I don’t want to preamble TOO much up here, because there are some REAL GOOD BOOKS in this post that I want to get to as soon as possible, but I realized as I was “drafting”* this intro that there’s a movie that’s become very important in my life in the last month that I somehow have not shouted about here yet! Full props go to an early episode of Unfriendly Black Hotties for recommending the movie Coherence, a low-budget mostly-improvised science fiction movie about a group of friends whose dinner party is influenced by a comet in some HIGHLY UNCOMFY WAYS. It messes with time and reality and crisis in a really really interesting way, and as soon as I’d finished watching it the first time I immediately wanted to watch it again. I’ve now seen it three times total [it’s for sure available on Amazon–and you can stream it for free if you have Prime (if you don’t have Prime COME OVER TO MY HOUSE AND I’LL WATCH YOU WATCH IT)] and I just want everyone to see it and talk about it with me.
*[“something something intro WAIT I HAVEN’T TALKED ABOUT COHERENCE YET”]
Now onto some books that are also very important to me!
The Way You Make Me Feel – Maurene Goo
I’ve been highly psyched to talk about this book ever since I read the whole first half in one sitting last week. Honestly, I considered doing an emergency post because I wanted to shout about this book so much.
The protagonist, Clara, is a type I haven’t gotten to read much: a female Korean-Brazilian-American slacker/joker who lives with her super young single dad and is a snob about music and tacos but spends most days in a tank top and sweatshorts. Goo drills down into specificity and creates a narrator that self-describes as someone “you can’t out-jerk”–and lives up to the name while also being incredibly charming and lovable and freaking hilarious. There were so many times I thought while reading “okay she’s great…okay I love her…okay but now I ACTUALLY LOVE HER.” The side characters were also fantastic and interesting and just fun to spend time with. Plus, there were several points at which I thought a particular trope was going in one direction, only for Goo to veer away into a much more thoughtful, character-growth-driven direction. If you love Becky Albertalli’s books, you’ll love this–and hopefully will join me in reading Goo’s other work as well!
Two semi-side-notes: a) the epigram to the book introduced me to the band Rilo Kiley, especially the albums ‘rkives’ and ‘The Execution of All Things,’ which I’ve been listening to a lot this week and ALSO HELPED ME FINALLY FIND THIS SONG THAT WAS THE END CREDITS TO NANETTE AND I HAD A WEIRDLY HARD TIME TRACKING DOWN. b) Maurene Goo’s cat Maeby (!!!) has an Instagram!!! Follow her here, and just go ahead and follow Maurene Goo while you’re at it, cause they’re both great!
[also, every time I read this title I thought about this Janelle Monáe song which is just like an EXTRA thing in its favor!!]
The Path Between Us – Suzanne Stabile
Another book on the Enneagram read and another identity crisis accomplished! A few months ago I read The Sacred Enneagram, which is good if you really want to dig into the roots and mechanics of the Enneagram and is kind of light on practical examples. This one goes type by type through the challenges and strengths each number faces in interpersonal relationships and was very helpful for me in understanding several of my friends and family members [and myself…though maybe “harrowing” would be a better term to use for the Five chapter]. If you’ve done a little bit of Enneagram digging but aren’t certain of your type yet, I’d definitely recommend picking this up and reading through in particular the types you relate to and narrowing in on the one that makes you either go “okay OUCH” or “wait, you mean everybody DOESN’T do that??” Alternately, if you know the types of people in your life, it can be very illuminating to read up on their types and realize “oh THAT’S WHY my parent/sibling/roommate/partner is THAT WAY!!” [!!!! a very important THING is that you’re not supposed to decide what other people’s number is–it’s important for people to figure it out for themselves if they want to. so like don’t run around telling your people “oh you’re DEFINITELY a Six, which is why you are so FILLED WITH FEAR” cause that’s just kinda rude. much more polite to badger them into drawn-out conversations about their needs and fears in front of you, as I’ve done!] [also for those interested, this book is significantly less Christian-y than Heuertz’s, from what I can remember! but don’t quote me on that because my ~general background~ sets me up to not have a good gauge for something’s level of Christian-y-ness.]
All You Can Ever Know – Nicole Chung
Okay, now it’s time for THE BIG ONE, by which I don’t mean this is a big book in terms of page number, but I’ve been looking forward to it for MONTHS and was starting to feel truly resentful that I hadn’t read it yet, because all the Book Twitter people I follow have been raving about it, it’s been on just about all of the “Best Fall 2018 Books” lists and my lizard brain believed that having pre-ordered it just wasn’t FAST ENOUGH. [p.s. now is a really good time to say if I haven’t before that if there’s an author you really like or a book you’re psyched for, pre-ordering it is a really good way to support the author! a lot of times publisher decisions are made based on pre-order numbers, and if there’s a lot of pre-orders they’ll often put more resources into the marketing than they normally would, which is better for everyone!]
Anyway, a little background on Nicole Chung: she was the managing editor for the website of my heart, The Toast, before it closed [old pieces still live and charming though!!!] who has written previously here and other places about her experiences as a Korean-American adoptee to white parents and finding her biological family while she was pregnant with her first child. In this memoir, she tells her story in a longer form, and FOLKS. It is gorgeous and heartbreaking and thought-provoking. I had chills within the first chapter, and was underlining left and right!! I’m neither an adoptee, nor did I grow up as a racial minority, so there’s a lot I had to learn from this book. Chung points out that most of our cultural narratives and perspectives around adoption rarely center the adoptee–generally we focus on the “superhero” adoptive parents and/or the “brave sacrifice” of the biological mother plus just like LOTS of other thoughts about the need (especially for white people!!!) to complicate the way we create and think about adoption and adoption narratives, all in the midst of Chung’s highly compelling personal story. [p.s. for a fictional depiction of complicating the adoption narrative, I was deeply moved by Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere.]
Y’all, I am not usually a book or movie crier–I don’t watch This Is Us because the teary episodes EXHAUST ME–but this book damn near brought me to tears multiple times. Chung’s longing and inner confliction over wanting to know and be known by her biological family while also cherishing the love and care she received from her adoptive parents ACHES through the writing. It’s nuanced and careful and EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ IT, OKAY.
[p.s. you may have noticed the GORGEOUS cover–Electric Lit occasionally publishes pieces that are book cover designers talking about the process of designing particular covers, and there’s a little bit about this cover here. I find book cover processes incredibly fascinating [and got to actually participate in once, which you can read about here (it feels nearly criminal that I haven’t written about Triptych yet, but I feel like I’ve been waiting for the right TIME) (the right time is SOON)] so here’s another one of these lists.]
Alright! Go off into the world, and then come back and tell me about your reactions to ALL OF THESE THINGS because that is why I started this dang blog. And in the meantime, listen to some Janelle Monáe and Rilo Kiley while you do all your spectacular things!