Sometimes it feels like time stopped in March, but here we are at the end of another month, officially halfway through 2020, and still going forward one day at a time into this new “normal” of quarantine. Thankfully reading is a constant, no matter what else is going on (or not going on).
Even though we haven’t left the house in months, one huge thing that has come to the forefront is The Black Lives Matter movement. When yet another senseless death took over the headlines and extended into social media, quarantine gave me the time to think and reflect on the status quo, from the benefits of privilege in my own personal life to much broader systems that perpetuate racism.
I took a hard look at my reading habits and how I gravitate toward the same types of books written by the same types of authors over and over again. I’m starting to make an effort to broaden the perspectives that I read about, and it’s honestly been a welcome change in my reading life! In the past I’ve felt like it was performative or artificial to seek out books just because the author was a person of color, but my thinking has definitely changed. Even though there is so, so much that needs to change in my country, I hope that “voting with my dollars” at Black-owned independent bookstores, listening to new perspectives, having conversations about race with my children, and diversifying my reading make some small positive changes as part of the larger modern-day civil rights movement happening right in front of our eyes. And, as always, sharing a few thoughts about what I’m reading.
This year I’m continuing to keep a physical journal chronicling my reads, and you can check out more photos on my Instagram account @ladykatiestitchery
Start date: 5/28/2020
Finish date: 6/4/2020
Part memoir, part inspiration (but never preachy) from a woman who radically changed her path mid-life. The audio narration by the author was great: I’m starting to prefer all my memoirs as audiobooks because the authors’ voices make such a difference. I loved the parenting wisdom especially, and it gave me a lot to chew on. Sometimes I don’t know how to absorb new ideas and convert them into action. Sam probably felt bewildered that I was suddenly upset over who was doing the dishes and how often, but it sparked some good conversations about the division of labor in our house and how our roles have changed since we met, married, had kids. I don’t want to burn everything to the ground to live bravely… but these two ideas spoke to me:
Be the peacemaker, not a peace keeper.
Be a model, not a martyr.
How We Fight for Our Lives, by Saeed Jones
Start date: 6/5/2020
Finish date: 6/7/2020
A true gut punch of a memoir, searing and honest with glimpses of poetry underneath the unsparing prose. I always wonder how a memoirist chooses what is important to write about and what is left out, especially when the writer is close to my own age with half of his life ahead of him. It’s hard not to flinch away from the brutality and pain that Saeed Jones experienced growing up in the South, losing his mother, discovering his sexuality, and navigating relationships, but even if the reading experience felt uncomfortable at times, I’m still thinking about it.
“Just as some cultures have a hundred words for ‘snow,’ there should be a hundred words in our language for all the ways a black boy can lie awake at night.”
The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennet
Start date: 6/8/2020
Finish date: 6/18/2020
Source: Book of the Month Club
An epic, absorbing tale following twin sisters whose lives take different paths in the 1970s when one sister leaves her family to pass as a white woman; with that one decision, their lives diverge until decades later when their daughters meet each other. I loved the characters and the writing style, which shifted fluidly through time and perspectives, deftly exploring race, colorism, gender, family, and secrets. The only thing that kept this from being a 5-star read for me was the ending; after following so many characters for so long, it felt too abrupt, like half the story was still unfinished.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah
Start date: 6/13/2020
Finish date: 6/28/2020
There are so many layers to Trevor Noah beyond the host of The Daily Show! His childhood stories from South Africa are funny, poignant, and insightful, and his narration on the audiobook gives even more personality to the people, stories, and the many languages of South Africa. Even though Apartheid happened half a world away, the reality of its aftermath has so many parallels in America, and now I understand how uniquely qualified he is to examine American politics. Most of all, I loved this as an ode to his mother, an incredible woman with an extraordinary story.
Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves, edited by Glory Edim
Start date: 6/19/2020
Finish date: 6/29/2020
Genre: Nonfiction Essays
This lovely collection of essays showcases a diverse group of black women, highlighting the books, characters, authors, and specific ways that reading has changed their lives. The reading lists range from classics to poetry to plays to science fiction, all written by black women, giving me so many new books for my TBR pile. Essential resource for any reader!
Binti: The Complete Trilogy, by Nnedi Okorafor
Start date: 6/30/2020
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Sarah L.
Finally reading this short story trilogy and I’ve been sucked into this fun sci fi world!
A new addition for 2020:
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
Dolly Parton has an amazing program that sends a free book to every child in Tennessee every month from birth to five years old. It’s such an incredible concept, and we’ve been enjoying Amelia’s books for three years. So many of our new favorite stories have come from this program, and now that Jon has joined too, I want to highlight the books we receive this year so I can remember the new books added to our library. Three cheers for Dolly Parton!
Books read in June: 5
Books read in 2020: 25
Currently reading: 1
So that’s what I’ve been reading during the sixth month of 2020!
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One thought on “Reading Life: June 2020”
Thanks for being such a literary guide, such toughtful & thorough reviews!