April mid-month check-in

Just a quick mid-month check-in. So far this month I’ve read 9 books, and most of them have been pretty noteworthy, one way or another! Here are some:

Sheryl Sandberg Lean In I enjoyed it! I was aware of some of the backlash against Sandberg’s work, but she’s pretty clear at the beginning of the book exactly who she’s trying to speak to, and I think she does a pretty good job of acknowledging that her advice will not and cannot apply equally or at all to women who are disadvantaged by institutional and economic and class factors. I don’t recall her acknowledging the racial factor* very much if at all. I’m going to try to take her advice about literally sitting at the table – I do find that I’m generally more comfortable taking a literal back seat in some meetings and environments where objectively I shouldn’t.

Relatedly, the media this week about WW tears has been spot on. The magnificent Luvvie has articulated it wonderfully.

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere I read Ng’s first book, Everything I Never Told You, which I kind of guiltily felt I should have liked more than I actually did. It was competent and smart, but I just felt nothing for the characters – I didn’t care about them or find them very memorable. Little Fires Everywhere , about the upheaval of a small community in the 1990s after a white couple adopts a Chinese baby, was so much better! The craft is sure and polished here, I cared about and understood all the characters, and the ending is the tiniest bit cheesy but believable. So good!

ed. Azalia Zaharuddin The Tudong Anthology A collection of fiction and non-fiction by Malaysian writers about their relationship with the tudong. The quality is variable, and sometimes you can’t tell which is fiction and which is non-fiction, but it’s worth reading for some insightful articulations on the complexity of what wearing the tudong means in Malaysian society and how it’s bound up with class, race, and all that other good stuff. I was a little startled at the almost ubiquitous disdain (whether the writer was a tudong-wearer or not) for “hijabsters”.

Leila Slimani Lullaby Translated from the French, this is the story of a French couple who hire a white nanny who is almost too good to be true. Obviously this is the set up for a tense, sinister story which is quite painful to read. There’s a lot of matter-of-fact commentary on xenophobia in France, tied up with how we treat those who work in our homes but are not family; and those who society has chosen to forget – the poor, the lost, the broken. It’s a short, quick read, but it packs a punch.

Philip Pullman La Belle Sauvage (the first in the new Book of Dust Trilogy) I finished this last night and am still thinking about it! This is a worthy follow-up/equel to the His Dark Materials trilogy, and Malcolm, the hero of La Belle Sauvage is an instantly classic child hero! He is good and smart and loyal and affectionate and you root for him every step of the way. It’s so good to be back in Lyra’s Oxford, and despite being over 500 pages long, you can race through this book, it’s so brilliantly paced. The villain is a true villain; broken and ruthless and relentless and wrong, and I cannot wait for the next in the trilogy.

11 days to the end of April! To keep on track for my 150 goal this year, I should read at least 3 more books this month – I’ve got a book of essays on writing by Philip Pullman (Daemon Voices) , AJ Pearce’s Dear Mrs Bird and Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad cued up next, so hopefully all on track.

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