What We’re Reading: July 2012

On the first Friday of each month, we share what we’re reading, which may include everything from magazines and blogs to novels and books for work or pleasure.

I just finished Ami McKay’s mesmerizing second novel The Virgin Cure, which tells the fascinating story of Moth, a 12-year-old girl in New York City in 1871. Moth and her mother live on the lowest rungs of poverty, and Moth’s mother sells her into servitude. What follows is a heartbreaking story of a life of poverty, and it’s historical fiction at its best. It’s a story I wish weren’t part of our shared history, but it’s a reminder of why I love historical fiction: when done right, it opens us up to worlds we should not forget. Up next: Close Case, the third novel in Alafair Burke’s Samantha Kincaid series. Kincaid is a district attorney in Portland, Oregon, as Burke herself was. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first two legal thrillers in the series and am looking forward to being swept away by this one too. – Carrie

I was delighted this month to return to the thought-provoking world of Lois Lowry’s The Giver with her  newest book Son, due out on October 2nd. Son is the fourth and final book in The Giver quartet (The Giver, Gathering Blue, and The Messenger) and offers new insight and perspectives into the world that Lowry created. Once more, the readers finds themselves in the oppressive and strange world that Jonas lived in in The Giver, this time from the perspective of Claire, a young woman designated as a Birthmother during her Ceremony of Twelve. As a Birthmother, Claire delivers only one “product” in a procedure that goes horribly wrong. In the aftermath she is told, despite the complications, that her “product” was a boy, Number 36. Armed with this knowledge, Claire begins a desperate search to find her son, taken from her as is the society’s way. This search takes her far beyond the closed confines of her society–it takes her from the wilds of the sea, to a small village, and, lastly, to the very town that Jonas and Gab from The Giver and Keira from Gathering Blue live in. It is a story of awakening, strength, and love.  Once more, with Son, Lowry sweeps readers away into a powerful story, one that remains with you long after you turn the final page. Truly, The Giver quartet is one series that is not to be missed, with Son being a heart-felt and evocative conclusion to the story. — Heather

This week I’m reading Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. The acclaimed novel is more than ten years old at this point, but, despite its inability to capture my interest at the moment of its publication (it failed Nancy Pearl’s Rule of 50), I decided to give it another shot, after loving State of Wonder. Thank you, silly early-twentysomething self, for casting the novel aside because I get to enjoy it now, as a grown-up. Patchett’s writing talent is like her fictional soprano’s musical talent: it has the power to transport its audience completely, from one surrounding to another. Her stories are captivating. — Amy

I started reading Dean Spade’s Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law while on the plane to Anaheim. Spade critiques the legal rights-based approach of mainstream LGBT organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, arguing instead for an organized grassroots effort focusing on a far-reaching goal of justice rather than simply inclusion. He points out that while the HRC-style approach has been successful in many cases (legalizing gay marriage in some states, ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell), these victories have benefited only a fraction of people who fall under the GLBT umbrella. He also talks about how mainstream GLBT campaigns have ignored issues like gender status on state-issued identification (drivers licenses, passports, etc.) that have a significant impact on trans people’s lives. I’ve found the book fairly accessible given its focus on legal issues. Instead of just discussing his theories, Spade includes examples from his work at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which he founded in 2002.  Not only do these specific stories enliven the sometimes dense prose, they also help the reader to envision the kind of goals Spade has for the trans political movement. — Sarah

When I saw Leanne Shapton’s latest book, Swimming Studies, in the Penguin Booth at ALA I nearly fell over. The book is a memoir of Shapton’s life as a competitive and recreational swimmer, and includes paintings and a catalog of her lovely swimsuit collection. As someone who adores swimming, I found a kindred spirit in Shapton. She reflects on what it takes to become really good at something, and what it means when that something still appeals to you but no longer holds the value it once did. This is nostalgic reading for swimmers and anyone who has ever been a teen on a team. – Emily

Now tell us: what are you reading this week?

One thought on “What We’re Reading: July 2012

  1. Pingback: Lexiles, Genres and Page Counts, Oh My! | Chasing Reference

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