Made it to twenty books read so far in 2019. This is by far my best year of reading. And I am so proud of myself for following through with this. You can read my thoughts on the first 15 books here: books 1-5, books 6-10, books 11-15.
16. Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson:
This past year, I fell in love with Button Poetry- a publishing company based here in Minneapolis, who also published this book. There is something so powerful about stringing words together that can punch you in the face, make me exhale “wow” outloud to a room with only a sleeping baby in it, and send tears down my cheeks. I love the emotion stored in poems. I even started really trying to write my own, and am super proud of myself for submitting some of my poetry to a Button Poetry chapbook contest while on maternity leave. Gibson’s poetry really challenged me to sit and reflect on topics society wants to be hard like mental illness, incarceration, the queer community, the second amendment, etc, while also challenging me to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. So glad I read this book, and can’t wait to buy one for my classroom library.
17. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
In full disclosure, I listened to this story on Audible, and I LOVED IT. I didn’t really know what it was about going into it and actually got so sucked into the plot and the tensions because (little did I know) it pokes at the ultimate question of my life: “What makes a mother?” This is the question underneath most questions for me as I navigate my day and Ng tells a story with a variety of types of mothers, how they became mothers, etc. There is some high school drama, which I don’t mind despite its familiarity to my work day and just enough suspense to get you curious about where the story is going and how the story is going to end. One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was pregnant with Zadie was to “parent the child in your arms, not the one in your head.” I appreciate how Ng sort-of explored this concept indirectly. The only bummer about the audiobook? I’m so curious about how to spell some of the characters’ names and have no clue! Haha.
18. Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka
Reading this book is confirmation that I actually like graphic novels. Even as a reading specialist and English teacher, I always assumed graphic novels were only written about superheroes, and I just wasn’t that interested. But my mind has been switched! This book is a beautiful auto-biographical story about a young white boy being raised by his grandparents because his mother is a heroin addict and his father has never been in the picture. He writes about his discovery and love for art and drawing, his friendships, and his journey of growing up in a non-traditional family. I actually strongly related to him because although I wasn’t raised by my grandparents, my mother has been largely absent from my life, and I feel like that’s a story that doesn’t get told as often. Definitely buying this one for the classroom library.
19. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
I won’t sugar-coat it: this book is pretty sad, but I made it through without really crying. It’s a memoir about the author’s experience giving birth to a stillborn child. She writes in such a matter of fact way that really honors her grief. I found her writing helped me give words to some of the painful emotions I have been feeling while experiencing postpartum depression since Ari’s birth and remembering some of the memories of my miscarriage from December 2017 that my PPD seems to be triggering. McCracken affectionately refers to her son as “Pudding” and I feel as though we were able to get to know Pudding, even though his earthly life was only in utero. My biggest relatable moment was when she talks about being pregnant for the second time, after her experience delivering a stillborn, and how often people ask “Is this your first?” It’s such an innocent question, but for her, it’s such a constant reminder that her first child was stillborn and his life has ended but his memory has not. Grieving is more and more the activity I need to make time for, and I imagine others do too. This story is not for the lighthearted, but it is a beautiful capturing of an experience of loss that is important to consider. If you liked When Breath Becomes Air, I think you’d like this too.
20. This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins
This has to be the most honest account I have ever read. And I will need to read it again, for sure. Morgan Jerkins is likely the smartest person I have ever read, and I feel like she has taught me more in her book than years of professional development. Then again, perhaps I wouldn’t have been ready to truly listen to her narrative because it’s raw, mature, and lightning-like. So many sentences strike me as profound, prophetic, and amazing. I listened to her read it so that I could really hear her voice and her text the way she wanted it to be heard. There were so many times I paused the audio in near disbelief after the effectiveness to which she had just shared an insight. As a white woman attempting to be racially conscious as a human being and an educator and as someone who calls myself a feminist, I was seriously educated by Morgan Jerkins. Read this if you can handle the very intellectual criticism and some of the most well-reflected life stories I’ve ever heard.