This review originally started as just a few thoughts on “Americanah” but as time passed, and the pile of finished books grew larger on my desk, it evolved into the mammoth of literary tangents you see below. From personal memoirs – “A Body, Undone;” “All I Know Now” – to novels outside the realms of reality – “Oryx and Crake,” “Through the Woods” – this hodge podge of literature is a mix of books I enjoyed, books I wouldn’t take on a second date, and some I insist you buy for everyone you know.
In 2003, English professor Christina Crosby was paralyzed in a bike accident at the age of 50. Just released in March, Crosby’s memoir is an unexpected vehicle of hope. But not in a corny way. Crosby is a very realistic, trustworthy narrator that invites reader in to her often painful acceptance of her new life of dependency. The novel travels between Crosby’s present relationship with her mangled body and her reflections on her body growing up, her tomboy tendencies, her affinity for movement, religion, and her sexuality. It is also an examination how by age 50, she and her brother were both confined to a wheel chair – her due to her accident, him due to a long fought battle with MS. A beautiful book, it left me most inspired by Crosby’s relationship with her partner whose actions and words continued to reaffirm Crosby’s existence even when Crosby was unable to articulate that for herself. If you enjoyed “Wild” or “Me Before You,” this is a great for novel for you.
This graphic novel was on my to-be read list for quite some time before I finally took the plunge and it was every bit as beautifully illustrated and eerily haunting as I had hoped. Reminiscent of “Beautiful Darkness,” “Through the Woods” is a collection of four horror stories each connected by the theme of a supernatural darkness taking over and controlling a human. If you’re big on graphic novels or enjoyed books such as “Her Fearful Symmetry” and “Jane Eyre,” “Through the Woods” is right up your alley.
A bit of background. Carrie Hope Fletcher is an actress, former “Les Mis” star, and currently touring in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” But aside from her writing, performing, and general awesomeness, Fletcher is also one of the most well-known YouTube vloggers in the U.K. – and my favorite creators of all time.
Fletcher started on YouTube in 2011 as a way to express her creativity in between waiting to hear back from auditions. She quickly became known as a big sister to her audience of “Hopefuls” and over the years has talked candidly in videos about relationships, bullying, body confidence, being cheated on, finding love, performing, growing up, mental health, and everything in between. Last year, her blog got turned into a book that – though meant for a high school audience and not really myself – still struck me with its authenticity and desire to help. Written in the structure of a play, Fletcher’s guide to growing up includes thoughts on bullying, staying safe online, sexual health, friendship and learning to be comfortable in your own skin. And if you have a minute, a few of my favorite of her videos: “She Used to Mine” cover, Utterly Brilliant You, The One When I Live Alone, Dear Tom and Gi, and “A Whole Lot of History” Saying Goodbye to “Les Mis.”
The book that started this entire review two months ago. I thought of letting this GIF just be my review because despite thinking about it frequently, I continue to feel at a lose for how to best describe my “Americanah” experience. Thus far I have: Thoughtprovoking, moving, dense, eye opening, and thought shifting.
Named one of the top ten books of 2014 by the New York Times, the novel follows the stories of Ifemelu and Obinze, two young lovers growing up in Nigeria that find their lives suddenly traveling in opposite directions: A Masters program in the United States and the undocumented underground of London. Adichie’s characters pop off the page as she uses them and their relationship to ferry readers through discussions of race, racism, immigration, discrimination, sex, interracial relationships, being from Africa vs. being African American, and the crumbling of the American dream. This book felt like a full literary meal that made me more thoughtful about privilege and allyship by the end. Just do yourself a favor and read it, then find my roommate M for some deep “Americanah” talks. She’s the “Americanah” sherpa if there ever was one.
My best friend Joe gave me this book as a birthday present about three years ago, and on the plane to Taiwan, I started reading it in anticipation of visiting him and being able to – I assumed – squeal about this post-apocalyptic book. But alas, there was no squealing. I’m not a fan of this book. (I’M SORRY JOE!) The first of the MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood, “Oryx and Crake” is told from the perspective of Snowman, a man who survived the human-induced apocalypse and is overtime, is being turned into a God figure by a tribe of perfect human-like experiments. The story begins with these mystery: Who is Crake? Why is Snowman so in love with Oryx? How did they make this world? Is Snowman the last human on earth?
If science fiction, specifically post-apocalyptic narratives, are your jam, this book would be a great addition to your subway journeys. But for me, like my experiences with “Catcher in the Rye,” the narrator truly bothered me. Snowman’s perspective, his way of speaking; I began to feel only the smallest amount of kinship towards him in the last 50 pages and then then the book was over. Well, you’ll just have to see. Will I read the rest of the series? I might, mostly because I trust Joe’s opinions so highly that I’m thinking I must have missed something.
11 novels down, 19 more to go before the end of the year. Any suggestions, please send them this way! My book piles haven’t yet reached the ceiling so there is totally room for more.
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