Reminder: You can find my entire 2022 list at my shop on Bookshop.org. As an affiliate I get a small percentage of your purchase, but the rest goes to supporting independent bookstores. Also some books I had to buy via other retailers such as Hay House Publishing or Amazon, which I’m not affiliated with.
Well, it’s a new year and so many books to be read. This year my reading goals are:
- Read a total of 30 books this year. (I read a total of 34 last year surpassing my total of 12 by more than half. Check out my 2021 list).
- Read at least 6 self-development books. This includes spiritual, self-help, leadership, money goals, anything that helps me grow and wise up.
You’ll continue to see a lot of books by Latinx authors. You never realize how much representation was lacking until you start reading and you connect on a deep level. If interested you should join us, we review books on Instagram and sometimes the writers join us.
You’ll also see a new trend. I’ve joined a Climate Change book club as well, it’s not an official group or anything. It’s just a bunch of us who are interested in learning, but don’t necessarily want to solely read white papers or Journals on our current environmental crisis. We read books where climate is the main character if not the backdrop. We also read poems or articles, and we get together and discuss the issue. It’s been fun so far, we have people from all over the globe join us sometimes. If interested let me know.
As usual my reading will be diverse. I hope you enjoy and feel free to let me know what you think of each read.
“A Court of Thorns and Roses” and “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas. I’m sure you might be surprised to see this in my repertoire, but I’m no stranger to it. I just don’t read it as often. You are going to see the entire “A Court of Thorns and Roses” (ACOTAR, as the cool kids call it) series listed on this list, because I’m going at it with a vengeance. I want to finish the series completely, with no interruption in between books. I did this with “Twilight” (what? Don’t you even dare judge) too. Let me tell you the backstory of this book, a few years back, 2016 to be precise my BFF gave me the first book of the series. I hadn’t heard of it or of Maas, but I dived in and I was hooked. At the time, buying books was a luxury I couldn’t afford. I finished the book and put it back on my bookshelf promising myself I would eventually read the series. Well, this past Christmas my friend, the same friend, said “…the worst thing to do is give someone a book that is part of a series…” After the shock wore off, I reminded her of this book (we like that), she was like “my bad” little did I know that as we were finishing up our brunch she was ordering the books. Six months later, for some reason or another she asked me about the series-what? Long story short: she forgot to pick them up, was reimbursed, bought them again, and this time made sure to ship them out directly to me.
Of course, I had to read “A Court of Thorns and Roses” again, it’s been six years. I’m hooked. I’m contemplating reading her other adult series too. Look these books are definitely adult fantasy, it’s not “Harry Potter”, there’s some pretty steamy scenes in both of these books. As well as some colorful language. Never a dull moment; oh my God, does Maas keep you on your toes. There’s a turn of events by the time you get to “A Court of Mist and Fury” that you just didn’t see coming and you’re like “wait, what?” But once it does happen, you start going back and realizing the signs were all there. Your main character is Feyre, from the human realm. Then you have Tamlin, High Lord of the Spring Court and Rhysand, the most powerful fae in all of Prythian, High Lord of the Night Court. Feyre, happens to land in the Spring Court because she “broke a treaty” by killing a fae similar to the “Beauty and The Beast” storyline. But that’s as far as the similarities go. In the Spring Court, she gets to know Lucien, Tamlin’s emissary. As Feyre and Tamlin spend more time together, she starts having feelings for him; unfortunately, there’s also some type of doom looming over Tamlin’s world. She risks her life to save him, because she realizes she is in love with him. But will this be enough to keep them together forever?
In “A Court of Mist and Fury” things take a rather drastic turn, Maas makes us realize that things are not always as they seem. Luckily we are not alone in this learning curve, Feyre is also realizing that everything she was told about Fae was nothing but lies and half-truths. She is realizing that everyone wears masks, to either fool and get their way, or to protect themselves and those they love. We realize that darkness does not always mean cruelty, and light doesn’t always guarantee love and protection. Rhysand and Tamlin provide us examples of different types of love, because not all love is the same. There’s the love that protects but yet smothers and controls, passionate yet blind to the suffering happening right in front of them. Even when they might be the cause of the pain. Then there’s love that thrives in seeing you free and happy with or without them. Passionate, protective, without the need to control-”your choice Feyre”. Not always easy to tell apart, especially with love’s blinders, but easy to resent if you’ve chosen the wrong type.
Maas is an amazing storyteller, each character has a beautifully crafted backstory. The way she describes everything, is mind blowing, such attention to detail-you can’t help but envision it all. You get so invested in the characters that you can’t help but get frustrated or annoyed when one is doing too much. Trust me I’m on the third book in the series, “A Court of Wings and Ruin” and there’s a sister that’s sooooooo getting on my nerves right now. These books are amazing, there’s so much more in there than just fantasy, you can see classism and racism in there. In the third book, there’s a description of someone that reminds of Trump, these were written during his presidency, so it could be or just a coincidence, maybe. Look these books are not for the weak, each are between 500-700 pages. However, they do go by fast, plus if you take them out with you, they are thick enough to be used as a weapon. Ha!
“A Proposal They Can’t Refuse” by Natalie Caña. I have to be transparent, Natalie was having a giveaway on her Instagram or Tweet platform, I don’t remember but I entered and to my surprise I won. I had seen this book making the rounds on some Latinx platforms, I made a mental note to add it to my wishlist and left it at that, but then I won! Along with the book, which she signed (thank you Natalie) I also got some cute merch that included a shirt, a pin, a whiskey glass, stickers, and some other cards (coasters almost), all of it related to the book. Whiskey? Yes, that is as vital as the delicious Puerto Rican food she writes about. Which, let me tell you I had an antojo for some platanos after reading this book. Can’t say the same for the Whiskey, because that’s the one drink I cannot drink-thanks to my 17 yo self and Johnny Walker. Back to the book, let me tell you that I devoured that book in one sitting. Yes, one day…I loved every second of it, so many emotions, I laughed, I cried, got frustrated (which is usually a tell-tale sign that you’re invested in the characters), and I even sighed-relief when Kamilah snapped out of it.
The story takes place in Chicago, you have the Irish Liam Kane who is half owner of Kane Distillery and Kamilah Vega, the dreamer usually doing too many things at the family restaurant, El Coqui. Then you have the Abuelos who started it all, Papo who seems to be constantly getting into a lot of trouble with his Irish twin Killian. Both grandfathers who are tired of their grandkids not realizing what’s in front of them take matters into their own hands. They have both learned lessons that you can only learn through a well lived life, and feel the need to expedite these kids’ lessons by a few years because life is too short. Plus, they seem to be constantly getting in their own ways. The book takes on issues of family, identity, pressures felt by both family and career, legacies, and gentrification. There were parts of this book that really hit me hard, because I was able to relate to what it is to want to continue your family’s legacy after a loved one is gone, or the pressures you take on because it’s expected of you-or think they are. In the story you see Kamilah start to unravel as the pressure of trying to keep a promise starts to weigh her down, as she tries to keep up with Papo’s games, as well as the pressures of trying to be everything for everyone. You get frustrated because you know it’s not going to end well, she keeps drowning and her family continues to not take her seriously. They don’t because she hasn’t followed through on so many things she said she wanted to do, but is it because she’s flaky or is there a more serious, even honorable reason why? The truth is that even when there’s a lot of talking going on, they are not communicating, not when it counts. We see the harm that this does for both Kamilah and Liam. Kamilah was trapped in someone else’s vision, self-imposed or not, she was trapped. Liam, oh stoic Liam, he needed some Kamilah chaos in his life, and she needed his stoicism. They were the perfect combo for each other, if they just stopped with the bullshit and took off their blinders. That’s why you need Papo and Granda’!
This is such a quick and delicious read, you will enjoy reading this book by the pool or at the beach. This goes well with a whiskey sour (sorry Liam!), coquito, or my favorite poolside drink Piña Colada without the whip. Cheers!
“Breathe and Count Back from Ten” by Natalia Sylvester. This book was the July pick for my Litina book club. I hadn’t heard of it, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The cover was beautiful but the title didn’t tell me what to expect, then I started reading and I was hooked. I finished the book in two or three days, it was such a delicious read. The incredible thing about it was that I had completely forgotten it was YA. Trust me, I’m so far from being Y, and more of an A. It honestly caught me off guard when I read Sylveter’s bio and it said that this book was her second YA novel. It didn’t feel like it, she was covering some pretty deep issues; mind you the narrative was centered around high school students, but apparently I missed that connection somehow-??? Anyways, Sylvester covers issues such as immigration, medical care, disability, bullying, divorce, love, identity, parenting, and the pressures of being a good immigrant daughter. We follow Verónica who is living her best life, while coping with big issues-because that’s what being a teenager is all about, right? She’s dealing with hip dysplasia (as does the author-thank you for sharing), she has been getting surgeries from a young age. Which means that a lot of the decisions regarding her care have been made for her; unfortunately, if you get sick at a young age parents tend to “coddle” in a way that can suffocate you. It’s not intentional, it just is, they have a hard time seeing the individual, and tend to focus on the illness, even if you are thriving, and growing like our main character is. Then you add being an immigrant to the mix, and the “coddle” factor is on a different level. Despite her diagnosis, Verónica is doing everything a teenager would, enjoying her summer vacation, dreaming about the future, falling in love, and dreaming about being a mermaid. Oh yea, that part…the cover makes more sense now.
Young Verónica, after one of her surgeries visits Mermaid Cove in Florida and falls in love with the mermaids and the fantasy they represent. When she was told that swimming would help her hip get stronger, she didn’t hesitate, learning and practicing the choreography that some of the mermaids and the Cove posted on their social platforms in her apartment complex’s pool. When she found out they were hiring, she hesitated because this would mean going against what her parents envisioned for her. Even if that vision didn’t align with what she wanted, to be honest she didn’t even know what she wanted because she’s been doing things for others, including shutting down her dreams, pain, and sadness. She received some heavy medical news, which pushed her to decide if her dream was worth chasing, as well as, questioning what else she didn’t know about her lifelong diagnosis. She didn’t know her condition could progress and go in the direction it was going. As she’s chasing her dreams, finding her voice, allowing herself to dream a little bigger, she is also falling in love. As Verónica comes into her own, her parents are dealing with the immigration process, which is a completely different beast of its own, with the pressure of it affecting everyone and every decision ever made concerning the family. The storyline, the characters, everything about this book is extremely compelling…so darn compelling you find yourself not being able to put the book down on a school night. Who cares about work when I got to know if Verónica follows her mermaid dream or if her mom ever takes a breath and see’s Verónica for the woman she is becoming and not her diagnosis. This is such a good read for any age, I see myself getting this book for a few dreamers I know.
“The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires That Run the World” by Oliver Milman. As you might have guessed this one was a Climate Crisis book club pick, surprisingly I was intrigued by it. I really enjoyed the read, and learned so much. Milman is the Environment correspondent for The Guardian, I would like to believe that because of this he wrote this book in a way that intrigued, educated, and didn’t bore the reader. I will admit that at first I was like “I really don’t think I want to read this book”, but I ended up purchasing the book with a lot of skepticism. But that disappeared immediately, I was hooked…I was eager to get to the part of the book where he told me what I could do to help protect these little suckers. I will admit that it is a bit overwhelming, you feel a bit hopeless because you are just one person, and you watch as people around you don’t understand the risks. But as an advocate I know that one person has the power to do so much and it starts by learning. That’s exactly what I did. I learned that it is a lot more devastating for our environment to lose a Dung Beetle than it is to lose a polar bear or the monarch butterfly. That bees are now considered livestock, as there are beekeepers that fill up trucks with colonies from Oregon or other states, driving down to the Central Valley in California to help pollinate our fruits, veggies and nuts. Now wait for it, after reading this I also look at mosquitos (although, I still don’t like them), flies, and other flying bugs differently because they too are pollinators, Bee’s are not the only ones, yet they are the only ones that get the funding and attention because they are prettier to look at. It’s interesting how even in the bug world our perception of what is “aesthetically pleasing” is worthy of more attention. As is the case with the Monarchs.. These really don’t do much for our environment, but their impact is felt in towns in Mexico where they migrate too. These small towns depend on the tourism that these multi-colored little guys bring. Even though the caterpillars eat their way through our gardens, they help bring food to the table for others.
Milman covered everything in this book, climate crisis, racism, politics, fear-mongering by both media and academia. It’s just interesting how the science is there proving the devastation that will most likely happen if some of these vital little bugs disappear, what it would mean for our food source, water, and even quality of life. Yet, as with everything climate related, people believe it’s a suggestion and not an immediate call to action. He highlights what some countries are doing to try to change and increase the numbers of both the flora and fauna of some areas. It’s not all doom and gloom, there’s some highpoints but in some cases it might not be enough, or it’s too late. However, even in the cases where it’s too late, there’s still a little hope as the changes might have helped revitalize another lifeform that was about to face the same doom. If you want to read about our climate crisis in a way that is not full of jargon; even if there is jargon, he breaks it down, this is your book. If you’re tired of hearing that it’s just about “planting more trees, riding your bike more, and eating less meat” this is definitely for you. As everything else, we have to start at the bottom and work up, we do need more trees, but we also need less lawns, crop diversity, and more wildflowers. Still not sold on the whole bug thing, I get it. However, think of it this way, less bugs means less flowers, food, and even birds, less birds means less mammals that eat birds, and so on. So, that polar bear we are worried about depends on the bugs that live in the arctic, that help keep the cycle of its food source going.
“High Spirits” by Camille Gomera-Tavarez. This was LitLatina’s June pick, it was a quick read. I believe I finished it in three to four days. I have mixed feelings about this book, the author is showcasing and sharing some of the stories she’s heard from her family. It’s a collection of short stories from the Dominican diaspora, the stories are all linked to one family-the Belen’s. There’s tales that start in DR, then you are taken to Washington Heights, then PR. I had a hard time connecting to the stories or even finding a thread to follow. I appreciate some of the issues that are briefly touched on in the book, mental health, abandonment, machismo, feminism and racism. Again, since these are short stories, it is up to us to dive in a little deeper as there’s a lot that is not mentioned, but just hinted to. There was one story I really enjoyed and would definitely read if she expanded it to a book, “story nine: Life After the Storm”. This story that was only 26 pages long (big print), had so much in it, you had racial profiling, immigration, and time travel. I have so many questions, so many things that go unresolved, unsaid, and maybe that’s why I just had a hard time with it. Maybe this was done purposely, maybe Gomera-Tavarez understood that when stories are retold from generation to generation things get left out, things get lost in translation, and we are usually left with “…y luego que paso?” with no follow up, because people died, moved, or the memory is solely gone. Maybe that’s why I had a hard time connecting, because I’m an inquisitive person, and this was torture for me. I will admit that I was really hoping to have the links come to a close in the last chapter, I wanted to know how every story mentioned tied in and why they were so important for us to know. It didn’t happen, and as I look back maybe that was the point? Not everything has an ending, happy or not, some things just happen and remain as an incident or are quickly forgotten. Like I said mixed feelings, but it was a good read. It is also Gomera-Tavarez’ first book. I’m eager to see where she decides to go next.
“Laziness Does Not Exist” by Devon Price, Ph.D. Okay, y’all if you follow me on the Gram then you know I took this book with me on my trip to Big Sur. My brother let me borrow this book, not sure how he came about it but he was like “I have the perfect book for you”, his timing was perfect as he brought it over when I was recovering from some type of respiratory infection, that had lingered longer than it needed to because I wouldn’t allow myself rest. Oh yea, a blog post coming soon on this very topic. This book breaks everything down, how we at a young age are taught that resting is a bad thing, that we really don’t need to rest, and that in fact when we claim to need it, it’s just us being lazy. It starts at school, with the long days that get us ready to put in the time at our jobs. I’m not even sure how we are okay with only 2 days of rest, how did we think that was okay? My six year old asked me about this, and I really didn’t have an answer, because it is as unfair as he thinks it is. Dr. Price does a great job of diving into why we need rest, why our body is asking us to be “lazy”, which is usually before we burn out or get sick, and how even becoming ill is not enough for some of us to actually give in and rest. There’s so many things to take from this book, whether you’re a parent, an activist, on a career track, student or even juggling relationships. The main thing to draw away from this book, if anything, is don’t believe the Laziness Lie. What is the Laziness Lie, I’ll let them tell you:
“The Laziness Lie is a belief system that says hard work is morally superior to relaxation, that people who aren’t productive have less innate value than productive people.”Dr. Devon Price, Ph.D., “Laziness does not exist”
This all sounds like racism and classism to me, a way to make others work to prove their worth. Y’all remember the “lazy mexican” depiction in some of the old western movies? White men in brown face or maybe some actual brown person, with a big sombrero, drunk, dirty, and asleep on the cantina floor or outside of it. There’s so much in this book to unpack, it’s amazing. Especially when we are constantly bombarded with the “hustle” mentality, we have also normalized resilience. People forget that being resilient comes from surpassing or surviving some type of threat, crisis, trauma. Having to cope instead of deal or address, having to be tough all the time, never allowing vulnerability. Because it is better to be resilient than soft or vulnerable. However, more and more people are waking up to the fallacy of “resilience”, its tiresome to always be strong and with time that armor starts getting heavy. If that’s not enough to entice you to read this book, then stories of other folx realizing when they hit their breaking point, including Dr. Price and what changes they made in their life to ensure they don’t burn out again might. There’s different types of stories, from students trying to survive grad school, advocates, parents, friends, etc. You’ll find something you can relate to. Since reading this book I’ve really been more consistent with setting up boundaries when it comes to work and my personal life, which can be a little difficult when you work from home. Baby steps of course, I’ve started with turning off notifications from Slack when I’m out for the day or the weekend, if I forget I don’t respond. It’s the first thing I do when I’m going on vacation, turn them off completely and let everyone know I’m out so I won’t be bothered. I’ve also started turning notifications off on my phone after a certain hour, so I won’t be sucked into the interwebs. I will definitely be recommending this book to fellow hustlers.
“Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life” and “Where to Begin: A Small Book About Your Power to Create a Big Change” by Cleo Wade. After the Uvalde School shooting, I found myself once more needing some love, some reassurance that things were not as horrible as they seemed. That in some way shape or form things could get better, that I could help make things better. That loving my son was enough, loving my family, myself was enough because at that very moment that’s all I felt I could do. Every single word in these books is like a little mini hug mixed in with a pep-talk. “Heart Talk” is a combination of poems and heartfelt notes. You can open this book whenever you need it, and just land on any page and you get the proper dose of TLC needed. I should mention that I gave a copy of this book to my friends for Christmas a couple years ago and got one for myself as well. I hope they got as much from it as I did. “Where to Begin” is almost the same as “Heart Talk” , a collection of poems, notes, and advice that she jotted down and decided to share with us because they made sense. You can also color in some of the pages in the book, in case you need an added stress reliever. As she states in her introduction, she wrote this book to let people know that change comes in different ways and sizes. We don’t have to go out and do something big, it could be something small, but important as changing the way we speak to ourselves, or others. Some might not know where to start, again it starts with you, us. I spent maybe four days reading these books, I really needed that extra TLC and Wade’s words gave me just that. I can see myself going back to these books when I need an extra boost or feeling a little lost, the way things are going now I think that will be often.
“Happiness is the Way: How to Reframe Your Thinking and Work with What You Already Have to Live the Life of Your Dreams.” by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. I had started this book early in March, I was going through some stuff. Nothing major, it was in my head, I was dealing with a bit of impostor syndrome at work. I was feeling a bit like an outsider and kept questioning if I had made the right choice in deciding to work there. I was feeling overwhelmed with everything, I think another shooting had also taken place, and I was just feeling things a little strongly. I needed something, to ground me, and remind me of everything I already knew. I got exactly that within the first few pages, “Everything that you experience in your life is a result of your perception of whatever is out there in the world.” In other words, nobody made me feel this way I was doing it to myself, but why? With the help of some journal exercises that the book includes I was able to dig deep and give myself the TLC I needed to move beyond my mental block. Dyer’s words always hit me in the right places and always provide me with solace. He passed away in 2015, but his publisher was able to create this book using his old audiotape programs. I mean he has shared so much wisdom over the years, including in those PBS shows that they could possibly make more books out of them. It’s no surprise that I’m a fangirl, I’ve been a fan since I was introduced to him back in 2007, I was able to see him at a live event too. If you ever need a hug or help getting centered Wayne is your guy.
“Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” by Roxane Gay. Okay, another amazing book by another amazing Queen. I fell in love with Gay’s work when my BFF gave me “Bad Feminist” for a birthday. With her no-shits given approach, she’s invited us into her world, giving us a front roll seat to witness her insecurities, as she breaks down her truth. As a fat girl myself I have to admit that this woman has OVARIES. She put it all out there, the insecurities of being front and center, of navigating a system that tells you are not worth the second look because you are not skinny and perfect, but yet won’t take their eyes off of you when you walk in the room. She takes her through her trauma, shares why her goal was to get as big as possible as a means to protect herself. How her family tried to always “help” by sharing the latest dieting tips, sending her to fat camps, even going with her to a gastric bypass seminar.
“I hesitate to write about fat bodies and my fat body especially. I know that to be frank about my body makes some people uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable too.”– Roxane gay, “Hunger”
I’ll be honest there were times in the book that I had to put it down because it was a lot. There’s a lot of pain and in some instances she frustrated me. I realized that’s my shit I’m projecting on her. For instance, when she would lose all this weight, and then mess up all that progress by binging and eating everything in sight because she felt small and unprotected. Obviously, that’s me…As I mentioned in my “Shrill” review, I’m working through some stuff and obviously weight loss is one of them.
“When I returned to my real life, home with my parents, I immediately abandoned all the other lessons I had learned and regained, once more, the weight I had lost, and then some.”-roxane Gay, “Hunger”
Gay presents realness like nobody’s business. She gives us an inside look, which I’m still not sure we are worthy of. I would have never guessed that someone like Gay had the same insecurities that some if not all of us do. When women seem to not give a fuck about things, you would never believe that they were insecure or had to face the same challenges that we do, if not even greater. I would have never pictured her as a college drop out (although she did go back) , or as someone that dreads certain spaces because of her size, that hates shopping for clothes, because well even big girl stores don’t always have your size or something that suits you. Also, buying clothes can sometimes be traumatizing, even when you are there with people you love, but who are completely clueless to navigating the big girl world. . Gray talks about how when she was young, she had convinced her friends that accessories and shoes were her thing. Because it’s a lot easier than telling them, “there’s nothing here my size”, that really hit me. I’ve been shopping with a friend who took me to a Bloomingdale’s after our spa day. Well, that spa totally went out the window when she had me walk in that door. This was a year after I had my son, and the notion of “my body changing and not getting it to pre-baby weight fast enough” was still very much alive and thriving. I tried to be the “bigger person” in a place where I in fact was the “bigger person”. I kept looking at clothes saying “oh this is cute, this will look nice on you.” But in all honesty, I wasn’t even looking. I just wanted her to get something so we could leave as soon as possible. The shopper showed up, and didn’t even look at me, directly at her. She’s a size 0, Asian and very petite. I’m a latina, with every curve you can think in full view. At one point my friend said to me “look around for something cute for you” was she fucken for real? Do they even carry a size 12 or 14? Worse yet, I can’t afford this shit. I don’t remember anything after this.
When Gray talks about not really being able to be open with anyone about her insecurities, her feelings or her fear, I felt that. We are supposed to be body-positive, it doesn’t come easy for all of us. We are not supposed to mention our weight, others are not supposed to talk about it either, that’s just shitty. Others can’t help but take notice of your body, and you can’t help but notice them noticing you. Gray touches on a subject that many are not ready for, fatness. Navigating a world where fat people are simply not meant to exist. When doctors are too eager to blame whatever your illness is on your weight, when people are still unsure of what to call you: phat, fat, thicc, thick, big boned or just big? How about my first name? Look I know that Gay will look at me and be like “bitch please” because I’m what she calls Lane Bryant Fat; although, unlike her I don’t know the challenges of being very fat as she calls it, I can relate to some of them. This book is so damn intimate that I feel she and I should be best friends, she wrote from her heart, her trauma, and her fear. I’m glad she did because it’s making a lot of us feel validated. If you are a big girl, no matter what the size, this is for you. If you are recovering from trauma and using not too healthy coping mechanisms, this book is for you. If you are a family member or friend of a big person, this book is definitely for you.
“Shrill” by Lindy West. This book had me hooked, I can’t believe that I waited so long to read it. I bought it in 2019, after watching the first season of Hulu’s “Shrill” with Aidy Bryant which was adapted from this book. That show impacted me a lot (here’s a post) as did this book. Unlike the show, which really had me frustrated with both Annie and Fran towards the end of the show because of their insecurities and whatnot. This book had me wanting to know West even more, I’ve seen her a couple of times on the Daily show with Trevor Noah because she is an abortion rights activist, as well as other social justice issues. Unfortunately, I joined the West fan club too late because she’s off of Twitter, which doesn’t surprise me because she’s shared some of the horrendous trolling she’s received on that platform and the lack of response from the twitter administrators. All because she’s a woman with a voice, a brain, who happens to be fat. In her book she takes a deep dive into what it means to exist in a world that was not made for big girls, that believes that you MUST be miserable because you’re not skinny. I needed to read this book, because I was (am?) going through my own thing with my body. I’m working through it. It’s something that is a constant for me, and I’m trying to unlearn while learning why I feel this way.. I just laid out a lot, but we’ll talk about that later-when I’m ready. For now, I’m trying to dive into books like this one, written by women like West-more importantly like me.
) This is not a book with a before and after, this is her before, present, and possibly future? But there’s no “I once was big but with exercise I let the skinny person inside me out. .” None of that shit here and I’m here for it. This book had me counting the hours for work to be over, for kiddos nighttime routine to be over, because I wanted to get my hands on it. There were so many things I was able to connect to, how it is hard for some of us to look at other women being all gorgeous with their “large and in charge attitude”, it has nothing to do with them, it’s about us. Because we were taught to disappear and be timid, because nobody wants to see our bodies. So, when she comes to the realization that big bodies or Fat bodies deserve to be seen, loved, touched, and admired, it really hit me. I couldn’t help but tear up when I read the following lines:
“I couldn’t stop looking. It was literally the first time in my life that I’d seen bodies like mine honored instead of lampooned, presented with dignity instead of scorn, displayed as objects of beauty instead of as punch lines…For the first time it struck me that it was possible to be proud of my body, not just in spite of it. Not only that, but my bigness is powerful.”– Lindy West, “Shrill”
She shares her heartbreaks, and how even the shit that we believe about our bodies presents itself in our relationships, including our worthiness or lack thereof… She talks about having basement sex, with an individual she knew was wrong for her in all levels, but she believed this was all she deserved or could get because she didn’t have the perfect body. I think some of us can relate to this, not specifically about body size but maybe about career, class, etc. We sometimes settle because we don’t think we deserve more. West also shares her abortion story with us, which was epic on so many levels. Primarily because we have been trained to believe that this must be kept silent, this must be kept as a secret for the world never to find out. Although the book and the show are different, I would like to say that this part really stuck out to me and after reading the book, I realize it was purposely done this way and I now understand why. Let me explain myself: In the show, I was surprised how they didn’t make her abortion a big thing. Annie went in for the procedure, came home, and laid low, as most of us would do after a procedure, or would like to do after a papsmear, I need a nap after those “No, I’m not having sex. No, I don’t think I want another kid. Yes, I know my clock is ticking.” all the while trying to breathe as someone digs around my vagina, scraping for goo. Back to Annie, the next day after her abortion she was at work, living her life, dealing with the usual going-on’s of life. I was surprised by this, there was no hunch-over-in-pain scene, no crying, no yelling, most importantly no regret. West wrote:
“The fact that abortion is still a taboo subject means that opponents of abortion get to define it however suits them best. They can cast those of us who have had abortions as callous monstrosities, and seed fear in anyone who might need one by insisting that the procedure is always traumatic, always painful, always an impossible decision. Well, we’re not, and it’s not. The truth is that life is unfathomably complex, and every abortion story is as unique as the person who lives it. Some are are traumatic, some even regretted, but plenty are like mine….My abortion was a normal medical procedure that got tangled up in my bad relationship, my internalized fatphobia, my fear of adulthood, my discomfort with talking about sex…But the procedure itself was the easiest part. Not being able to have one would have been the real trauma.”Lindy West, “Shrill”
I understood it and I’m here for it. She also shares shit she goes through as being the only female comedian in a room, aside from being the fattest woman in the room. She shares things that are pretty intimate, but are pretty damn relatable. I must admit the parts I loved the most are the lessons and the insights she shares, the learning to see YOUR body for what it is, based on your opinion and not on what others believe is perfect. Loving the skin you’re in, and how sometimes it’s hard, even when you know what you are doing is wrong, but it’s a learning curve. West is advocating for all women, no matter their size, but she’s also reminding us that being big or anything above a size 12 doesn’t mean we don’t have a voice, or the same rights as smaller people do. She went from trying to be invisible to being LOUD, and being seen on purpose with a purpose. This book is amazing and a must, it has humor, wisdom, and lot’s of realness, which is the perfect combination. This book is not just for big girls, it’s for any woman that believes they do not have a right to be seen or heard, a woman trying to figure out their place in this world, a woman grappling with her feelings or non-feelings about her abortion, or anyone with a freaking brain cell that loves well-written books. This is for you.
“A Woman of Endurance” by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa. Y’all know I love this author, I’ve read her “Daughters of the Stone ” last year and just fell in love with her writing. I’ll be honest about something, I was really dumb in waiting for a tie in to the characters from her previous novel, not realizing that this is a standalone. Let me unpack that: Yes, this story does take place in the same Hacienda where the other novel starts, but that’s it. Llanos-Figueroa gives each character a story, not everyone plays a supporting role, they each have their own life, perspective, and life before slavery. I failed to see that early on because I kept waiting to see when the character that I knew would come into play and what their role would be. It wasn’t about them, she already gave them a platform, read “Daughters of the Stone ” to find out more, here our focus is on Pola. Her story, her narrative, her mothering, her suffering, her hard-headedness which drove me crazy at times. This novel is not for the faint of heart, if you are not ready to learn about some of the realities that took place on these slave ships, or on these Haciendas, then this is not for you. There were times when I had to put the book down, because it was raw and painful to continue reading, but what the hell did you think slavery was like? The Hacienda in this novel (dare I say series?) is a character, not just a location but a character, because things happen differently there, there’s before Hacienda las Mercedes and after. What happens on Hacienda las Mercedes and what happens off of the Hacienda. It’s not perfect, it’s still slavery, but it’s different. Slaves are seen as an investment, so why would you beat your best investment? We are not romanticism slavery here, like others try to do. It’s highlighting the resilience, the fact that most of these people had lives before they were kidnapped, and unlike what many want us to believe we’re not savages in their homeland. They had lives, families, education, culture and beliefs; in other words, they were humans living their lives before they were chained, shipped and stripped of their humanity.
Llanos-Figueroa has created so many amazing characters in her story that you can’t help but wonder what each of their backstory is and most importantly who she will write about next. Will it be the wretched Albino that believes she is the whitest of them all, La Loca who believes that white is king and hates Pola porque la negra “thinks she’s better than her”, or will it be Tia Josefa, la mera negra de Las Agujas. What about Rufina, the amazing and wise medicine woman, or the cook? I’m at a tie between Tia Josefa and Rufina, to be honest. I want to know what their story is, why Tia Josefa felt the death of Fela so deeply. This book is amazing, as per the author she did a lot of research on the plantantations on the Island, Puerto Rico, along with first hand narratives from elders that might remember, we forget that slavery was not so long ago. Also, one of the key things I really appreciated that I think more Latinx authors are doing is that she didn’t translate the Spanish to English. There’s some things that you cannot translate, not everything has a direct translation, and you lose some of the són when you do. Amazing read, you will not be disappointed, and if you read her first novel YOU definitely have to read this one. I must warn you, though. The author is not romanticizing slavery so there’s some graphic descriptions of rape and violence, if those are triggers for you then maybe not the book you want to read.
“Lungs” by Duncan Macmillan. This was my first time reading a play since undergrad, this was our May pick for our Climate Change book club. It was recommended by a member of the group who is a playwright in London, fancy. I kid, it was an interesting read. I’m not familiar with MacMillan’s work; thus, this was my introduction to his work. I personally don’t like reading plays, because that’s not what they were intended for. They were meant to be seen, I believe this is why Shakespeare is loathed by so many high schoolers. Have them watch the play first, then read it, they will understand it so much better. Anyways, back to this book, I was a little puzzled as to how this book related to the “climate” aspect of our club since there was only mention of climate in a couple scenes. You have a couple, you are navigating their relationship as they have a super-hyper dialogue about everything, but we hone in on their conversation about having a baby. The man wants to talk about it, the woman is freaking out about the mere conversation of it. The rant includes everything from “are we ready?” to the carbon footprint this child will create, and how planting trees is a must to try to offset all the dirty diapers that will end up in the landfill. I really did appreciate the dialogue, this is how many of us communicate with our loved ones. Macmillan captured the thoughts that go into your head when deciding on something as epic and life changing as having a baby. However, let’s be real, Black and Brown folx don’t really plan babies, they just happen. If you did plan it-congrats you have your shit together! Although I did appreciate the dialogue there were times when I was just annoyed by the characters. There was so much privilege shown throughout, including their views of the world. I really couldn’t find myself liking either one. The things that they turned into “things” weren’t really that big or that important to be things, aside from the planet of course. However, not one tree was planted once the child was born or even throughout the child’s lifetime-so much for that. Which annoyed me even more because it just showed that the Woman was only concerned while she was in school, which happens to a lot of us. We get engrossed by a topic that becomes our everything until we graduate and real life starts to take over and we realize life is a little more complicated. They go through some bumps, major ones, but life has a way of surprising you. If you ever wonder what privileged white people think about when they are planning to have a child, this might be the play for you. The highlight of this play: the dialogue, the pauses, the uncertainty, the messiness and the “what the fuck” moments that make up our daily lives. If you are looking for something short with great examples of human dialogue (regardless of how privileged they are) this is for you, I read it in one sitting. Thoughts, the world can be a fucked up place, but as a parent it’s my job to make it better for my kid, all the while raising him and teaching him to be a blessing in this world and not a burden. I never considered the planet when I found out I was pregnant; however, I’m working hard to make sure it’s a little bit better for him-together.
W: or we could plant a forest. We could work out the carbon footprint of the expanding nappies in the landfill and the Baby Gap hoodies flown in from the Congo or wherever and we could plant trees, entire forests, make something pure and and and oxygenating, so
M: How do you factor that in?
W: Exactly– Duncan Macmillan, “Lungs”
“Big Chicas Don’t Cry” by Annette Chavez Macias, You have to read this book! Done, that’s it…fine, I’ll tell you why. Before I continue, this book will not be out until September 2022 but you can pre-order now. I was lucky enough to get the Advance Reader’s copy (ARC) from the author ( I kind of puckered my lips there…y sas!”. When I say lucky, I really do mean lucky because I won it in a contest she did online. I read it in one sitting, which I knew was going to happen because of the cover (look at it). You know what I mean, right? The cover fills you in on what type of read this will be, a long one or short one, it lets me know if I should read it on a school night or not. Now to what’s inside the cover, it follows the story of the Garcia cousins, Mari, Erica, Selena, and Gracie. You start with them as young girls and then you flash forward to them as adults, coping with life, work, and all the lessons they bring. Macias beautifully narrates the traditions of the Garcia familia. It’s such an intimate look that you transform into an honorary Garcia, which means you get upset when someone doesn’t eat the food (Pizza? Read it and you’ll know who I’m talking about) or can’t help get salty when a cousin doesn’t attend the festivities, because of all the corazon that goes into it. That’s how you know its good, when you start getting offended and start crying when what you knew was going to happen-happens. The bond between cousins was beautifully written, including the blurry lines of family dynamics, its misconceptions, miscommunications, white and not so white lies that we tell to spare feelings that later come back to haunt us. What we keep to ourselves and what we share, and what comes to light no matter how hard you try to hide it from your familia. I must also give you a warning: you will be craving some delicious Mexican food as you read this book, which I think Macias incorporates perfectly. As Latinx, food and family are intertwined, you can’t have one without the other. So, yes the food is as important as the cousins, every tradition has a food assigned to it, as does every emotion, and most likely every memory. If you read “L.A. Weather” and loved the relationship amongst the Alvarado sisters, then this book is definitely for you.
“For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts: A Love Letter to Women of Color” by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez. If the name sounds familiar it’s because you’ve seen her on Latina Rebels, which is a platform she founded. Or on NPR, Cosmo, or Teen Vogue, she’s out there and she’s here to stay. This is one of those books that I purchased a while ago when it just came out to support my fellow Centro Americana but hadn’t read yet. Since March is considered Women’s Month I decided that was the perfect time to read this book. I was blown away immediately. I mean she hits us with: “I do not write for white people; there are an endless number of books written for them. I write for BIWOC, I write for immigrants, I write for those of us who have been harmed by toxic theologies, I write for those of us whose hearts were first broken by our dads, I write so that you can feel seen and held. But this book is not for everyone. No book should be, despite how much white people will advocate for their universal appeal.” Y’all this is on page 3, she is letting us know what type of ride this is going to be. Now, if you get mad or uncomfortable reading these few lines, then stop. This book is definitely not for you. But if you read that and got curious, smiled, and got excited then this book is definitely for you. I couldn’t help but get excited, I was laying in bed thinking “Yes, about damn time!” I wish I had this book growing up, now in my 40’s there’s many things that she writes that I can without a doubt say “yes, she is correct ” but it took me trial and error to get to that answer. Because we were taught there was no other way, no other way outside of the white way.
Prisca is also on point when she says I will feel seen, because I did. Particularly when she writes about our accents, even though I was born in the US, English is my second language and I have an accent. I didn’t realize this until I was made aware of it when I stepped into the corporate world which was predominantly white. After that, I shied away from public speaking, it’s something I carry with me always. I’ve gotten better, but I’m never the one to volunteer to speak in public. Another point is when she talks about religion and the toxic masculinity that it thrives in. There’s a reason why I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, and she beautifully describes it in these pages. There’s just so much knowledge in this book, things that many of us have lived through but never considered or had a name for. There were other instances that just made me reconsider what I had been taught growing up, made me realize that certain things were not okay and gave my discomfort a name. This is a book that every Brown girl and womx in your life should read. It will be your guide as you make that transition from childhood to adulthood, assisting you in naming things as you navigate academia or white society so that you are not caught off guard. It will validate that little voice in your head telling you “this is not right” and quiet the one saying “no seas dramatica”. This will forever be the book I recommend to any of the young people around me, and a book I’m sure I will pick up when I need a reminder of my badassery.
“Things I Could Never Thank You For” by Kayla Nedza. This was a Litlatina book club pick, for the month of March. Kayla shares her story of coming to terms with who she is as she takes us on her journey through womanhood as she copes with her mother’s passing. There’s many insightful moments that many of us latinas can relate to, standing out in white spaces, adjusting to what is normal for society vs. what is traditionally and culturally acceptable as normal outside of whiteness. She also gives us a sneak peek into the upside of being chosen by a mother and the downside of being chosen by a man. It was a good read, but I felt that there were many gaps in the story. It is written as a collection of short stories where we jump through different stages of her life, but I always felt that we were missing something. There was that constant feeling of holding back throughout the book. As if she was unsure if we would want to know more about that situation or the outcome, which girl I did. I really wanted to know more, I wanted to go back and relive each moment and emotion with her. But it didn’t happen, I was given the bus ticket but left stranded at the bus depot. Maybe it’s the first-time writer jitters? She did self-publish so maybe she wasn’t sure how much of herself to put out there, how much would be accepted, how much we wanted to know. I do feel the need to say that I was coming down from the “Olga Dies Dreaming” high, and y’all know how I felt about that one. So, maybe that was what I was hoping to get from this one too? Maybe I’m asking for complexity when there really isn’t any? She has shared that she will continue to write, hopefully about reaching out to her birth mother. I would love to hear more about that. She also has a podcast, might check that out as well as that might help shed some light to those missing pieces in her book. If you want a heartwarming quick read book this is the one for you. In the meantime I leave you with my favorite quote from the book, because I too feel the same way when I wear red.
“Wearing red is self-love. It’s a representation of the unconditional love I have for myself, my beauty, and my worth. Even with the world profoundly opposing my desire to wear a bold lip, I wear it anyway because I feel empowered, confident, and uplifted. A red lip helps me walk a little bit taller and sit more erect. I take up a lot of space, and it puts people on edge.”Kayla Nedza, “Things I could never thank you for”
“A Fire Story” by Brian Fies. This was a pick for my Climate Change book club, it was also my first time reading a graphic novel. I was surprised that it was in fact a graphic novel. Proof that I should pay attention more to what I put in my cart; nonetheless, I really enjoyed it. I read it in one sitting. Fies is a writer and a cartoonist, in this novel he portrays the story of how he and his wife lost their house during the 2017 Northern California fires. Ding! That’s why it was selected for our book club. This fire was referred to as the Northern California firestorm because it was a series of 250 fires that started burning across California, 21 became major fires that burned about 245,000 acres. These fires included the Tubbs fire, which was recorded as the most destructive fire in California history, that is until 2018 came in.
Fies’ home was caught in the Tubbs fire, it was completely burned down. It was during this time that he created “A Fire Story” which was a webcomic to share his experience. It was picked up by some networks and he made an animated short that got picked up by PBS, and the rest is history. The novel is interesting though, because he changed it up a bit. He added additional information, he shares the narrative of three other folx that also lost their homes and some of the issues that they also faced. Including issues with FEMA all due to ineptitude and not taking into consideration how housing, especially for renters works in California. You also have ineptitude by the city in regards to their warning systems, the inequity felt by others that lived in low-income housing. As well as how there’s always someone trying to make a buck, even when (or especially when) people are mourning a devastating loss.
There were moments that made me stop to think what I would grab in a fire, am I prepared? What would I miss? He in all transparency shares this with the reader, as well as how he felt at the sight of others being happy while he was mourning the loss of his house and his belongings. At one point, I also teared up because it just felt all too real. I was in Northern California during this time, I was not close to the fires luckily but we were close enough to get the smell and the ash. However, I remember we also had a fire start close to our home and we received a warning. I remember being scared and wondering if I should just leave before things get worse. Luckily the fire didn’t jump and they were able to stop it within a couple hours of receiving the first warning. Now I can imagine the families that didn’t receive this warning, people as in Fies story that got up because they smelled something and thought it was just the wind carrying the smell from the already existing fires miles away. Only to look out the window and feel the heat from the flames. It wasn’t the wind, it was mother nature letting you know it wasn’t going to ward off the fire much longer-run! As you can obviously tell, I really enjoyed the novel. I think the art worked with the narrative, it gave you a visual of the disaster that occured. It’s sad that Fire Season is real in California and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, on the contrary it’s actually extending its stay as the years go by and we ignore the warnings.
“The Fastest Way to Fall” by Denise Williams. This book! So, I started following some contemporary romance latinx writers on twitter, that’s how I discovered “Amor Actually” and this book. I clicked and read the sinopsis and immediately added it to my Wish List. Then when I was shopping for my February book club pick, I decided I wanted to give myself a romance book for Valentine’s Day. Now tell me what’s not to love: a thicc girl reading about a thicc girl discovering her strength and being lusted over by someone who society would never pair us with? Sign me up! I read this book in two nights, not lying. I loved it, something about Britta’s journey on body acceptance and her new found love for working out really inspired me. Her path was a lot like mine when I started running years ago, it was something I never thought I could do because of my weight, and I actually ended up running a 5k while five months pregnant. I can’t lie, I’m a sucker for stories like this one, because I can relate. I loved the “I’m being active or trying to eat healthier because I want to be strong vs. skinny”rhetoric throughout the book. So many people don’t understand that, they think it’s what we tell ourselves because we can’t lose weight. Moving on, Williams does such a great job of letting the reader get both sides. You feel as if you are watching them in a movie. One chapter is based on Britta’s perspective, and the next you get Wes’ reaction to what just happened. Aww, Wes, I love how he wasn’t the typical jock, not once did we hear him fight himself saying “Wait, I don’t go for big girls. What’s happening?!” No, he was hung up on something else and it wasn’t her size. Thank YOU, Denise! There’s a scene in there that I was thinking about this morning because I need to get me some new spanx for a dress I want to wear. As I thought of this scene, I realized that Williams didn’t make it so over the top. Didn’t make a big thing about it, didn’t have the guy freaking out about it, or making jokes about it. It’s what you hope to hear in those scenarios. It just made the character of Wes more likable, her weight and her size were not an issue for him, but they were to her. Because a girl like Britta doesn’t get a guy like Wes…but I’m so glad that in this narrative she did. Thank You Denise Williams for letting us fat girls be sexy, strong, and desirable in your stories. This is the book when you want to read a feel good love story. Britta’s love was not dependent on the guy, but he was a wonderful bonus!
Must Admit that I have both “How To Fail at Flirting” and “Do You Take This Man” on my wishlist, the latter comes out this Fall. Williams actually provides you a little preview of her new book in this book, bonus you somewhat already know a character from that book because she is one of Britta’s closest friends. Just like Jasmine Guillory does in her books.
“Olga Dies Dreaming” by Xochitl Gonzalez. So not sure how I did it but I finished this book in three days, well two and a half-to be exact. This book had me reading until past 3 am on a school night, during the day I just couldn’t wait for the evening to come to start reading again. This book was just amazing. There’s just so many themes to go on and you can relate to them because life doesn’t stick to just one genre, life throws everything your way: drama and horror, most of the time all at once. One of the main themes of this book that has my raving about this book to whoever is willing (and not willing) to hear about it, is that Gonzalez does what Milton did in “Paradise Lost” she villainizes the one person that most latinx writers usually don’t-nuestra madre. Let me explain, in most stories the mother or abuela are the worst person you’ve ever met, but towards the end they take you back to their tragic past or horrible ordeal that they survived. Now you understand their behavior, you can in a way forgive their trespasses against our main character. In this book, Gonzalez doesn’t do that. She doesn’t even try. The mother was the one character that I couldn’t stand, she left me reeling (oh yes, it inspired a blog post). The fact that I loathe Blanca (the mother) so much, is praise to how beautifully Gonzalez wrote and created her.
In this book we meet Olga and her perfectly dysfunctional Puerto Rican family in NY. Her father was lost to drugs and AIDS, her mother abandoned Olga and her brother Prieto for the cause. Olga, a wedding planner for the high and mighty of NY-the very people her mother hates and therefore makes her a failure to her mother. But, not Prieto who is out there in the world taking on the good fight by being a politician, until he is blackmailed because like any other politician we know he has skeletons too. He makes some wrong moves, moves that go against his righteous mother’s cause; therefore, now also officially making him a failure. My question is a failure according to whom? She wasn’t even around, so obviously not to her parenting skills, but to her political views. As you can tell Blanca, the mother, is on my shit list. She’s this family’s gray cloud, doesn’t want to be involved, but at the same time doesn’t let them live. She’s a heavy ass cloak that doesn’t keep you warm but weighs you down. It suffocates you, and as you think you are about to take it off, it grips you even tighter. Until eventually you become so tired of fighting that you start believing that you need this damn cloak, even if it does weigh you down.
“… Olga was surprised that it endeared him to her. She wanted to know the size and shape of the hole that had been left in his heart that required so many objects to fill it. She found herself envious that he had identified something to pack it with.”Xochitl Gonzalez, “Olga Dies Dreaming”
It’s not just about motherhood, parenthood, solitude, immigration, Pride for your people, self-acceptance, but also about love. In the middle of this hurricane of emotions, there’s a real life hurricane that brings so many things to light for Prieto and Olga, even though an entire island is left in darkness during hurricane Maria. Prieto realizes that his mother never loved the idea of being a mother or had any love for her children. He realizes that he’s been hiding something that was only hidden to himself and not from those that really loved him. Olga, realizes she is living with trauma from being abandoned, she realizes that having someone genuinely love you is not necessarily a bad thing, and love doesn’t have to hurt. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, I cried, I yelled in anger (always about Blanca), I laughed, and I also saw family dynamics that are so familiar, the good and the bad. We are humans capable of being both; thus, our lives can also have both. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and we shouldn’t stop living, but it’s about learning to thrive after the hurt has been identified. Amazing book a must read, I believe this is the book I will be giving out this year to folx. I always have a book that hits me so much that I buy it as gifts for everyone throughout the whole year. I think I have found this year’s pick.
“Weather” by Jenny Offill. This is the third book from my Climate Crisis book club, the first one I haven’t finished, and the second pick-I gave up on. I just couldn’t continue; to be honest, I will most likely be donating it because I don’t think I will ever try to pick it up again. Unlike this one, this one I will. If you are in the mood to read something different in style and entertaining this book is it. Some folx in our club didn’t appreciate the style the book was written in, but I definitely did. I mean, how else would you write a book about a librarian? I personally believe that librarians are anything but ordinary, they know too damn much to be stale and boring. Some might choose to be, now that’s a book in itself. Offill gives the main characters in this book just enough depth to make you invested in their outcome. Offill introduces us to Lizzie, a librarian at a university who has some very interesting characters around her. She’s a mom, a wife to a husband that seems rather bland, a sister to a drug addicted brother trying to get his shit together. She also has a side hustle answering mail for “Hell or High Water” a podcast of a previous mentor Sylvia, who unravels into the extreme doomsday ideology-until she’s completely off the grid. We picked this book because it touched on climate change and some of the extreme actions folx are taking to survive when we can no longer hide from the catastrophe we have brought on. Could that be the tie in for the name? I don’t know, but what I did offer up as a possibility was that the name came could do more with the different storms Lizzie had brewing around her. She had moments of hope, her brother getting his shit together, some sunshine for a bit. But then she slowly starts to see him unravel back into his chaos. Lizzie herself is of a sunny disposition when she first starts answering the podcast’s letters, full of hope and sunshine. Towards the end, she’s nothing but gloom as she starts seeing the end as evident. There’s a professor that she sees often at the library who seems to be battling his own storm, but we never know what happens to him. There seems to be a romance brewing, but like the COP26 conference doesn’t go or do anything. I must also admit that Lizzie reminded me of one of my best friends, who also happens to be a librarian. Lizzie’s matter of fact responses made me hear her voice when I read her, it was my friend playing Lizzie, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s what made me like this book even more. I also wondered if I too should be planning my doomstead, I’m still not sure who I would want to include.
“How do you know all of this?”
“I’m a fucken librarian.”Jenny Offill, “Weather”
“L.A. Weather” by María Amparo Escandón. This was the first pick of the year for my Litina Book club. You all have no idea how amazing it felt to finally read a book based in my native LA, even if it was in the Valley. Aside from my obvious bias solely on that, the bias is well founded in the narrative. Escandón dives deep into the lives of Keila and Oscar Alvarado; a Mexican-American family, and their three daughters. A marriage that is on the breaking point due to the secrets that we keep. Their daughters, Claudia, Olivia and Patricia are blindsided by the potential of their parents breaking up, only to realize that they have also been blind to the turmoil occurring in their own lives. They each come to a realization that breaks them, but at the same time makes them stronger, and unifies them. Which is something that typically happens in a Latino family, a wedding, an illness, a death, a birth, tragedy, all things that bring families together. But they also shed light on our own internal conflicts. Escandón takes us on a beautiful ride that weaves in and out amongst each character, each playing a part that affects the other directly or indirectly. An immigrant mother’s desire to adapt to the American way of life, a daughter forcing her parents to stay together even though her marriage is in shambles. Another realizing that wanting more in a marriage is okay. Another realizes that letting go of the material is a lot less costlier than losing her peace. But the main character here is in fact the LA Weather, but we are not sure why. We wonder if Oscar is in fact going crazy, at one point I wondered if he had a stroke that went unnoticed. Why do we continue to keep secrets from another, even though they are breaking our families apart? Why are daughters and mother relationships always complex, but so necessary? Keila was one of my favorite characters in this book. A lot of the time it seemed that her daughters wanted to push her aside, but she refused to be set aside. She reminded them and us that a woman should never give up being a woman with her own identity and sexuality even if she is a mother, wife, and grandmother. It was a great read to start my year off right.