I’m getting close to catching up on everything I have already read so far this summer. (Although yesterday I donated platelets and sat at the pool so I managed to read one full middle grade novel and one full adult novel in one day. That is not normal, but it was delightful.)
Somewhere along the line, someone introduced me to Ann Friedman’s weekly newsletter and I greatly enjoy it. Friedman and Aminatou Sow wrote Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close.
Friedman has mentioned it in her newsletter and I’ve been meaning to read it. While on vacation, it popped up on my kindle and I devoured it. It’s a great read for pushing you to think about the relationships in your life, all of them. It put some relationships in a new perspective, for me. It’s as if it gave me a new framework or lens for viewing relationships. It’s also, essentially, a memoir of a friendship and I do love memoirs. In addition, Sow is Black woman who was born in Guinea and grew up in multiple countries in a diplomatic family. Friedman is a white woman. They address race and how it impacts their friendship in a variety of ways. It was truly a fascinating and enjoyable book.
For years my sister has been encouraging me to read Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and I’m not really sure what has kept me from doing so.
My brother-in-law is Bengali Indian and there are many connections between this book and his life. As well as many ways his life is very different from this book, of course. The Namesake was originally published nearly twenty years ago. It would be interesting to know if/how Lahiri would change it if she were writing it now. (I believe, if I’m remembering correctly, that I heard or read some of her reflections on this recently and that she felt there were some small things she would change but mostly it still works for her.) I had many opinions on the various characters, frequently changing how I felt about them over time. I have just enough of a small window into the world of Indian-Americans to feel like I could really picture and hear some parts of the story vividly while still learning so much.
Another nonfiction title (I did read some nonfiction this summer!) was You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame, Resilience, and the Black Experience by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown. It’s a collection of essays (and I do love a good collection of essays).
With essays by Tarana Burke, Austin Channing Brown, Jason Reynolds, and Imani Perry it is not at all surprising that I greatly enjoyed this book. In the introduction, written as a conversation between Burke and Brene Brown, it is noted that the audience for this book is Black people. I get why it was written for that audience and I hope the book gets read as widely as possible. Not only did I learn more about the Black experience in the U.S. from it, but I also gained some life lessons around the ideas of vulnerability, shame, and resilience. The essays are all fairly short, usually 8-12 pages. The voices of the different authors come through strongly, even as many of them hit on similar and connected ideas. If I were a secondary teacher, I’d be bringing some of these into my classroom.
Finally, for the moment, is a middle grade novel, That Thing About Bollywood by Supriya Kelkar.
First of all, I love that cover. Love it. I want it facing out on a shelf in my classroom bringing joy. Secondly, I love the premise of this book. Sonali, a sixth grader, has a lot going on in her life. Her parents are fighting all the time. Her best friend seems to be moving on to a new best friend. Her beloved grandfather died a year ago. And she buries all of her feelings about all of it. Until Bollywooditis, as she names it, takes over. She and others in her life break out randomly into song and dance, including clothing, makeup, and hair changes and even changes to the ‘set’, her home or school or wherever she is. It’s both thoughtful and hilarious. In spite of that, I didn’t love it. I really liked it and I will highly encourage kids to read it. But too often the writing felt underdeveloped and distracting.
I’m just realizing, as I look back over this, that all of these books were written by women (there are essays by men in the collection but the editors are both women). I’m also glad to see more nonfiction popping up in my summer reading. Almost everything I’ve read this summer came from the library. And while I am a huge fan of the library, I also have a ton of books I own that I have never read. So now I’m setting a new goal for myself to read more of the books that are already here in my house.