Books read, late November

Bonnie S. Anderson, Joyous Greetings: The First International Women’s Movement, 1830-1860. This was lovely, an examination of how and why women were coming together to demand rights in that period, what their focus was, where they fell short of making their movement work for everyone. It’s too early a volume for the word “intersectional” to come up, but Anderson is both clear and blunt about racism when she sees it and attempts to discuss class issues and other intersectionalities quite thoroughly. I got a few more ideas for people to download from Project Gutenberg, and more to sigh over since the translations aren’t there.

Fatimah Asghar, If They Come For Us. Searing amazing lovely poems about the Partition and modern experiences of immigration that mirror some of its effects. Both personal and political. I’m so glad I read this.

Christelle Dabos, A Winter’s Promise. This YA fantasy has many prose hallmarks of being translated from the French, but I don’t mind that. It started out with the magic system feeling potentially enchanting and captivating, but I ended up frustrated with the ponderous length of it and the politics of it–both internal to the book and the way it sits with actual politics. Among other things, this is one of those books where He Won’t Tell You Anything–And Will Be A Controlling Jerk All The Time–But He Has His Reasons And Really He Loves You And Also What About His Tragic Past. And I am getting less and less patient with books that recapitulate abusers’ narratives with romantic trimmings.

Anne de Courcy, The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married Into the British Aristocracy. I would not usually have picked this book up at all, but de Courcy generally knows her stuff and can be counted on to get into some social analysis like: was this successful, why did it happen beyond the simplistic explanations etc. Also it was not terribly long.

Anya Johanna DeNiro writing as Alan DeNiro, Tyrannia. These were fine enough stories for most of the volume but were not really grabbing me…until I got to the last one, that makes it a keeper. It’s a weird metafictional meditation that completely works for me.

Seth Dickinson, The Monster Baru Cormorant. Discussed elsewhere.

N.K. Jemisin, The Stone Sky. There’s a reason these have won so many awards. They are so very brilliantly done, and their planetary/geomagic is amazing, and the relationships are wrenching and loving and horrible and great. I’m glad I finished this series.

Porochista Khakpour, Sick: A Memoir. Khakpour gives us a tour of her life through the lens of figuring out her health problems. If you have chronic health issues yourself, the difficulty with diagnosis and treatment will feel so familiar, as she hits setback after setback and finally arrives at…an approximation. A regimen that sort of works unless it doesn’t. Which is pretty familiar too. She doesn’t have to pretend that she is a perfect person who did everything–or even everything health-related–right. There are no Good Cripple narratives here. And what a blessing that is.

Naomi Mitchison, When We Become Men. So what an odd thing this is. Mitchison apparently got very involved with Botswanan independence, to the point of getting herself in trouble with the colonial authorities. When We Become Men is a coming of age story for young African men (and a bit for women) struggling toward self-rule. I think that if you only read one book about the struggle of various African nations toward independence, it shouldn’t be this one (it should be written by…you know…an African person), and if you only read one Naomi Mitchison novel, it shouldn’t be this one either (at the moment I’m going for Travel Light, but stay tuned). But. As another piece in a couple of larger puzzles, it’s very interesting indeed. Caveat: rape is a topic throughout this book and while reasonably important to the book, it is…I am not entirely comfortable with the handling of it, particularly with my own ignorance of how emotionally accurate it is to the cultures it was representing at the time.

Danez Smith, Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems. I had already read the title poem of this collection, and it was brilliant and searing and amazing. Then the rest of it made me sob out loud and run around DMing links to poems and putting them up in various chat spaces. It was apparently a great month for me to read poetry, because I highly recommend this as well.

Rebecca Sugar et al, Steven Universe: Punching Up, Steven Universe: Too Cool for School, and Steven Universe: Anti-Gravity. These were a bit of a mixed bag, and frankly even the first of them (which was the best in my estimation) would have been a weak and minor episode of SU. However, as SU methadone they did fine. Do you want a side story about Steven going to school, or one about Pearl taking on a wrestler persona to team wrestle with Amethyst? That’s what’s here–but because it’s definitively side material, they can’t put anything of ongoing resonance in the way they do with the episodes that sometimes seem on the surface to be side issues. Oh Well.

Howard Waldrop, Horse of a Different Color: Stories. I just could not be arsed to care about these stories. I could see that they were well done in their way, and I read them, I didn’t skip past them, but…this is very much not for me, I’m afraid.

Laura Weymouth, The Light Between Worlds. Okay, so. If you are a person who, for example, knows what year rationing ended after WWII, you should go into this knowing that there are a few moments where that kind of historical-cultural detail will have slipped. However. Depending on your reaction to that sort of thing–or to these particular instances of that sort of thing–it may not matter. It didn’t really matter for me, but I mention it because I know several of my readers will be unable to not see those details. For me, the heart of the story was spot on. And that’s the story of two sisters trying to build lives in a world that isn’t quite what they expected it to be. The two and their brother had a very Narnia-like portal fantasy adventure, and there are bits of that in here in flashback, but mostly it’s about how they adjust–or fail to adjust–to coming back again. To having to go through puberty a second time, to the ideas and possibilities and priorities that come with postwar Britain instead of a magical forest land. And to having been through not just one war but two–having met war wherever they went. And there are so very very many emotionally true moments about that kind of trauma and about dealing with other people you love whose reactions to trauma are different from yours. (Also the stag imagery omg.)

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