Although they’re set in contemporary Argentina, many of the short stories in Mariana Enríquez’s Things We Lost in the Fire have an almost primal feel. A current of macabre superstition and urban legend threads the collection together, and nearly every story has some kind of undefinable darkness looming over its protagonists. The terror that transpired during Argentina’s relatively recent dictatorship — thousands were murdered in the 1970s and early 1980s — also haunts the pages. These are horror stories feel like they could be real.
Enríquez is very talented when it comes to creating atmospheric tension. Most of the stories take a surreal turn, but they all start out with recognizable contemporary scenarios: poverty, drug abuse, social inequality, childhood curiosity, obnoxious boyfriends. It isn’t until the reader is drawn into the relatable, reality-based settings that weird things start happening.
I’m doing Read Harder 2017. I would have read both of these books anyway, but it just so happens that they both work for Task 3 (read a book about books).
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch
Publisher/Year: Harper, 2011
What it is: After the sudden death of her older sister, a reeling Nina Sankovitch turns to books for solace. She and her sister frequently traded and discussed books, and on her forty-sixth birthday, Nina begins a literary journey and healing process: she’ll read one book a day for a year and write about every single one. This book is a memoir of that year.
Why I read it: Confession: I got this as an advance copy…6 years ago. I’d always been meaning to read it — when it came out, it was very popular in the book blogosphere — but I just never got around to it until this year.
What I thought: I read anywhere from 75-100 books a year depending on how hectic life gets. I think the most I ever read was 134. So I’m thoroughly impressed with anyone who can read more than that, and being able to read a book a day — and actually sticking with it — is just mind-blowing to me. The complete list at the end of the book is impressive. As for the book itself? It was just okay. She writes a lot about her family history, then ties in the books she read according to the theme of the chapter. It’s occasionally repetitive, and I would have liked more about the books themselves. She’s a lovely writer with beautiful sentences, but insight-wise, I wished she’d pushed it further. It all felt too tidy.
A little over a year ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. when the oral arguments for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt were presented before the Supreme Court. I’m a clinic escort at one of the clinics that was central to the case, and after two frustrating years of political ping pong, it felt good to just stand outside the Supreme Court and rally with our people. In the midst of it all, I spotted Dr. Willie Parker nearby, at which point I fangirled hard and ran over to ask to take a selfie with him.
In the reproductive justice world, Dr. Parker has celebrity status. He’s an outspoken black abortion provider in the South, and after being featured in Dawn Porter’s documentary, Trapped — which, by the way, is on Netflix — he became an even more recognizable figure in the fight for abortion access. He’s also an outspoken Christian who applies his religious beliefs as a type of liberation theology towards reproductive justice. It’s a radically different take on what people imagine in regards to abortion clinics and religion (trust me: as a clinic escort, I see and hear the shaming, fire-and-brimstone versions of “Christianity” outside the clinic with relative frequency).
Last year, one of the tasks for Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge was to read a feminist book. I saw how people seemed to be stuck in a rut, listing the same books over and over, so I came up with feminist book recommendations for every task in the 2016 challenge.
The 2017 Read Harder tasks were announced a few days ago, and I’ve been mulling these topics over ever since. So what the heck…here are 100+ more feminist book recommendations that should cover most of the tasks (alas, I’m afraid I can’t recommend a book you’ve already read as I am not a mind reader). The micropress task had me stumped for a while, but I got that one too. And hey! For those of you panicking about your library acquiring a micropress book, an added bonus: Native Realities offers Deer Woman for free as an ebook download! Am I good or what?
A lot of titles overlap with other tasks, but each author is only listed once. Happy reading!
Task 1: Read a book about sports.
- Course Correction: A Story of Rowing and Resilience in the Wake of Title IX by Ginny Gilder
- Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women’s Sports by Susan Ware
- Getting in the Game: Title IX and the Women’s Sports Revolution by Deborah L. Brake
- Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
- Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape by Jessica Luther
Task 2: Read a debut novel.
- 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
- Cinder by Marissa Meyer
- Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
- The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
Task 3: Read a book about books.
- Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
- Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak
- The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman
- Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
- Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch