Book fairs, new books, old books, super heroes, and good music
Hello, friends! Today, I am writing to you from the screened porch of our new house. That’s right...I was radio silent last month because somehow buying a house and packing and reading and writing do not all go together. After renting for the past...15 years, maybe?...it feels a little strange to think about the fact that we actually bought this house, but it’s also pretty exciting. My prayer as we moved was that this home will be a haven, a place where all feel welcome, and a tool for being generous and hospitable. So far, the top three things I like the most about the house are: 1. The outdoor space (a screened porch and covered patio, 2. The two bay windows (one in the front, one in the kitchen), and 3. The roses planted by the previous owner (does anyone have really great tips on taking care of roses? I’m open to all the advice).
Some book related news: If you are local to the Houston area, I’m going to be participating in a local author fair May 29 in the Spring/Klein area at Copperfield’s Books. It’s an outdoor event, and would be a great chance to support local creators and a local business. I’ll send out a reminder with more details next month.
What I’m reading...
Convenience Store Woman, by Sayata Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori (translator).
I think I first heard of this book ages ago on the What Should I Read Next podcast. It’s a short novel about a Japanese woman who is trying to find her place in the world around her, navigating her own needs and unique perspective in the midst of her society’s pressures and expectations (it’s never explicitly stated, but the main character does seem to be on the autism spectrum). What first attracted me to the book was the glimpse into modern day Japanese culture. Because it’s a translated book, the experience is like visiting this particular city and community in Japan, rather than having someone explicitly say “and this is what Japan is like.” I found the main character to be compelling, charming, and very sympathetic; and the story to be really thoughtful.
The Wife Upstairs, by Rachel Hawkins
Apparently, my most common genre lately is fast-paced reads with twisty plots and a mysterious element. This is a somewhat surprising realization, but I won’t complain because it has led me to books like The Wife Upstairs which was SO GOOD. It’s a contemporary story loosely inspired by Jane Eyre, and it definitely kept me on my toes. It had all the moody, gothic atmosphere I want out of a Jane Eyre retelling, plus complicated characters and a fast-moving plot.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, Emmanuel Acho
Emmanuel Acho began recording conversations and interviews at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, and this book is an extension--or maybe more accurately an evolution--of those conversations. Emmanuel has a wonderfully conversational and friendly style of writing, but doesn’t sugar coat anything. The book is mostly centered on his own unique experiences--son of Nigerian immigrants, grew up in a primarily white community, went to college at University of Texas, played professional football. While he doesn’t go as deep into anti-racism issues as some other books or documentaries, he wisely and helpfully includes a ton of further resources for those who are interested in reading more about the Black experience and racism in America.
The Last Story of Mina Lee, by Nancy Jooyoun Kim
This was SUCH a good book. It centers on Margot and her mother, Mina, who have a fraught and complicated relationship. When Margot discovers that her mother has died unexpectedly, she begins to realize that she didn’t really know who her mother was. The story alternates between Mina and Margot, and tells a really lovely, and sometimes heartbreaking story with themes of grief, loss, family, connection, resilience, and hope.
Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
For a long time I used to say that I preferred writing short stories, when in reality, I just started novels, got to the hard part of plotting and working on it, then rushed an ending and called it a “short story.” And for a long time after that, I used to say that I didn’t like reading short story collections, when in reality, I think I just wasn’t reading the right collections. Interpreter of Maladies, on the other hand, was amazing. (I mean...it did win a Pulitzer Prize, so...that’s not a spicy take or anything). Each story was more full of depth and nuance than some novels five times their length. The writing was beautiful and vivid, and I soaked in every word. Again, this is an award-winning book that’s been around for a long time, but it’s also a great example of the value in picking up stories that you may have missed the first time around. It lived up to every bit of the hype.
What I’m Watching…
Jeremy and I have been enjoying Falcon and The Winter Soldier on Disney+, and while it’s not as unique as WandaVision, I think it’s a solid addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Plus, Bucky and Sam (AKA, Falcon) are really great characters that deserved a little extra attention.
Moxie, on Netflix, is a movie about a teenage girl who finds her voice to speak out against sexism and misogyny at her high school. It has a great storyline about female friendship, a little bit of romance, a fist-pumping soundtrack, and one of the worst school administrators since Professor Umbridge. There is a little bit of strong language and some mature themes, but I think it would be a fun one to watch with older teens in your life (Or call up some girlfriends and have an online watch party! No actual teens required).
What I’m Listening To…
If you listen to music through a streaming service (Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, etc), you’ve probably noticed the “you might also like” suggestions. I don’t always pay attention to what the algorithm recommends, but sometimes the algorithm knows what it’s doing. Recently, it led me to discover the musician Jake Isaac, a London-based singer-songwriter. I am really digging his music. I’ve particularly been enjoying his latest album Honesty, because the album walks the listener through a relationship—it’s a story, and you don’t always see that in recent years. His music is soulful, sometimes mellow, sometimes a little more upbeat. You can tell that he’s a really talented musician, and his voice is like sitting on a lounge chair by the pool.
My beloved Needtobreathe just released a new live album (Live From the Woods) and it was the next best thing to actually being at a concert. I ordered it on vinyl (three cheers for a record player!), and I feel really good about that decision.
Something I’m Grateful For…
While the past month has been exhausting and overwhelming at times, I’m just so, so grateful that we were able to buy a house, and that we have had amazing support and assistance through the process. Our friends and family are truly the best.
Wherever you are this week, I hope that you are able to find peace and hope, whether it be in the midst of joy or hardship. And may all your books be five star reads.