For as long as I’ve had my blog, I’ve always done some sort of Women’s History Month giveaway. Most of the books I reviewed this month were related to women’s stories in some form or another (history/memoir/general nonfiction), and though I didn’t get to do as much reading as I’d hoped, who am I to break with bookish traditions?
Up for grabs? Your choice of one of the following books I reviewed this month:
- Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
- Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
- Marbles: Mania, Depression Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney
- Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston
- Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, & So Much More by Janet Mock
This one is open worldwide, and I’ll pick one winner on Monday, April 7.
In 1972, James Lowe told his best friend that two seconds were going to be added to the time. It was something he read about in the papers, a fun fact of sorts, but the information made eleven-year-old Byron Hemmings nervous. How could extra time possibly be added into existing time? It would throw everything off kilter. While James soon seems to forget the information, Bryon begins keeping vigil over clocks and watches, waiting to witness the exact moment when those two seconds would be added.
As Byron’s mother is driving him and his sister to school, it happens. The two seconds are added during that ominously foggy drive. Byron witnesses something during those two seconds and he knows that life will never be the same, but his mother and sister don’t seem to notice and carry on as if nothing happened. In the weeks ahead, Byron will be consumed as he tries to carry the secret of what he saw.
As the novel unfolds, the chapters alternate between two different points of view. The main one is Byron’s; much of the book is told through the eyes of his shattered eleven-year-old innocence. The other narrator is Jim, a man in his 50s who has spent his life in and out a local mental health facility that recently had to close its doors; he suffers from emotional issues and a severe case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Jim focuses on he numbers 2 and 1 and is convinced that if he doesn’t perform his daily rituals, people will get hurt. The tie between the two is unclear at first, though it becomes clearer as the book progresses.
Women’s History Month giveaway: Win a copy of this book!
In 2009, as her father’s health took a turn for the worse, Raquel Cepeda realized that she might never get to know her family’s history. Her father recovered, but that seed was planted: she was determined to learn about her ancestry and parse through the painful and often contradictory aspects of her Dominican American background. Race and ethnicity can be touchy subjects for Latin@s, and as Cepeda explores, designations like “black” or “white’ can vary drastically from country to country. Rather than trace her lineage through genealogy, which can only get her so far, Cepeda turns to DNA testing to trace her ancestral roots and figure out how she became the person she is today.
As someone who is also interested in DNA testing for these purposes, I thought Bird of Paradise was fascinating. The first half of the book is more of a straightforward memoir about Cepeda’s youth. She recounts her parents’ whirlwind relationship, which starts out passionate and quickly turns abusive, especially once they move away from family in the Dominican Republic to build a life in New York. Cepeda is born in Harlem, and her youth is a series of upheavals: she’s sent back to the Dominican Republic to be raised by her grandparents. She’s soon brought back to the states to live with her mother, who is by then in a different abusive relationship. The mother and daughter never get along, and ultimately Cepeda is sent to live with her father and stepmother back in New York. Through the years, Cepeda must deal with her father’s violent mood swings. She must also deal with his rejection of their Dominican identity, something she also encounters among her classmates.
January 24 will kick off my fourth year of book blogging. To celebrate, I’m giving you the opportunity to share in my Junot Díaz obsession. I saw Junot back in September and had the foresight (for once) to plan ahead: one lucky person will win a signed copy of This Is How You Lose Her. It’s a first edition/first printing.
Win a Shout Her Lovely Name tote bag and a copy of this book, courtest of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt! Read on for more info.
Mothers and daughters are the thread that weaves Natalie Serber’s Shout Her Lovely Name together. The collection of eleven stories, eight of which are interconnected, unflinchingly portray the wide range of emotions ranging from tenderness to fury that are characteristic in so many mother/daughter relationships.
Most of the stories follow a mother and daughter duo named Ruby and Nora at different points of their lives. In “Ruby Jewel,” we see a glimpse of what Ruby’s childhood must have been like; a visit home from college reveals her alcoholic and her weary mother, a woman who has suffered through years of infidelity with a difficult husband. Soon after, Ruby gets pregnant and makes the decision to keep her precious daughter even though the emotional cost is high.
Many of the stories are about Ruby doing her best as a single mother. Of the two, it’s actually young Nora who turns out to be the more levelheaded one. Ruby smokes, drinks heavily, and dates a string of men. She doesn’t completely leave Nora to fend for herself, but Nora’s life is certainly confusing and lonely at times.