Bookish Brains Issue 13

Letter from the Editor:

November always passes so quickly, but then again, most months feel like that. This November, I turned 26, and Slanted Spines hit its SIX-YEAR ANNIVERSARY! I’ve officially been posting to this site every Friday for over six years, and I’d like to thank you all for your readership. So far, 2021 has been the best year for Slanted Spines in terms of stats, and it seems like viewers are really enjoying the shift towards book reviews. It’s incredible to have an outlet for my creativity and reading habits, one which I get to share with others.

Cheers to another year!
-B.C.

Currently Reading

Currently Reading

Although I’ve started a few books, I’m not actively reading anything right now, oddly enough! It’s been a busy couple of weeks and my focus has been pulled elsewhere.

Recently Read Mini Book Reviews

People from my Neighborhood by Hiromi Kawakami

  • Short stories, magical realism
  • Published 2021
  • 121 pages
People from my Neighborhood by Hiromi Kawakami

The summary for People From My Neighborhood beautifully describes its contents as “twenty-six ‘palm of the hand’ stories.” Indeed, the stories are cleverly brief, each embodying a kishōtenketsu quality–a traditional Japanese four-part structure–in which the narrator deepens the subject until a twist and result. Within as short a span as three pages, Kawakami is able to develop a situation and surprise the reader, delivering an imaginative and thrilling moment which continually bleeds story into story…

Read the rest of the full review from Slanted Spines here!

Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola

Love in Color by Bolu Babalola
  • Short stories
  • Published 2020
  • 290 pages

Inspired by mythical tales curated from around the world, Babalola has modernized and reimagined these traditional stories. In many of the stories featured in this collection, the female protagonists are independent and capable, demonstrating autonomy and individual motivations–love, then, is merely a bonus.

The writing is very strong and I appreciate how Babalola has refreshed these anecdotes in her own voice. Perhaps my only criticism is that many of the relationships featured in the stories mimic previous dynamics, so that it felt I was reading the same couple fall in love over and over in different settings. However, the collection was still successful as a whole and I was thankful for the Author’s Note at the end, which provided insight into her intention with some of the pieces. Overall, a passionate anthology.

The Days of Afrekete by Asali Solomon

The Days of Afrekete
  • Fiction
  • Published 2021
  • 208 pages

Framed surrounding a dinner party hosted by failed politician Winn and his wife Liselle, this novel portrays the estranged romantic relationship of Liselle and her college girlfriend Selena. Though Liselle has been a lesbian her whole life, in the present timeline she is married to a white man and lives comfortably in an affluent area of Philadelphia. With each subsequent juxtaposing timeline unfolding chapter by chapter, the reader learns how Liselle came to embody this position. To add to the tension, an agent from the FBI has tipped off Liselle to her husband’s impending arrest, and though she keeps this information to herself, she anticipates the authorities’ arrival during their evening party.

Though the plot of the story is compelling, I found the execution to be unfortunately a bit underwhelming. There were many narrative points underdeveloped or lacking completely, and most frustratingly, the novel ended at precisely the moment I had been waiting to read about for the whole book. Of course while I can “read between the lines” and infer to a certain extent, I’d much have preferred the author to do more to indicate characters’ motivations or provide explicit answers. Though I liked a few of the characters, and I usually enjoy reading about a good dramatic dinner party, this did not quite “do it” for me.

Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi

  • Memoir
  • Published 2021
  • 240 pages
Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi

Memoir Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi is a deeply energetic text exploring their experiences existing as an ọgbanje in a world of human constructs, a Nigerian writer within the constrictive realm of U.S. academia and publishing, and a soft heart seeking comfort among the spirits of loved ones…

Read the rest of the full review from Slanted Spines here!

Gentrifier by Anne Elizabeth Moore

Gentrifier by Anne Elizabeth Moore
  • Memoir
  • Published 2021
  • 272 pages

Anne Elizabeth Moore, a well-established writer, frames this memoir around her experience having been awarded a free house in Detroit from an organization seeking to provide writers with a room of their own. While at first, the opportunity is perhaps a dream come true, and though Moore forms bonds with her many Bangladeshi neighbors, as issues with the infrastructure of the house arise and her income dries up, Moore investigates the history of the house she’s been inhabiting and gains insight into the nature of how the organization obtained it.

As the title implies, this novel situates itself in exploration of the housing crisis in the U.S. and specifically, within Detroit, as well as an indirect consideration of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Moore’s observations and anecdotes of her neighbors add a wonderfully humanistic element to her recollections, and often I found myself giggling at their charming and endearing encounters. Her account builds up to the last chapter, which most thoroughly dives into the bureaucratic paperwork, muddled legality, and complications of the housing market and property taxes.

This is both an entertaining and evocative memoir that’s strengthened by how concentrated it is on a certain period of time in the writer’s life. I read this book in one day, and while it seems to only loosely reference Woolf’s work, it is a valuable modern assessment of how having a space of one’s own can be ethically questionable, if even financially feasible.

Three Rooms by Jo Hamya

Three Rooms by Jo Hamya
  • Fiction
  • Published 2021
  • 208 pages

Drawing inspiration from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, this novel follows a narrator in the three rooms she inhabits throughout England and the challenges she faces in securing a room of her own. With each room, the narrator sacrifices a larger fraction of autonomy and privacy, and as she attempts to navigate her adulthood in a changing economy, political climate, and cultural landscape, she finds that the reality she struggles to create does not align with the images provided via social media.

Hamya’s writing is very strong and descriptive, and her characters engage in critical conversations that resemble the regurgitated takes from real life in multiple ways. The narrator is considered BAME and while much is contemplated within this novel’s pages, it leaves the reader to form their own conclusions. I felt that despite the surface level interactions between the narrator and others, the body of the text was very nuanced and provided a looking glass into our times, juxtaposing people, places, and scenarios that point towards more than what is stated.

Although I appreciate and respect what Hamya has crafted, I finished the book without feeling much towards the narrator or the characters in the novel. Admittedly, most of the post-Brexit politics went over my American head, and perhaps if I’d have read A Room of One’s Own more recently, I’d be better able to indicate allusions to Woolf’s essay. So at the same time I related to some of the narrator’s problems and found parallels between the millennial British experience and my own, this book will not linger with me for very long. I do recommend it, mostly for those who prefer modern melancholy narrators.

My TBR

Books on my Radar

Sometimes when there are so many books to choose from, I have a harder time picking what to read next! These are some of the books on my shelves that I’ve been eyeing this week:

  • The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
  • I Met a Guy…And Other Things You Can Only Discuss with your SisterGirlfriends by Valencia Joy
  • How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

I also have a lot of LGBTQ+ graphic memoir and children’s non-fiction books out from the library because I’ve had plans of compiling book lists for my blog, so stay tuned for that!

New Book Releases

Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim

Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim

Summary from Bookshop:

In 1917, deep in the snowy mountains of occupied Korea, an impoverished local hunter on the brink of starvation saves a young Japanese officer from an attacking tiger. In an instant, their fates are connected–and from this encounter unfolds a saga that spans half a century.

In the aftermath, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school, an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status. When she befriends an orphan boy named JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets of Seoul, they form a deep friendship. As they come of age, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, and Jade becomes a sought-after performer with a new romantic prospect of noble birth. Soon Jade must decide whether she will risk everything for the one who would do the same for her.

From the perfumed chambers of a courtesan school in Pyongyang to the glamorous cafes of a modernizing Seoul and the boreal forests of Manchuria, where battles rage, Juhea Kim’s unforgettable characters forge their own destinies as they wager their nation’s. Immersive and elegant, Beasts of a Little Land unveils a world where friends become enemies, enemies become saviors, heroes are persecuted, and beasts take many shapes.

  • Genre: Historical fiction, family saga
  • Release date: December 7, 2021

Tell Me How to Be by Neel Patel

Tell Me How to Be by Neel Patel

Summary from Bookshop:

Renu Amin always seemed perfect: doting husband, beautiful house, healthy sons. But as the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death approaches, Renu is binge-watching soap operas and simmering with old resentments. She can’t stop wondering if, thirty-five years ago, she chose the wrong life. In Los Angeles, her son, Akash, has everything he ever wanted, but as he tries to kickstart his songwriting career and commit to his boyfriend, he is haunted by the painful memories he fled a decade ago. When his mother tells him she is selling the family home, Akash returns to Illinois, hoping to finally say goodbye and move on.

Together, Renu and Akash pack up the house, retreating further into the secrets that stand between them. Renu sends an innocent Facebook message to the man she almost married, sparking an emotional affair that calls into question everything she thought she knew about herself. Akash slips back into bad habits as he confronts his darkest secrets–including what really happened between him and the first boy who broke his heart. When their pasts catch up to them, Renu and Akash must decide between the lives they left behind and the ones they’ve since created, between making each other happy and setting themselves free.

By turns irreverent and tender, filled with the beats of ’90s R&B, Tell Me How to Be is about our earliest betrayals and the cost of reconciliation. But most of all, it is the love story of a mother and son each trying to figure out how to be in the world.

  • Genre: Literary fiction
  • Release date: December 7, 2021

The Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughes

The Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughes

Summary from Bookshop:

As a child in Spain, Puri always knew her passion for chocolate was inherited from her father. But it’s not until his death that she learns of something else she’s inherited–a cocoa plantation in Vinces, Ecuador, a town nicknamed “Paris Chiquito.” Eager to claim her birthright and filled with hope for a new life after the devastation of WWI, she and her husband Cristóbal set out across the Atlantic Ocean. But it soon becomes clear, someone is angered by Puri’s claim to the plantation…

When a mercenary sent to murder her aboard the ship accidentally kills Cristóbal instead, Puri dons her husband’s clothes and assumes his identity, hoping to stay safe while she searches for the truth of her father’s legacy in Ecuador. Though freed from the rules that women are expected to follow, Puri confronts other challenges at the plantation–newfound siblings, hidden affairs, and her father’s dark secrets. Then there are the dangers awakened by her attraction to an enigmatic man as she tries to learn the identity of an enemy who is still at large, threatening the future she is determined to claim.

  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Release date: December 28, 2021

Thanks for reading! To browse more issues of Bookish Brains on Slanted Spines, check out this page!

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