Letter from the Editor:
Another month has passed! I always look forward to writing and posting these Bookish Brains issues because they’re such a rewarding culmination of the month’s reading, as well as exciting to look forward to next month’s TBR and upcoming releases!
For Women’s History Month this March, I resolved to read only books authored by women, which wasn’t too hard for me at all! Four of the books I’ve read this month are featured in this newsletter with mini reviews: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, Motherhood by Sheila Heti, and Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, as well as a few comments on my current read Know my Name by Chanel Miller. In addition, I list three of the books on my TBR for April and highlight a few new book releases for April. Lots to look forward to!
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Previously only known as Emily Doe in the Stanford sexual assault case, Chanel Miller asserts her name and her humanity with this haunting memoir. Excellently written and powerfully emotional, this body of work describes her side of the case, in which she reveals the huge toll that the clunky legal system took on her mental and physical health as a victim and survivor. I’m currently on page 75, but I am already so impressed with the writing. It’s hard to read in long chunks because the subject matter is so unfortunate, but so far this book works to expose how messed up the courts treat victims of sexual assault. If this is a sensitive topic for you to read about, be extra careful should you decide to read this, as it can be very triggering. This is such an incredible book and I’m looking forward to reading more about Miller’s healing journey.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- Historical fiction
- Published 2016
- 300 pages
Homegoing was so amazing that I not only wrote an entire book review about it, but I also recorded a reading vlog of my process. The following few paragraphs are copied from my book review, which you can read in its entirety here.
Told from a third person point of view, Homegoing begins with Effia, a young girl just coming into her womanhood. She and her father want her to marry the village’s chief-to-be Abeeku, but Effia’s Baaba has a different idea for Effia’s future, a plan which requires secrecy and strategy, and will mean that Effia’s fate and centuries of her posterity’s lives will forever be altered.
After Effia’s chapter, we meet Esi, Effia’s half-sister. Unlike Effia, Esi is captured by slave traders, leading to her far different and more tortured existence. Thus, Esi’s lineage continues overseas in America, and for generations her descendants struggle to make the best of the small lot they have been given in life.
For the rest of the book, each chapter focuses on the next individual in the family tree line, alternating between Effia and Esi’s branches. Over centuries, the novel recounts the tales of individuals throughout slavery, sharecropping, the Great Migration, the Jazz era, the Civil Rights movement, up until the turn of the millennium. It is at times brutal to read of the characters’ suffering (rooted in the truth of actual historical accounts), and other times it is exquisitely beautiful the way their love of their family inspires them to endure.
If you’d like to hear more about this book, continue reading in my book review, or…
Watch my reading vlog on Homegoing!
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
- Play / Drama
- First produced 1959
- 159 pages
Reading A Raisin in the Sun made me want to read more plays. This was my first time reading Hansberry’s work, and I enjoyed the story she created. It follows the Younger family following the death of Lena’s husband, as she, her daughter, her son, and her son’s wife and son live together in an apartment in Chicago. The family is expecting a check for $10,000 in the mail from the late Mr. Younger’s life insurance, and the characters all have their own ideas on how to spend the money– Walter would like to invest in his own liquor business, Beneatha is attending medical school, and Lena just wants a house with her very own garden.
I love reading a good play because the dialogue is so fun, the back-and-forth bantering, the various personalities entering and exiting each scene. What also impressed me about A Raisin in the Sun was that even the stage directions are delightfully written. It’s incredible how many different (and nuanced) elements Hansberry was able to incorporate: Beneatha, the young feminist, and Lena, her matriarchal mother, who means well yet upholds the previous generations’ mentalities; then there’s Walter, so desperate to prove himself as a man and the head of the household that he makes foolish mistakes that cost his family greatly.
If you haven’t read A Raisin in the Sun, I truly recommend it, as it’s a quick read and still feels relevant and important even several decades after its initial production.
Motherhood by Sheila Heti
- Published 2018
- 284 pages
Whether or not to have children is a choice that most women have to make, and something that the narrator of Motherhood contemplates to great length. Thirty-seven years old at the beginning of this novel, the narrator reflects on her life and poses important questions to herself. Written in fragments which read like journal entries, Motherhood explores the choices others have made, weighs the pros and cons, and consults the universe’s messages through a series of coin flipping which come from I Ching. Uncertain and self-doubting, the narrator wonders what it means to be a mother, and if she can still be an artist while also being a mother.
I really enjoyed this novel’s writing as well as the highly relevant discussion on motherhood. The novel seems like auto-fiction, and the narrator appears to be a middle class writer living in Toronto, dating a longterm boyfriend who definitively doesn’t want children. I believe that this book will primarily speak to a very specific audience– middle class adult women who don’t have children and who are prone to introspection.
Ultimately, I appreciated this book for its peculiar form (and its inclusion of snapshots) and erratic considerations, as I could relate to the writer’s moods and whims. If you’d like to hear me discuss the book more, you can check out my reading vlog, which doubles as a hair-cutting vlog! I recently cut off most of my hair, but I assure you I also discuss Motherhood in this video!
Watch my reading vlog of Motherhood!
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
- Fiction / Historical fiction
- Published 2011
- 340 pages
Set in Atlanta during the 1980’s, Silver Sparrow follows the two daughters of James Witherspoon, an average man who is also a bigamist. James has a wife and daughter, but unbeknownst to everyone, James has another wife and daughter who live in secret. Everything the secret wife and daughter do depends on James’ first family–if Chaurisse goes to a certain science fair, his secret daughter Dana cannot attend. But when the daughters meet behind James’ back and a potential friendship forms, the secrets which have been unspoken for so long threaten to reveal themselves.
Written partly in Dana’s voice and partly in Chaurisse’s voice, this novel explores both sides of this complicated family dynamic. The characters are so thoroughly developed and intricately described that the further I read, the more insatiable I became to learn how their fates fare. While I have a couple minor qualms with Jones’ writing style and the ending left just a few things unsaid, I truly enjoyed reading their heartbreaking and emotional story. The 1980’s setting was fun and the characters will stick with me for a long time to come!
Watch my reading vlog for more discussion on this book!
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
Yes, I bought this!!! Recently released, Act Your Age, Eve Brown is an adult romance which follows the youngest Brown sister as she attempts to work at a bed & breakfast after accidentally hitting the owner, Jacob Wayne, with her car. So many readers are raving about this book! I’m especially excited to read this because previously, I’ve only listened to Talia Hibbert’s romances via audiobook, so I’m happy to finally own one of her books! I’m expecting to love this book for its banter, healthy relationship boundaries, and steam. Also, congrats to Talia Hibbert for making the New York Times Bestseller’s List!
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
The Death of Vivek Oji author Akwaeke Emezi’s debut novel, Freshwater is about a Nigerian woman named Ada who experiences multiple selves. From the summary, it sounds like this novel takes place over several years during her childhood in Nigeria and her college years in America. I loved The Death of Vivek Oji and I want to read everything Emezi writes. (Also, their memoir is coming out in June entitled Dear Senthuran!) I predict Freshwater will be a 5-star read for me because Emezi’s prose is so exquisite and I’ve heard a few extraordinary reviews of this. I can’t wait to delve in!
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
I’m trying to read a classic every month, and for April I have Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon lined up. All I know about this book is that the main character’s name is Milkman, and he is just trying to make it in life. Last year, I read The Bluest Eye, so I’m looking forward to reading more of Morrison’s writing.
Canceling Dr. Seuss?
At the beginning of March, Dr. Seuss’s personal estate announced that they would be discontinuing six of his children’s books which depict racist images, such as And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, and McElligot’s Pool. After this decision was released to the public, many people voiced their opinions, and others lamented that Dr. Seuss was being “canceled.” However, this is not the case. Check out Ashley from Bookish Realm’s awesome breakdown of this “Canceling Dr. Seuss?” controversy for some great information and valuable insight from a librarian:
She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen
Summary from Goodreads: After losing spectacularly to her ex-girlfriend in their first game since their break up, Scottie Zajac gets into a fender bender with the worst possible person: her nemesis, the incredibly beautiful and incredibly mean Irene Abraham. Things only get worse when their nosey, do-gooder moms get involved and the girls are forced to carpool together until Irene’s car gets out of the shop.
Their bumpy start only gets bumpier the more time they spend together. But when an opportunity presents itself for Scottie to get back at her toxic ex (and climb her school’s social ladder at the same time), she bribes Irene into playing along. Hijinks, heartbreak, and gay fake-dating scheme for the ages. From author Kelly Quindlen comes a new laugh-out-loud romp through the ups and downs of teen romance.
- Genre: Contemporary YA Romance
- Release date: April 20, 2021
Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins
Summary from HarperCollins: Laila desperately wants to become a mother, but each of her previous pregnancies has ended in heartbreak. This time has to be different, so she turns to the Melancons, an old and powerful Harlem family known for their caul, a precious layer of skin that is the secret source of their healing power.
When a deal for Laila to acquire a piece of caul falls through, she is heartbroken, but when the child is stillborn, she is overcome with grief and rage. What she doesn’t know is that a baby will soon be delivered in her family—by her niece, Amara, an ambitious college student—and delivered to the Melancons to raise as one of their own. Hallow is special: she’s born with a caul, and their matriarch, Maman, predicts the girl will restore the family’s prosperity.
Growing up, Hallow feels that something in her life is not right. Did Josephine, the woman she calls mother, really bring her into the world? Why does her cousin Helena get to go to school and roam the streets of New York freely while she’s confined to the family’s decrepit brownstone?
As the Melancons’ thirst to maintain their status grows, Amara, now a successful lawyer running for district attorney, looks for a way to avenge her longstanding grudge against the family. When mother and daughter cross paths, Hallow will be forced to decide where she truly belongs.
Engrossing, unique, and page-turning, Caul Baby illuminates the search for familial connection, the enduring power of tradition, and the dark corners of the human heart.
- Genre: Magical realism, fairy tale
- Release date: April 6, 2021
Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge
Summary from Barnes & Noble: The critically acclaimed and Whiting Award–winning author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman returns with Libertie, an unforgettable story about one young Black girl’s attempt to find a place where she can be fully, and only, herself.
Coming of age as a freeborn Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson is all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, has a vision for their future together: Libertie is to go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else—is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother, who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark. When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it—for herself and for generations to come.
Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s new and immersive novel will resonate with readers eager to understand our present through a deep, moving, and lyrical dive into our complicated past.
- Genre: Historical fiction
- Release date: March 30, 2021
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