Reading Wednesday

Read last weekend:

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, by Lynda Blackmon Lowery as told to Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley, illustrated by PJ Loughran, designed by Mina Chung. I’m including the designer because it’s a beautifully laid-out book, 121 pages with generous space around the text, and a mix of photos and illustrations:

print in warm gold and brown tones - an African American girl with eyes closed, sitting on a flowered couch with an older African American woman who strokes her forehead. Text is

The first sentence of the book is, “By the time I was fifteen years old, I had been in jail nine times.” The last sentence is “Who has the right to vote is still being decided today.” And in between, it’s like sitting and listening to an older relative lay out what happened in Selma and Montgomery, but also drop incidental details like what food the kids put in their pockets to eat while sitting in jail, or how it rained hard on day three of the march and everyone got these little orange ponchos to wear.

The book gets across how many children and teenagers were active in the movement, going to sit-ins and marches (and jail) because the adults would lose their jobs if they did those things. It shows some of the trauma– a section at the back commemorates Jimmie Lee Jackson, Viola Liuzzo, and others– and the determination, excitement, and organization too. I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

continuing a series

Pretty sure I’m the only person who knows it, but this blog tracks kidlit-related Miss Universe National Costumes!

(The original links are dead, but previously, 2013’s Miss Denmark Cecilia Iftikhar as The Little Mermaid:

woman in sparkly blue strapless bra and floor-length fishtail skirt

and 2016’s Miss Sweden Iva Ovmar as Pippi Longstocking:)

woman in spotted dress and red-braid wig, brandishing a large paper horse overhead

The belated new addition, which I discovered thanks to sang’s sending me nonasuch’s tumblr post, is 2023’s Miss Finland Paula Joukanen as Little My!

woman walking a runway in short red dress and high black bootscartoon of Little My, a character in red dress, pink tie, and boots, with hair in a bun and a determined, mischievous expression

Movie recommendation: Polite Society

two young Pakistani women wearing fancy dresses with headpieces, sitting in a diner side by side and smiling over plates of burgers and fries

I track books I read but not movies I see, so I’ll document it here: Sanguinity and I watched Polite Society (by Nida Manzoor, creator of We Are Lady Parts) on Friday and loved it! Bonkers in the best way and tons of little-sister energy.

Note for locals, Multnomah County Library has it on DVD.

rabbit rabbit

Happy New Year! I didn’t get to Mt. Scott Park for my traditional January 1st photo, but snapped one at Mt. Tabor Park that’s reminiscient:

reservoir with cityscape beyond; sunny parklike setting with blue sky, evergreens, Barr trees

The last couple of days have been delightful, with lots of puttering, eating leftovers, and having time for all the things. (You guys I even scrubbed the kitchen floor for the new year.) I’m sorry to say goodbye to that aspect tomorrow when my job starts up again. My new year’s resolution, if it can be called one, is to get my chores done on Saturday and reserve Sundays for this kind of empty time and unplanned projects.

Of the books I read in 2023, the one I’ll shout out is middle-grade fiction, Maggie Lou, Firefox by Métis author Arnolda Dufour Bowes. I think I learned about it from Betsy Bird’s review, which covers a lot of what I love about it. The #1 thing for me is the representation of current indigenous families hunting, because I was one of the white city kids who did not understand that cultural context at all. But other particulars that appeal to me specifically are

  • in parts one and two (of three), lots of cleaning! I continue to be a sucker for reading about cleaning.
  • the adults in the family have their own individual lives and perspectives and stuff going on and don’t feel like generic Grown-Ups, even when we’re seeing only their interactions with Maggie Lou. Right up there with the Quimbys, Krupniks, and Bagthorpes in this respect. Probably because I’m an adult reader of middle-grade, this is a big plus for me.

author headshot and cover art for Maggie Lou, Firefox - both author and main character have wavy black hair, light brown skin tones, and smiles.

Author photo next to cover art by Karlene Harvey (she/they) (Tsilhqot’in and Syilx). Love the resemblance– according to the author’s note, the story is based on the author’s childhood, with a little of her daughter’s mixed in.

2023 music

I listen to Spotify only when I’m working at my job (easy to pop earbuds in and out to avoid ads), so Spotify Wrapped doesn’t account for everything I listen to. But my top song this year was:

Recipe for Truth and Lasting Happiness, by the late S.E. Rogie of Sierra Leone. This was a surprise to me because it’s been awhile… but I guess during the busy season in June, I was listening to it every day to set a good mood.

Top artists were Emeli Sandé and Simi, still love them!

early fall and a staycation

pink cyclamen blooming in a bed of vinca

Coming from somewhere where cyclamen are only in pots, during the Christmas season, I continue to be pleased each fall at the ones naturalizing in the yard. They’re spreading along a desire path in the vinca, so maybe I should make more room for them…

7 Eleven sign as photographed from inside a city bus

I took a couple of days off work last week, mostly because I had promised myself I could in the hectic busy weeks of July, and we had arrived at the time I’d blocked off. On Thursday I continued my very long-term project of riding all the bus lines. Somewhere there’s a one-page zine about line #1, Vermont, and I later rode #4 Division but didn’t write it up. And then the project lay fallow long enough that the routes changed, so now #4 is Fessenden.

  • N. Mississippi is a gentrified strip; I drank hot bubble tea and stocked up on greeting cards. Curiously, further down the line I discovered that N. Lombard in St. Johns has now gentrified almost identically. There is always a shop of cute little houseplants (especially succulents), and of course coffee and tea, and chocolate and something magicky. Woodstock and Sellwood are pretty much the same, which makes it so odd that these shops are always listed in travel articles about the neighborhoods as though they are distinctive.
  • I went by so many places I’d been repeatedly in years past but not for a long time. PCC Cascade, where I took counseling classes, and Peninsula Park Rose Garden and New Columbia Apartments where I’d done bike rides, and Super Burrito where we used to stop on our way home back when Mexican food was scarcer in Southeast. That was a long time ago. These sites kept popping up in a different orientation than I remembered (I took the 72 when I rode the bus to class) and bringing limited, partial slices of memory with them.
  • Spotted the St. Johns Cinema where Charlie hangs out to kill time in Lean on Pete. I reread that book a few months ago and it was still so good. Though I’m more aware now of how artificial Charlie’s character is– he has to be just under the age where he can legally have a job, and his innocence is the heart of the book but wouldn’t be likely in real life–really, for no particular reason he doesn’t drink beer? And the ending, whew, wish fulfillment. But I wouldn’t change any of it, because of the feelings it gives me.

Next, though tbd with no immediate plans, is #6 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. Also a Frequent Service line (every 15 minutes or so), which makes all the difference in a bus line.

Tonight’s plans: make a bean soup with rosemary and lots of the CSA celery, garlic and carrots for next week’s lunches; continue watching season 1 of Orphan Black. Brace for going back to work tomorrow.

good things

unreasonably fond of this photo I took during a friend’s recent move:

gray sidewalk and asphalt street; U-Haul van and ramp parked curbside. A wooden chest sits in the street at the end of the ramp. The chest's drawers are on a metal shelving unit. The van has an aquatic monster painted on the side and promotional copy about Vermont. Across the street, a small RV is parked in a driveway, with "Refuge" lettered on it.

I found a list of good things, written in purple ink in an old notebook in 2021.

chocolate milk, the way things get still and luminous after sitting in silence somewhere for awhile, freshwater pearls, my iPhone, dirt paths and the way dirt lies at the base of tree roots, the internet, babies laughing uncontrollably, the sound of sprinklers, mohair sweaters, hot tubs, hot springs, dogs, dog smell, wet dog smell, the happy way Stephen said skunk smells like coffee, traffic signals, gladiolas, oxalis and all edible things in the woods, creeks, rivers, my sleeping bag, overalls and pigtails, Animorphs and Baby-Sitters Club, the smell of hose water and mown grass and petrichor, flicker feathers, washing plates and sweeping steps, roller skating, tennis, cross country skiing, audiobooks, chocolate pudding, poppies, puppies, composition books, cushy socks, soft t-shirts, gel pens, bike paths along water with Canada geese, desert mornings, early mornings on vacation, coffee, coffee shops, friends, Ken’s parties, writing numerals, writing algebra, Sanguinity, leg hair, glass jars, glass beads, honey.

April A to Z

The blog of storyteller and folklorist Dr. Zalka Csenge Virág introduced me to the concept of A to Z blogging– in a 30-day month, you can take one day off per week and still cover the alphabet at one letter per day.

Blog posts are work! But I made some drawings for April, in the medium I find easiest and least intimidating, which is blue non-repro pencil followed by fine-tip Sharpie marker, on 3×5 cards. My favorite was back at letter C, on a day I was busy and tired and dashed it off as quickly as possible:

Sketch of a glaring cat, in black marker on a white index card

Here’s the whole batch. I may do another round in June… maybe writing three-sentence stories?
layout 26 index cards with marker drawings (the subjects are a-z, starting with anenomes and ending with zinnias)


Wednesday reading

Yesterday I realized I’m in the middle of six books, and listing them feels less daunting than talking about books I’ve finished– no pressure to pronounce judgment or present a finished analysis. Just a snapshot:

cover of Animorphs #20 The Discovery - Marco morphing a bird.

Animorphs #20, The Discovery, by Katherine Applegate (1998). I keep the Animorphs on my phone for comfort…? reading and reading-while-waiting. Apparently this one’s the start of a several-book arc about David, and sanguinity passed on a long tumblr post about this that’s waiting in my email. I’m loving how Animorphs discussion is still low-key humming along while I’m making my way slowly through the series.

worn cover of Elizabeth Enright's Borrowed Summer: butterfly and leaf motif

Borrowed Summer, by Elizabeth Enright (1946). Short stories with the same avid descriptions of nature and well-tuned dialogue as the Melendy novels and her other children’s books. I mostly got this one because I was trying out our public library’s interlibrary loan services (because someday I won’t have university library privileges!) and Enright was the first author who came to mind who I knew had hard-to-find stuff I’d want to read. Something about the scope and rhythm of the stories reminds me of reading fiction in my mom’s magazines when I was a kid– Ladies Home Journal and Redbook— but maybe with a few more odd corners and less romance.

cover of Les Miserables with Cosette and a mop and bucket

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, translated by Isabel Hapgood (1862/1887). Reading this via Les Mis Letters with one installment every day of 2023. I am loving this! The installments are usually long enough to get into something but not so long as to be burdensome. Sometimes I get one or two days behind. Victor Hugo is working his way into my heart.

cover of Victory, Stand! with Tommie Smith raising his fist on the Olympic podium

Victory. Stand! by Tommie SmithDawud Anyabwile,  and Derrick Barnes (2022). Graphic novel by one of the Black runners who protested on the Olympic podium in 1968 in Mexico City. For some reason I skipped ahead to read the Olympics part, then went back to the beginning. Unadorned prose and grayscale art, a fast and compelling read.

cover of The Summer Place, paper-collage-style illustration of a white woman in a big hat floating in an inflateable on water.

The Summer Place, by Jennifer Weiner, read by Sutton Foster (2022). My current audiobook, soapy and good for extended housework sessions. Tons of secrets all building to a climactic wedding day, so we’ll see how that goes.

cover of Seventeen Syllables, with a photo of two young Japanese-American women facing each other

Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories, by Hisaye Yamamoto (expanded edition, 2001). The stories are dated from 1948 to 1995. Most are about Nisei families in the U.S. My favorite so far is a short memoir called “Life Among the Oil Fields”– my dad might find it reminiscient of his childhood in a tenant-farming family, and it also calls out to the Valley of Ashes in Gatsby.