve ever read:

In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.

-Anna North, “Outlawed”

And so this story begins with one of the most memorable characters I’ve read in a long time: Ada. At just seventeen years old, she takes the Wild West by storm when she is banished from her community after accusations of being a witch. When she finally finds the Hole in the Wall gang of misfits, she settles in and finds her true home. Among these nonbionary, barren women, Ada’s medical training as a midwife quickly becomes useful. While learning the ropes of the gang’s community, Ada is constantly driven to find the answer to why some women experience infertility and how she can help them.

This book has a fairly low rating on Goodreads, but I couldn’t put it down. I became invested in these characters and wanted to see how things turned out for them. There were some strange twists and unnecessary asides, but overall I really did enjoy this speculative historical fiction story. My biggest complaint is that there were quite a few loose ends that were never cleared up, and I really wanted more of Lark and Ada’s story…this book would have been better with more explanation and a better resolution overall. That being said, I do not regret picking this one up as I really liked the story and the writing!

*** Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy by Talia Lavin

This book really started to pop up in my Instagram feed after the siege of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Since the election – and especially since Trump has been banned from most (all?) social media, I’ve heard more and more about the radicalization of people through social media and this book seems like a great dive into that topic!

“The thing about hate, though, is it metastasizes. The thing about channels that are filled, twenty-four hours a day, with stachoastic violence–testosterone-filled megaphones shouting for blood–is that, sooner or later, someone is going to take them up on it…racist networks have proven over and over again that the steady dissemination of murderous propaganda leaves a trail of blood behind it.”

Talia Lavin, “Culture Warlords”

While I probably appreciated the chapter on social media the most (Chapter 7: Tween Racists, Bad Beanies, and the Great Casino Chase), I learned A LOT from this book and how the internet plays a big role in how white supremacy has gained a foothold in our current world. Coming off the heels of the 2020 Election, the insurrection of the Capital, and the banning of Trump on social media platforms, the question that is begging to be answered is: where do we go from here? How do we make changes that disallow hate to have a platform? And how do we heal this divide? Those are questions I don’t necessarily have an answer for, but I think this book is an important piece to strategizing out some possibilities.

One chapter of the book that I vehemently disagree with is Chapter 9: Antifa Civil War. Lavin says that Anitfa is “a collection of individuals scattered throughout the country who are loosely pursuing the same goal: preventing fascist, far-right organizing through a varity of tactics” (pgs 215-216), and that “more than anything, it’s a way to keep ourselves – and our more vulnerable friends and neighbors – safe in a world where hate wants to swallow us whole” (pg. 216). After all of the destruction of federal property in various cities in the United States, I do not believe them to be a tempored group and I believe Antifa’s actions are just as wrong as the alt-rights. I would like to believe there isn’t a place for either one of those extreme groups in our country, and I cling to the believe that more people feel this way than don’t. Admittedly, I am not well-researched in Antifa or their methods, but from the mainstream media, I am not a supporter of their tactics, and I had a hard time agreeing with Lavin on much of anything in this chapter.

*** The Removed by Brandon Hobson

I largely believe Native American voices are missing from mainstream books, so I am really happy to see them getting more attention. After reading Betty towards the end of last year, I knew I wanted to continue reading books, not only written by Native American voices, but books that also incorporated Native American beliefs, customs, and mythology.

The synopsis for The Removed promised all of those things, but unfortunately, it totally fell flat for me. I went into it blind, so I think at least part of the problem was my misguided understanding of what the book was about. I was expecting a thriller, but more of a contemporary fiction + magical realism/mythology story.

I loved how Hobson explored the effects of grief on each of Ray-Ray’s family members. It looked different for each of them, and I was immeditately drawn to the reality of that situation. I also liked how Hobson created a dreamlike quality in his writing; I almost felt like I was in a fever dream for most of the story. Unfortunately, the rest of the book – character development, ease of reading, and the overall story – felt underdeveloped and left me wanting more. It was a valient effort considering this is Hobson’s debut, but it ended up being lackluster for me.

Current Reads:

*** Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

I’m about 7% in and I think this could be my next binge read!!

*** Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning To Say by Kelly Corrigan

I have a goal to reread twelve books this year (1/month), and considering it’s basically the end of the month, I better get started!

🎧 *** Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots by Morgan Jerkins

Still haven’t started this one again…*sigh*

(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

In case you missed them:

6 thoughts on “My Week in Books // 1-27-21

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