Last week, I shared my plan to read one hundred stories this summer. While I allowing a wide open field, any fiction counts, I also have some intentions for my grand adventure.
- Read authors from many backgrounds, not just white folk.
- Gain understanding and empathy for lifestyles and cultures unlike my own.
- Learn about culture.
- Focus without being “busy”
- Re-visit well-loved favorites.
- Have conversations about fun, interesting, difficult or controversial issues.
- Gain a better understanding of myself.
- Have fun.
I can’t remember a time I didn’t want to lose myself in a book. I’ve used books as escape, comfort, adventure, and for companionship. My reading ranges across most genres. I generally go where ever my reading muse takes me, a pattern I will follow this summer too. However, I also plan to be more intentional and self-aware in my reading. I want to get outside my own experience and as Atticus Finch prescribed, “climb into [someone’s] skin and walk around in it.”
I can’t be another ethnicity, or change my cultural upbringing, but I don’t have to accept it as the superior or majority experience. Essentially, I hope to increase my ability to empathize with someone I may never actually meet. Expanding my experience, even my reading experience, with the human condition will help me connect with humanity instead of ignoring it, or worse, judging it. My summer reading adventure is active resistance against the callous indifference generated by a constantly overwhelming news cycle.
This week started off wonderfully.
What I read this week
I shared a bit about this book last week, having just started it that morning. This served as the third book in an excellent book grouping covering the themes of slavery, racial ethics, and race relations.
Underground Airlines approaches these issues from an alternate reality. Abraham Lincoln does not become President and thus, never implements emancipation. The ramifications of this change reach farther than I could have imagined. The ideas of power, freedom and survival are deftly woven as a fast-paced thriller filled with double-cross and deception. I loved every minute of it.
I heard about this book on the What Should I read Next podcast. After hearing Anne Bogel of WSIRN call it a favorite of the year, I grabbed it off the New release shelf at the library without looking inside the cover. Here is what met me when I finally did.
This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.
When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.
What follows is an exquisite exploration of the things which determine who we are (hint: it’s not what’s under our pants), and how those things may constantly change. It’s a beautiful exploration of family, relationships, acceptance and humanity. The subject matter is incredibly important and is handled with equal parts of humor and heartache. Full of hope and secrets, fairy tales and sibling rivalry, this story has impressed itself on my soul. Rich and detailed writing make a great story into a beautiful journey.
This book keeps showing up on my recommended reads list on Amazon. I enjoyed Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, but I haven’t read anything by her since. When I saw it sitting on the end of the library shelf last week, I snagged it. This book is only sixty pages having been originally published in a collection of paranormal stories by George R R Martin. Honestly, I’m glad to have finished it in less than a hour. Because it was so short, it felt rushed. There was no time for character or atmosphere development. The ending felt jumbled by too many possible twists, too conveniently assembled. It seemed as though it wanted to be haunting and mysterious in the vein of James’ turn of the screw, but that’s a feat which cannot be managed in so short a time. I’ll read more Flynn for sure, but I won’t recommend this one to anyone.