Monday, February 27, 2012

I finally learn How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

Abstract, brightly colored outdoor scene on book cover, titled How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, written by Julia Alvarez
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
Julia Alvarez

Much like Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies, this book chronicles the lives of four sisters and their extended family. The Garcías - Dr. Carlos, wife Laura, daughters Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sophie, have fled from the Dominican Republic to New York after Dr. Carlos's role in a coup attempt is discovered.

The book opens in the late 1980s when with Yolanda being welcomed back to the family compound in the DR. She's relieved to be there, even though her lacking Spanish skills reveal that she's been gone a long time. I wondered what exactly, led her back, and how she'd fare.

Only one of those questions is even partly answered. This book really is an explanation of how the sisters lost their accents. It's told in reverse chronological order, with the reader slowly learning, through interconnected short stories, just how and why the family ended up in New York, and the growing pains they face trying to fit into a new culture.

There are plenty of growing pains. The girls are taken from a highly supervised Catholic environment to a much more permissive and secular one. Their parents try to maintain the same discipline that that did in the DR, but it's impossible without the extended family to help with enforcement. The girls struggle with boys, bullies, the language, and more. All exert a tremendous toll of their mental and emotional health.

I do love a book with these themes - family, growing up, adjusting to a new culture. However, I had a problem connecting to this one. I think it was due to the reverse chronology. The structure does make it clear that the girls end up much more "Americanized" than they started - and much more than their parents would have liked. I don't know if that would have been as clear in a traditionally sequential novel.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Salon: Not Much Reading Going On

Well, I guess I should say there's not much fun reading going on. I've been reading tons of essays in preparation for the bar exam, which is this Tuesday and Wednesday. Anyone need advice on distribution of marital property in Florida? I'm on it. (Not really. I am not yet a licensed Florida attorney, so there will be no legal advice here. Can't give the Florida Board of Bar Examiners any reason not to admit me!)

I am reading two books, Maps by Nuruddin Farah, which counts for the Africa Reading Challenge, and Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children.

I really need to concentrate on Midnight's Children. It's from the library, so I need to return it before I go out of town next weekend. I think I'm about a third of the way done. I should be able to knock it out in a day or so after the bar, so I'm hoping to be done by Friday. I'm not as worried about Maps, because I bought that one. It can take me awhile longer.

I am itching to finish a book, though. My last one was How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (review publishing tomorrow), back on February 15th! I wouldn't call this a slump - more like part of the natural cycle where sometimes we read more, sometimes less, depending on what else is happening in life.

How has your reading been going? 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What is this book? Help!

When I was growing up, I read everything that I could get my hands on about horses. Black Beauty, Walter Farley's Black Stallion books, countless novels by Marguerite Henry, plus nonfiction titles like The Encyclopedia of the Horse.

For some reason though, I've been thinking a lot lately of a specific book - but of course, I can't remember the title or the author (although I'm pretty sure it was a female author). EDIT: Oops, nope!

The plot, as I recall it: There's an adolescent girl who is in love with horses. She wants one of her own, but her parents are against the idea. She gets stricken with polio, and has difficulty recovering. Her parents think that buying her a horse will help inspire her to work harder to walk again. So they buy her a horse. Towards the end of the book, there's a robbery or something (I can't remember exactly) and it's up to the girl to drag herself onto the horse to save the day. Or something. I can't remember exactly.

The only other detail I remember is that yew bushes are mentioned. That probably isn't helpful, but I often remember little inconsequential things about books I read. For example, I read To Kill a Mockingbird twice in high school and the only thing that's stuck with me is when the town drunk reveals to Scout that the booze hidden by his paper bag isn't actually alcohol. Go figure.

A horse frolics in golden light through the undergrowth
Photo Credit
Update: Thanks to Candice who figured out that I was looking for Tall and Proud by Vian Smith!  I thought the title was familiar, and then when I looked up the cover I knew it was the right book: 
Tall and Proud

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Winter of Our Discontent

The Winter of Our Discontent
The Winter of Our Discontent
John Steinbeck

Why haven't I read Steinbeck since high school? I have no idea, especially since I enjoyed his work then. Maybe I thought it was too typical, or something. I don't know. What I so know is the The Winter of Our Discontent had me hooked from the first page.

I mean, it opens with Ethan and Mary Hawley in bed, making cute little pillow talk. In 1960!

Ethan Hawley is the current head of a once prominent Long Island family. They've still got their name, but there's no longer any money behind them and they're barely clinging to their privileged existence. Outwardly, Ethan seems content with his life. He may be a bit bitter, but he keeps a smile on his face and a song on his lips.

When the complaints of his wife and children and the condescension of the others in town become too much, he decides to take action. He'll break from his strict moral code to reestablish his family. He'll show everyone that he's not just a clerk in the grocery store his family used to own.

Meanwhile, he's picking up bank robbing ideas from his children and they are scheming on how to win a patriotic essay contest. Young Allen and Ellen want to win, because it means a trip - one that their father can't afford to take them on. They spend time exploring the attic, where there are volumes of speeches and other long forgotten artifacts. Their explorations cause their father to muse on why we keep things tucked away in attic, anyway:
I guess we're all, or most of us, the wards of that nineteenth-century science which denied existence to anything that it could not measure or explain. The things we couldn't explain went right on but surely not with our blessing. We did not see what we couldn't explain, and meanwhile a great part of the world was abandoned to children, insane people, fools, and mystics, who were more interested in what is than in why it is. So many old and lovely things are stored in the world's attic, because we don't want them around us and we don't dare throw them out.
There's a lot in this novel that can't be easily explained - or rather, people would rather the explanations remain tucked away. Who was responsible for the Hawley's losing their fortune? Why has the town seductress been paying so much attention to Ethan? So if behind every great fortune is a great crime, can Ethan reclaim his fortune? And if so, how will he live with the consequences?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Generation X

Generation X
Generation X
Douglas Coupland

So, yeah, this is about a bunch of twentysomethings in the 90s who decide to eschew the mainstream consumer culture and hang out in the desert telling stories. You'd have never had an inkling of that from the title, now would you? Seriously, though, the book is fun, if a bit predictable.

The book itself is square, with wide margins containing little drawings and asides. It was a little distracting to have these drawings taking my attention off the main text.

The writing is cute, in a look-at-me-I'm-so-clever way. Exhibit A, which turns out to be a set up for a rather destructive act of vandalism:
The Saab won't start. It alternates tubercular hacking salvos with confused bunny coughs, giving the impression of a small child blending fits of demonic possession with the coughing up of bits of hamburger.
Okay, I realize that this is making it sound like I didn't like the book. I did. It's pretty short, so the period feel doesn't have a chance to grate, and it manages to stay mostly charming. There are enough little vignettes that most readers would find something that would resonate with them, making them feel part of the club. The characters are likable, and I could imagine hanging out with them, although not everyday. I'd be that friend who drops by once a month, not the one who decides to move in next door.

Want more like this? Try:
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club. Okay, I haven't actually read this, but I have seen the movie. Based on the movie (liposuction, life sucking consumer culture) and Palahniuk's writing style, I am confident in declaring it's in a related vein. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
  • Jonathan Lethen, Motherless Brooklyn. This is a modern noir-like mystery novel, but the feeling is similar to Generation X, in a way. There's a bunch of storytelling and interesting characters. The narrator is a young man who grew up as a foster child with Tourette's syndrome who is employed as a detective/limo driver in New York. 
  • J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye. Yeah, it's a totally different era, but the concern with living an authentic experience, free from "phoniness" is eternal.

    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    Walking in Cairo

    Palace Walk
    Palace Walk
    Naguib Mahfouz
    Translated from the Arabic by William M. Hutchins & Olive Kenny

    I first heard about this book a couple years ago, when a woman in my book club recommended it to me. She and I have pretty similar reading tastes, so I was interested in picking it up. I was in the Strand once and they had a copy of the second and third books in the trilogy, but not Palace Walk, the first. I reluctantly passed them by, figuring I'd get to them sooner or later.

    I'm glad that I finally made the time to read this. Palace Walk is set in Cairo, Egypt during and immediately after World War I. For the vast majority of the novel, the conflicts are in the background. There's some talk about the Australians, or German bombs, but nothing shakes the family compound on Palace Walk.

    Life beings every day before dawn, when Amina, the mother, slips out of bed, wakes the servant, and begins the pounding of the bread that wakes the rest of the family. She works tirelessly to ensure that her family, and especially her husband, Al-Sayyid Ahmad al-Jawad, is catered to in every way.

    Al-Sayyid Ahmad is the unquestioned ruler of the family. He runs his household with an iron first, forbidding music, celebrations, drinking, even lighthearted conversations. He cannot imagine that anyone dares to disobey him outside his presence. His sons often describe the house as a prison. His wife and daughters seem more resigned to their fate - perhaps because they are seldom allowed out in the world. At one point, the engagement of Khadija, the eldest daughter, appears in jeopardy because the suitor has seen her face.

    Of course, al-Sayyid Ahmad does not feel the need to hold himself to the same standard he holds his family. He goes out nightly to parties with his friends, where they get drunk, play music, are entertained by female performers, and pursue affairs. He makes sure that he is able to somewhat hold it together before coming home to his wife, who is waiting, awake, to help him prepare for bed.

    There are some incredibly troubling incidents in the book. Several of them deal with the eldest son, Yasin. He has a complete contempt for women. He regularly calls them "bitches," and sees them simply as objects for his pleasure. When his father interrupts an attempted rape, he accuses his son of being a criminal - but naturally, the authorities are not involved.

    Eventually, the focus on the book shifts from the shielded compound walls to events outside. Following the end of the war, Egyptians begin to agitate for self-determination. They want the foreign powers out of their country. They want to rule themselves. Fahmy, the middle son, becomes caught up in this struggle. He talks about the issues during the family's daily coffee hour, the one time of day where they can relax and talk freely outside the presence of al-Sayyid Ahmad. Slowly, each of the family members begins to be affected by the increased conflicts. In this way, the outside and inside are brought together.

    I try to read books like this with an open mind. Did I like any of the male characters? Nope, not at all. Was I reading this through a distinctly white American feminist lens? Yes, because that's who I am. So while I couldn't be happy with the way the characters lived their lives, I could still appreciate the complicated family dynamics, the questions about obeying authority, the desire for a better life. I'm interested in learning more about the author - what were his views on these issues? I'd love to know if my hunches are in the right direction or way off base.

    I do plan on reading the next two books in the trilogy. However, I admit I'm a bit reluctant to read the next one, Palace of Desire, as it looks like Yasin is the focus. I am much more intrigued by the third novel, Sugar Street, which looks like it focuses more on Khadija. I wanted more from her perspective in Palace Walk, and I never really got it.

    Want more like this? Try:
    • Ahdaf Soueif, The Map of Love. This is an Egyptian novel with a present storyline and one set in the early years of the 20th century. Definitely more female centered. There's a lot about language, and critiques about the colonial system.
    • Fatima Mernissi, Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood. The true story of a girl growing up in Morocco in the 1940's and 50's. Mernissi disabuses Western readers of the notion that a harem is a place of lusty indulgence. Rather, it's how an extended family of female relations lives together in one household. She does critique the system, though - it's not just a jolly place of eating olives and laughing.
    Apologies to those who may see this coming up twice in their feed readers - I accidentally hit "publish"  before it was ready. Oops!

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Some thoughts on Feminism Is For Everybody

    Feminism is for Everybody
    Feminism is For Everybody
    bell hooks

    This is the February selection for A Year of Feminist Classics. There's a discussion of the book over there that you're welcome to check out, so I'm keeping my thoughts on this rather general, taking the book as a whole. There's certainly enough to talk about that I could write a post about each 5 page chapter, but I shall refrain from doing so.

    Hooks states that the purpose of this book is to give people a short, accessible primer on feminism when they ask her what it is. Does she succeed? I have to say no, she didn't.

    That's not to say this isn't worth reading. It is. But it's more about a history of feminism and how it relates to various subjects (such as parenting, race, class, love). It's dreadfully short on details and concrete examples, but chocked full of jargon that would easily scare off hooks' supposed audience.

    Randomly opening to a page:
    Despite the limitations of feminist discourse on sexuality, feminist politics is still the only movement for social justice that offers a vision of mutual well-being as a consequence of its theory and practice. We need an erotics of being that is founded on the principle that we have a right to express sexual desire as the spirit moves us and to find in sexual pleasure a life-affirming ethos.
    That's not exactly written in the vernacular.

    The book also shows its age in chapters such as Beauty Within and Without and A Feminist Sexual Politic (from which the above quote is taken). Beauty touches on the dangers of eating disorders such as anorexia, but doesn't talk about the broader pressure to be in a certain weight range. Since hooks' writing, there has been the emergence of the Health at Every Size and Enthusiastic Consent movements. Those two ideas have radically opened my eyes to what feminism can do every day to make everyone's live better. Seriously, read THIS. If it doesn't immediately transform your thinking on policing people's bodies, I don't know what will. As far as feminism and fashion, there are people out there having fun with clothes in a way that has nothing to do with attracting the male gaze. It's fashion for fashion's sake. Man repeller, anyone?

    On a more positive note, I do love hooks' insistence that feminism take on all modes of oppression, including class, gender, and sexual orientation. Intersectionality is not optional here. Feminism should not be working to place a few (mainly white) women in powerful positions on par with their male counterparts. The movement should be pushing for the end of the current white patriarchal capitalist system that depends on oppressing people without power for its success. 

    That's an idea I can support.

    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    The Sunday Salon: A Book I Haven't Read

    I was over on Goodreads the other day, looking at lists of books, when I can across one purporting to list the best books of the 20th century. Now, of course, I took that with more than a grain of salt, but that's besides the point. I'd read 50 of the top 100 books, and an additional 6 are on my to-be-read list.

    As I scrolled down, the first book I came to that I hadn't read or added to my list to read was...

    Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl.

    Book cover with brown background and black and white image of Anne Frank. Cover says Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank

    Okay, I admit I was a bit embarrassed. How have I never read this book? It's not the first time I've wondered this. I've thought about it before, and it's always been one of those books I "know" I "should" read, but honestly, I've never been all that drawn to it. Perhaps it's my somewhat obstinate personality, the same trait that keeps me from reading  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because I have since like a million people reading it on the subway (and elsewhere). But, this is a classic, right? And it's important, and it's all about humanizing a horrible period in history. And still, I just can't muster up enough interest to spend a couple hours reading it.

    So, it's going to continue to be my guilty, but no longer secret, non-read book confession.

    Although this post over at So Many Books is making me feel less guilty. "If there is a book you really want to read then you'll read it."

    Good advice.

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, & a Giveaway

    Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass
    Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
    Frederick Douglass

    I confess, I've wanted to read this book for awhile, but I was under the impression it was going to be long and rather unwieldy. This was not the case at all. When I went to the bookstore to buy a copy (because can you believe my entire library system doesn't have it!) I was surprised to see that it was just over a hundred pages.

    Douglass is not afraid to name names and detail the abuses suffered by himself and others he knew. The introduction points out that this lent to his credibility, as any false statements could be roundly attacked by his detractors. He details the horrors expected - separating family members, brutal whippings, cold-blooded murders. As bad as it was, though, there was always the terror of being sold even further south, where conditions were far worse.

    Douglass also talks about how he learned to read, and that his master was right in saying that if slaves were educated and knew how to read they'd be more likely to rebel. He explains how, after his mistress was forbidden to teach him more, he covertly taught himself. I love the picture of his of learning from the area schoolchildren, using games and sticks in the dirt.

    It's clear that Douglass was committed to helping other slaves achieve their freedom. He railed against the system like few others could, since he himself survived it. However, he criticized those who took a more literal approach in freeing those still in bondage - the operators of the Underground Railroad. He says that his concern is that they are telling slavery's operators how slaves are escaping, thereby increasing the chances that they'll be caught.

    I have to admit I'm puzzled by this. I mean, yes, perhaps there was a general understanding that there's a network of people and safe houses that help transport people north. However, I don't exactly think the operators were publishing their routes. It's hard for me to agree that Harriet Tubman and others like her shouldn't have done what they did. Of course, perhaps there's more to this than I'm aware. I'm certainly not an expert in this area. I also respect the right of people to disagree about the best way to get to a shared end goal.

    Anyway! Read this - seriously. It's good! And a classic! And there are two more autobiographies that follow it, so there's more to read.

    One lucky commentor will WIN my copy. All you have to do is tell me something you're doing to celebrate Black History Month. I'll randomly choose a winner and email you for your address. Good Luck!

    Want more like this? Try:*
    • Sarah H. Bradford, Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman. Tubman dictated incidents in her life to Sarah Bradford, an admirer. 
    • Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave Narrative. Prince's narrative was the first written by an enslaved woman. 
    • Briton Hammon, Narrative of the Uncommon Suffering and Surprising Deliverance of Briton Hammon. Generally considered the first slave narrative.

    *These selections are taken from the back of my copy of Narrative, where other slave narratives are listed.

    Thursday, February 9, 2012

    Along for the Ride

    Voyage Along the Horizon
    Voyage Along the Horizon
    Javier Marías
    Translated from the Spanish by Kristina Cordero

    I first discovered Javier Marías by pure accident, while I was wandering around my library in Brooklyn. The book was A Heart So White, and I absolutely fell in love with it. I've been meaning to read more from him, but didn't get a chance to until I finally picked up Voyage Along the Horizon just recently.

    Voyage was Marías's second novel, written when he was only twenty two years old. As such, it does read as less polished than A Heart So White, but I still really enjoyed it. It's playful, a book about a book about an author trying to learn the details about a story, a bit of a writerly experiment, if you will.

    The language is purposefully stilted and old fashioned. It feels like you are reading an early 1900's English mystery novel. If that's your kind of book, you should appreciate this. If it's not typically your type of book, you still can enjoy the meta whimsy.

    Despite the borrowed style, this book is still very much Marías. He writes looooooooooonnngggg paragraphs - blocks of text can go on for pages. It can leave you a little breathless, but it does have the effect of pulling you into the scene.

    One of the things I like about Marías is his clever way of inserting little observations about human behavior into seemingly unrelated text:
    ...Meffre and the pianist had met, but with rather unpleasant consequences, two years earlier at Baden-Baden. Their interaction had been somewhat circumstantial, and even though the slight friction that had erupted between them in Germant during a performance of Monteverdi's Ulysses, involving some box seats and a certain young lady, was more or less ancient history by now, both men (Meffre in particular) still seemed to remain slightly, quietly hesitant about initiating any kind of direct conversation even when the occasion all but required it. 

    Want more like this? Try:
    • Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile. Something about the tone of Marías' narrator reminded me of Hercule Poirot. A bit fussy, but interesting and engaging. Plus, there are people getting killed on a boat.
    • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Again, the tone is very similar.
    • Various Authors, One Thousand and One Nights. One of the most famous books using a framing device.

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    Top Ten Tuesday: Books for Non-Readers

    Brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. Today's theme is:
    Top Ten Books You'd Hand To Someone Who Says They Don't Like To Read

    I've got a bit of experience with this, as I'm always trying to get my non-reader hubby to try a new book. Some of these on the list are ones that he actually read and enjoyed over the years. If you have any tips for getting non-readers to read, let me know in the comments :-)

    America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction, Jon Stewart
    Charts and graphs and pictures and jokes! What’s not to love?

    The Complete Maus, Art Spiegelman
    Classic graphic novel. So, so good.

    Falling Up, Shel Siverstein
    Really, any of his books of poetry are great. Funny, with charming drawings. And if there’s a youngster they can read to, double win!

    The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum, Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh
    Admittedly, I read this a long time ago, and cannot vouch for its feminism-friendliness, but I remember it making me laugh and teaching me a thing or two. And I love the title and the cover.

    Nothing’s Sacred, Louis Black
    More jokes! Seriously, I think comedy writing is a great way to interest non-readers., especially if you find a book by someone they like.

    My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George
    I loved this book about a young boy running away and surviving in the woods.

    A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
    An accessible and timely play.

    The Man Who Ate Everything, Jeffrey Steingarten
    I lovelovelove Steingarten’s food writing. He’s a former lawyer, and he applies all that analytical skill to breaking down food in a way that’s totally obsessive, yet inspiring.

    Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, Chuck Klosterman
    Even when I have no idea what he’s talking about, I enjoy his essays, whether they be about Brittney Spears or Saved by the Bell.

    Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
    A fun book that encourages looking at issues from all angles. The authors try to answer questions about cheating, crime, and more, by looking at incentives for behavior.

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Ludwig van Beethoven

    Beethoven: The Universal Composer
    Beethoven: The Universal Composer
    Edmund Morris

    This is one of Harper Collins' Eminent Lives biographies, which are meant to be rather brief biographies of major historical figures written by distinguished contemporary authors. Certainly in the case of Beethoven we have an iconic subject. I confess, I'd never heard of Edmund Morris, though. It turns out he's written a few other books, including the 1980 Pulitzer Prize winning biography, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.

    Apparently Morris is also a lifelong fan of music, especially Beethoven. This biography certainly makes that clear. He is able to bring Beethoven's music to life in the printed word. He describes the feeling that each piece of music produces, so even a person with a trifling knowledge of musical terms can follow along. There's also a glossary of musical terms in the back of the book to help you if you get lost. Of course, there's an element of skepticism when Morris describes, say, a piano cantata. Can I take his word as authority on the sound of this music? Just because he's a fan, does that mean I would be?  Ultimately, I let this be, because if anything it gave me an appreciation for Beethoven's work and made me seek out some pieces to listen to.

    Morris was able to show what was going on in the world at large while Beethoven was living and writing. He was working during the French Revolution, and his Austrian patrons were justifiably concerned with their positions in society. At times they had less money or inclination to support a large cadre of demanding artists. Beethoven often had trouble collecting monies owed him.

    Beethoven's personal life, including his money troubles, take up a good portion of the biography. It's interesting that during some of his most stressful personal periods he was able to concentrate and turn out some of his most brilliant masterpieces.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to the more personal side of things, Morris misses the mark a bit. His privilege starts showing something awful. First, there's the anti-choice rhetoric. Morris retells some ridiculous story about someone asking a feminist what she'd tell a poor woman who'd lost previous children and was married to an abusive alcoholic what to do when she finds out she's pregnant. Abort? YOU JUST KILLED BEETHOVEN!!!!eleventy!!!11!

    Don't worry, though - he's not concerned with Beethoven as a person, but only as a music maker. Later in the book, Beethoven is experiencing a particularly tough patch with his mental health, and is fearing that he'll be put in an asylum. Morris says:
    "...[I]ncarceration might have been a merciful alternative for him. But then we would not have had the genesis of his greatest symphony, greatest set of variations, and greatest choral work, following the completion of his greatest piano sonata. All these perfections arose out of psychosis, like nebulae spun out of deep space."
    There's some other disablist crap in here, too, but I just can't get into it.

    In short, not a bad overview of a fascinating man. However, I won't be picking up anything else by Edmund Morris.

    And I couldn't leave you without a little music:

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    POC Reading Challenge

    Just a quick note to say I'm officially signing up for the 2012 People of Color Reading Challenge. It will largely overlap with the Africa Reading Challenge, but will involve a lot more books.

    Here are the details:
    Any book (by any author) with a main character that is a person of color qualifies for this reading challenge, as well as any book written by an author of color. The goal is to encourage readers have a more diverse reading experience and to support diversity in the publishing industry by reading and reviewing books by or about persons of color.
    There are five levels to choose from. I'm going to shoot for the top - Level 5, which means I need to read at least 16 qualifying books. So far this year I've read . . . one (The Good Earth). But! I am currently reading two books that qualify, so I'm on my way. I'm planning on reading a couple more in February, especially seeing as how it's Black History Month in the US.

    If you want to diversify your reading, I encourage you to join.

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    January in Review

    Wow, so, January is over. That seemed way too fast.

    I continued the Seasonal Reading Challenge on Goodreads. I think I read a lot, but I'm nowhere near some of the people in this challenge. I'm trying to stick with my mantra and not feel overly competitive about this. I probably should be reading a bit less for pleasure and a bit more for my bar exam, which is at the end of this month (!!!)

    I also participated in Orange January, which was fun. I only read two qualifying books, Alias Grace  and Swamplandia!, but I enjoyed myself. There are several other books on the Orange Prize lists that look really good. I'll probably participate again in July, but I won't be surprised if I read another Orange book before that. I've got my eye on How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.

    All in all, I read 12 books in January, which puts me ahead of my 2012 goal of 100 books. However, I'd rather be ahead at the beginning of the year so I'm not having to rush at the end to meet my goal. Not that missing by a few books would be the end of the world, or anything.

    Here's my January breakdown:
    12 books total
    9 fiction                75%
    3 nonfiction          25%
    7 female authors  58%
    1 translated           8%

    How's your year going so far - in books, or otherwise?