Can you believe this year is half way over already? What’s with this ceaseless forward passage of time eh. Shouldn’t be allowed.
I read 5 books in June, bringing my 2019 total up to a mind blowing 32. And that’s not even including all the children’s picture books. I thought I’d barely manage one a month this year!
- 4 out of 5 this month were fantasy and 1 was non-fiction (autobiographical essays).
- 4 out of 5 were by women, 1 by men.
- 2 were by Black women, 2 by white women, 1 by 2 white dudes.
- 2 were by LGBTQ+ writers, 3 by heterosexual writers.
- 2 were by writers with a disability, though only 1 of the books mentioned that.
That means that half way through the year:
- 90% of the books I read were by able-bodied writers, usually about able bodied protagonists
- 87% of my reading has been by women and the rest men, with no non-binary or trans authors represented
- 78% of the books I read were by white people with the remaining 22% by writers of colour
- 71% of my reading has been fiction, mostly fantasy, and the rest non-fiction (largely autobiography)
- 12.5% of the books I read were by LGBTQ+ writers
My main takeaway is that I’ve defaulted to ‘easy’ genre reads citing mum brain – and the result is a not terribly diverse spread of reading material for 2019. Most of my reading is fantasy fiction and yet it’s largely about white straight able bodied people like… me. How incredibly limiting. Also I’ve not looked into the intersection of class here, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess a lot of my 78% of white fantasy authors are probably middle class.
So, why does it matter, particularly when I’m in a head space where I’m forgetting half of what I’ve read moments after finishing anyway? Well for one thing I don’t like what it says about publishing. Like, I’m pretty sure one of the reasons for this being my default (aside from my own innate biases and privilege) is that publishing and marketing of fantasy books still revolves around white people and white stories – the Amazon algorithm recommended me Genevieve Cogman for actual years but never Octavia Butler or Nalo Hopkinson (all three of them are great). And for another, tiredness is going to be a default for me for a little while yet so really I need to pull my head out of my arse and try harder. I’ve got this child to raise and I really don’t want ’em to be a dick. One way to achieve this is surely for me to read widely and critically, to increase my own empathy and understanding of the world, and ultimately pass sage-like wisdom down the line. Also quite selfishly I do like reading new stories from time to time, rather than the same ol’ white western tropes. New-to-me stories from voices and cultures not like mine spark ideas and conversations I’d never have had otherwise, which is surely A Good Thing.
Overall then, an OK first half of 2019 for reading but room for improvement.
Books I listened to on Audible
We Are Never Meeting In Real Life – Samantha Irby
Books I listened to on Audible
We Are Never Meeting In Real Life – Samantha Irby
I’ve followed Samantha Irby on Instagram for a while @bitchesgottaeat, where she posts many excellent music and reading recommendations. I thought it was probably time to read one of her books, and We Are Never Meeting in Real Life narrated by Irby herself was available for one of my Audible credits. It is a series of autobiographical essays covering topics including poverty, sexuality, mental and physical ill health, and The Bachelorette. Though some of the subject matter (especially her relationship with her alcoholic father) is quite dark, Irby writes with dry humour – ‘I am just an old garbage bag full of blood waiting for death to rescue me’ – so it never comes across as overly grim. She also makes some very #relatable observations throughout the book, one I noted down being ‘when you’re a kid, it’s sometimes easier just to go along with other people’s definitions of who you are.’ Some of the references went over my head a bit (see The Bachelorette, which I’m aware of but have never seen) but I found Irby’s writing style engaging, honest, occasionally crude and generally entertaining. Give her a follow on social and have a read of her blog if you’re not sure!
Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (re-read)
We went on holiday in June which necessitated quite a bit of driving, and we wanted a book to listen to in the car that would entertain without being too taxing. We ended up going with Good Omens as narrated by Martin Jarvis, since neither of us has read it in about a decade and we thought a refresher might be good before watching the TV adaptation. Some of it has dated a little bit for me, but a lot of the jokes hold up and many of the threads (particularly those surrounding the Four Horsemen) are still very relevant in this bin fire of a world we are still merrily destroying. Adam’s conclusion re the whales remains a sensible one.
Books I read with my eyes
We Are Blood and Thunder – Kesia Lupo
‘In a city where magic is feared and the dead are worshipped, life is overshadowed by a powerful and devastating storm cloud. One young woman is running for her life, another is trying to return home. But what Lena and Constance don’t realise is, the storm cloud binds them. Without it, neither can get what she desires…’ This is a debut YA novel which people were raving about on Twitter and I am very suggestible so I bought it for Kindle and it is a lot of fun. It’s very visual storytelling, well paced, and we alternate between what’s happening with the two female leads Lena and Constance as they try to figure things out so there’s always a sense of needing to read at least the next two chapters to find out what’s going on. It’s a standalone too for which, thank you Kesia Lupo – I would have read a series obviously but it’s actually quite nice not to have to wait a couple of years for another instalment.
Muse of Nightmares – Laini Taylor
I downloaded this because I listened to the first one of this duology, Strange The Dreamer, on Audible a couple of years ago and was vaguely interested to know what happened next. Props to Laini Taylor for doing a bit of an overview of what went down in the first book without making it the JK copy/paste (Harry lived at Number 4 Privet Drive and the Dursleys were normal thanks vey much and he was sad cause he didn’t like them and when would Ron or Hermione be in touch?) because my recollection was hazy! Anyway Muse of Nightmares expands the world and explains how the citadel from book 1 came to be towering over Weep in the first place which is an interesting ride. Altogether too much attention is given over to the colour of Sarai’s nipples (I get it, they contrast against her blue skin and it’s hot), but I did enjoy Minya’s storyline.
Brown Girl in the Ring – Nalo Hopkinson
Anyone downloading this for Kindle, there’s some formatting weirdness in Chapter Four which is a bit discombobulating but do persevere! OK so this is Caribbean Magical Realism meets future dystopia and I am here for it. Ti-Jeanne lives in a future Toronto where the wealthy have abandoned the city for the safety of the suburbs, so the city centre is rife with crime, drug use and so on. She lives with her grandmother who is a healer (before the riots this was in a more official medical capacity, but now she’s more about herbs and the spirit world) and at the outset of the story she’s started to have strange and frightening visions. Ti-Jeanne still loves the baby’s father, Tony, but he works for the leader of the posse who run the town (and the drugs) so she has left him. She’s basically thrust into a situation where she finds herself caught between the hard reality of the posse and the spirit world her grandmother serves (but Ti-Jeanne doesn’t necessarily believe in), and character development ensues. It’s a cracking debut and I’ll be seeking out more from Nalo Hopkinson.
I wrote quite a bit in June, all over the course of one day because my husband kindly bought me a Writers HQ day-long writing retreat as an anniversary present. Essentially this involved sequestering myself with a bunch of other writers in a room with no internet for the day. A coordinator bid us all set ourselves writing targets and then we wrote for bursts of 20-30 minutes, comparing notes after each sprint and drinking tea to celebrate. It was very in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, and I enjoyed it. 4,756 words happened!
I had wondered if too much of my brain had melted during maternity leave to really get in the zone for a whole day of writing. I would say that some of the sprints produced workmanlike prose rather than anything very funny or exciting. But I haven’t completely forgotten how to concentrate. Now the baby is a bit bigger I’m hoping to be able to grab a bit more time to finish the project I was working on, although it’s going to take me a bit longer than back in the day.
In June the baby figured out crawling forwards. The cat is raging about this. If you ever saw Tiny Toons Adventures in the early 90s, they remind me increasingly of Elmira… But hopefully this relationship will metamorphose soon into something more akin to Mog the Cat and Nicky Thomas.
More teeth came through this month too. There are 5 now, and they are sharp. Also it turns out when you’re 9 months old the concept of brushing is pretty confusing.
In June we went to Linlithgow Palace and Dunfermline Palace and Abbey. We also spent a week away in Wester Ross with the grandparents looking at beautiful scenery and drinking gin, always good for the soul. We encountered rain and midges as is traditional, but this was the view from the place we were staying so y’know. We made do.