I’m not sure how this book popped up on my radar several months ago. Perhaps it was the bright yellow cover? Perhaps it was the Lichtenstein-inspired artwork? Or maybe the cheeky title? Whatever it was, I hella eager to track down a copy (not an easy feat since it’s a new book and a lot of libraries don’t really ILL new books). But I finally got my copy!
With Trust No Aunty, Maria Qamar — the woman behind the @hatecopy account on Instagram — has channeled her experiences as a South Asian immigrant in Canada into a tongue-in-cheek guide to handling Desi “aunties” (elders) like a pro. The book is divided into different types of aunties: The Online Stalker Aunty, The Matchmaker Aunty, The Weight-Watcher Aunty, and so forth. Handling each type of aunty comes with its own set of potential cultural minefields, so laying out different scenarios, Qamar compares rookie moves vs. boss moves to come out on top. And to help you win even more in life, Qamar offers humorous tips on surviving on a tiny budget, working out Desi-style, dating, and handling cultural appropriation.
Now that the summer semester I was teaching is over, and given recent events in the United States — What the hell is happening? I mean, I know what’s happening, but WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING? — I thought it would be a good time to catch up on some reviews that I never got around to. And what better books to start with than John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell’s award-winning graphic memoir series, March?
Told in stark black and white panels, the series centers around John Lewis’s remarkable life. Lewis, who organized alongside Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights figureheads in his young and has gone on to fight for civil rights as a Congressman, grew up on a sharecropper’s farm in Alabama. He originally wanted to be a preacher and get away from working in the fields. He fought to attend school, and upon graduation, felt called to higher education away from the South. Still, the Jim Crow South was his life, and as he gained a better understanding of the world, he felt compelled to join the fight for civil rights. March: Book One charts his commitment to education as well as his entry into the civil rights movement, including his first encounter with Dr. King. It recounts behind-the-scenes, nonviolent strategizing among the student movement and culminates with the fight to desegregate lunch counters.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Publisher/Year: Random House Audio, 2013
Narrator: Meryl Streep
Length: 5 hours, 30 minutes
What it is: Seven months pregnant, cookbook writer and food personality Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband has been having an affair with someone she knows. Meanwhile, her well-heeled friends spend their time planning events and gossiping about The Other Woman; they suspect she’s having an affair, but they can’t figure out with whom. Sprinkled throughout the book are recipes for Rachel’s various comfort foods. Rachel just doesn’t know what to do: she wants to make things work with her husband, but she also wants him to drop dead. The book was originally published in 1983.
Why I listened to it: I was looking for a short, light-hearted audiobook. I’d been meaning to read this for a while now because it seems to be universally loved, and it didn’t hurt that Meryl Streep was the narrator (she also starred in the 1986 film adaptation).
What I thought: I think I might have to come to terms that I love Nora Ephron the screenwriter and director, but not Nora Ephron the author. Heartburn is indeed light and entertaining — I can see why people seem to love it so much, and there were moments that genuinely made me laugh — but it felt very one-note/stand-up comedy routine.
Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg by Kate Evans
Publisher/Year: Verso, 2015
What it is: A graphic novel about Rosa Luxemburg, who was born into a poor Jewish family in Poland. She was tiny (probably from malnourishment) and sickly (she would walk with a limp for her whole life), but by the age of fifteen, she was rabble rousing on behalf of the working class. She fought to be sent away to receive an education and grappled with Communism in a way that would make it accessible to the people. By her twenties, in a time when women still lacked any authority in important matters, Luxemburg had earned a PhD and made a name for herself in Germany as an important theorist, organizer, and writer whose ideas are still relevant to this day.
Why I read it: I love books on women’s history, and I loved that this one was presented as a graphic biography.
What I thought: First off, I commend Kate Evans for being able to work so much theory into the text in an accessible way! It was still a little clunky at times, but…have you ever read Marx? Overall, though, Evans did a wonderful job of showing Luxemburg as a person — someone with a fiery determination to make her ideas known, but also someone with a rich and fascinating private life. I’d never heard of Luxemburg before reading this, and I am grateful for the introduction.
You can view some of the artwork from the book after the jump. You can also read an excerpt at The Nation.
Ètienne Davodeau’s The Initiates is a graphic memoir about the time when he and established vintner Richard Leroy worked closely together to learn about each other’s professions. Davodeau knows nothing about wine or winemaking; Leroy doesn’t read comic books. The two work in strikingly different worlds, but as they get hands-on experience in the other’s field, the parallels in their lives become apparent. Each is an artist in his own right.
Over a period of about a year, Davodeau shadows Leroy at his vineyard. Rain, snow, or shine, he participates in all of the backbreaking work that goes into organic winemaking. During downtime, Leroy teaches Davodeau all about wine tasting — everything from cheap bottles to wines that cost hundreds of dollars. He takes Davodeau along on business trips, and the two visit other vineyards in the French countryside. The vintner community is small and obsessed with their craft, and long, animated discussions about winemaking often ensue.
Lucky Alan and Other Stories by Jonathan Lethem
Publisher/Year: Doubleday, 2015
What it is: A slim collection of quirky short stories.
Why I read it: I like short stories, and I also had the pleasure of hearing Lethem at a Literary Death Match a couple of years ago when he was promoting Dissident Gardens.
What I thought: This was actually my first time reading Lethem’s work. I usually love stories with surreal elements. I can see the appeal, and I love his writing style, but most of the stories in this collection just didn’t do it for me. My favorites were probably the title story, and “The King of Sentences,” about an author’s superfans who take things too far. Other stories, like “Pending Vegan,” had elements that I loved, but some stories were a chore to read and most were simply forgettable.
Sex Criminals: Vol 1 by Matt Fraction (Author) & Chip Zdarsky (Artist)
Publisher/Year: Image Comics, 2014
What it is: Suzie has a strange gift: she stops time whenever she has sex. When she hooks up with Jon after a party, they’re both in for a shock: both of them are still moving around post-climax. It turns out Jon has the same supernatural abilities as Suzie, but neither had ever met anyone like themselves before. And what’s a young time-stopping couple to do with this amazing gift of theirs? Rob banks, of course!
Why I read it: It sounded awesome.
What I thought: It was awesome, duh. I realize it’s not a book for everyone, but I loved the humor and the gorgeous artwork (check out some images after the jump) and the fact that there are Sex Police who smack people with dildos. Yeah. It’s that kind of story. Some of it’s a little hokey, but that just adds to the book’s charm. I kind of felt like a pervert requesting it at the library, but it was worth it.