It’s not technically spring yet, but there’s a pandemic on so I’m officially ending winter early.
Sooooo how are you? Great? Great. We’re all great.
I’m actually fine, but like most people I’m bogged down with much more worry than usual for family members and friends who are higher risk, for the community at large, and for however this is going to affect my workplace. I’m the type of employee who has to physically go to work, and the animal shelter I work at is going to continue to require supplies and woman-power, so, hopefully there isn’t mass systemic breakdown, because then we’re all pretty much screwed. And, of course, I’m more isolated than usual, though I start my new four-day work-week of 10-hour shifts tomorrow, and I’m sure I’ll be ready for more social distancing about half an hour in.
I have read some books this year though, and I guess I might have a bit more time than usual in the coming weeks (months) to read more, so here we are, listing some books, for something to do.
Daughters of Nri by Reni K Amayo
This is a fairly dark YA fantasy – lots of violence, a monkey dies (in my opinion) needlessly at one point which of course annoyed me, there’re depictions of, or at least discussions of domestic violence, a cool mentor figure gets burnt alive…
I thought this book wove misogyny really well into the threatening backdrop that the two main characters, who are twin sisters separated at birth, have to deal with, but some of the violence – actually mainly the monkey dying – I could have done without. I also personally would have preferred not losing the cool mentor lady to being burnt at the stake, but I do understand its purpose in the narrative, and it didn’t feel gratuitous.
My favourite part was the end, which means I’d probably read a sequel… on the other hand, I absolutely hated the one love interest. I hated him. One of those “I’m so worried about the girl I have a crush on that I’ll yell at her whenever she wants to be proactive” ones, giving my strong Edward Cullen vibes. So I’m going to have to weigh my feelings there when the sequel comes out.
After the Wedding by Courtney Milan
I think romance novels are a fantastic way to wait out the pandemic, as it happens. If you’re looking for a romance novelist to check out, Courtney Milan is always my recommendation.
It was good. It’s Courtney Milan.
Not Your Backup by C.B. Lee
I think I now have to stop reading this series. In the previous one, the parts where Bells had these really cool *past tense* flashbacks were my absolute favourite parts. In this one, the parts where Emma figures out her aro/ace identity and what she wants out of a relationship with Bells were my favourite parts. There’s definitely a lot of good here, but it’s ultimately not for me, and not in a “it’s YA so obviously I’m not the intended audience” way. It’s a style thing, mainly.
I do think the premise is great, and the characters are great, but I have two main complaints: first, the third person present tense, which I rarely enjoy. Second, there’s way too much exposition. A whole bunch of it could be cut out, and you’d definitely be left with less details, but a cleaner, quicker story overall, and it would be more engaging. But that’s just my opinion.
But it’s queer YA scifi and the premise and characters are great. Once again, I’d have to weigh my likes and dislikes against each other in deciding whether to read another one.
the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur
Sooooooooooo I got this book (a collection of poems, Kaur’s second published) and read about 3/4 of it without knowing who Rupi Kaur was, or who Nayyirah Waheed was, or what milk and honey was, or anything about the acclaim and the criticism milk and honey had received. Randomly I saw a tweet mocking Kaur’s poetry as “shallow” and saying that Kaur plagiarized the poet Nayyirah Waheed and wouldn’t acknowledge it.
Social media (and Twitter in particular) has a way of removing all nuance, always, but even knowing that, I was troubled by the tweet I saw and held off on finishing the book. Eventually I picked it back up. Honestly? Inspiration vs Plagiarism is a really complicated subject and I haven’t read Waheed’s stuff. I do always wish authors would be more forthcoming about their inspirations – especially when one has been a bestseller for weeks and weeks on end and when you’re dealing with black women artists, especially. But I do think, having read this second collection, that it’s clear a lot of Kaur’s poetry is deeply personal and it can’t therefore be dismissed so simply as just a knock-off of someone else’s work.
That said, there’s more to Rupi Kaur’s poetry and why it has been so successful to consider. I don’t think I can adequately discuss it, but I do recommend this article about the topic – there’s definitely a good point made there about stuff that sells because it’s more “universal” and more “comfortable” to a white, western audience.
And that said, I’d also recommend the sun and her flowers. Many of the poems made me pause and think. Some of them made me blush. If it does that, the parts of it that might be shallow and all, it’s good enough poetry for me.
Next time I go on a poetry run, I’ll grab Waheed’s salt.
Well, that’s it for now.
Stay safe out there!