The Yearling

Book cover: The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan RawlingsI’ve been working my way through my Pulitzer Project for almost ten years now. I break it down into manageable goals — this year I’m focusing on the winners for the years ending in 9 — which also forces me to at least acknowledge the existence of some of my ugh titles (although it might take me another few decades to crack open the damn remaining Updike title).

The Yearling was one of those books I was dreading. Not because I considered it to be in the same gross misogynist category as Updike, but because from the title alone I already knew how the book was going to play out and I was not down. It’s a book that seems to have always had, through its numerous printings, a tragically dated book cover (for real: do a Google image search) that screams “sad coming-of-age story.”

And it is a sad coming-of-age story, one that I knew I’d probably like but had to work myself up to á la Call of the Wild. Because animals.

The book takes place in Florida shortly after the Civil War. Jody Baxter lives with his parents on Baxter Island, not the name of an actual island but a homesteaded scrap of backwoods that the family has claimed for themselves. Jody is a much-loved only child; all of the other Baxter children died young. His only real friend is Fodder-wing Forrester, a disabled boy roughly the same age who lives miles away; his parents allow him to keep a collection of animals as pets. The Forresters are a rough and tumble, quick-tempered bunch. They, along with the Baxters, survive off farming and hunting. All are at the mercy of the elements.

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2018 by the Numbers

Happy New Year!

2018 was busy busy busy for me. I spent a lot of my time prepping for classes. Hopefully, 2019 won’t be as intense prep-wise because I can properly use what I already have. Still, I only “read” 53 books, and most of those were audiobooks. My reading list is not as robust as it’s been in previous years, and I just want to get back into my old ways in 2019.


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Read Harder 2019, Feminist-Style

ReadHarderChallenge2019_coverHey! It’s been a while!

On top of this year totally kicking my butt with work…I recently came down with typhus. Yes, that same typhus of ye olden days. Needless to say, I wanted to die for about two weeks, then I shakily went back to work last week just so I could hand out finals and say bye to my students. I’m now at the end of Week 4 of this thing (or is it Week 5-6, counting the incubation period?), and while I’m good, my muscles all feel like they’ve been tortured. When will it end?

Anyway. Book Riot announced its 5th annual Read Harder Challenge. I’ve participated all five years, but ever since 2016, when one of their tasks was to read a feminist book, I’ve also published a list of feministy book recommendations for each task. This year I’m a week late, but whatever. I had the plague.

Task 1: An epistolary novel or collection of letters

  • The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
  • Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Task 2: An alternate history novel

  • Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
  • The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Task 3: A book by a woman and/or AOC that won a literary award in 2018

  • The Leavers by Lisa Ko
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

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This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland

Book cover: This Cold Heaven by Gretel EhrlichIt was only during the last century or so that any outsider truly set out to record the culture and traditions of native Greenlanders. The person who gets (and deserves) most of the credit is Knud Rasmussen, who was determined to record as many oral histories, songs, and stories as he could; he and his polar exploration team set out during the early 1900s and, over the course of seven different expeditions, made their way across Greenland and over to Alaska. His notes and journals are now treasured sources that researchers utilize to this day.

From 1993 to 1999, Gretel Ehrlich traveled solo to Greenland, traveling paths few outsiders ever take, oftentimes traveling the same lonely paths that Rasmussen and his crew took. She was there so long that she got to experience the country during every season, from the sunless days to the sun-filled nights. She traveled by dogsled with experienced hunters, tagging along for hunts — everything from seals to polar bears — and experienced the same threats they did: falling through thin ice, snowblindess, hunger, blizzards. Like Rasmussen, she collected people’s stories and recorded their modern-day struggles.

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Véra: Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov

Book cover: Véra (Mrs.Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy SchiffStacy Schiff’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography has been sitting on my shelves for the better part of a decade now. I picked up a battered used copy ages ago, dipped into a few pages, loved it…and then put it aside because life. Now, having finally returned to it, it’s been one of the bookish highlights of my summer.

Véra and Vladimir Nabokov’s relationship is legendary. Though Vladimir had dalliances with other women and was undoubtedly a difficult person to live with, the two seemed destined to be together: both were intellectual giants — Véra supposedly read War and Peace at age 3; Vladimir at age 6 — were multilingual and worldly, and were even born with the same neurological phenomenon of synesthesia. Vladimir was poised for greatness early on, and Véra understood and accepted that her role was to do everything to make that happen.

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