It’s too cold to write a good intro, so just…look at these pictures of Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg and carry on.
This should be required reading for white folks, including (and perhaps especially) those who consider themselves ~progressive~ people who already ‘get it’…basically if you’re white and don’t think you need to read this book…you need to read this book. DiAngelo is a sociologist and trainer “on issues of racial and social justice” (cited from her website), who particularly tackles the defensiveness of white people (DiAngelo herself is white) who consider themselves “colorblind” or not to “have a racist bone in [their] body!” and the ways that both causes harm to people of color and impedes honest and productive discussions about race. In my opinion (as a white person who is likely to have blindspots!), she does a good job in the book of keeping the perspectives and experiences of people of color at the center, while taking personal responsibility (and calling on other white people) for unlearning and combating white supremacy. I absolutely learned a lot (read as: spent a lot of time underlining and thinking “oh SHIT yep I’ve definitely thought that/said that/felt that/need to change that”) and highly recommend it.
The Door – Magda Szabó
I’m a big fan of using the library. Use multiple libraries! Use as many libraries as you can get into! I almost always use a library first, unless I know FOR A FACT that I’m going to like the book (or if I know I’ll need it for a long time). Usually this system works out really well! I eventually buy the books I love, and appreciate the structure that due dates provide. Sometimes, however…I finish a book and feel not only upset but CHEATED that I have to return it. I want the book to stay in the same space as me, to live in my apartment like it’s been living in my brain.
I’d actually never even heard of this book (originally in Hungarian and translated by Len Rix) until I saw that there was an Overdue episode about it and now I just…have to go through the rest of my life without enough people to freak out about this book with!! (hence! this blog!) At its simplest, it’s about the relationship between two women in post-WWII Hungary, a young writer and the secretive housekeeper she and her husband employ, but the complexity of the relationship encompasses friendship, antipathy, the familial, and something more mysterious that the narrator spends the book trying to get at the heart of. I saw myself in both characters, most precisely in the traits each had that caused the most frustration in the other, as well as in the community that observes them. I both want everyone to read it so we can talk about it, and also want to protect it (and myself) forever, or at least until I have a better idea of why it affected me so much.
A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle – Sarah Arthur
If you’ve been following along for any amount of time you’ll know my deep, deep love for Madeleine L’Engle; so many of her works have been life-changing and life-giving for me, and there are several of her works that I have yet to read and be changed by. So when I saw that this book was coming out — and featured interviews with several other writers I enjoy, as well as many of L’Engle’s family and personal friends — I preordered it very quickly. And…I liked it. I didn’t love it quite like I anticipated; there were a number of times when Arthur drew conclusions that I didn’t agree with or seemed to be imposing her own spiritual framework onto L’Engle (albeit, a framework very formed by L’Engle herself). Mostly, the book made me want to go read all of the L’Engle that I haven’t read yet, which I suppose could be counted as a success for the book.
(By the way, I realized with DEEP chagrin last week that I forgot to include Ava DuVernay’s Wrinkle in Time adaptation in my “Best of 2018” post, for which I mostly blame 2018 feeling a million years long, but anyway I loved the movie a lot and it’s on Netflix and you should watch it.)
The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton
If Rebecca and Crimson Peak had a baby in 17th century Amsterdam…it would probably read a lot like this book. Which for me is a good thing! Usually I’m not super into historical fiction (which, I realize, is usually what I say before finishing the sentence with ‘but here’s why this is different!’) but when there’s a creepy element like in this book…I’m here. Also (as the title implies), miniatures play a significant part here, and Hereditary primed me for being creepy miniatures as a story element.
So basically, 18 year old Nella marries an Amsterdam merchant and moves into his creepy house, meets his Mrs. Danvers-esque sister and his servants and his fellow merchants. He’s not a very ~attentive~ husband, but he does give her a “cabinet-house” (like a doll-house, except with fancy curtains in front of it) and around the time she employs a miniaturist to fill the house with dolls and furniture, things REALLY start going to shit. The miniaturist seems to have a prophetic ability to predict and replicate exactly what should go into the house, while Nella finds herself drawn more deeply into the secrets of her own house and its inhabitants.
As we know, I love a moody book set in a creepy house, and I particularly enjoyed reading this one while listening to the Crimson Peak soundtrack. I did find the last third a bit of a disappointment, and felt some consternation about how the one black character in the book was written. But in its favor, the story didn’t get too far up its own ass shouting “look how much RESEARCH I did!!” Also, I read almost the entire thing thinking “well SURELY there’s an adaptation of THIS in the works!” and then found out that an adaptation on PBS actually already came out a year ago, so I’m a little bit of a dolt.
Stay warm friends! And remember to subscribe, both to this and to Pop Culture Pen Pals, my upcoming newsletter with Hannah Evans where we talk about puzzling (and not-so-puzzling) pop culture crushes and the movies and TV we can’t stop shouting about!