Nonfiction November: Diversity and Nonfiction

Nonfiction November 2014Last year, Lu of Regular Rumination hosted Nonfiction November, a monthlong celebration of all things nonfiction. She brought it back this year with three other co-hosts. This week’s co-host is Becca of I’m Lost in Books, and the prompt is:

Diversity and Nonfiction: What does “diversity” in books mean to you? Does it refer to book’s location or subject matter? Or is it the author’s nationality or background? What countries/cultures do you tend to enjoy or read about most in your nonfiction? What countries/cultures would you like nonfiction recommendations for? What kind of books besides different cultures do you think of as books of diversity?

I loooooove me some diversity in literature. To me, diversity means everything mentioned in the prompt and then some. People are probably quick to think of books by racial minorities or foreign authors when they think of diversity in literature, nonfiction or otherwise, but let’s not forget about other types of diversity, like LGBTIQ literature and books by/about people with disabilities. My list this week goes in different directions; some I’ve read, others I haven’t:

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Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama by Diane C. Fujino (2005)

I’m starting with this one in honor of Kochiyama, who died earlier this year. I read the book when I was in grad school, and it always stayed with me. From Goodreads summary:

On February 12, 1965, in the Audubon Ballroom, Yuri Kochiyama cradled Malcolm X in her arms as he died, but her role as a public servant and activist began much earlier than this pivotal public moment. Heartbeat of Struggle is the first biography of this courageous woman, the most prominent Asian American activist to emerge during the 1960s. Based on extensive archival research and interviews with Kochiyama’s family, friends, and the subject herself, Diane C. Fujino traces Kochiyama’s life from an “all-American” childhood to her achievements as a tireless defender of – and fighter for – human rights.

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The Heart Does Not Grow Back

The Heart Does Not Grow Back by Fred VenturiniAs a teenager growing up in the Midwest, Dale Sampson invisible to everyone except a group of girls at school who suddenly decide to toy with him. In an unlikely turn of events, Mack, the school’s star athlete, intervenes, and the two become best friends. That’s how it goes all the way into high school: Mack is the star whom all the girls want, and Dale is his antisocial sidekick. Save for a few bouts of brutal physical bullying in high school, Dale mostly remains in Mack’s shadow.

Dale faces two tragedies in high school. One is unpreventable: his mother, the only family he lives with, becomes seriously ill. The second tragedy is a perfect storm of terrible and violent things that finally all come together in one explosive event. It changes Mack’s future and leaves Dale relentlessly pondering what-ifs for years to come. A weird, superhero-ish discovery also comes out of this event: Dale finds out that he can regenerate limbs.

It is this latter turn of events that takes the book from standard coming-of-age fare into a surreally macabre piece of speculative fiction. Years after that horrible night, Dale remains haunted and suicidal. While Mack has gone off to college and seemingly has a new girl every night, Dale has yet to have any type of romantic relationship. One day, he runs into a girl from his past; it’s immediately apparent to him that she’s in an abusive relationship. He becomes obsessed with saving her, and it’s a good thing that his limbs and organs regenerate, because the woman’s husband doesn’t take too kindly to Dale’s intrusion into their lives.

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Nonfiction November: Become the Expert

Nonfiction November 2014Last year, Lu of Regular Rumination hosted Nonfiction November, a monthlong celebration of all things nonfiction. She brought it back this year with three other co-hosts. This week’s co-host is Lu herself, and the prompt is:

This was one of my favorite topics last year. Everyone loves a list, after all! If you decide to Be the Expert, post a list of books about a certain topic that you’ve read and can recommend. If you’d like to Become the Expert, do a little research and create a list of books on a certain topic that you’d like to read. Finally, if you’d just like suggestions from other participants on which books to read about a certain topic, you can Ask the Expert.

I did Be the Expert last year, so this year I’m going with Become the Expert. And the topic, inexplicably (because I’m a clinic escort and sometimes feel like I talk about it 24/7): abortion. Now, I’ve read a lot of literature on this subject in my day, but…there’s always room for more! I own some of these, I’ve skimmed one and am currently reading another, and I’ve had my eye on the rest for a while, so here it is. My abortion reading list:

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Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard in Women’s Health and How We Can Change That by Jessica Mason Pieklo and Robin Marty (2013)

From Goodreads summary: Crow After Roe…takes a look at twelve states that since 2010 have each passed a different anti-abortion or anti-women’s health law, and how each law is explicitly written to provoke a repeal of “Roe v. Wade.” The book will detail not just the history of the laws in question, but how they challenge “Roe v. Wade” and create a reproductive health care system that puts women–especially poor, rural, or those of color–into a separate class with fewer choices or control.

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Flirting with French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me, and Nearly Broke My Heart

Flirting with French by William AlexanderI took French in high school. I took French in college, and my professor was actually French. I love French movies, I have a Paris-themed umbrella, I have a weakness for memoirs in which women drop everything and move to France – Je suis jaloux! – and I hope to be reincarnated as a classy, scarf-wearing Parisian in my next life. I planned the last part of my trip to Europe this past summer around being in Paris for Bastille Day, and I practiced my rusty French religiously for about an hour each night before jetting off. I knew my French would suck, but I at least figured I’d be able to bust out a few phrases without making a fool of myself.

And what happened?

I spoke English (or, in one instance, I panicked and blurted out Spanish…which, mind you, doesn’t even happen back home).

So I could completely relate to William Alexander’s plight: he fantasizes about moving to France and being accepted as one of them, but he can’t even speak the language. He’s determined to learn it, but there are numerous roadblocks. The biggest one is his age; in his late fifties, his far from the ideal age to be learning a new language (about fifty years too far, according to the experts). He throws himself into the language anyway, completing hours upon hours of Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, language meetups, immersion courses, a French PBS series, and social media encounters with French people, not to mention actual trips to France.

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Nonfiction November: My Year (So Far) in Nonfiction

Nonfiction November 2014Last year, Lu of Regular Rumination hosted Nonfiction November, a monthlong celebration of all things nonfiction. I had a ton of fun participating and was very glad to hear that she was bringing it back this year with three other co-hosts. This week’s co-host is Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness, and the prompt is:

Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I’ve actually had a really great year in nonfiction. I haven’t read as much as I wanted to (this semester is killing me), but the year kicked off to a fantastic start with Sonali Daraniyagala’s award-winning memoir, Wave, in which she recounts the loss of her parents, husband, and children in the 2004 tsunami. Yet the nonfiction book I’ve recommended most this year is Ellen Forney’s graphic memoir Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and MeI’ve actually read several really amazing graphic memoirs this year, and I know they’ll probably all make it to my end-of-year best-of lists.

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As for the topic or type of nonfiction I haven’t read enough of yet, it’s hard to say because my nonfiction reading is typically all over the place. I read very random things. But looking at my stacks, let’s go with writing/reading/language-related nonfiction. I have several on my TBR shelves, including The Story of Ain’t, Nom de Plume, and Handling the Truth.

I’m doing Nonfiction November because it’s fun to participate and see what everyone’s reading (duh), but also because my book reviews have been pretty fiction-heavy these past few months, even though I have been reading nonfiction as well (I swear!). I’d like to take this time to catch up on nonfiction reviews. And even if school overwhelms me and I disappear off the face of the earth for another spell, at least I’ll have the Nonfiction November content going up!