The Week in Books #75

7/14 ✅

After another solid week of reading, I made it through four more on this stack before Sunday. That means I’m already halfway through! Definitely some interesting titles in here, some for good reasons and some for not so good reasons…

1. The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare. Adunni is a 14 year old Nigerian girl who, after her mother’s death, is sold by her father to an old man as his third wife. What she wants is to continue her education so she can get a good job and support her father, but what she wants does not matter as her father needs money for rent and wants to accept payment in exchange for her immediately. She marries the old man and begins a journey with some surprising twists and turns in it. This story has some very memorable characters in it and is told in a unique voice. I enjoyed it a lot! It is surprisingly funny and pleasant despite how serious the blurb makes it sound, and Adunni makes a wonderful and highly likeable protagonist.

The unforgettable, inspiring story of a teenage girl growing up in a rural Nigerian village who longs to get an education so that she can find her “louding voice” and speak up for herself, The Girl with the Louding Voice is a simultaneously heartbreaking and triumphant tale about the power of fighting for your dreams. Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her path, Adunni never loses sight of her goal of escaping the life of poverty she was born into so that she can build the future she chooses for herself – and help other girls like her do the same. Her spirited determination to find joy and hope in even the most difficult circumstances imaginable will “break your heart and then put it back together again” (Jenna Bush Hager on The Today Show) even as Adunni shows us how one courageous young girl can inspire us all to reach for our dreams…and maybe even change the world.

Penguin Randomhouse

2. Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women that the Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall. This is a strong series of essays written about the issues that matter most to People of Colour in today’s feminism. When I read bell hooks for the first time many years ago I remember not fully understanding why there was so much friction between women of colour and white women within the feminist movement, and Mikki’s writing explains a lot of the conflict very clearly. In a nutshell, white women have different priorities and continue to silence and/or ignore the wants and needs of WOC within the movement. Mikki covers a wide range of topics from gun violence, incarceration, food insecurity, hyper-sexualization of young Black girls, education, housing, and so much more. This is an intelligent collection of essays that provides a lot of insight into current struggles for WOC today, and will no doubt inspire many to push for what they need under the feminist umbrella.

Today’s feminist movement has a glaring blind spot, and paradoxically, it is women. Mainstream feminists rarely talk about meeting basic needs as a feminist issue, argues Mikki Kendall, but food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. All too often, however, the focus is not on basic survival for the many, but on increasing privilege for the few. That feminists refuse to prioritize these issues has only exacerbated the age-old problem of both internecine discord and women who rebuff at carrying the title. Moreover, prominent white feminists broadly suffer from their own myopia with regard to how things like race, class, sexual orientation, and ability intersect with gender. How can we stand in solidarity as a movement, Kendall asks, when there is the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others?

In her searing collection of essays, Mikki Kendall takes aim at the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement, arguing that it has chronically failed to address the needs of all but a few women. Drawing on her own experiences with hunger, violence, and hypersexualization, along with incisive commentary on politics, pop culture, the stigma of mental health, and more, Hood Feminism delivers an irrefutable indictment of a movement in flux. An unforgettable debut, Kendall has written a ferocious clarion call to all would-be feminists to live out the true mandate of the movement in thought and in deed.

Penguin Randomhouse

3. The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker. Firstly, I felt like this story would have hit totally different if I read it when it was released in 2019, pre-pandemic. The whole tone of the book is dreamy and dystopian and I love that, but reading it now it just felt like everyday life haha. We are IN the dystopian novel now! A contagious virus begins spreading in a college dorm, leaving the students in deep dream-like states and unable to wake up. The college is forced into quarantine and as the students complain about how boring it is being stuck inside (hello) more and more of them are struck by the sickness. What follows is a lot of what we have just gone through ourselves; panic and hoarding at the grocery store, shut down of public venues, travel restrictions, mask wearing and social distancing. The virus spreads and no one can figure out what causes it, or if anyone will actually wake up again. It reminded me a bit of Karen Russell’s novella Sleep Donation, which I also really loved. Good cast of characters, though Walker doesn’t take us very deep into any particular character and a lot of the development is very surface. That said, I did like the atmosphere of the story and the writing was very bingeable. If you don’t mind reading about the world we’ve all been trying to escape the last year and a half, then you’ll probably enjoy this one too.

A strange illness induces sleep and heightens dreams in an isolated college town, transforming the lives of ordinary people, in this mesmerizing novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Age of Miracles.

A college girl tells her friends that she’s feeling strangely tired. The next morning, when they find her in bed, she is still breathing–but she won’t wake up.

Within a few days, another student, down the hallway, won’t wake up.

As the sleeping sickness spreads, the town is turned upside down. We meet Ben and Annie, a young couple determined to keep their newborn baby safe; Sara and Libby, whose survivalist father has long prepared…

Penguin Randomhouse

4. Kink edited by R. O. Kwan and Garth Greenwell. This collection has an all star cast and has been very buzzy in the bookstagram world. Brandon Taylor, Roxane Gay, Kim Fu, Carmen Maria Machado, R. O. Kwon, Alexander Chee and more. Some stories stood out more than others, my favourites being Carmen Maria Machado’s story The Lost Performance of the High Priestess of the Temple of Horror (mysterious, weird and sensual) and Brandon Taylor’s Oh, Youth (intriguing, emotional) the two that also happen to be the longest of the collection and actually contain some type of story line rather than immediately launching into scenes of bondage with no character development or context. Roxane Gay’s story Reach is pretty explicit and memorable, though I’m not sure I would rave about it. I also like Kim Fu’s story Scissors but again, who do I recommend these to? Haha. I wanted to like Alexander Chee’s contribution but he lost me when one character spit into the mouth of his partner and I gagged (oddly enough there is also mouth spitting in Oh, Youth, but it bothered me less for some reason.) It feels like Kink was hyped up everywhere on the internet for a while after its release and while some stories (Machado and Taylor) were worth it, the rest were kind of a let down.

Kink is a dynamic anthology of literary fiction that opens an imaginative door into the world of desire. The stories within this collection portray love, desire, BDSM, and sexual kinks in all their glory with a bold new vision. The collection includes works by renowned fiction writers such as Callum Angus, Alexander Chee, Vanessa Clark, Melissa Febos, Kim Fu, Roxane Gay, Cara Hoffman, Zeyn Joukhadar, Chris Kraus, Carmen Maria Machado, Peter Mountford, Larissa Pham, and Brandon Taylor, with Garth Greenwell and R.O. Kwon as editors.

The stories within explore bondage, power-play, and submissive-dominant relationships; we are taken to private estates, therapists’ offices, underground sex clubs, and even a sex theater in early-20th century Paris. While there are whips and chains, sure, the true power of these stories lies in their beautiful, moving dispatches from across the sexual spectrum of interest and desires, as portrayed by some of today’s most exciting writers.

Simon and Schuster

3 comments

  1. I like the sound of The Dreamers – I’ve just finished the end of men (also a bit close to life but a brilliant read). Loved the girl with the loading voice too

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