The Week in Books #36

I’m a few weeks behind on blog posts, time to get caught up! The pandemic continues, though here in Canada (more specifically in B.C. and even more specifically on Vancouver Island) we are faring fairly well. Vancouver Island in particular has been doing very well with just 136 cases total, 25 of whom were hospitalized and just 5 cases resulting in death (check out all this super cool data!) I believe we have one current case in Victoria, but no hospitalizations. Sounds good, right? Still hasn’t stopped my anxiety from zooming into hyperspace at the uncertainty of what the Fall will bring and also over the fact that our small island is filled with tourists from the mainland right now. So over the past few weeks I’ve been freaking myself out regularly, natch, and a lot of that anxiety comes from reading news updates and scrolling FB. What’s my new strategy? Put down the f*cking phone and pick up a book.

SOOO I’ve knocked out a few that have been on my radar for a long while including The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, and In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. True, these are not light and fluffy beach reads but hey the learning doesn’t stop just because my brain is in overdrive. These stories have been a nice distraction and all three were excellent.

In The Dream House is a memoir told in small, easily digestible snippets of Carmen’s experience in an abusive same-sex relationship. Her writing is divine, despite the grim subject matter, and I could barely put the book down. Carmen bravely shares her experience of being verbally abused by her partner over the course of a few years (thankfully there are no descriptions of physical or sexual violence) and raises the important topic of abuse within queer relationships. Violence against women in heterosexual relationships is shockingly common (feels like 99% of the true crime shows and podcasts out there are about women being killed by male partners or men who have faced rejection) and so in the event a woman snaps and fires back against her male abuser society can find understanding. But what happens when the woman is being abused by a female partner? Suddenly it’s not clear to some who the real victim is. Carmen writes about this topic with grace and consideration and shines light into darkened areas of the queer community. Very strong memoir, highly recommend.

The Marrow Thieves has a really intriguing concept; it’s the future and global warming has destroyed the planet as we know it. Lands have been ravaged, populations displaced, and people have lost the ability to dream. Indigenous folks, however, have maintained the ability to dream, with the secret to their night visions somehow hidden in their bone marrow. The White man, already having a history of rounding up and mistreating Natives through the residential school era (something that sadly is not dystopian fiction but true fact), has resorted to capturing Natives and attempting to process their marrow into a cure. The book is very atmospheric, and follows a group of Native folks attempting to evade capture by travelling through the woods to Northern Canada where they can hopefully find safety. There are about 9 characters in the travelling group, some of whom are more developed than others. A “coming-to” story (backstory) is given for a few of the characters but others are just kind of there, which would be my only critique. The pacing is a bit slow to start but definitely gears up after the halfway mark and has a really satisfying ending, which I appreciated. This book has won lots of awards (just check out the cover!) and is easily readable by young adult audiences and up.

The Book of Negroes. This historical fiction (based on a true story) tells the tale of Aminata Diallo, a girl of 11 who was captured from her homeland of Mali in 1755 and taken by slave ship to a plantation in South Carolina where she produced indigo dyes as a slave. She is sold again to a Jewish man who teaches her to read, then takes her to New York with him. She manages to escape and is then recruited by the British during the American Revolution to record the names of Black Loyalists that have earned passage to Nova Scotia as free people of colour when the 13 colonies rebelled against British rule and formed the United States. The Book of Negroes is a real document that provided 3000 slaves a ticket to freedom in Nova Scotia. This book is very powerful and Aminata is an excellent protagonist. This book is about the slavery era but isn’t really about slavery per say, it is more about the struggles of Aminata and how she overcame them, and spans 60 years and three continents. She is a well developed character worthy of admiration, and the whole novel is pretty incredible. Five stars.

Currently reading: Conjuring Women by Aria Atakora. So far I’m enjoying it, I’m also pretty into the stunning cover art on this hardcover edition!

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