Book Review: And I Do Not Forgive You

The Review

And I Do Not Forgive You is a 2020 release, and the short story collection from Amber Sparks with the subtitle “and other revenges.” Boy does it live up to that subtitle. At its heart, the collection shows modern people in the quasi-fantastic, mostly-all-too-real world of technology, familial betrayal, and city life. The princesses, kings, and queens which people some of the most fairy-tale-esque of the stories don’t reside in some 1400s Europe that never was– they live now, here, and struggle as we do now, here. A stand-out in that department was “The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines,” where the magical-realist elements meshed so nicely with the themes that I found myself bookmarking it again to read later.

While I didn’t love every story in the collection, I could find myself wanting to read them all again to find new depths. My absolute favorite story was “A Short and Slightly Speculative History of the Lavoisier’s Wife,” which was honestly one of the best short stories I’ve read in a while in terms of form and voice.

In general, the stories have distinct tones and themes, but each shine with a lush mixture of gritty vernacular (“#Bullshit, I said, and you said the #endtimes was no place for #haters”) and taut phrasing.

And I Do Not Forgive You is a collection you’ll want to share and discuss, both for its feminist themes and commentary on modern life as well as for its prose. Brava to Sparks.

The Details

And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges by Amber Sparks

Publisher: Liveright (February 11, 2020)

Find it on Goodreads, or order on Indiebound or Amazon

Thank you to NetGalley who gave me a free advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

Review: So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo

The Review:

Part memoir and part handbook, Ijeoma Oluo’s new book is not just about talking: it’s about action. Oluo addresses two distinct audiences: people of color and white people who hope to engage in dialogue about race. She makes it clear early on that her book is not some magic cure for white supremacy, but is instead a tool to open doors. Using chapter titles which focus in on key terms in the discussion about race in America (like tone-policing, the school-to-prison pipeline, and intersectionality), she creates an easy to engage with collection of short essays.

Each chapter balances some amount of personal experience with tips for both of her communities. For instance, in her chapter about about natural hair, she not only discusses stories where her personal space was invaded, she explains ways for white people to support black beauty without feeling the need to touch it. Every chapter reinforces the experiences of communities of color facing daily microaggressions while also giving questions to consider for how to improve dialogue.

I read Oluo’s book in less than twenty-four hours. Her direct prose will not apologize and doesn’t want your apologies either (at least if they are just empty words). The chapters are brief enough for a single sitting, or for later reference, but long enough to reflect fully on the topic at hand.

Readers hoping for hand-holding or reassurances that their good intentions are enough should look elsewhere. This book is for today. It recognizes that we all fail, that we are often blind to our privilege, and it suggests a path forward in the final chapter in real and tangible ways that move beyond performative allyship.

Pick up Oluo’s book if you’re looking for ways to steer conversation inside or outside of your racial community, engaging on the internet or in person.

The Details:

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Release date: January 16, 2018 from Seal Press

Add it on Goodreads, or find it on Amazon or Indiebound

Thank you NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen

The Review:

Hope Nicholson’s primer into the history of female characters in comics is excellent. Need more information than that? I’m more than happy to provide.

Starting in the 1930s and progressing to today, Nicholson selects a few characters to focus on at each point in time.  Nicholson highlights better known heroines, like Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel, but she acknoledges the breadth of information already available about such superheroes. Instead, the stretngh of this collection is that Nicholson brings out lesser examples like Maureen Marine, a human girl selected to live with mermaids (from the 1940s section) and Dazzler, a Disco superhero (the 1970s, obviously). In this latter example, Nicholson ties in personal memories of perusing the comic books. In each segment, Nicholson uses humor, outside sources, and a clear summation of the comic to help readers decide what they might want to find for themselves. She even gives recommendations on how to get a hold of each of the comics listed in the book.

One thing I especially appreciate is Nicholson’s frankness. She calls things problematic when she sees them, including on issues of sexism, exploitation, and racism. One such moment, where Nicholson describes the representation of a Huron woman in the comic Starlight goes as follows:

“When the art features wigwams in a Huron village, instead of longhouses, and totem poles on the wrong side of the continent, what else can do you except purse your lips and shrug? (And maybe vow to foster an environment in which indigenous cultures are portrayed and written by indigenous creators).” (Nicholson 68)

Nicholson’s day-job is as a comics archivist at Bedside Press, and her writing about comics and fandom has appeared widely. It’s no surprise that she these bonafides mean that this collection of historical characters have breadth and range. Trust me, the entire focus isn’t on superheroes, if that’s not your interest.  If you’re someone who has an interest in comics, but your experience lies more feminism or cultural history– this is the book for you. Likewise, if you’re someone with a broad experience in comics but want to see how they fit into the wider cultural history, this collection is also excellent. Most of the choices in this book were completely unknown to me (and I’d say I have a nice balance in comics vs. cultural history).

Highly recommended.

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The Details:

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen by Hope Nicholson

Release Date: May 2, 2017 from Quirk Books

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, and your local independent bookstore

Book Review: Waveform: 21st Century Essays by Women

The Review

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In the preface to Waveform, the editor writes, “This book is not a memorial. Although we need to remember the women writers who have come before, this book is about women writing essays now. The wave is an image that catches the sense and motion that define the current movement, its fluidity and momentum.” This essay certainly has momentum– so much, in fact, that I would sit down to peruse just one essay and find myself dragged into the current of two or three.

A few things to appreciate about the collection in general. First, there is a wide variety of form here. As an educator, I value this and if I find a need to bring in an essay collection in the future for a course, you can bet I’ll be looking to this one. Some essays are sandwiched with two images, some forms are restrictive (one for every letter of the alphabet), while some are based around found words (such as the heartbreaking “Transgender Day of Remembrance.”) The variety of forms kept me reading.

The variety of stories here, too, showed a wide range of women’s experiences– yes, essays about motherhood, sexual violence, and girls growing up, but also essays about gun ownership, race, and leaving.  Some of the highlights for me in this collection were “Portrait of a Family: Crooked and Straight” by Wendy Rawlings, “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain” by Leslie Jamison, “The Girl, The Cop, and I” by Laurie Lynn Drummond, and “Girl Hood: On (Not) Finding Yourself in Books” by Jaquira Diaz.

Honestly, many of these essays touched me deeply, and I felt myself wanting to be a fly on the wall during the meeting at AWP a few years ago when this project (according to the preface) was first envisioned. It’s a fine collection, and one I highly recommend.

 

Thank you to NetGalley for the free copy in exchange for my honest review.

 

The Details

Waveform: Twenty-First Century Essays By Women, Ed. by Marcia Aldrich

Released: December 15, 2016

The University of Georgia Press

Can purchase here

Litsy Lemonade Interview: Mariam Williams

Mariam Williams

Really lucky to get a chance to interview the woman behind “Redbone Afropuff & Black GRITS” today! Mariam has been published on Salon, Calliope, and the Huffington Post (as well as many other outlets) and writes a biweekly column for the National Catholic Reporter.

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1.How did you get into blogging?

I ventured into blogging after I was laid off in 2008. The financial crisis hadn’t long started, and I found myself a casualty of it. Going from a regular 9-to-5 to staying in your house all day is hard, and blogging made me feel like I was less alone. Besides, I wanted a place outside of my journal to document what was happening—the long lines at the unemployment office, the changes in my diet due to the cost of food, the rejection letters from potential employers, the feelings of hopelessness, the resentment I felt at always being a straight arrow who did the right thing and usually pursued what was practical, and still ending up in the unemployment line … You know, all that fun stuff.

I was without full-time employment for nearly four years. After about six months of blogging, I decided to I wanted to write in essay form more, but on other topics. Black women’s history, feminism, and family stories were interesting to me, so I began a blog with the intent to publish personal essays—mine and others’—on those topics and to raise the level of black feminist consciousness and the importance of elders among the younger generations subscribing to blogs. Redbone Afropuff & Black GRITS is the result.

2.What are your favorite kinds of topics to tackle?

I’ve gone from black women’s history, feminism, and family stories to the tagline of my blog: faith, family, and feminism. Those topics are broad, but because they’re the main forces that have shaped me, I find a way to put them into a lot of essays and posts about a lot of things. One of the topics within those broader headings I’m writing about more often (but not necessarily publishing) is sex and sexuality among black Christian women, specifically how sex and sexuality are defined for us by history, our families, and by the Black Church.

3.What post are you most proud of, and why?

I’m going to cheat a little here and pat myself on the back for a poem instead of a post. I’m most proud of “Wish Remember, June 2015: An Annotated Lyric.” It was published earlier this year in the online journal, Bozalta. I selected “Wish Remember” because that piece went from a 20+-page essay to a 10-page prose-poem hybrid piece that’s light years better than the original essay was. I think it shows me combining many of the things I love to tackle in my writing—prose, poetry, history, black female sexuality, Christianity, current events, the Movement for Black Lives, social justice—and experimenting with them successfully.

4.Who are your favorite blogs to follow?

Awesomely Luvvie (because who doesn’t love to laugh?), Son of Baldwin (I love analytical people), Very Smart Brothas (another for radically intelligent humor), The Unfit Christian (we blog about similar themes)

5.What’s the weirdest/best/worst interaction you’ve had with a follower?

I also have a blog called “The Intersection,” at National Catholic Reporter, and I sometimes get letters from NCR readers. And I mean, snail mail letters. Sometimes, they’re from other countries. The furthest away so far has been Germany.

6.Best book you’ve read this year?

Another question that necessitates cheating! I have to divide this one into genres.

Nonfiction: Small Fires, by Julie Wade

Fiction: Beloved, by Toni Morrison

Poetry: Kingdom Anamalia, by Aracelis Girmay

7.Favorite track on Lemonade?

Don’t Hurt Yourself

Thanks to Mariam for taking time to answer our questions! Join us on Litsy for the discussion about Americanah starting next week (already!) On Litsy, follow @BookishFeminist, @LitsyFeministBookclub and myself (@rachelm). I have just a few spots let to feature black blogger interviews before then, so contact me on Twitter or Litsy if you’re interested in being interviewed!

Litsy Lemonade Interview: Camryn Garrett

This blog post is the second in a month-long series for the Litsy Feminist Bookclub’s goal to read through the Lemonade Syllabus (see Justina’s post here, if you missed it!) Our first book comes from the top of the fiction list, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  We’ll be reading this book through Oct. 15 and then discussing it on our litsy page.

It’s no spoiler to say that the main character in Americanah runs a popular blog. In this blog, she highlights the intersection of race and gender on the internet. Because of this, we wanted to highlight some black female bloggers to follow and get their take on how the medium works for them.

Camryn Garrett

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I am so glad that Camyrn agreed to be interviewed! Camryn’s work has been posted on Time and Huffington Post on a variety of topics, and her Twitter account is a must-follow!

1.How did you get into blogging?

I got into blogging after I was a Kid Reporter for TIME for Kids. Your time ends after a year, and I wanted to find another way to have consistent writing. I started blogging at Huffington Post Teen, and then branched out to my own blog. Now I’m here!

2.What are your favorite kinds of topics to tackle?

I’m really good at covering diversity, racism, sexism, biphobia, etc., because I live them and like to bring them to light when they’re being ignored. It’s nice to feel like I’m actually doing something. But I think that I’d like blogging about movies or pop culture more – I just haven’t done as much of it!

3.What post are you most proud of, and why?

I’m most proud of my most recent blog post because I was able to finally articulate a lot of feelings I’ve had and didn’t understand, but also because it was my first post after this really weird public internet showdown I was involved in. I felt really worried about easing back in, and I think I did well with that one.

4.Who are your favorite blogs to follow?

My favorite blogs to follow are YAInterrobang, YAHighway (if that still counts?), Reading While White (even though I am not), and Disability in YA Lit.

5.What’s the weirdest/best/worst interaction you’ve had with a follower?

The absolute BEST interaction I had was when I had a fundraiser to try to go see Hamilton, and someone who follows me donated, like, hundreds of dollars so I could go. They were anonymous, so I don’t want to say who they are, but it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

6.Best book you’ve read this year?

I’m torn between AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche and HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi.

7.Favorite track on Lemonade?

Oooh, this is a hard one! The best is probably Formation or Freedom – I wrote an essay about Formation and they’re both songs I jump around to. But I love the entire album, and 6 Inch is a song I listen to when I try to reinforce goals and remind myself that I’m badass 😛

 

Thank you for taking time to answer the questions, Camryn!

 

Readers, please join us to read through the Lemonade Syllabus. Want to be a featured blogger? @ me on Twitter and let’s talk!