And After Many Days, Jowhor Ile

One day, Ajie’s older brother Paul leaves their home in Nigeria, and he never comes back. Ajie was the only one who saw him go. And After Many Days is about the loss of Paul and his presence in their family before he goes. I was reading it in between other things (you’ll be hearing about The Raven King on Monday) that frankly I cared about more, and nevertheless I thought And After Many Days was awfully good. It tells the story of a 1990s Nigerian family in a way that makes a faraway (from me) country in an increasingly faraway time feel present and vital and familiar.

And After Many Days

If you’re (like me) always on the hunt for more African authors, I’d definitely recommend And After Many Days.

And now onward to a serious question on which I want your input. Why are there so many books in this world about missing siblings? Is this a case of art reflecting life and there are people all over the globe wandering about hoping to run into their missing sibling sometime again? Or (this is what I suspect the real answer is) do a whole bunch of people have super-fraught relationships with their siblings, and some of them are writers, and this is how they are dealing with it?

Actually, even if that’s the case, it still can’t be the whole answer. Nobody ever writes a book about missing parents, and God knows authors of the world have complicated parental relationships.1 Is it because we feel a responsibility to our siblings that we don’t to our parents? Or? Or what?

  1. FATHER WOUNDS. Come hang out with me and my family for a bit and take a drink every time someone makes a father wounds joke. Except, don’t do that, it’ll be bad for your liver.

Peas and Carrots, Tanita Davis

“But Jenny, you should read Tanita Davis! Perhaps this new one, Peas and Carrots!”

“Oh, gosh, it seems like she has a sort of middle-grade aesthetic going on, and I tend to prefer older-skewing YA, so I’ll maybe give her a miss.”

“Jenny, no really, Tanita Davis, she’s right up your–”

“Shhhhh, I’m busy.”

FOOLISH FOOLISH FOOLISH JENNY. Have I not yet learned that I should listen to bloggers and their wisdom? Even if I have reservations? Peas and Carrots is about two girls, Hope and Dess, who become foster sisters without either of them particularly wanting to be. In alternating chapters, they tell the story of how Dess is folded into the Carter family.

Peas and Carrots

Couple things. That are great about this book.

1. The foster care system has really, really serious flaws. The whole thing may need to be scrapped and started over at some point, that’s how serious I think the flaws in it are. At the same time, there are lots and lots of people trying to work within the system to make kids’ lives better. This second point can get lost sometimes in pop culture. Or always. It was refreshing to come across a book about a foster family who wanted, and worked for, only the best outcomes for their foster kids. PLUS, it’s one of very few books I’ve ever read that included child protection workers who weren’t evil.

2. Sister stuff. Neither Hope nor Dess was dreaming of having a new sister. Hope has enough going on in her life without adding a grumpy white racist teen sister into the mix, especially one who calls her fat and hopeless. Dess just wants to be with her baby brother again, even if he now calls Mrs. Carter Mama and barely remembers Dess. But they develop — what? Eh? What’s that you say? A grudging respect between sisters?

YES. THEY DEVELOP A GRUDGING RESPECT.

3. Appropriate boundaries! I love boundaries more than I love most people, places, and things. If ever you are wondering how to set a boundary, come talk to me. I am the Queen of Boundaries. Also great at setting boundaries is the foster family in Peas and Carrots. While the Carters are incredibly compassionate toward Dess, they also make their expectations clear, and they reiterate to her what kind of behavior (kindness first!) is valued in their family culture. A+ boundary-setting.

4. Nothing actually is resolved. Dess doesn’t get a permanency ruling. The sick baby doesn’t magically get healed. We don’t find out if Dess is in as much danger from her father and his gang as she believes she is. Peas and Carrots offers the possibility a better world to Dess, but it never promises her (or us) a perfect one.

Although (or because) the only stakes in Peas and Carrots are emotional ones, I couldn’t put this short book down. I sneakily read it on my lap when I was supposed to be selling books for work. Shhhh, don’t tell work.1 Now I will have to go out and read everything Tanita Davis has ever written.

What is your favorite book about BOUNDARIES, team?

  1. Work knows. I believe what I said to work was “I am finishing such a good middle-grade book, is that cool?” and they said “Sure, nobody’s even here to buy books yet! It’s so early!”

It’s Monday, April 25th. What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday, and I had a smashing weekend! A good friend came to town so we got to break bread (and have some drinks) together and shoot the shit on Saturday. The bookstore had a surprise for me which I will share with you in a moment, although if you know me well or follow me on Twitter you can probably guess what it was. And I made French onion soup for the family on Sunday, and it came out excellent.

Oh, I went to the library too. We don’t need to talk about that. I DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM.

So, what am I reading?

monday4-25

Well, I am plowing my way through my mother’s copy of HAMILTOME, in the hopes that I can finish it before she notices I swiped it. My local bookstore put The Raven King out on the shelves a few days early, which I confess was the outcome I had hoped for, and I purchased it feeling very wicked indeed and expecting at every moment that the booksellers would say HEY THAT BOOK IS NOT OUT YET and take it away from me. I’m trying to make it last because I’m going to be well sad when this series is over. And finally, I’m reading Jowhor Ile’s And After Many Days, which despite my casting it in the position of “vegetables to eat because I cannot eat dessert Raven King all the time,” is quite, quite excellent.

I want to quote like sixteen things from The Raven King, because I love what Maggie Stiefvater is doing with this world and these characters, but I will spare you. I will just say, for now, that there are some triplets in this book who are the light of my life.

It’s Monday, what are you reading?

American Gypsy, Oksana Marafioti

Before I launch into a proper review of Oksana Marafioti’s American Gypsy, a word about terminology. Marafioti never discusses, in the course of her book, her use of the term gypsy. However, many many many Romani people consider it to be an ethnic slur; and when the word appears in the course of this book, it’s more often than not being thrown at Marafioti or at her family as an insult. So although Marafioti herself has said that she’s not opposed to the use of the term, I’m going to stick with Romani throughout this review. And so should you, probably, in your regular life.

American Gypsy

Oksana Marafioti moved to America from Russia as a teenager, whereupon her parents immediately got divorced. A driven and talented kid, she worked hard to master English and find a place in a magnet school for the musically gifted. Meanwhile, at home, her mother was sinking further into alcoholism, and her father and stepmother cheated on each other and conducted exorcisms and tried to find a suitable Romani husband for the “practically a spinster” 16-year-old Oksana.

So, okay, as a rule there is a type of memoir I will read and a type of memoir I will not. I will read a memoir about what it is like to have a life that is not my life, like if the person decides to give it all up and join the circus and the book is about what happens next. I will not (again, as a rule) read memoirs about growing up with a fucked-up family. Used to read those. Kinda don’t anymore. They bum me out cause like, what do the fucked-up family think about ending up in your book? I’ll make an exception if someone promises me extreme hilarity (cf. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant), but apart from that I am off Family Dysfunction Memoirs and only read Particular Experience Memoirs.

American Gypsy is right right right on the line between those two things. Marafioti mostly wants to talk about what it was like growing up in a Romani family with a long and stories musical legacy, and then being suddenly torn away from that part of her part and transplanted to a whole new country. She does have, in many ways, a fucked-up family, but the story is less about how they made her feel and more about what her life was as a Romani kid in Russia and in the US. But I mean it was right on the line.

SO are you Team Family Dysfunction Memoirs or Team Particular Experience Memoirs, or are you on a third team I haven’t thought of? LET’S MAKE A TAXONOMY.

Oh, also, if you have any recommendations of good nonfiction books about Roma history and culture, I am accepting those recommendations at this time.

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.59: Fantastic Beasts, Night Manager, and Banned Books

Happy Wednesday, booklovers! We know you were psyched to hear about All the Birds in the Sky, but we’ve been unavoidably detained on that front. Instead, you get to hear our thoughts on two literary adaptations: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the new miniseries The Night Manager. We also take some shots at book-banners1 by way of the ALA’s Frequently Challenged Books of 2015 list. You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Get at me on Twitter, email the podcast, and friend me (Gin Jenny) and Whiskey Jenny on Goodreads. Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Theme song by: Jessie Barbour

  1. by which I mean people who ban books, not banners advertising books. we are in favor of the second kind of book banners but not the first kind.

It’s Monday, April 18. What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday, April 18th, and I am doing my honest best to finish my library books and return them in a somewhat timely manner. I presently have 11 books out from my university library, plus one interlibrary loan, and 2 of those are ready to be returned. I have, yes okay, 27 books out from the public library BUT I am prepared to return 9 of those when I go on Saturday. So there.

(I’m fine, I don’t have a problem. You saw that 11 of those, nearly a quarter, are set to be returned?)

Books for 4/18

My main current book is The Ever After of Ashwin Rao, which deals — one way and another — with aftermath (I love aftermath!). I am also dipping in and out of this essay collection Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn, which is an absolute treat; and while I am brushing my teeth, I am reading one of my Own Damn Books, i.e., Thomas Cahill’s book on why the Greeks are important to history.

(I noticed that the highest number of unread books on my shelves live in my nonfiction section. Which makes sense! Nonfiction isn’t quite as subject to the vagaries of taste as fiction is, so you can see how I might acquire a whole bunch of it without having read those books beforehand. I DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM.)

It’s Monday, what are you reading?

Gay Stuff in Fandoms: A Links Round-Up

Well, it’s been a nice regular week! I knocked out some library books. I killed some caterpillars (my kill count stands at 29 as of this writing). I hung out with some friends. Sampled mac and cheeses from two different restaurants. Just in general living my best life.

A history of Gay Batman that is everything Pop Culture Happy Hour listeners have come to expect from Glen Weldon. Also, he adorably puts an apostrophe in front of shippers, bless his heart.

Speaking of gay stuff and fandoms (but I repeat myself), Clare of The Literary Omnivore wrote a brilliant and fascinating piece for Lady Business about the secret undergound history of Han Solo/Luke Skywalker slash. Stop by and praise her, please.

STILL speaking of gay stuff and fandoms, and then I swear I’ll move on, here’s an excellent history of femslash on Jezebel. Fair warning, it spoils a bunch of recent shows including Vampire Diaries, The 100, and Empire.

The burden of “themes” when we talk about African literature.

I love college football, but yep: This has to change.

But. But if we have misunderstood dodos so badly, why is there no new picture of what they really looked like, with their skin on?

Why one farm in Kansas gets regular visits from the FBI; or, the craziest thing you will read about IP mapping maybe ever.

Unconscious people don’t want tea: A Metro Police cartoon video about sexual consent (and tea).

Regarding Sherman Alexie’s decision to cancel his event in North Carolina.

Have a fabulous weekend, ducklings!

Waiting on Wednesday: Spring YA

You know what’s happening in my neck of the woods, team? Stinging caterpillars is what. They are a pernicious blight upon the land. They fall from the sky onto your head when you are just trying to catch your bus, and their fuzzy tops sting your fingers if you try to brush them off. The spring is wet and full of terrors.

LOOK HOW GROSS

All that consoles me in this trying time is the evergreen wellspring1 of YA fiction, of which there is a plethora this spring season. Here are three that I’m particularly looking forward to, in celebration of Waiting on Wednesday.

Chasing the Stars, Malorie Blackman

Chasing the Stars

Perhaps you read the Noughts and Crosses series when they came out a million years ago, and perhaps since then you have wondered what Malorie Blackman was up to, since she evidently wasn’t writing any more books. You have been played for a fool, I’m sorry to say. Malorie Blackman has been writing books this whole time, and America has not been goddamn publishing them.

Well may you shake your fist at the heavens. America still isn’t publishing Malorie Blackman, but on April 21st, a new book of hers comes out in the UK that is genderswapped Othello in space. I’ll repeat that for the people in the back: GENDERSWAPPED OTHELLO IN SPACE. You may repair to the Book Depository for your copy.

Places No One Knows, Brenna Yovanoff

Places No One Knows

Admittedly I have been up and down on Brenna Yovanoff, but I feel great about her new book. It’s about an overachieving girl and an underachieving boy and the small bit of magic that brings them together. I have been promising a heaping helping of darkness and emotional honesty, with a splash of fantasy. This one drops in late May, by which time I dearly hope the goddamn caterpillars will all be gone.

THE RAVEN KING THE RAVEN KING THE RAVEN KING

The Raven King

Note: The actual title of the book is The Raven King once. I just said it three times because I’m very, very excited to read it. Will Gansey die? Probably but I don’t believe it’s permanent. Will birds do things birds don’t normally do? Almost certainly.

If you got excited the other day when I said “sociological speculative fiction,” then your luck’s in because I stole that term from Maggie Stiefvater, who used it to describe these very books. Start with The Raven Boys and work your way through the sequels, and then you won’t even have to wait very long to read the fourth one. LUCKY YOU because I have been waiting all this whole year and on April 26th at last my wait will be at an end.

Tell me, friends: What are you looking forward to this season? And also, what, in your opinion, is the worst thing about spring?

  1. YOU’RE a mixed metaphor

It’s Monday, April 11th. What Are You Reading?

Something glorious happened this weekend, friends.

POISON
I INHERITED THIS, THIS IS A THING THAT I INHERITED

I also inherited seven other glasses exactly like this but with different poisons written on them. Before they belonged to me, they belonged to my great-grandfather, who loved Rafael Sabatini and, apparently, novelty highball glasses. It is really too bad that he and I never met.

Over the weekend, I finished up Lamar Giles’s Endangered and Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks’s YA comic Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, then plunked myself down on a sofa and read Åsne Seierstad’s One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway in its entirety. Now I’m gazing at a truly awe-inspiring stack of new library books and signally failing to even narrow down whether I feel like fiction or nonfiction, let alone to choose which one I want to put in my brain.

Be more decisive than I am, friends! It’s Monday, what are you reading?