“The boundaries of gender, I was taught, were unmovable, like the glistening white rocks that surrounded Grandma’s crawfish ponds.” page 77
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More by Janet Mock.
Atria, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2014.
Memoir, 263 pages including acknowledgements.
I’d seen this book recommended multiple places before I finally bought it. The tagline says “You will be changed by this book” and I have to say, that is entirely accurate. Janet Mock is diverse and disadvantaged in so many ways – part Hawaiian, part African-American, transgender, from impoverished circumstances, a former sex worker, abused and traumatized as a child. Yet out of this mix she has formed something gorgeous.
“I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting there crying when another car rolls up in front of me. I look up, and it’s Peter Kavinsky’s black Audi with the tinted windows.” page 36
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.
Simon and Schuster BFYR imprint, New York, 2014.
YA Romance/realistic fiction, 355 pages plus recipes and excerpt.
Lexile: 630L .
AR Level: 4.2 (worth 12.0 points) .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, I would recommend this book for high school students and not elementary school.
Lara Jean is the middle of three sisters and her mother has passed away. Her oldest sister, Margot, is moving to Scotland, leaving Lara Jean in charge of her younger sister and father.
“Mrs. Sikelo took me behind a curtain to a smaller room, where three floor-to-ceiling shelves were filled with books. It smelled sweet and musty, like nothing I’d ever encountered.” page 161
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.
William Morrow, HarperCollins, New York, 2009. My P.S. edition 2010.
New York Times Bestseller.
Lexile: 960L .
AR Level: 6.4 (worth 15.0 points) .
NOTE: There are three books with this title. This review is of the adult edition. There is also a picture book and a young reader’s edition chapter book.
William Kamkwamba had access to a small library and a scrapyard full of parts, and a dream – to ensure that his family would never starve again. Against all odds and despite ridicule, he built a windmill and brought electricity to his family’s rural Malawian home.
This book surprised me. I knew the basic premise – boy builds windmill with scrap parts to bring change to his village. But I didn’t realize that this was actually the story of Kamkwamba’s life, which starts long before windmills were even a gleam in his eye.
“Each time I remove my scarf I pass it through my fingers, in awe of what a simple thing it is, the dilemma it poses. The rules from the Iranian embassy are surprisingly unclear, open to bewildering interpretation.” page 31
The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran by Jennifer Klinec.
Twelve, Hachett Book Group, New York, 2014. My edition 2017.
Memoir, 230 pages including extras.
Jennifer Klinec is a fearless jet-setter, leaving her London life behind to explore the culinary arts of every corner of the world. This book is the story of her month in Iran, wearing a headscarf, finding locals who will let her cook with them, and unexpectedly falling in love.
This was so random. I had a long afternoon and wanted a book, so I grabbed this one, but then ended up reading another book that I already had instead. It sat on the shelf for a while – I have to be honest that the subtitle reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love which was a DNF for me. And there were some legitimate concerns about how Klinec would portray Iran, since she’s an outsider, a Canadian with Serbo-Croation roots living in London.
However, once I got started, I enjoyed this book. Klinec lays everything bare. She is brutally honest yet insightful, and not afraid to make herself, or her loved ones look bad. There were points where I disliked Klinec as well as others in the story, but I did feel that she was telling the truth as objectively as she could, given that she was a major participant. When she’s viewing things through her own unique lens, she’s generally up front about the perspective.
“When I first got my library card and wrote Blackbird Farm on the form, she didn’t know I was Dad’s daughter or Jim Brown’s grandniece, and she asked me how long my family was working there. I think she still feels bad about that.” page 76
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath.
Borzoi, Alfred A. Knopf, Random House, New York, 2015.
Speculative/realistic fiction epistolary novel, 216 pages.
AR Level: 5.2 (worth 5.0 points)
Sophie Brown’s family has moved from LA to Gravenstein, California. They’ve traded their apartment for a house and farm filled with all the many things her great-uncle Jim had saved. A farm doesn’t feel right without any animals, but they’ll have to be cheap because money is tight since Dad lost his job and they started relying on Mom’s income as a freelance writer. Then a chicken turns up… a very special chicken.
Amazon kept recommending this book to me since I started buying diverse books. Nothing in the description suggests a PoC is in this book and in the tiny cover preview, Sophie didn’t look dark-skinned. Eventually I ordered a copy – but mistakenly got a hardcover instead of the paperback. Once it arrived I was glad for the mistake, because as soon as he saw this book, our reluctant reader started insisting that I read it to him that night. I don’t turn down his book requests, and they are loving it so far.
This book was a wonderful surprise. The format is unusual (just like those chickens). There also is a paranormal/science fiction aspect that would be a major spoiler to discuss.
“My good hand flaps against my thigh as we walk. I keep my eyes averted all the way, like if I don’t see other people, they might not see me.” p 57
On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis.
Amulet Books Imprint, Abrams, New York, 2016.
YA apocalyptic science fiction, 456 pages.
Lexile: HL640L (What does HL mean in Lexile?)
AR Level: Not yet leveled.
Teen Denise just wanted to work in the cat shelter and make it through her daily life. But then they found out about the comet. Since then, she’s been trying to figure out how to survive the apocalypse – and bring her family with her. But it isn’t easy. Her sister is missing, her addict mom is running so late they can’t get to the shelter, and her autism makes all these changes even more confusing and distressing.
“I never forgot my Indian mother and family – and I never will – but being separated from them didn’t create a block that somehow prevented me from pursuing a full and happy life. I’d learned quickly, as a matter of survival, that I needed to take opportunities as they came – if they came – and to look forward to the future.” p. 154
Lion by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose.
New American Library imprint, Penguin Random House, 2013.
Adult memoir, 273 pages + photo inserts.
NOTE: Previously published under the title A Long Way Home.
Born into an impoverished but loving family in rural India, Saroo accompanied his brother to a nearby train station and got lost, ending up asleep on a train which took him to Calcutta. Six emotional months later, he was adopted into an Australian family, the Brierleys. Along the way, he told many people his story. Some didn’t believe him, others tried to take advantage of him, but none were able to find his family based on his five-year old recollections.
As an adult with the help of Google Earth, he began an obsessive search to find his home town. Twenty-five years after he got lost, he came home again. But is any of his family still there?