Who are your favorite authors of color?

Excelsior Bev recently asked her students who their favorite African American authors were, and we thought that was a fun question, but that we’d broaden it a bit.

#1:  Alexandre Dumas (Jr) hands down– though I didn’t know he was black until recently!   He’s not so great with his female characters (who are either paper dolls or evil villains), but his books are so much fun that I forgive him.

After that I know there are a lot of worthy POC authors who write amazing award winning serious fiction (and I did like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Their Eyes Were Watching God, but as worthy books, not fun books), but I really like popcorn books.  I really do.   So that means people like Lisa Yee and Justina Chen.  I also love almost all of A. Lee Martinez’s books.

Scalzi had a post the other month talking about the “read just women and people of color” challenge someone was doing, and I asked for recommendations for fun light stuff, but the only person who replied has a very different definition of “light” than I do (pro-tip:  Stephen King is not light).  That post also indicated to me that romance novelist Courtney Milan is a POC, which I didn’t know (I like her stuff!).  Recommendations for light stuff welcome in the comments!  (I did read some Marta Acosta light vampire stuff, and it was ok, but not worth owning.) (#2 owns the first but not the second book.)

#2 ZOMG, N. K. Jemisin all day long.  Saladin Ahmed.  Justina Chen Headley (again).  Y. S. Lee.  Nnedi Okorafor.  Dia Reeves.  Michelle Sagara (her stuff sometimes makes #1 cry on airplanes).  Gene Luen Yang.  I recently read Sofia Samatar’s award-winning novel and liked it.

And, as everybody should already know, Octavia E. Butler is objectively one of the best science fiction authors of all time.  (But not light!)

Start there!

Of course, we’re of a couple of minds about these segregated lists.  Well, not really.  It’s just a nuanced stand.  We hate the need for these separate lists and we wish that people would be included on the regular lists of “best of” because many *belong* there.  However, society isn’t there yet, so these lists are a way for people to broaden their horizons so that they can come into contact with amazing authors they wouldn’t normally read.  Being on one of these segregated lists should in no way preclude someone from going on the more general lists of “best of” and we should think really hard when we make a general “best of” list about composition to make sure we’re not running into implicit biases.  A standard procedure is to think about the best POC or female etc. author not on the general list and to compare him or her to the worst person on the general list (iterating to the next underrepresented person etc.).  More often than should be the case, that person really belongs on the general list too and was not included because of subconscious biases.  Eventually, thinking about people from underrepresented groups while making the list rather than after the list is made becomes more automatic.

One place where there are plenty of authors of color is the banned books list.  Boo.

Got anyone else we should read?  Spend your tax refund on books!  Or save it and use your library.

Cool books yo

In case you were wondering, and/or wanting something to read.

Good books:

First, three YA graphic novels: I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly — amazing!–   Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol; and El Deafo by Cece Bell.

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (published in UK as Rivers of London) — I also like the sequel.

Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn. You don’t need to have read any of her other books to enjoy this delight.

Lazarus Volume 1 by Greg Rucka

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon: The Diary of a Courtesan in Tenth Century Japan

The Element of Fire by Martha Wells

The Enola Holmes series (with the caveat that they’re kind of racist towards the Roma, particularly in the last book). (and with the caveat that #1 disputes the underlying premise.)

 

 

Books I was meh on:

Jasmine Nights by S.P. Somtow (couldn’t get into it; gave up halfway through)

It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita (finished but couldn’t relate to author’s story at all)

Regeneration by Pat Barker (sausage fest; finished it; it was ok but didn’t stick with me)

 

Any recommendations for us or each other, Grumpeteers?

 

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breaking news: Books are good

You should read Love Is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson.  Just get it.

This book is so good and I stayed up way too late to finish it. Also, if you can get the hardback, do, because the design is quite beautiful.  [Note, however, that the kindle version is $2.99, so even if you don’t love it as much as #1 did, you’re not out that much.]

The book is about high schoolers dealing with race and romance at an expensive prep school in DC.  The protagonist, Emily (or “Bird” to her friends), goes to a party and wakes up in the hospital, unsure what happened.  But there’s a spy chasing her, convinced she knows something important about the pandemic virus that’s sweeping the country.  She doesn’t, but maybe the mysterious drug dealer she’s been flirting with does?  Who can she trust?  Not her parents, not her boyfriend, and probably not the government.

 

I’m not doing it justice but it’s got all kinds of goodies.  Try it out!

(#2 has not read it… it sounds too suspenseful and #2 is in the regency romance portion of her non-work reading ability right now.  The kind where she reads the last chapter after the first just to make sure it turns out ok.  Even though there’s no way it’s not going to turn out ok because it’s a @#@#ing regency romance.  But #2 can’t really handle surprises right now.)

Why I Quit Dieting: A Guest Post

Here’s a guest post from another friend of mine.  She is a white, able-bodied, heterosexual (I think) woman.  She is a wonderful person to be around, and she reads Dances with Fat (who reminds us that we can’t hate ourselves thin), too!  We were having a conversation about radical self-love when she agreed to let me use this piece.

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Why I Quit Dieting

Even though I was an average-sized kid, I went on my first diet at age 9 because I thought from example that it’s what you do when you are female.  It lasted a day because I was nothing but hungry all day.  At 15, I got better at fighting hunger and lost weight by eating only an orange and then drinking Diet Coke and chewing Trident bubble gum during the school days  – days that frequently included a couple of hours of tennis team practice – so I could go home and eat a normal dinner and not tell my stepmother I was on a diet.  I definitely lost weight and for years my mother went on and on about how good I looked when I performed in a play at the end of that spring.  I later revealed I was only that thin because I had basically been starving myself. Of course, I gained weight back.  I went through about 3 more of those 15-pound cycles into my late 20s, one of them “accomplished” during a college summer by eating 800 calories a day, chewing on candy but spitting it out, and running about 2 miles a day.  (I hereby apologize to the library information phone line librarians who had to answer all of mine and my friend’s questions about how many calories were in different foods before we had the internet.)

One of my first steps toward empowerment was after a re-gain when my mother called me and asked how she could help me lose weight.  She had experienced a time when her mother read a newspaper article about one of her major professional accomplishments and her mother only commented on her hair.  So, when she called me, I said something along the lines of: “You know how you felt when your mother only commented on your hair?  Well, that’s how I feel right now.  I am proud of what I am doing and the person I am. My weight is none of your business.”  And then I lost about 15 pounds – because that’s what I wanted to do at the time.

A couple of things helped me shed the ideas of what NOT to eat and focus on eating nutritious foods:  one friend said that to lose weight, he ate fruit instead of a hot dog for breakfast.  It was so simple, but something about that got me to eat a substantial, healthy breakfast every day, something that is an essential part of my life now.  After a thyroid crash in my second round of grad school, I worked with a naturopath who gave me a list of foods to eat every day and foods to eat every week to recover from my many inflammation-related conditions.  I recovered from the thyroid crash, focused on what TO eat and stopped paying attention to what not to eat, except when I got rid of migraines by eliminating some foods.

I love my current naturopath who has never weighed me, but reports all of my kick-ass results of true health indicators (I think it was my C-reactive protein number that she said was the best she had seen in a long time). It feels so good to use my assertiveness to tell the medical assistants at “regular” doctor’s offices that “I do not want to be weighed today.”  I’ve learned so much about what a poor indicator of health the number on the scale is and carry it through in my actions.  Since I jokingly call myself an “empiricist pig,” I trust the research that shows that the number on the scale on its own is not useful as a predictor of health, that 95% of weight loss efforts do not last beyond 5 years, and that losing and re-gaining weight is bad for health.  I’ll go with the real predictors:  eating fresh fruits & vegetables, regular moderate exercise, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation.

I am so much happier and comfortable my current size than I ever was at the smaller clothing size that I “could” be.  My size is not a (secretly) temporary size.  It’s not full of regulations, obligations, or shame. It’s my size.  It’s the size I am when I eat and relish the joy of delicious, healthy, whole, real foods most of the time (and relish less healthy foods sometimes as well – because they are delicious, too!).  It’s the size I am when I enjoy exercising multiple times each week.  I have always been physically active in many ways, but it is even more fun to exercise now that I do it for how much I love it, how good it feels to move, how strong it makes me, and for how much energy it gives me  – without any concern for its effectiveness at changing my body size.  Loving movement, loving food, eating when I’m hungry (until I’m not hungry, and not feeling guilty about anything I put in my mouth or even an occasional full week without exercise), is the most joyful and peaceful way to live.

 

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#2 notes that focusing on fun and new things to eat has gotten her through a lot of pregnancy and related eating restrictions.  There’s a whole world of healthy yummy food out there for all sorts of restricted eating, be it whole foods, gluten-free, nut-free, etc. etc. etc.

Got comments, Grumpeteers?  Be nice.

 

Time to spend those gift cards ON BOOKS

While we’re out of town at a huge NYE bash (well, while #1 is out of town at a huge NYE bash… #2 is probably currently driving in the snow from one small rural town to another, thank goodness for audible), let us give you some suggestions for how to spend all that money you got for Christmas/Yule/Hanukkah/Year-end bonus/blackmailing that guy, or whatever kind of denominational or non-denominational holiday-type thing you might have.

These are books I have LOVED from the library.  So many to love!

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter.  Love it, love it, repeatedly recommended it.

I’ve been enjoying Will Thomas’s series starting with Some Danger Involved.  Fascinatingly diverse Victorian London murder mysteries.

Emerald House Rising by Peg Kerr.  Light high fantasy, sure to become a future soothing read (sadly out of print but ILL it if you can!).  Standalone, happy ending.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.  Also fantasy: court intrigue, fish-out-of-water.

Clariel, the Lost Abhorsen by Garth Nix.  I like the Abhorsen series and this is a prequel.

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir, by Kristin Newman.  I like memoirs.

No Castles Here by A.C.E. Bauer.  A poor kid from the barrio finds a magical book of tales…

The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby.  Essays about books and reading.  Two of my favorite things.

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard.  Another fantasy to recommend repeatedly.

Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher contains the recommendation letters I wish I could have written as a pre-tenure faculty member.  Epistolary, funny, but not a happy ending.

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis.  Are you sensing a YA theme here?

The Silvered by Tanya Huff.  I mean, it’s Tanya Huff!

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography.  Heartwarming and amusing; worth getting in hard copy so you can flip around for an authentic choose-your-own-adventure experience.  (#2 fully enjoyed this one too, and was actually ok about spending full price for a hard copy in an airport bookstore when she discovered she’d forgotten her kindle.  It was worth it!)

Books I was NOT keen on:

Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling.  Really not as good as Bossypants; I didn’t finish it.

Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk:  was doing ok until Rape As A Plot Point.  Bzzzt!

 

This post isn’t all the books I’ve been reading, not by a long shot!  But it has just a few of the things that I think you might like to read.  Not exhaustive, though maybe exhausting.

Any more suggestions???

What did we get people this year?

Shopping for DH’s family is sooo hard!

MIL:  This year we gave up and asked MIL what she wanted.  The answer?  The same luggage she got me for Christmas last year.  Not a problem!  We added a “Grandma” luggage tag because she seems to like things labeled Grandma.

FIL:  Another giving up year, a gift certificate to Cabela’s.  (Last year was an exception–we got him something he really wanted but he didn’t want to spend the money on that he still talks about.) This is probably still a good choice because he loves shopping at Cabela’s and MIL hates the way he spends so much of their money at Cabela’s.

BIL1:  games off his amazon wishlist

SIL1:  the first two books in the finishing school series.   She had the first on her list, but I know from experience that once you read the first you end up buying the second on kindle because you can’t wait for it to come in the mail.  So we got her that too.

Cousin 1:  Kid’s fun and healthy cookbook  Also one of the pigeon books from his wishlist, which seems kind of young to me, but whatever, it was on the wishlist.  And if we hadn’t had DC2 we might have gotten the entire set without the excuse of having a younger kid… (my sister loves those and she’s 30 years old!)

Cousin 2:  Three books off her wishlist, including a couple of elephant and piggie books and a knuffle bunny.  Maybe it’s mom who has the Mo Willems thing…  We were going to send her M R Nelson’s new book, but after looking at the heavily be-princessed wishlist (including 4 princess outfits), we decided that might get misconstrued.

SIL2: Her wishlist had been decimated, with only 3 things left on it (it had a tonne of stuff the week before, but we think MIL swept in and bought up the bulk).  Two books and a wish for “iTunes gift-card.”  We got her the two books, which were both kind of boring looking things about her job, one of which she’d put on recently, and the other something rated “low” that she’d put on a couple of years ago.  Oh well.

BIL2:  Was happiest the year we got him an Amazon giftcard, so an Amazon giftcard is what we got this year too.

Cousin 3:  A busload of pigeon books (it’s been a very Mo Willems year) and a couple of smaller books of hir wishlist.  Also we’ll be donating to the 529 plan.  We would do this for cousins 1 and 2 also, but BIL has never gotten around to setting them up, even though in his state they get a 20% tax credit(!) off their state income taxes.

Grandmother-in-law:  She’s now in a nursing home with early stage Alzheimer’s.  MIL didn’t have any suggestions.  She’s crunched for space, so no knick knacks.  MIL takes care of things like linens and clothing and so on.  She’s not really able to do her hobbies anymore.  Someone has already signed her up for fruit-of-the-month.  So we looked online for suggestions for people in nursing homes and people with Alzheimer’s and decided to make picture magnets, one for each of our little families (DH and his siblings and all our kids) with names underneath each person (the names part is the part suggested for Alzheimer’s patients).  Each family is color coded with a different color for the names.  We had an extra magnet leftover on the online thing and put a picture of DH’s mom and aunts on it.

My parents: I wanted to get them an air conditioner.  The two wall units they have are literally from the 1980s, inefficient, and ran out of freon before I left for college.  Every summer there’s a heatwave I worry about them dying like all those people in Chicago back when I was a kid.  Also I have to listen to my mom complain about how difficult it is to sleep in the heat.  Home Depot has a thing where they will install the a/c and take an old one away, so that’s what I want to do.  After much back and forth we decided to send them a giftcard to Home Depot for the amount we would have spent on a window unit, and they will replace one of their wall units in the summer.

My sister:  Well, for various reasons, I wanted to buy her that $369 automatic litter box, but the conversation kept going like, Her: “Why don’t you buy me a new washing machine for $369 instead?” Me:  “Because I don’t feel guilty about anything involving a washing machine.” “How about a stand mixer, I’d really like one of those fancy stand mixers”  “Would you ever USE a stand mixer?  Plus, I don’t feel guilty about anything involving a stand mixer!”  (Note:  earlier that evening she’d suggested we get her a vitamix, and I was like we got you an Oster hand blender a few years ago, and she was all, “You did?  Huh, I’ll have to check.  I know you got me that food processor that one year that I’ve never taken out of the box.  And that crockpot I never use.”  Note she’d asked for said food processor and crockpot.  She always wants cooking implements when she’s saving up money for something, but never actually uses them.)  So what did I get her instead?  $85 worth of cat toys and feliway.

DH’s relative with all the kids:  probably  money.  Daughter #2 is pregnant again…

As always, Target gift cards for teachers.

#2 says:  I have no income.  I am spending out of savings for Christmas, combined with not traveling, and not getting people extravagant gifts.   I’m buying used for people who are ok with that and looking for Kindle sales.  I also used the cashback on my Discover card to buy gifts.  I got my grandmother a box of pears.  There’s a group gift for the other grandmother, who doesn’t want a lot of Stuff.  But I’m trying to write her more letters and let her know I’m thinking of her.

I’m going in with my siblings on a lot of things.  Joint large gifts for mom, dad, stepmom (split between me and sis and our partners).  My brothers got stuff off their wishlists.  Stuff for my sister?  Well, I won’t say it here in case she ever finds this blog!

Did you get anything good or fun or interesting for folks on your holiday list this year?

What are we reading? Throw-back edition.

Sometimes this century is just too much and we seek out popcorn from the past.  Not, you know, classics, exactly, but good stuff that is enjoyable to read and gives a nice snapshot of popular literature of the time.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes— technically this one might be considered a classic, I mean, it was sort of made into a Marilyn Monroe movie (though not really– the book is soooo much racier, despite the lack of a strip-tease).  (Also the main character is a bit racist, but she’s a bit a lot of other things too, and it’s portrayed in a way that the actual author seems to be condemning the casual racism, but still, FYI.)  Don’t know why it isn’t available on kindle anymore, but your library is pretty likely to have a copy.

Dinny Gordon, Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior.  These are good.  On the surface they’re silly YA fiction from the 1960s, but there’s a subversiveness to them.  Junior year is especially enthralling.  (Hat Tip to Girl Historian for recommending them!)  Worth checking to see if your university library still has them.

We Shook the Family Tree.  A comic memoir, similar to those by Jean Kerr, though not quite the same.  I used to read these kinds of books by the pile back when I was a kid after I discovered the non-fiction comedy section at the library (after running out of children’s books and being too young for a lot of the SF/Fantasy/Mystery adult books).  I have no idea where I got this paperback… I wonder if it once belonged to my mother (unlikely because she doesn’t tend to keep paperbacks) or if I actually picked it up myself at a used bookstore (also unlikely because I don’t tend to buy things that aren’t SF/Fantasy unless it’s an author I already know).   Maybe it was nestled between Richard Armour and Jean Kerr and I impulse-bought it.  It’s a mystery.  In any case, it was a fun light romp (and kind of funny how the heroine complained about having a thigh gap– only they called it being bow-legged back then!)

While reading We shook the family tree, I decided I was curious about Hildegarde Dolson, and the Wikipedia article made her seem even more interesting.  I’m always a sucker for long-lasting, late-in-life romances.  Anyway, her husband was a mystery writer (a widower) who wrote mystery novels with his wife before she died.  Well, I had to try some of those.  Annoyingly, our uni library has ALL of them and all of the Dolson books, BUT it won’t check them out.  If I didn’t have work or a family I would so park myself in that reading room and just read.  They also have a complete collection of SF/Fantasy paperbacks that doesn’t circulate.  Forget the museum.  I want to be locked into that room overnight!  (I may have to ILL One Lady, Two Cats… you know, for research purposes– or just buy it off amazon). They did have a few random circulating copies of things though, so I ordered neither the first in the series nor the reputed best in the series … and I liked them.

The Lockridges have two main series, one about a couple named Mr. and Mrs. North who are pretty similar to Gracie Allen and a less sarcastic George Burns, if Gracie and George solved crimes, and the other about a police inspector named Heimrich.  The two books I got out, Murder is Served and Spin Your Web, Lady, were both pretty good.  Though definitely products of their time (1947 and 1948)– in Spin Your Web I cringed a bit at the pregnant lady getting drunk and even more at the treatment of a mentally disabled character, and some other stuff that would give too much away if I stated it here.  Both open with really entertaining slices of life– the former gives us a scene at a high class restaurant, the latter puts us in the mind of a somewhat sketchy university extension professor.  I think I’m going to grab more by these authors.  And One Lady, Two Cats is definitely on my amazon wishlist.  I also wish I had some Perry Masons, which are easy and fun popcorn novels though not quite as wholesome as the tv show.

#2 is reading lots of frontlist right now (especially from the library), but on the backlist I’ve recently quite enjoyed Fay Weldon’s Letters to Alice: On First Reading Jane Austen.

 

Come at us with some throwback-reading love, readers!

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