The Week in Books #82

10/14 ✅

The week in books! Once again it has been gorgeous and warm (not scorching, though everything is seriously dry) so not much reading has been had. But I did manage to get through four books since my last update, two of them were single day reads. Here they are:

1. Becoming by Michelle Obama. This has been a crazy popular and highly rated book, if goodreads is to be believed. It has a 4.5/5 rating on the book sharing website, making it the highest rated book on my entire TBR pile. Did it live up to the hype for me? Yes and no. Michelle has had an incredible life so far and has accomplished so much! She’s a Harvard educated lawyer who has poured herself into a variety of jobs including a successful lawyers firm, a mayors office, and a medical centre, and has also started programs for children, and a bazillion other things. Also she has two kids and a husband who, in case you missed it, was President of the United States for 8 years, making her the First Lady of the United States as well (AND the first Black First Lady!) all very impressive. Plus, she’s been super likeable the entire time, which isn’t an easy thing to do. As for the memoir, I thought it was well written and covered lots of interesting material, though I did feel that parts of it dragged and that it was almost too detailed/wordy; at just over 400 pages it’s not terribly lengthy but the text was small and dense on the page so it felt a lot longer. In general I enjoyed learning more about Michelle and all of her incredible accomplishments. It was also nice to take a stroll down memory lane and read about American politics pre-Trump, because holy shizz am I ever sick of hearing about that bozo. Michelle got some good digs in when she covered the end of her time as FLOTUS and had to hand over to the greasy orange Cheeto. She also reminded me of this moment:

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, now available in paperback and as a Young Readers edition, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

BecomingMichelleObama.com

2. 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph. This should be essential reading for all Canadians. This is the education on Indigenous issues we never got in school. While the fact that all the kids in my generation made it to adulthood without learning a thing about Residential Schools (I didn’t know they existed until I began work with the Native community in the DTES) was obviously deliberate on the part of the Canadian Government, it is so so shameful that this genocide was hidden for so long. SHAME! With the discovery of all the undocumented graves of CHILDREN being made now in Canada (including the Penelakut Island site very close to my home) this book really needs to be read by everyone so they understand what happened at the hands of the Canadian Government, Catholic Church and RCMP (who enforced the discriminating laws). This book explains it all in very accessible language and is incredibly informative on the subject of residential schools and all the other outrageously racist and discriminatory laws created in Canada to restrict and suppress Indigenous peoples. Five stars.

The Kuper Island (Penelakut) site where over 160 unmarked graves of children were discovered this year.

Based on a viral article, 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act is the essential guide to understanding the legal document and its repercussions on generations of Indigenous Peoples, written by a leading cultural sensitivity trainer. To read, listen to, or watch interviews with Bob Joseph, pop over to our Press page. Click here to see artistic renditions of the Indian Act policies.

The Indian Act, after over 140 years, continues to shape, control, and constrain the lives and opportunities of Indigenous Peoples, and is at the root of many stereotypes that persist. Bob Joseph’s book comes at a key time in the reconciliation process, when awareness from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities is at a crescendo. Joseph explains how Indigenous Peoples can step out from under the Indian Act and return to self-government, self-determination, and self-reliance—and why doing so would result in a better country for every Canadian. He dissects the complex issues around truth and reconciliation, and clearly demonstrates why learning about the Indian Act’s cruel, enduring legacy is essential for the country to move toward true reconciliation.

Indigenous Corporate Training Inc (ictinc.ca)

3. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. This is a historical fiction about a pair of sisters from Shanghai in the 1930’s that was wonderfully written. This is another one of those books that I have seen everywhere but never made the time to read, and I’m glad I finally did! I really enjoyed the relationship between Pearl and May and the story of how they travelled to America to escape the war with the Japanese and attempted to build a life there. I will say as I got closer and closer to the end I was worried things wouldn’t have time to wrap up and I was right, there is a major cliffhanger! Good thing I already have a copy of the next book, Dreams of Joy, so I can find out what the heck happened. Very good read.

In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, a city of great wealth and glamour, the home of millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Though both sisters wave off authority and tradition, they couldn’t be more different: Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree . . . until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides.

As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the Chinese countryside, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the shores of America. In Los Angeles they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with the strangers they have married, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown’s old ways and rules.

At its heart, Shanghai Girls is a story of sisters: Pearl and May are inseparable best friends who share hopes, dreams, and a deep connection, but like sisters everywhere they also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. They love each other, but each knows exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other the most. Along the way they face terrible sacrifices, make impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are: Shanghai girls.

Penguin Randomhouse

4. The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy. This is a pretty solid account of a very transformative period in Ariel’s life; she was married, pregnant with a baby boy, and living in a home she owned and thinking everything was golden. Then within weeks she had split with her wife, lost her baby, and been forced to sell the house. This kind of thing happens and it’s so jarring when it does! Who is Ariel Levy? She is a journalist and staff writer for The New Yorker who wrote Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, a book about women objectifying themselves that I read ages ago and really enjoyed. I appreciated how open she was about her traumatic miscarriage and the struggles in her marriage. This is a quick but powerful read.

All her life, Ariel Levy was told that she was too fervent, too forceful, too much. As a young woman, she decided that becoming a writer would perfectly channel her strength and desire. She would be a professional explorer—“the kind of woman who is free to do whatever she chooses.” Levy moved to Manhattan to pursue her dream, and spent years of adventure, traveling all over the world writing stories about unconventional heroines, following their fearless examples in her own life.

But when she experiences unthinkable heartbreak, Levy is forced to surrender her illusion of control. In telling her story, Levy has captured a portrait of our time, of the shifting forces in American culture, of what has changed and what has remained. And of how to begin again.

Penguin Randomhouse

I spent the afternoon in Nanaimo on Tuesday getting pampered at the spa, and afterwards I paid a visit to my favourite downtown bookstore; Bestsellers on Commercial Street. I was very sad to discover that they are closing! They’ve been given the boot by the landlord who wants to split the space into two shops and charge more rent. This book shop is so great… it’s really well curated, has lots of fantastic recent fiction releases in great condition, and the prices are very fair ($10 a book in most cases). Because they have six weeks to vacate, they are having a clearance sale where a $50 purchase gets you 50% off. So basically five books for $25! Or do like me and get more than five at 50% off haha. The owners are so nice and need help spreading the word to move the massive amount of books they have, so if you are local go take a look!

Some other randoms I picked up from little free libraries
I built a new stack!

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