What Are We Reading, Page 9
This is a continuation of the topic What Are We Reading, Page 8.
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What is everyone reading? What do you recommend? What are you looking forward to reading?
Thanks for the new page. Right now I’m reading Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land which was on Obama’s summer reading list. At the start of the book the author is working, very hard physical work, and still needing to be enrolled in 7 different government programs in order to survive. I wonder the status of those programs now, and how many women like her don’t have access to them.
I just finished reading The Other Einstein, which is historical fiction. It is so frustrating not to know whether Albert Einstein was really such a mysogynist. However the book was very interesting for its portrayal of expectations and limitations for women in the late 1800s and early 1900s, particularly someone with her background. Now I will have to reread Walter Isaacson's biography of Einstein to see whether any of this comes through. I read it a long time ago and don't remember.
We read The Other Einstein for my book club. Half of us bought the idea that Einstein was a misogynist, half of us didn't, but I keep hearing the idea referred to more and more often.
I liked it very much. You can read it and see if you think it’s believable.
I finished Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive. It’s quite a book. The two things Stephanie Land had going for her were a strong work ethic and hope. When I read Lena Dunham’s book, I was kind of disgusted at her lack of work ethic. If she was working on a project she liked, she was all gung ho, but when she worked at something she considered beneath her, she was a terrible employee. Land never thought she’d end up homeless working at physically exhausting house cleaning jobs to support her and her child, but that’s what happened, and when she cleaned, she cleaned. The work made her physically ill, the environment made her daughter physically ill, but she gave it her all. And the reason she was able to do so was that, even at her lowest, she had hope for better things - for a better place to live, for more education, for a happy childhood for her daughter and for fulfilling work for herself. One of the reasons that she could maintain that hope was that she had all kinds of government assistance - even though the process of getting and maintaining it was demoralizing. She also, as an extrovert, was able to make friends who helped her. As alone as she felt, someone always came around to offer a little help. She was also assertive enough and intelligent enough to find resources she needed. So many people in poverty lack much of what she had - they don’t have the guidance so they don’t have the hope. Without it, you can’t get out from under because the slightest misfortune can turn what little progress you have made into disaster. I see why Obama recommended this one.
>6 vwinsloe: It was a very well-written story and certainly (if you believe wikipedia) there is a lot of truth in it. The author does discuss her sources at the end of the book, so you can evaluate some of what you read. However, the most egregious acts of Albert Einstein are not that well documented. How much did they work together? What did happen to their first daughter? Was he really that nasty and unfaithful? Unanswered questions that are filled in to make the story because no one knows. I think, given the treatment of women at the time, it wouldn't be too surprising if it is true, but who knows… I do recommend it because it was so interesting, but on the other hand, frustrating not to know what to believe. I'm not sure I can give you an answer except that I don't regret reading it.
ETA: I have been skimming through Walter Isaacson's book on Einstein. It seems to validate Einstein's mysogyny and many affairs, but not necessarily her contributions to his work.
>13 Citizenjoyce: So far a bit underwhelming about the Victorian age and the Suffragettes. I'm hoping it will be a bit more insightful about more recent eras.
Finished Bad Girls and it's definitely worth a read. The Victorian era is a bit sketchy, the Suffragettes a bit too detailed, but the information and insights after that and up to it's closure in 2015 are fascinating. It seems like the pendulum swings from prison as punishment to prison as rehabilitation every few years but the reasons for women's incarceration are fairly standard throughout - not conforming to society's assumptions about womanhood.
>15 SChant: Sounds good. I just finished The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White, a retelling of the Frankenstein story (with a good mention of Mary Shelley in the afterward. She doesn't talk about women in prison but does have them in a mental institution, which was about the same thing.
I am reading Alex and Me by Irene Pepperberg. A great story about her linguistic and intelligence studies and her bonding with an African Gray Parrot. I got it from the Treasure Hunt and it is an amazing story.
>19 krazy4katz: It is an amazing story but, as an animal lover, I was disappointed in the lack of affection Pepperberg had for Alex. He seemed to want to be loved, and she found him a fascinating subject. Other than that, the book is great.
>18 SChant: The book is mostly a look at the Frankenstein story from the perspective of Elizabeth, Victor's cousin. There is just a small part of the story set in the insane asylum, but enough to give you the idea of what happens to disappointing wives.
>20 Citizenjoyce: I felt she loved him and gave him the best life she could, given her recurring financial problems. At least he had more social interaction than most pet birds and long hours outside a cage. One reason I don't have birds is because they have to be kept in cages. Anyway, at least on the last day, they each said "I love you" to each other. That was nice.
I've been moving, and just got internet service back. Yay! I am reading The Shining Girls which I really started to enjoy about 100 pages in. I am not at all squeamish (good thing!) and what I am most appreciating is the humanizing of the victims and their POVs. This runs contrary to much of the horror genre featuring female victims-- which sometimes is nothing more than rape porn.
>24 vwinsloe: I agree - Lauren Beukes has stated that that is what she deliberately set out to do.
I've just finished Carrie Vaughn's The Wild Dead, part of her Bannerless saga, and really enjoyed it. The murder-mystery aspect isn't really the most interesting part to me - if you haven't worked it out by page 20 you're not paying attention. The best bit is the world-building. It's post climate-catastrophe, there's very little technology, there are quotas for every form of production, including human reproduction, and parts of the land are littered with the remnants of decaying pre-catastrophe dwellings which are scavenged for useful metal. The setting sounds gloomy, but to my mind the stories of the communities striving not to make the mistakes of previous generations are supremely hopeful.
Hope this is okay, but I just interviewed women's fiction author, Corlet Dawn, on my blog. She is giving away three ecopies of her book, Bee's Flowers. Giveaway ends October 18, 2019. Check it out if interested! https://laurasbooksandblogs.com/interview-with-corlet-dawn-giveaway/
I finished some good books lately:
Autumn by Ali Smith starts with the thoughts of a dying man. I almost gave it up then. I didn't think I could take a whole novel of that kind of stream of consciousness, but it goes on to an actual story about a very ill centenarian, the woman who was friends with him when she was a child, her judgmental mother, the pop artist Pauline Boty, Christine Keeler, and Brexit. It turned out to be a very good book.
I read A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult for my RL book club. I'm afraid Picoult just can't write. She strings a bunch of facts together along with stereotypical characters and every social concern of the moment: abortion, racism, LGBT issues, disabilities, rape, coming of age, fathers and daughters, adoption, and domestic terrorism. She does try to present all sides of the abortion issue, and that's about all I can say for the book.
For a person who can write, there was Transcription by Kate Atkinson, a spy novel that shows a woman through 3 decades of her life. The characterization is wonderful.
Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis is a Uruguayan novel about a group of lesbians. It follows them through decades showing changing views of homosexuality and political oppression. Unlike Picoult, De Robertis knows how to write both characters and politics.
The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis is about the treatment of women as the Taliban is taking over Afghanistan, concentrating on the eleven-year-old daughter, Parvana. We all know the politics, but personalizing the story makes us feel it as well as know it.
How to Fight Anti-Semitism by Bari Weiss covers rising anti-semitism not just among right-wingers but also about political liberals. I don't think this story gets covered enough, and she does a very good job of explaining the history of anti-semitism and how people cover those feelings by insisting they don't dislike Jews, they are just anti-zionist.
Right now I'm in the middle of Rachel Maddow's latest, Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth about the necessary corruption that results from the oil and gas industry. I was afraid this would be dry and uninteresting, but Maddow personalizes the story both from the perspective of oil and gas kleptocrats but also from the viewpoint of those who are damaged by them.
>31 Sakerfalcon: Oh, I'll have to look for it.
ETA good, my library has it.
>33 overlycriticalelisa: I read one good book by Picoult, Small Great Things about racism. The characters are stereotypical there also, I guess, but not as much. However, I think the rest of her work follows the formula - use stereotypical characters to present topical social concerns. The social concerns are presented pretty well, but the writing is appalling.
>34 Citizenjoyce: thanks, that's good to know, but too bad. (it's a little surprising that she's so popular, then, but i guess she's not the only bad writer to sell like crazy.)
>35 overlycriticalelisa: I think she sells well because she covers current controversies, and her characters, though stereotypical, are emotionally appealing. For instance, the fathers in Spark of Light, both the terrorist and the police officer, are completely loving, caring, and supportive. The daughters are loving and caring and in need of support. In fact, all the women are vulnerable and in need of support. People love that stuff.
I just finished The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin. Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres, but this one got me wondering. Benjamin had the basics of the lives of Lavinia Warren, Minnie Warren, Charles Stratton and P. T. Barnum, then she just made up a story about them. I guess this is how historical fiction goes, but Benjamin's story involved Lavinia's being judgmental, controlling and virginal her whole life. It's a good story but seems like strange choices.
I decided to do another Halloween read and I picked out Geek Love from the TBR pile. It started out to be very intriguing but at some point it got too grotesque for my sensibilities. I finished it, but I'm really not sure what the point was. Not for me.
I've started The Island of Sea Women. I've read just about everything that Lisa See has written, and have found all of her books to be an enjoyable learning experience. I hope that this one will prove to be as well.
>39 vwinsloe: Funny, I was just talking about Geek Love. I've read it twice but it's been a few years, I'm thinking I need to read it again. It is grotesque, but it does make an impression.
I recently finished The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan and was amazed to find that it is classed as a children's novel or YA for ages 12 and up. I was hesitant to read The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, which is an adult novel, because I thought it would be too graphic. It is not, but this supposed YA novel is. Bitter is about forced child labor on the cacao farms in The Ivory Coast in Africa. The main characters are children - 15-year-old Amadou, his eight-year old brother, Seydou and the wild 13-year-old girl, Khadija who is dropped into their midst. Sullivan doesn't hold back much when recounting the starvation, beatings, and inhumane punishment these children are subjected to. I think this is too strong a book for most children. It is, however, very well written and very realistic in discussing poverty, classism, and inhumanity. She does a great job in characterizing these children, their coping mechanisms, defeatism, and the willingness to fight.
Just yesterday I finished Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History
by Keith O'Brien, not by, but about women. What a great job it does in describing the women aviators of the 1920s to 1950s. Amelia Earhart was, of course, the star though in comparison to some of the others, it's hard to know why. At first the star was Ruth Nichols, a pretty girl from a rich family. Then there were Louise Thaden, Ruth Elder, and Florence Klingensmith - such impressive women! As with all other occupations, these women were disregarded and hindered from advancement at every turn. They were mocked, and it was likely their planes were sabotaged. If they crashed in inferior planes they were consistently blamed, yet men who did the same were honored. If they got lost, which was a regular occurrence in early aviation, it was because they were silly, easily distractable women. When men pilots got lost, it was unfortunate. I don't know how they managed to carry on against such disdain, but they loved to fly. The book is both inspirational and infuriating. Once again we see the personal damage done to people who fight against stereotypes.
Right now I'm reading a compilation of the first novellas in the Guild Hunter series, Angels' Flight by Nalini Singh about people who hunt vampires for angels. I need a little break from the devastation of previous reads. Sexy vampires, sexy hunters, and frightening angels. This is my idea of a good Halloween read.
My library has only 1 Evaristo book, and it’s not this one. Maybe now that will change.
>30 Citizenjoyce: and >40 Citizenjoyce:
Thanks for your comments on Blowout, which I just picked up and never having read a Maddow book before, wasn't sure how it would go. And your comments on Fly Girls which make me want to read it even knowing I will cringe a bit.
And I've got Autumn sitting on top of a pile ready to go, and here's hoping I start it soon!
Finished Semiosis by Sue Burke. A bit episodic to start with - and some conclusions were reached rather too glibly at first - but the big ideas drew me in and I was fascinated by the exploration of ethics, sentience, and communication that developed. Highly recommended
I'm also reading Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge - a YA fantasy inspired by early 18th century England (but NOT England), full for warring Guilds, dozens of dispersed kings and queens, a slightly deranged and oppressive Duke, and sprited orphan Mosca and her incompetent spy companion. It's delightful!
My non-fiction is The Friends of Alice Wheeldon by Sheila Rowbotham, a look at how agents provocateurs were used to "fit-up" socialist/feminist Alice and her daughters for helping conscientious objectors during the first world war. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose :(
recently finished rebecca which somehow i'd managed to never read before. am still thinking about it and all the layers...
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