Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
This was one I did not want to have to reduce to a catch-up post but here we are, too many books and too little time. Everyone everywhere is raving about Such a Fun Age and for a damn good reason. This is the rare book that is both quality good and can’t-put-it-down good. The story opens with Emira Tucker, part-time nanny to a wealthy family in Philadelphia, helping her employer out in a midnight emergency and taking her two-year-old charge to a grocery store around the corner to entertain her for a bit. A security guard and fellow shopper quickly descend to accuse black Emira of kidnapping the white child. Emira walks away from the (filmed) encounter not because she is believed but because her white employer intervenes. This encounter kicks off the story and the book is about this and the fallout and black experience in the face of white performative woke-ness and man it’s good. This is one I will buy to lend and re-read and my leisure.
Emira is the primary character and her employer, Alix (yes, spelled like that), is another. Alix is a self-help influencer married to a well-to-do attorney (I think?) so she’s trying to work on her book deal and hires Emira to help her stay-at-home parent her toddler and newborn. This book is also about the bystander who had filmed her encounter with the security guard (I forget his name), a white man who Emira dates for a while. As a liberal white SJW reader, I also came away from this having read a story about performative woke-ness and white people’s desire to be seen as engaging while never developing more than a superficial understanding of what they’re faced with. And it’s about a young woman finding her place in the world and learning what it is she really wants. It’s a delicately nuanced book with a lot to say and I highly recommend it.
Uncanny Valley, by Anna Wiener
This one was a memoir of a woman probably around my age who started working in Silicon Valley startups when she was in her mid-twenties. I’ll fully admit that this one has mostly leaked out of my brain. As someone from a similar demographic, little of this felt like a surprise to me. Probably those who would learn the most from this book are the less tech-friendly? The idea that “if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product” has been drilled into me since I got Facebook when I left for college, so the idea that tech companies don’t have our best interests at heart was nothing new. There was one line that really stuck with me, at least.
They encouraged a cultural impulse to fill all spare time with someone else’s thoughts
Which damn I feel seen. I find myself so much a consumer, never a creator, and it’s not a dynamic I particularly like (though it is a dynamic I’m too lazy to change … )
Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
I was a year behind on this one and I really don’t feel like I missed anything. I’ve started watching Outer Banks on Netflix because I have too much time and not enough taste and is there a difference? Where the Crawdads Sing struck me as one part “why are men” one part “makeover means taking off your glasses” shaken up with broadly drawn accents. I really don’t like accent work in books, because it’s just the dialogue, I find it very other-ing. The book – despite being third-person omniscient as it hops from character to character – is told in standard English, so the dialogue written in an accent doesn’t match up. There was nothing about this book I found revelatory and it was across the board a letdown.
The Round House, by Louise Erdrich
Oh hey, back to back books about sexual trauma, this one even more violent and terrible. This is a story less-told, a native woman brutally attacked and her community’s search for not just the who, but the where. Because whether or not she was attacked on reservation land determines what kind of justice is available to her as much as who the perpetrator is. And they pretty quickly identify the perpetrator. Erdrich doesn’t put the reader through the assault, just the aftermath and the healing. Our story is told by her son as he does his damnedest (successfully and unsuccessfully) to help his father bring the horrifying crime to a close. It’s a rough read.
House of Earth and Blood, by Sarah J. Maas
What if we got the Throne of Glass series all over again but people’s names and occupations have changed? Because that’s what this is and you know it and I know it and Sarah J. Maas knows it but hell if these books aren’t fun. They rival Game of Thrones in length and I chew through them in days and yes I’m going to read this whole series. I have no fucking clue what happened in this book and I do not care. Honestly, a perfect quarantine read. I described it to a friend as pretty people fighting eViL dEmOnS and pairing off like gorgeous little lobsters but so bad even the CW wouldn’t pick it up. Though I did try reading those Vampire Diaries books and they were pretty unreadable so maybe the CW could salvage these. I’d love to see it happen.