We have all read and heard about books that describe the unexpected journeys of a grumpy old man who is charmed into an adventure and those are great books.
But what about the old women? They’re still there, aren’t they? Where are the books about their adventures? With their issues?
I have three to share with you today that are each incredible and describe women who have lived and learned, loved and made mistakes, and are STILL doing those things. We don’t really think people stop learning, living, loving, engaging, thinking, feeling joy and sadness and personal growth once they hit a certain age, do we?
I love the TV show, The Golden Girls, and these novels about women who have led rich and long lives fill that space in my head and my heart where Rose, Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia keep residence. They are very much worth reading.
The Woman Next Door, by Yewande Omotoso, is one of the best books I read in 2018, and deals with the lives and relationship between two elderly women who live next to each other. They have opposite backgrounds and Omotoso’s writing exquisitely examines each of them.
Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruff, was a quiet punch in the face to me, and totally unexpected. It’s short, concise, and deeply tender. Haruff tells a story about two older people who begin spending their nights lying next to each other in bed, just talking. It is impressive and made me cry, remember friendships and long for that deep understanding and connection, while also writing about how temporary everything is. It’s beautiful and I can’t recommend it enough.
Three Things About Elsie, by Joanna Cannon, was another unexpected favorite. I love the cover first of all, and at times I can barely see the woman disguised in the floral background. Cannon brings us into the thoughts and remembrance of Florence, a woman who has fallen and is looking back on her life as she waits for someone to notice that she hasn’t shown up to something yet. I was not expecting this to have glimmers of mystery, suspense, and to deal so carefully with the issues of memory and reliability that show up more with age. It is worth your attention and is great in audio.
Let me know if you read any of these, or if you have any recommendations for me to check out!
Our Shared Shelf (Emma Watson)
It is only fitting that Emma Watson, who famously portrayed Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter movie adaptations, also leads a book club of some interest. Our Shared Shelf was created in the beginning of 2016 by Emma in relation to her role working with UN Women as a way to share her reading on equality. The group has an active following on Goodreads, and provides content on the platforms linked above as well. The selections were initially provided monthly, until the end of the summer of 2016 when the group switched to recommending one or more books every two months.
The book club is currently reading two books for July and August of 2019, Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian, by Yusra Mardini, and Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Youth Refugees from Central America, Edited by Steven Mayers and Jonathan Freedman, and the entire list of selections is below:
January 2016 – My Life on the Road, by Gloria Steinem
February 2016 – The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
March 2016 – All About Love, by Bell Hooks
April 2016 – How to Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran
May 2016 – The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson
June 2016 – Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
July/August 2016 – Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl, by Carrie Brownstein
September/October 2016 - Half the Sky, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
November/December 2016 – Mom and Me and Mom, by Maya Angelou
January/February 2017 – The Vagina Monologues, by Eve Ensler
March/April 2017 – Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
May/June 2017 – The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
July/August 2017 – The Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolf
September/October 2017 – Hunger, by Roxanne Gay
November/December 2017 – The Power, by Naomi Alderman
January/February 2018 – Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge
March/April 2018 – Heart Berries, by Terese Marie Mailhot
May/June 2018 – The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, and The Radium Girls, by Kate Moore
July/August 2018 – Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur
September/October 2018 – Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier
November/December 2018 – Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper, and Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister
January and February 2019 - The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, edited by Sabrina Mahfouz
March and April 2019 - Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl's Confabulous Memoir, by Kai Cheng Thom
May and June 2019 - Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
July and August 2019 - Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian, by Yusra Mardini, and Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Youth Refugees from Central America, Edited by Steven Mayers and Jonathan Freedman.
Girls Night In:
Newsletter sign up here
This book club is the offshoot of one of my favorite newsletters that I've been following along with for the past few years. Sent out every Friday morning, the newsletter focuses on interesting articles, interviews, health care, the joy of staying in rather than partying late into the night, and is a wonderfully comfortable e-mail I look forward to each week. By their own description, the Girls Night In book club reads, "books that are written by women and non-binary authors, are available/accessible to our community, and allow for a lively discussion". They also host in person meet ups in some larger cities that would be fun to go to if you ever have the chance.
March 2017 – Swing Time, by Zadie Smith
May 2017 – Startup, by Doree Shafrir
August 2017 – The Mothers, by Brit Bennett
September 2017 – Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of Unruly Women, by Anne Helen Peterson
October 2017 – Reset, by Ellen Pao
November and December 2017 – Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
January 2018 – The Power, by Naomi Alderman
February 2018 – Goodbye, Vitamin, by Rachel Khong
March 2018 - Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship, by Kayleen Schaefer
April 2018 – Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
May 2018 – The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer
June 2018 - The Ensemble, by Aja Gabel
July and August 2018 – Educated, by Tara Westover
September 2018 – An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
October 2018 – Circe, by Madeline Miller
November 2018 – Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay, by Phoebe Robinson
December 2018 – I Might Regret This, by Abbi Jacobson
January 2019 – The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
February 2019 – All You Can Ever Know, by Nicole Chung
March 2019 – The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, by Anissa Gray
April 2019 – A Woman is No Man, by Etaf Rum
May 2019 – American Spy, by Lauren Wilkinson
June 2019 – From the Corner of the Oval, by Beck Dorey-Stein
July 2019 – The Confessions of Frannie Langton, by Sara Collins
Welcome to a new segment I'm calling "Book Report" where I re-read a book I loved or remember enjoying, but don't remember anything else about. Should be fun, with a slight chance of trauma, embarrassment, and the possibly negative effects of the passing of time...sounds great, right? For funsies, I'll be including an adorable picture of myself around the time I was into each book (If such a picture can be found).
Let's dive in with my first pick: Into the Land of the Unicorns, by Bruce Coville.
My personal copy didn't look like this, but I also have no idea where it went. I remember spending lots of time staring at the cover though, and how much I loved the story behind it. As a kid growing up in the 90's, this hit on lots of the themes I resonated with, and was delighted to see during my re-read:
-all the feels
-traveling to another world (and the implications of having what you thought was fantasy actually be real)
-the "surprise! you're really important and have a big job to do and the fate of this world is at stake!" trope that I still love, and remember was high on the list of things I went to in my imagination and playtime.
-"we leave at first light!" style adventuring, feat. tall grass up to your waist
-communicating with animals
-a Big Bad Unknown but Powerful Evil (who also can live for a really long time), literary variation on the video game's Boss, which I feel like was a thing in playground games back then too.
-magical JEWELRY (the power of a mystical locket had me totally captivated every time)
I can tell you what, I know exactly why little-me loved this book.
We meet Cara Diane and her grandmother as the story begins in medias res while they are seeking refuge from an unknown follower. Cara's grandmother knows more than she's telling, but she's so loving that Cara trusts her enough to LEAP OFF THE ROOF OF A CHURCH AT HER WORD and what do you know? She's transported to the world of Luster, where unicorns live.
Almost immediately after arriving, something tries to drown her and steal the magical amulet she wears round her neck, but she wakes up in a cave and is tended to by a grumpy, but very capable, bearish creature. Shortly after drinking a magical beverage, Cara meets Lightfoot, the unicorn, who STABS HER IN THE CHEST WITH HIS HORN to heal her.
CAN YOU FEEL THE DRAMA?! It's as thick as the Lisa Frank folders I filled with drawings of unicorns.
Not to spoil the rest of it for you, but the three of them, plus a few other creatures and friends met along the way, discover that what they have stumbled upon requires a quest, as it could destroy the entire unicorn species and allow for Luster itself to fall to its doom. See, the amulet Cara has, is a portal that connects Earth to Luster, and there is a significant group of humans with the last name of Hunter, who's destiny is to kill all Unicorns. The Hunters (maybe a cult, but IDK) are led by a maybe immortal woman named Beloved, with a rather troubled past and part of a unicorn horn in her heart.
Thus the journey is set, for Cara, Lightfoot, and the rest of their ragtag group of misfits and outcasts, to cross the wilds of Luther to bring their plight to the queen. Along the way they meet the keeper of the Unicorn Chronicles, who writes the stories and unicorn history and lives in the best house I could possibly imagine, and a dragon WHO'S HEART IS IN A BOX plays a significant role in their progress.
This was so much fun to read. It's the first of a series of an epic adventure, and in my opinion is a great beginning to fantasy literature for kids, and would be a fun read for anyone. There's nothing that I noted to be problematic or that has aged poorly, so I think it still holds up and would be great to read aloud too.
Have you read this yet? Have you ever gone back to re-read favorites from other parts of your life? I'd love to hear about it!
Next book report: Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh.
Belletrist (Emma Roberts)Emma Roberts is famously known as an actress, and the niece of Julia Roberts, but the young actress has also cultivated an intriguing niche for herself through her book club, Belletrist, which she runs with Karah Preiss. Belletrist features an independant bookstore each month along with their book selections. Belletrist is most active on Instagram and their Facebook group features discussions and interesting content relating to the bookstores and recommended reading. Belletrist features literary lifestyle content on their website in addition to their book selections including interviews, videos, the shelves of other celebrities, and content I haven't seen in other celebrity book clubs. Belletrist is unique and has found a healthy following among a more contemporary demographic.
The Belletrist book selection for July 2019 is Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo.
The full list of selections:
March 2017 – South and West, by Joan Didion
April 2017 – The Rules Do Not Apply, by Ariel Levy
May 2017 – Marlena, by Julie Buntin
June 2017 – Touch, by Coutney Maum
July 2017 – Sex and Rage, by Eve Babitz
August 2017 – Stay With Me, by Ayobami Adebayo
September 2017 – The Answers, by Catherine Lacey
October 2017 – The Dark Dark: Stories, by Samantha Hunt
November 2017 – The End We Start From, by Megan Hunter
December 2017 – Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado
January 2018 – The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
February 2018 – An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
March 2018 – Ghost Notebooks, by Ben Dolnick
April 2018 – Laura and Emma, by Kate Greathead
May 2018 – Welcome to Lagos, by Chibundo Onuzo
June 2018 – Visible Empire, by Hannah Pittard
July 2018 – Dead Girls ,by Alice Bolin, and Godspeed, by Casey Legler
August 2018 – The Incendiaries, by R. O. Kwon
September 2018 – The Optimist's Daughter, by Eudora Welty
October 2018 – Scribe, by Alyson Hagy
November 2018 – Bringing Down the Colonel, by Patricia Miller
December 2018 – Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy
January 2019 - The Dreamers, by Karen Thompson Walker
February 2019 - Joy Enough, by Sarah McColl
March 2019 - Gingerbread, by Helen Oyeyemi
April 2019 - The Ash Family, by Molly Dektar
May 2019 - The Farm, by Joanna Ramos
June 2019 - Searching for Sylvie Lee, by Jean Kwok
July 2019 - Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo
Hello Sunshine (Reese Witherspoon)
The book club is currently reading The Night Tiger, by Yangsze Choo. The complete list of previous book club selections is below:
My book group's task for May is to, "read a book with a positive maternal figure" which I knew might be a challenge, but I didn't anticipate the level of difficulty this theme was! I could think of a couple bad*ss ladies who inspired me and supported their children and other women in books, but it was a handful that I could count on one hand.
Cue the blessings of bookish internet friends! I reached out to one of my favorite bookish facebook groups to ask for recommendations and suggestions and they came through like the champions they are!
I marked the ones I have read with a * so you can see what I can endorse, but obviously most of these I haven't gotten to, meaning: do your own homework to see if they're ones you might be interested in. Hopefully this is helpful!
*Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling - ALL HAIL MOLLY WEASLEY!! Queen of wizards and of mothers. I might re-read the series just for her character.
*Ramona Quimby books, by Beverly Cleary - I did read several of these when I was much younger and honestly, don't remember much of Ramona's mother, but this recommendation was made several times and would probably make for some fun reading.
*Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott - Marmee was mentioned several times as well, and while I have read this and the movie with Elizabeth Taylor and June Alyson from 1949 has a special place in my heart, it has been such a long time again! Worth revisiting.
This is How it Always is, by Laurie Frankel
Beartown, by Fredrik Backman
The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
Room, by Emma Donaghue
Eternal Life, by Dara Horn
Shelter in Place, by Nora Roberts
Anger is A Gift, by Mark Oshiro
Little Big Love, by Katy Regan
I Liked My Life, by Abby Fabiaschi
On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
*Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Waterson - Another one of my favorite fictional mothers, and who I relate to more now that I'm a mother and catch myself, um, saying things she says while dealing with my own kids with Calvin-esque tendencies. Obviously any time spent with Calvin and Hobbes is well spent.
*The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion - This is a book about loss, but also deals with being a mother, mothering as children get older and experience their own significant struggles, and is written exquisitely and honestly.
Kid Gloves, by Lucy Kinsely - A graphic novel!
Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back, by Claire and Mia Fontaine
Catastrophic Happiness: Finding Joy in Childhood's Messy Years, by Catherine Newman
*I Am, I Am, I Am: Sixteen Brushes with Death, by Maggie O'Farrell - I loved this book when I read it last year, especially because she wrote this as proof of bravery for her daughter. It is a little scary, but it is worth it.
It's pretty interesting that when specifically looking for maternal figures in books, I ran into two categories: instructional/inspirational, OR detrimental plot points. Many of the mothers depicted are the source of issues, mental and/or physical anguish, a relationship that has caused suffering, regrets, shame, totally absent, or, if you read thrillers, sometimes are the cause of serious and dangerous consequences.
The how to "enjoy the mothering process" isn't at all what I was looking for in this prompt either. I could write like, 1,000 more words about how interesting this is from an information seeking and organizing place, and then another 10,000 on what it means when those are the main two characterizations in literature that mothers seem to fall into, but another time.
What I want to find, and am now looking out for in my own reading, is mothers as characters, who aren't the center of the book, aren't a trigger for a plot point or source of trauma, but who exist in the books as human beings and who are depicted as supportive, positive forces. Is that really so hard?!
I would LOVE to add to this list, so if you have any recommendations from your own reading please drop them in the comments. I'm on the lookout now to compile my own booklist that solves this issue so others can find it!
Site powered by Weebly. Managed by SiteGround