I finished my list!
I read 142 books in 2017, and achieved my goal of 50% books by non-white authors. Thank you, Jason Reynolds. :D
Some notes from my 50% project:
- It’s like those studies with teachers who think the girls in their class are talking at least as much as the boys, probably more– but when you count it all up it’s more like 30 percent from the girls. Imbalance is normal in my experience, so 50/50 feels like POC authors are strongly predominant.
- Despite all the POC stars in kidlit right now– Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, Gene Luen Yang– there are strong pulls from the culture to drift towards white. The books from the library that I have to read and return because someone else requested them, the books I request because there’s buzz about them online, the classic books that characters in newer books read and refer to– turns out these are mostly by white authors.
- I worked hard to find series by POC authors to balance out my Animorphs and Dear Canada runs. Other than manga, I came up mostly with trilogies– Sook Nyui Choi’s autobiographical novels, Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before confections, and waiting-impatiently-for-book-threes from Nnedi Okorafor (Binti) and Linda Sue Park (Wing and Claw). Do POC authors have trouble getting contracts for longer series? Maybe I should poke around in mystery or romance for adults.
- I am definitely repeating the 50% goal this year. I feel like I need it there to counter those cultural currents I mentioned above. But I hope that as I get acquainted with more POC authors and books, the network will become robust enough that I’ll feel I’m being led along from book to book.
And now, books I’m adding to my life list at librarything. It’s a little hard to explain what this list is– not necessarily the books I admire most, but the ones that if they were DNA would, in combination, come closest to coding me. (With additional conventions, like having only one book per author for the most part, even if multiple books would qualify). This year:
- The Animorphs series by Katherine Applegate. I missed these when they came out; languageescapes sent me some for my birthday and I am wholeheartedly into it. Such whiplash between slapstick and war trauma! So many twists that make me grin too hard and say WHHAAAAT! and speculate further. And I’m only twelve books in.
- The Year of Impossible Goodbyes, by Sook Nyui Choi. Includes the other two books in the trilogy, Echoes of the White Giraffe and Gathering of Pearls. I think I found these when Linda Sue Park mentioned them as the first Korean-American fiction she found to read. So wide a variety of experiences, from a terrifying border crossing to attending a women’s college in the U.S., the kind where a house mother keeps tabs on you and your dorm-mates. I read these on the front porch and on our eclipse vacation this summer and was completely absorbed.
- I Believe in a Thing Called Love, by Maurene Goo. I mentioned this in my High School Romance post: K-dramas and family bonding and romance, so good!
- Enter Title Here, by Rahul Kanakia. I thought I wrote a whole post about this, but maybe I just raved to various people. I’ll say it again: sociopaths have dreams too, you know!
- What Did You Eat Yesterday?, a manga series by Fumi Yoshinaga. A gay lawyer cooks for his partner. Things happen in the background in their relationship and jobs and so on, but mostly it’s recipes and cooking. Satisfies my housekeeping/domesticity thing. I’m up to volume 9, I think there are at least a dozen so far.
Through My Eyes, by Ruby Bridges
The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui
It All Comes Down to This, by Karen English
Little White Duck, by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez
Binti and Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, by Sidney Padua
Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepatys
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
And old-timey YA by Betty Cavanna! And discovering Jean Little’s Dear Canada books! And listening to Hilary McKay’s Saffy’s Angel, read by Julia Sawahla, as I watered the garden.
I don’t think I am alone in always being on the lookout for more advice columnists to read. Did you know that Lynda Barry has been writing advice columns for the Paris Review? I think my favorite is what to do if your roommate keeps leaving their diary in the bathroom.
I went to Powell’s today in search of a copy of Portrait of a Lady that will hold up to the several rereadings I expect to do, and that has more legible print than my Penguin paperback. (I never used to understand what my parents were on about when they complained about tiny print. Now I know.) Alas, they had only three copies, all squinchy paperbacks. I think the literature section is smaller than it used to be… but the YA section has grown by a lot, so I won’t complain. It used to be that a trip to the Cedar Hills store was necessary if you wanted to bask in kidlit and YA.
Anyway, Sanguinity suggested that Portrait of a Lady might be read more on screens these days, being in the public domain and all. Maybe I’ll put it on my phone for when the bus driver decides to leave us all in darkness as we ride. This seems to be happening more often lately.
I’m putting the last touches on my 2017 book list– there were too many books for which I jotted down only the titles before they went back to the library. Now I’m adding in dates, noting whatever impressions of them remain in my head, and finding their place in the list. Next year, I mean this year, I’m going to try a spreadsheet so it’s easier to put in order.
The first book I finished reading in 2018 is Mitali Perkins’ You Bring the Distant Near.
The writing is so assured– the characters seem real, like we’re just dipping in as the three generations live their lives. The resolutions do mostly involve romance, in a way that makes me wonder if Perkins is a Jane Austen fan. (Or maybe it’s just that Sanguinity and I watched the 1995 Sense and Sensibility last night while we waited for the new year.)
It’s been a peaceful holiday season. Christmas was with Sanguinity’s parents, which feels traditional now– eating cookies and reading Yuletide fic on the sofa-bed upstairs while televised football filters up from below. My favorite kidlit-fic this Yuletide is “Completion”, by oxfordRoulette (2106 words). It’s about Lirael from Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series; it has domesticity and refuge, two of my favorite themes. It’s post-canon, so I did miss the Dog.
It’s been a season of good food, too– I made fudge, and Sang gave me a tofu cookbook and made ma po tofu for us. The sun has been shining. I think I’m ready for 2018. Best hopes and wishes for us all!
I wish I could post smells, because this is Pesto-Making Weekend and it’s sooooo fragrant. I supplemented our garden basil with some from Trader Joe’s, but once the garden harvest was in a heap on the kitchen floor I saw it was more than I expected. Pesto will be abundant this winter, hooray! (We freeze it in ice cube trays, sans parmesan.)
Sanguinity made onion gravy last night and that smell was also heavenly. We ate it on fries, poutine without the cheese curds. (The last few times I tried buying cheese curds, they did not squeak when bitten! I was disappointed.) Right now I’m making mashed potatoes for the leftover gravy.
I learned on Tumblr tonight that Merriam-Webster has a Time Traveler feature where you can look up which words and phrases were born (er, first used in print) in a given year. Here are a few the same age I am:
- bad hair day
- comfort food
- granola (!)
- labradoodle (!)
- wish list
Surprises from my mom’s era: it says poster child and private eye were both new in 1938.
The Friday Five post isn’t up yet at LiveJournal/Dreamwidth, so let’s use the f.riday5.com questions this week:
1. What’s a good movie for October that has nothing to do with monsters or Halloween?
After Life (1998), a Japanese movie that’s contemplative and quirky in just the way I like.
2. What’s a good couple of songs for October that have nothing to do with monsters or Halloween?
3. What are some reasons to love October?
Monsters and Halloween, of course! Also fresh apple cider. Chilly mornings so I don’t get to work all sweaty if I walk. Sunshine with golden leaves and deep blue sky.
4. Radio stations sometimes call this month Rocktober, doing special playlists or giveaways in celebration of rock music. What would be a better rhyming name for this month, and how might it be celebrated?
We have local Walktober promotions. But I’ll go with Socktober, because having enough cozy warm socks without holes is a great feeling.
5. What would be a good holiday to establish in October for those U.S. states not commemorating Columbus Day?
Portland celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day on that Monday; I’m good with that.
I slacked off on my A words in ASL and got a B instead of an A on my vocabulary notebook. D: Back to the A word mines!
When I got home from school, I walked in to the smell of bacon. Sanguinity was baking potatoes, to be served with bacon and sour cream and cheese, oh wow. They weren’t quite ready yet, so we had leftover black beans with a fried egg on top while we waited.
I don’t know how much of my relationship with this black bean recipe is that it fits our household very well, and how much of it is that we love it so much that we run the household to fit it. But I don’t have my usual inertia about getting out the food processor for it, and there are always three cans of black beans in the cupboard.
Fry up bacon. We use the cast iron skillet and cook three slices plus a little more to eat while cooking.
While the bacon is frying, dice an onion.
Remove the bacon from the pan and chop it up. Cook the onion in the bacon fat with some cumin.
While the onion is cooking, get a chipotle or two out of the freezer. (Chipotles in adobo sauce come in a can. When you open a can, freeze the chiles you don’t use on a cookie sheet, each with a blob of sauce on it, and store them in the freezer in a plastic bag.)
Drain three cans of black beans. Whirl them and the chipotle in the food processor. It’s okay to add a little water if you need it to make it all process smoothly.
Put the bean glop in the pan with the onions, and stir in the bacon. Let it rest over low heat, stirring now and then, until it’s all mixed and warmed through.
Serve with corn tortillas. Cheese, cilantro, sour cream, green taco sauce, and fried eggs are all optional but welcome additions. (I just had Sanguinity proofread this recipe, and she says Tapatio sauce, not green taco sauce!)
I’m pretty sure this came from a Cook’s Illustrated library book, though I didn’t find it on the internet in a cursory search. I know the chipotle tip did, and that book is also why our freezer usually has rolled-up uncooked bacon strips, tablespoon-sized blobs of tomato paste, and whole ginger root in it.
YA romances I’ve loved this year:
(although actually, I liked the first book of the trilogy, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, best.)
I have to admit that from my middle-aged perspective I’m a little unsure how to read romances set in the senior year of high school or summer between high school and college. Maybe in general I’m not as practiced at HFN (happy for now) endings in romance as at HEA (happy ever after), but I think the books share my unsureness at least a little. Dimple and Rishi had some Meant To Be / Eternally cues and that was okay. Always and Forever framed it as “don’t let the world tell you your romance is doomed,” and… that worked as far as it went? But I keep having to stuff down my opinion that taking high-school romance to college usually doesn’t work out well. (Discussing I Believe in a Thing Called Love‘s solution would be spoilery.)
Miscellaneous notes: I Believe in a Thing Called Love has made me want to watch so, so many more K-dramas. (Not a high bar, Mystery Queen is the only one I’ve seen so far. I loved it.) And shooting has started for the movie version of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before!
Not a lot of time on Tuesdays between school and picking up Sanguinity after work, so just a couple of links:
- After I read Rahul Kanakia’s hilarious and unswerving YA novel Enter TItle Here, I started reading his blog. I’ve read this post three times: Some Advice to Writers on How to Search for the Heart of Longing. I like the connection he makes between a mundane-ish life and what makes you feel yearning and engagement as a reader. I also like its thinking-out-loud feel.
- Lynda Barry has been linking to videos of the PS 22 Chorus on her class Tumblr. This morning’s was Coldplay’s Viva la Vida. I love how freely the kids sing and move. I would like to sing like that more.
Thanks to my union, I now have funding available for professional development! I combined it with the staff tuition benefit so I could take ASL 101 this term for no cash.
It’s been a few years since I was a student– my last class was calculus in 2014. It wasn’t until I was eating lunch before the first class session that I remembered there was probably a required textbook. Fortunately, college bookstores aren’t as mobbed during the first week as they used to be in the days before Amazon, and both staffing and books were plentiful.
Then when I got to class, the first thing the professor mentioned was D2L, the online system where the syllabus, assignments, and announcements live. Other people whipped out the syllabi they’d downloaded and printed, and I was like, oh yeah…D2L is a thing.
But in actual ASL skills, I have a bit of a head start– from finger-spelling as a kid, and from signing a little with Sanguinity when she was learning, and from combining signs and Chinuk wawa with the Where Are Your Keys method. So I understood the instructions to go to the online video ASL dictionary and learn five words a day that start with A in English, keep a list, and we’d teach each other in pairs during the next class. My partner did not catch the drift of this at all, and there was much confusion when we paired off Thursday and I was merrily signing and spelling, “Aquarium! Astronaut! Athlete!”
Since it is literally a 101 class, I’m not sure everyone gets that there’s a large component of teaching yourself between classes? (The book comes with DVDs for drills and mini-quizzes.) I suppose everything will be cleared up by and by. I’m not even sure I was supposed to stay on A words this whole week. But today I learned
- Anchor (ship, not news)
I’m in a “500 Words a Day” group on FaceBook that’s pursuing what it says in the name, every day in October. Since I have a streak going on 750 Words already, I’m going for a blog post every day in October in addition. (Minus a few travel days later in the month, probably). They’ll be a lot fewer than 500 words a day, but I love everyday journal-blogs and miss the days when I had one.
Today I picked up my dress for a friend’s wedding. Sanguinity and I are both in the wedding party and needed a particular brand for purposes of matching color and fabric, so we went here, in Vancouver, Washington:
In addition to its Pinkwater-worthy name, Beyond the Veil has a full size range of sample dresses! unlike the three Portland shops I called first. C’mon, people, fat bridesmaids are a legit customer base! Anyway, they rock and I am almost sorry that my trips to Beyond the Veil (three in all) are concluded.
Other things today:
- petted a labradoodle puppy named Teddy, so young he can’t go on walks in public yet, who loved chewing Sanguinity’s braid
- made a grocery run and ended up with an inordinate amount of food to tote to my office: gum, peanut butter, English muffins, chocolate
- finished Bil Wright’s Sunday You Learn How to Box, which I think is the earliest YA novel about a black gay boy that I’ve found, even though the pub date is a late-feeling 2000. But the book is set in the late 1960s and has a feel of that era in its sparseness and dialogue– it reminded me a bit of It’s Like This, Cat. So many pay phones!
Now I’m going to go do laundry.