Harry N. Abrams, 2015

Ever wondered about the life of a garbageman? Probably not, but they work hard every day to keep cities from looking like pre-20th Century Europe, where garbage — and chamber pots — were usually just dumped out the window to add to the mountains of decay on the stench-filled streets. Industrialized nations have come a long way since then, yet surprisingly little has changed since we figured out a system of having people pick up our trash and haul it off out of sight and out of mind.

Trashed started out as a shorter autobiographical comic series; Backderf (who gained more mainstream popularity with My Friend Dahmer) was a garbageman in 1979 and 1980. His series had a following, but he shelved it and eventually brought it back as this graphic novel, drawing on actual events to create this mostly fictional but sometimes nonfiction book.

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The Nickel Boys

The Nickel Boys
Doubleday, 2019

It’s the 1960s in segregated Tallahassee, Florida, and young Elwood Curtis has done everything right: he’s respectful, applies himself at school, and has a job in which he has earned the respect of his white employer. He listens to a record of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches so much that he knows them by heart, and as the Civil Rights Movement ramps up throughout the Jim Crow south, he feels the pull towards doing something more. His grandmother, the woman who has raised him and has suffered more loss in her life that most can bear, is horrified by the thought of her grandson as an activist. So Elwood mostly just does in best in school, while his grandmother sets aside money for college. Her grandson would be the first in the family to attend.

That opportunity presents itself much earlier than expected: Elwood is accepted to start taking college classes during his senior year of high school. Everything is going well until it isn’t, and Elwood finds himself at the Nickel Academy, a juvenile reform “school” that looks and sounds like a nice place on the outside but exists in a society that looks the other way when it comes to vulnerable boys — black or white — whose families are far away, if they have families at all.

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The Future of Feeling: Building Empathy in a Tech-Obsessed World

Brilliance Audio, 2020

Those of us who are not digital natives and remember a time before the internet became so central to society probably also remember the old-school ways of communication: phone calls, snail mail, face-to-face, etc. We now have the ability to do all of that electronically, and that’s a great thing: family members can Skype or FaceTime, students can take online courses, people can have therapy sessions or see a doctor via apps, and friends can have watch parties on Netflix while social distancing to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

But who here has ever gotten into an argument on social media, whether with family, friends, or total strangers? Who here has gotten irrationally angry at content that you come across on the pages of friends and family? Who here as had to block people from social media accounts due to online trolling?

Chances are, you have.

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Drawn and Quarterly, 2019

During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army ran comfort houses — military brothels — throughout Japan and its occupied territories. The comfort women forced to work there were often not women at all but young girls who had been kidnapped or sold into sexual slavery. The exact numbers are still debated by scholars, but estimates put the numbers of comfort women as high as 400,000.

Lee Ok-sun was one of these women. She grew up in Korea in extreme poverty. Her parents could not afford to send her to school, and she was often weak from hunger; her parents were unable to buy enough food to feed the entire family. One day, her parents informed her that she was going to be adopted by a childless couple who would be able to feed her and send her to school, and that she would still be able to come home to visit the family.

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2020 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge, Feminist-Style: Part II

Okay, 16 more! Let’s do this! (Part I is here.)


  • The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
  • The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley
  • The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men’s Prison by Mikita Brottman
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
  • The Toni Morrison Book Club by Juda Bennett, Winnifred Brown-Glaude, Cassandra Jackson, and Piper Kendrix Williams


  • Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
  • Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan by Ruby Lal
  • Empress Cixtisis by Anne Simon
  • The Romanov Empress by C. W. Gortner
  • This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Woman President by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Continue reading “2020 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge, Feminist-Style: Part II”