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Women Authors Rock
We add another collection of books by women authors to finish Women's History Month. We hope the diversity of topics and genres mean you all find something you wish to read, and that we are all reminded great women authors can be found everywhere.
No Filter and Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado (2022). I'll begin with the ending. I love the fact that this book does not leave you with a stereotypical happy ever after. I love that bad actions in this book have awful consequences, and at the same time not everything is bleak as a result of those bad actions. Bittersweet is a perfect ending for Maldonado's second YA novel. (Her first - Fat Chance, Charlie Vega was very positively reviewed by the Book Jam here.) I love the fact Maldonado allows her protagonist Kat, an aspiring photographer navigating high school, to be complex and even unlikeable at times. I like her; I like her friends/fellow photography bugs. I enjoyed watching Kat figure out how to keep a friend a friend when he wants something more, and then her reactions as she discovers, well, maybe, she might, be bisexual. Who knew? She certainly did not up until a specific moment in time. I love Maldonaldo full-on tackles today's social media landscape and it's effects - positive and negative and indifferent - on teens. I love the fact the book also shows kids raised by people other than their biological parents - in Kat's case her grandparents. In short, I loved this sophomore book by a superb author I am quickly becoming a fan of. For those who need more than that, here is a quick plot synopsis -- Kat is frustrated by her lack of social media presence for her art, especially as all her friends have no trouble finding followers. Her solution - create Max, a college student with beauty, friends, and a life filled with adventure. The problem -- well too many to name here; but they all feel realistic, and let's just say Kat's true life comes crashing down all around her. Enjoy, and relax, I promised a superbly bittersweet ending! Note: I also think it would make a great parent-kid book club pick if for no other reason it opens dialogue about social media choices.. ~ Lisa Christie
Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleka Jaouad (2021). I found this to be one of the most affecting memoirs of 2021. Jaouad is a brilliant woman and a compelling writer. In the opening pages, we meet her as she is wrapping up her senior year at Princeton (though feeling fatigued and experiencing inexplicable itching), follow her to the boulevards of Paris post-graduation where she becomes involved in a whirlwind love affair and then continue on her surprising journey as she is abruptly rushed back to New York where she is diagnosed with cancer. Jaouad's insights on the emotional experience of illness were noticed by The New York Times and she contributed regularly as a columnist for several years. This book is a meditation on life, death, family, survival, the space in between two kingdoms - and all of the love, pain, and resilience in between. Vermont even makes a cameo appearance as a spot that facilitates Jaouad's healing. Unflinchingly honest and surprising. Highly recommended. ~ Lisa Cadow
The Chosen One: A first-generation Ivy League Odyssey by Echo Brown (2022). In novel combining her personal experiences as a first generation college student, and elements of fantasy and magical realism, Brown frankly explores a myriad of issues including grief, poverty, mental illness, racism, friendship, sex, ambition, self-worth, and ultimately a universal need for belonging. this sounds like a lot, and it is. And, in no way is this novel preachy -- perhaps the fantasy elements ensure that. Despite high academic achievement in her Cleveland high school, Echo Brown is struggling at Dartmouth College. (I noted the frequent shout outs to the warm bread loaves and honey butter at a local restaurant Molly's.) Her Dartmouth experience is not the Dartmouth of the recruiting brochures. She can't gain traction in her classes or relationships, and she is sliding into depression. Then in a series of magical reveals, she discovers she is one of the Chosen Ones and if she can accept this calling, things just might slide into place. I honestly don't know how to describe this novel; I can say it has left me thinking about many things for weeks after finishing it, making it an excellent book club selection. This novel feels honest and left me feeling hopeful because Brown is an excellent guide for navigating difficult issues well and (I hope) creating change. Note: it took a while for me to settle in to this narrative - have patience. ~ Lisa Christie
Atlas of the Heart: Mapping meaningful connection and the language of human experience by Brene Brown (2022). For me, this latest book by Brown reads more like a text book than her previous outings. And after struggling to dive deeply all at once, I am finding treating it like a textbook and reading a bit at a time has helped me think differently about all the feels I've been feeling lately (and there have been a lot). As we come out of covid pandemic restrictions and continue to deal with loss and fear and uncertainty, not to mention war, having language to describe all we are feeling can't help but assist us all. ~ Lisa Christie
The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers (2021). Disclaimer -- I have not yet finished this award winning novel. And, I am enjoying following Ailey Pearl Garfield as she unravels her experience of DuBois's discussion of the problem of race in America, untangles the truth about her ancestry, and comes to new terms with her identity. I look forward to continuing this journey. ~ Lisa Christie
Women & History
Over the years, we've heard that Mae West or Eleanor Roosevelt or anonymous once said "well behaved women seldom make history". Because Lisa Cadow is who she is, she investigated and discovered Harvard History Professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich coined this phrase in 1976, while a phd student at the University of New Hampshire. We'll leave it to you to agree or disagree with Professor Ulrich. But we believe it is an apt quote to mention as we review two books for women's history month, on the eve of International Women's Day. Both books show tales of women and girls overcoming obstacles - those of their own making and those made by others. We hope you find both selections inspiring.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle (2021). I avoided reading this for many months. So many people recommended it; I could not believe it could be as life changing as purported. I also tend to avoid books like this. I was not looking to divorce my husband. I was not looking for a new lens on my life. I was definitely not looking to read anything that would make me feel inadequate for not completely changing everything in my life. And yet, for an unknown reason, it stayed in my pile of "to be read books" month after month. It just patiently sat there with its cheerful brightly swirly cover. Finally I picked it up and started perusing page one. Before I knew it I was underlining passages and thinking about all the choices we all make in life. And, I was simultaneously struggling with the often overly neat stories and the problematic "Lean In" aspects (I could not finish Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In because it short-shifted the issues and hardships of women of color and women in poverty); many of the things (e.g., finding and cultivating inner power) discussed in Untamed work much more easily for certain subsets of the population - white, college educated, well-off women. Nonetheless, Doyle seems genuine and definitely not at all judgemental. Basically, her use of apt metaphors (e.g., the memoir starts with a story of a cheetah that unleashes the rest of the book) kept me turning the pages as she untangles the many layers of how she has been tamed by societal expectations and coped in unhelpful ways - eating disorders, alcoholism, perfectionism, to name a few. I have not yet finished this, so can not attest to the ending. However complicated one's relationship to this book, it seems like an excellent one to review during women's history month as it bluntly tackles how expectations placed on women can hinder their lives. Note - this was previously reviewed during Pages in the Pub in Woodstock. ~ Lisa Christie
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 real-life tales of Black girl magic by Lilly Workneh (2021). This latest installment of the best selling Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series amplifies stories of Black women and girls from around the world, including tennis player Naomi Osaka, astronaut Jeanette Epps, author Toni Morrison, filmmaker Ava DuVernay; aviator Bessie Coleman, and others. We highly recommend this volume and the previous ones from this Rebel Girls series for any reader. It's never too early to show young people of all gender identities how brave women and girls change the world. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie