To start, a little recorded conversation between me, myself, and my hormones:
me to myself: “hey bud, seems like you’ve been listening to a lot of sad music the last couple days; you ok?”
myself to me: “NOTHING. everything is FINE. leave me aLONE, u bInCh.”
hormones: “psst, check your period tracker app, dummy”
So yeah. The air is getting colder, the days shorter, and somehow the news cycle becomes more garbage every day. I implore you, as ever, to take care of yourselves. Set boundaries, drink warm beverages, give yourself the gift of nope-ing out of discourse that’s not helpful to your health…
…and jump into the narrative of an excellent book, like the ones I finished this week!
Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture – edited by Roxane Gay
Okay, in all fairness, this isn’t the most soothing book, as you could probably infer from the title. Roxane Gay beautifully edited this anthology of essays–some lyrical, some narrative, some journalistic, all personal–from a whole bunch of excellent writers. The essayists come from a diverse range of sexuality, gender expression, race, and experiences with rape culture. Gay is possibly one of the most thoughtful and thorough thinkers and writers of our time and I think one of the things that works best about this anthology is that it’s not a book about rape, it’s a book about rape culture and the many ways we convince ourselves that whatever happened to us is “not that bad.”
The book definitely merits a trigger/content warning, but for a book on this topic, there are actually relatively few descriptions of sexual assault. Most of the essays focus on navigating life after and examining the assumptions and norms that undergird rape culture. Some essays are interested in what we can do to change those assumptions and norms. Some are only interested in survival, and the construction of the anthology grants validity and visibility to both. It also does an excellent job of centering the voices of survivors while also acknowledging that we are all survivors of the toxicity of rape culture.
A reminder that there are many 24/7 crisis lines available to survivors. The National Sexual Assault Hotline [RAINN] number is 800-656-4673, and if you’re interested in local services most counties have support.
My Cousin Rachel – Daphne du Maurier
Goddddddddamn. In my very first post I wrote about du Maurier’s most well-known work, Rebecca, and how much I loved it. My friend Taylor and I had been talking about reading this book, and watching the movie, and the shout/countershout for that will be out on Friday!! It will be very spoiler-y, so if that’s not your bag, I would highly encourage you to pick up this book if “gothic literature for a 20th century audience” sounds like it’s up your alley. [and yah I KNOW that technically *we’re* a 21st century audience, but they were written in and for the 20th century OKAY.] Actually, if you haven’t read Rebecca yet, go ahead and do that first. I don’t know that I would say it’s necessarily a “superior” book to this one, but it is definitely more iconic and once you’ve read it it’s clear why. And this book was extremely interesting to read in the context of having read Rebecca–in both du Maurier writes a deliciously chilling and readable story that also ruminates on gender dynamics and questions of truth and reality.
These books are PERFECT fall reading, excellent for curling up on a chilly grey day with a mug of tea or hot cider and a blanket and a spooky story that takes place in a big house. Also a cat. A cat would be good. [A note that both do start a little slow, but they gather intensity and by the end you will be SHOOKETH.]
Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward
More Gothic! But this time it’s Southern Gothic! This was a book I read very quickly because of the beauty of the writing and narrative, and now that I’ve finished, the more I think about it, the more admiration I have for the way the narrative builds.
The book is structured around a road trip taken by 12 year old Jojo, his toddler sister, and his mother to go pick up his father from prison. Told through multiple narrators, the story illuminates the generational trauma of incarceration and racist violence and also THERE ARE GHOSTS. A complaint that some people have about this book seems to be Too Many Ghosts, but as for myself I wanted MORE ghosts. There was one ghost that I kept forgetting about, and another ghost that doesn’t show up until halfway through the book. So maybe it’s just my personal Ghosts in Books preferences, because I found the ending incredibly compelling, and Ward is an extremely good writer. There were just a couple of threads that didn’t gather steam for me in the most effective way, but it’s an excellent book with characters that you ache for and I highly recommend it.
So since I started working on this post, things have gotten even MORE garbage, as the crimes of Kavanaugh continue to be brought to light. Please pay heed to this important tweet by Linda Holmes and take care of yourself.