#IMWAYR: Finna, Kindred, and more!
Hey everyone! A couple things:
First, I apologize for dropping off the face of the earth basically in the middle of the #LiveLikeABookChallenge! I do really appreciate all of you who joined me—it was a fun weekend, and I hope to run the challenge again in the future!
Next, I'm sure it's somewhat obvious that I've been a chaotic mess lately, and I'm trying to get it together now by writing a blog post! Surprisingly, I actually do have a couple books to talk about, so let's dive in!
I finished reading as a Round 2 Judge for the Nonfiction categories of the Cybils Awards, and I had a great time reading these amazing books and working with such an amazing team of judges!
The winners are being announced on Tuesday, so next week, I'll share more about a couple finalists I read that stood out to me.
Finished in the past few weeks:
Written by Nino Cipri
Adult · 2020 · Add it on Goodreads
· · · The publisher says: · · ·
Nino Cipri's Finna is a rambunctious, touching story that blends all the horrors the multiverse has to offer with the everyday awfulness of low-wage work. It explores queer relationships and queer feelings, capitalism and accountability, labor and love, all with a bouncing sense of humor and a commitment to the strange.
When an elderly customer at a Swedish big box furniture store — but not that one — slips through a portal to another dimension, it’s up to two minimum-wage employees to track her across the multiverse and protect their company’s bottom line. Multi-dimensional swashbuckling would be hard enough, but those two unfortunate souls broke up a week ago.
To find the missing granny, Ava and Jules will brave carnivorous furniture, swarms of identical furniture spokespeople, and the deep resentment simmering between them. Can friendship blossom from the ashes of their relationship? In infinite dimensions, all things are possible.
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I've been reading some really fascinating fiction in my college classes this semester, including this novella—I imagine I'll have some unusual books to talk about for the next couple months! (Even though most of them probably won't be kidlit.)
I pretty much had to recommend this book on my blog after reading it, because there's really nothing else like it. Like, I'm sure you can find stories about LGBTQ+ people navigating romantic relationships...or breakups...but how many of those stories also involve crummy minimum-wage work at an IKEA-esque store?
And how many of those stories also involve wormholes and travel across dimensions?
And how many of those stories (yes, I know we've already narrowed the pool to one, but just go with it) are immensely wise about interpersonal dynamics, seriously entertaining to read, and concise at just over 100 pages?
If you're looking for a quick and wonderful palate-cleanser between longer reads, Finna is worth checking out—I know it was a delightful surprise when I picked it up for school!
Written by Octavia E. Butler
Adult · 1979 · Add it on Goodreads
· · · The publisher says: · · ·
The visionary time-travel classic whose Black female hero is pulled through time to face the horrors of American slavery and explores the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy then and now.
“I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.”
Dana’s torment begins when she suddenly vanishes on her 26th birthday from California, 1976, and is dragged through time to antebellum Maryland to rescue a boy named Rufus, heir to a slaveowner’s plantation. She soon realizes the purpose of her summons to the past: protect Rufus to ensure his assault of her Black ancestor so that she may one day be born. As she endures the traumas of slavery and the soul-crushing normalization of savagery, Dana fights to keep her autonomy and return to the present.
Blazing the trail for neo-slavery narratives like Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s The Water Dancer, Butler takes one of speculative fiction’s oldest tropes and infuses it with lasting depth and power. Dana not only experiences the cruelties of slavery on her skin but also grimly learns to accept it as a condition of her own existence in the present. “Where stories about American slavery are often gratuitous, reducing its horror to explicit violence and brutality, Kindred is controlled and precise” (New York Times).
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This was another read for class, and, well...it could not have been more different, let me tell you that. This book destroyed all of my emotions, but (a) I don't care and (b) my emotions are hardly the most important ones in this narrative, that's for sure.
I knew this book was a classic, and if you're not familiar with it and couldn't be bothered to read the summary above, this is a story of a (relatively) modern-day Black woman, Dana, who is involuntarily transported back in time to the antebellum South, where slavery is alive and well, and where she is forced to protect her White ancestor Rufus, the son of a slaveholder, so that she herself can be born in her own time.
I don't really want to review this book, because people vastly more intelligent than I am have designated this book a classic, and a person vastly more intelligent than those people wrote this novel in the first place. What I'd rather do here is just describe some stray observations and thoughts that hit me as I read.
There's a fascinating thing about this book that the New York Times quote in the publisher's description also mentions—the descriptions of slavery are, as you might expect, consistently horrifying and disturbing and very much successful in reminding me that this is a thing that happened in my country and that's horrifying. And yet, it's not because Butler's writing style is terribly emotional—Dana is almost shockingly clear-headed, considering that I'd have burst into tears about 5 seconds after being transported back in time. The thing is, slavery is such a disturbing thing that Butler doesn't need to sensationalize it—a truthful description pretty much knocks you to your knees as a reader, and you know that your feelings hardly compare to those of the people who actually lived through it.
It may be that I'm a college-aged cynic, but Kindred very much reminded me that, as much as we like to portray the perpetrators of atrocities as crazy and evil and "other," they are all just like us. With just a little less emotional healthiness, a little more social acceptability of horrible things, and perhaps a pinch of something else hard to define...we too could take out our deepest pains on other human beings and become complicit in a system that is designed to ruin lives. I think it's important for us to remember that we do have control in how we turn out, but if we allow ourselves to proceed forward on autopilot, we are capable of truly terrible things, and we need to be fearful of that.
Butler weaves Kindred together with so much intensity and attention and brilliance—I cannot imagine what it must have been like to have these characters, and this story, floating around in her head for so long as she wrote this book. (I don't know how she slept or functioned—but she did!) The characters and themes in this novel are so well-developed—it leaves you with so much to think about.
And lastly, while I won't deny that I did have a bit of a mental health spiral while reading the book (to be fair, my mental health was already shaky that day), I will say that the ending of the story is exactly what it should be, and it won't make you want to throw the book across the room. I was willing to accept a horrific ending if that was what Butler wanted us to take away about this story...but I can't say I'm not glad that the ending wasn't horrific.
I hope every one of you reads this book at some point in your life.
Written and illustrated by Sylvie Kantorovitz
MG · Graphic novel · 2021 · Add it on Goodreads · Preview the illustrations on Amazon
· · · The publisher says: · · ·
In a wise and witty graphic memoir, a young artist finds her path apart from the expectations of those around her.
Sylvie lives in a school in France. Her father is the principal, and her home is an apartment at the end of a hallway of classrooms. As a young child, Sylvie and her brother explore this most unusual kingdom, full of small mysteries and quirky surprises. But in middle and high school, life grows more complicated. Sylvie becomes aware of her parents’ conflicts, the complexities of shifting friendships, and what it means to be the only Jewish family in town. She also begins to sense that her perceived “success” relies on the pursuit of math and science—even though she loves art. In a funny and perceptive graphic memoir, author-illustrator Sylvie Kantorovitz traces her first steps as an artist and teacher. The text captures her poignant questioning and her blossoming confidence, while the droll illustrations depict her making art as both a means of solace and self-expression. An affecting portrait of a unique childhood, Sylvie connects the ordinary moments of growing up to a life rich in hope and purpose.
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How did y'all feel about the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards this year?
I still haven't read any books by Christina Soontornvat, but after her double Newbery Honor win two years ago, I did love seeing her garner yet another Newbery Honor this year—now she just needs a full medal!
And I was so glad to see some books I had read, like Love, Violet and Himawari House, recognized in different awards.
Any winners stand out to you? Tell me in the comments below!
I'm looking forward to seeing what the Cybil's Awards are giving out this year, Max. And thanks for Finna, intriguing plot for sure. I've bookmarked it. I've read Kindred many times through my teaching years, read it in groups with my students, a marvelous book & I'm happy to see you both loved & endured it. No, it isn't easy, but so worth it. There is a new book our by Ibi Zoboi about Butler's childhood, Star Child. It is sad to think of Butler's too-early death. Thanks for all, Max, great to see you here!ReplyDelete
I've never read Kindred, but it sounds like I definitely should!ReplyDelete
Sophie sounds very interesting, enjoy!ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing both these books Max. The truth of this sentence, "The thing is, slavery is such a disturbing thing that Butler doesn't need to sensationalize it—a truthful description pretty much knocks you to your knees as a reader, and you know that your feelings hardly compare to those of the people who actually lived through it." haunts me. Maybe it's because I'm feeling wretched these days, but I'm trying to avoid anything that makes me more anxious and distressed than I already am. That said, Finna looks like it might be a fun kind of read, and my library has both the audiobook and the hardcopy. Decisions, decisions - I guess it all depends on who the narrator is.ReplyDelete
Reading for the Cybils is both a slog and a joy. I'm thankful it's over though and am looking forward to reading about the winners tomorrow!
Sometimes when my life feels chaotic, blogging is usually the first to be unprioritized but somehow I feel good when I put something up.ReplyDelete
So, I have been reading so much less YA that I wasn't familiar with the YMA titles this year, which felt strange. I forgot that our CYBILS decisions are announced today so I am going to right now and check them all out!ReplyDelete
Always happy to see a new post from you, Max! And as you can see, I am also WAY behind, so no worries :)ReplyDelete
A portal to the multiverse in IKEA? I'm there for it! That sounds amazing, and I hadn't heard about it, so thanks! SO glad you had a chance to read Kindred! Wasn't it just stunning in so many ways?? It was one of my top books read last year. My husband and I have been watching the TV series on Hulu, and it's excellent - but I always find it's best to let a little time pass in between book and TV/movie adaptation so you're not stuck on every little thing that changed (and they did change a few things, but it's still outstanding). And so cool that you helped judge the Cybils again!
Hope you're enjoying more great books this week -
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