What I'm Reading. Emily's Life.

It's been a long time since I have done one of these posts, but, my goodness, I am reading a LOT lately and it's some good stuff.  Here goes!

Ok, one thing to mention is that there is an awesome new book store in Grand Rapids called Books and Mortar.  I have made it my mission to befriend Chris and Jonathan and I think I am warming them up to me. I send them emails that have subject lines like, "It's Emily, your new friend."  They run a rock solid, independent bookstore and I cannot recommend shopping with them enough. Head in there today and feel good about supporting a small business!



If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

This is a young adult (YA) novel about a girl who attends a new school as an 11th grader.  She immediately meets a cutie-patootie boy, Grant, and it's all the feels. What Grant does not know, though, is that she used to be a boy and has transitioned from male to female, which is part of the reason she is attending a new school where no one knows her. This book brought to YA the idea of transgender struggle in high schools and while I enjoyed it, I wouldn't say it was the BEST YA transgender themed book I've ready lately.  Becoming Nicole the winner of the Pulitzer is a far better representation of the struggles and triumphs many of our transgender youth experience on a daily basis. 

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This is for my book club, and I suggested it, but it came as a suggestion from my English Department Chair and from a student who just finished it.  The basic story line is that an African American nurse, working in the delivery ward, is banned by the hospital from touching or caring for the child of a White Supremacist  She is then left with a dilemma when the child goes into cardiac arrest and she is the only one there to help the baby.  The best part of this book so far has been a really solid podcast, recommended by my good friend Chad, about the writing of the work by Picoult.  It's also relevant. Cause, you know, we're hearing a whole lot about the Alt-Right (White Supremacist movement) these days....which is just gross. 

 A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara


Ok, truthfully, I finished this book over the summer, but HOLY MOTHER OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, it was so good there is no way I could do a post about reading and not include this one.  I cannot even begin to express what this book is about, except to say that it is, perhaps, a better novel for me than The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy.  I KNOW. Can you even believe I typed that? I hardly can. But it was amazing. Ian read it--loved it. I have a student reading it--she loves it. I'm gifting it to people for Christmas. It's life changing. RUN to the store now and get it.

March by John Lewis

This is a graphic novel in 3 parts about the events of 1968 and also teh inaguration of Barack Obama in 2008. John Lewis, senator from Georgia, co-wrote this book with his two (white) illustrators, to tell the story of his work with the civil rights movemnt of the 1960s and it is powerful. It's also powerfully relevant.  I learned a lot, and I already know a lot about the Civil Rights movement. It's worth buying all 3 at once because you're going to finish the first one and need to keep going. It's solid.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

This is a half graphic novel/half young adult fiction, but it's dark. The basic storyline is this kid named Conor who is bulled at school, and he ends up having a monster take over his bedroom at night. This is NOT the sort of book I would typically read (I really don't like monsters or anything that is fantasy/science fiction), but I've had 3 teenage boys all say it is the BEST BOOK EVER, so I figured I should give it a shot. I'm about 45 pages in, and it's great. Lots of deeper themes of identity, fear and powerlessness. I definitely recommend it--plus, it's going to be a movie, so get at it.

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

I'm reading this for my OTHER book club, through Design Sponge--and I know a lot of you are probably reading it too. Well, it's amazing, right? It's non-fiction about a kid (Vance) who grew up in Appalachia, but ended up attending Yale Law School, despite coming from the poorest of poor areas.  It's a real insight into what's going on in that area of the country, those infamous Coal Country voters who elected the Orange Cheeto to the office, but in a totally non judgmental and non-threatening examination.  It does NOT make them look stupid or even, to use the title, "hillbilly"--instead it brings to light this believe that family is EVERYTHING, faith is EVERYTHING and being poor is just a way of life.  I really recommend it. It's helping me feel a bit of empathy for anyone who pulled the lever for Trump (note: "a bit")

Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay

Also for the Design Sponge book club and also rock solid. I'm truthfully only 1 essay into this, but it's already reminded me that being a woman is badass and being a feminist does not mean you're a crazy man hating woman--it simply means you are demanding equality. 

Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis

You can't go through the 2016 election and look at those numbers and demographic breakdowns without acknowledging something happened with women, African Americans and immigrants in this election. Something important.  Davis, the ultimate girl boss of progressive thought, breaks it down in this (pretty old) non-fiction piece of writing, explaining that white privilege is a real thing, class does continue to divide us as much as an caste system would, and that women are just barely starting to get their "fight back footing".  It's a must read if you are a progressive, thinking, impassioned female. I cannot wait to read her newest book: Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement. 



To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I've obviously read this book many times--probably more than 20--but I'm rereading it now, as I am teaching it for my 9th grade English classes who are reading it for school.  Guys. If it's been a few years since you read this book, it's kind of huge necessity you immediately reread it. The themes of racism and class are so frighteningly relevant today that there are many times I'm reading and crying as I see these parallels to 1930s and 2016 America. It's just too good. Go buy it now, get a fancy and pretty copy, curl up and find yourself back with Boo and Scout and Atticus and you will not be sorry.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

I just bought this book last night and haven't even started it yet, but President Obama said it was one of the best books he read in 2015, so I figured I should give it a try, since I have mad respect for the man.