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Find book reviews of new 2021 books, including Detransition, Baby, Wintering (from late 2020), The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, and We Begin at the End.
My reading pace has slowed way down this past month. Several of the books I read demanded more time and attention, and I was actually glad to grant it–they were worth the reflection.
I’ve also been working on a few blog updates, including a revamp of the Shop and of the Book List Library, where I keep printable versions of many of my favorite book lists (as well as a few reader resources).
Want access to the lists and resources? Get it here:
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Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:
Author: Torrey Peters
Publish Date: January 12, 2021
Reese is a trans woman dealing with the fallout after her girlfriend, Amy, detransitions to Ames and her dreams of a peaceful family life are broken. Ames, too, is struggling. When he learns his new lover is pregnant, he wrestles with the idea of himself as a “father”–and wants to bring Reese into the mix to build their own version of family.
Detransition, Baby may be the book that’s made me work the hardest in recent memory–in a good way. This book brings the reader deep into trans culture, a place that is unfamiliar to me and surprising in many ways. Peters dives deep into the struggles of trans people–both internal and external–and every page brought insights that made me go back and reread (this wasn’t a fast read for me!).
It is unflinching and explicit, in ways that will make a lot of readers very uncomfortable. Nonetheless, I appreciate that aspect, as it felt like push-back to the uncomfortable public questions about very private matters that trans people deal with daily. Kind of a, “You really need to know about my genitals/sex life? Well, here you go.”
But that aspect aside, it’s also about identity, shame, womanhood, and–in many ways–motherhood. If you’re up for the rawness, this is endlessly thought-provoking. 5 stars
Author: Katherine May
Publish Date: November 10, 2020
In this little nonfiction book, Katherine May examines the literal and figurative concept of “wintering”–of retreating into a more insular, reflective, and healing way of being by some necessity. In the literal, she visits places known for their harsh winters and learns how people there cope and thrive through the dark months. She also examines her own experiences of “wintering,” through difficult times in her life that have by necessity, caused her to withdraw from her normal fast-paced, striving life.
This is a timely book, as the world perhaps starts to emerge from its own long period of wintering, which some have embraced and some have not. May makes a compelling case for accepting those times when wintering is necessary, because to fight them is to delay your own healing. Quiet, meditative, and filled with lovely prose. 4 stars
Author: Dawnie Walton
Source: Simon and Schuster via Netgalley
Publish Date: March 30, 2021
Opal and Nev were a provocative rock due in the 70s, with Nev joining his folksy songwriting with Opal’s loud, flamboyant, and political performances. When Opal protests the brandishing of the Confederate flag by another band at her label’s showcase performance, the event turns violent and Black drummer Jimmy Curtis is killed.
Decades later in 2016, S. Sunny Shelton–the daughter of Jimmy and a music journalist–is writing a book about Opal and Nev. Her intentions are professional, but as she learns more about what really happened that fateful night and in the years after, the project becomes very personal.
This fictional oral history of Opal and Nev–the band is fictional and so is the story–is just as riveting as any history you might read about your favorite band. If you liked Daisy Jones and the Six, you will love this. It’s less about the debauchery of the rock life than about the constant inequalities, racism, and sexism Opal faced as a Black woman in the music industry, and how it affected the trajectory of her and Nev’s careers. Definitely one of the best of the year. 5 stars
Author: Chris Whitaker
Source: Macmillan Audio via Netgalley
Publish Date: March 2, 2021
Walk has never left the small California town where he grew up and is now chief of police. He worries endlessly about his childhood friends, Vincent (just out of prison for a murder Walk’s testimony convicted him of as a teen) and Star, sinking into self-destruction.
As Star implodes, Walk’s concerns turn to her neglected children, Duchess and Robin. Duchess, 13 and a self-declared outlaw, lashes out fiercely, ready to defend her brother with all she has. As the troubles of the past meet the present and come to a head, Walk and Duchess are powerless to stop the damage.
This audiobook started off slow for me–I wasn’t following the characters and past/present storylines very well–but halfway through, I was suddenly riveted. There’s hope and resilience here, but it broke my heart in a million different ways. Don’t miss this one. 4.5 stars
What have you been reading this month?