January 7, 2021

December 2020 Wrap Up

I was going to begin this post by saying something about yeeting 2020 out the door, but the events of Jan. 6, 2021 make it look like the transition between years will be about as peaceful as the Presidential power transition. Oy!

Anyway, let's look at the books I read in the last half of December and wrap the whole thing up.

Long Way Down the Graphic Novel by Rason Reynolds - I was super excited for this book and it did not disappoint. In fact, it took a book I already thought was spectacular and gave it a glow up. The visual nature of this book gives it even more power and made the story even more important.

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From by Jennifer De Leon - Liliana is from Jamaica Plain in Boston. Just before after school starts, she finds out she's been accepted to a program at an elite public school in the suburbs for kids from the inner city. Then she finds out her father has been deported to Guatemala. When she gets to the fancy school in the all-white suburb, she is greeted with glares from the other brown kids and stares from the white kids. Racial tensions get tense and then it blows up. Meanwhile, Liliana is worried about her father and his attempt to get back into the states. This book really brought to light what minority kids have to deal with in white schools. White ignorance is unacceptable and inexcusable any longer.

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo - Finally finished this one. We wrapped up the discussion of this in our work book club. My group only had 1 black person in the group and she only came to the first meeting. I think it would have been even more impactful if she had been there and been willing to speak up. As it was, we had to just guess what a black person reading this might think and feel.

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue by Meryl Gordon - This is the second book I've read about Huguette Clark. It was more in-depth than the last one I read, but it was also sadder and more depressing. Huguette Clark was the youngest child of a copper baron and senator. She was also a product of his second marriage to a much younger woman. She was never really accepted by most of the children of his first marriage. She was wealthy and pampered, but also very sweet. She lived with her mother in 3 huge apartments on Fifth Avenue as well as their Santa Barbara estate. After her mother died, she refused to leave her apartments. Until she got skin cancer and moved into Beth Israel hospital where she stayed for 27 years. It is a very weird story and she was unique. The worst part is when the children and grandchildren of her brothers and sisters decided to get involved and get some of her estate. Yuck.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett - This book was fabulous! Twin sisters grew up in a small town in Louisiana that was created specifically for light-skinned black people. When they are 16, the twins run away to New Orleans to start their lives. After a couple of years, Stella disappears. Eventually, Desiree moves to Washington, D.C. because she can't stay where Stella used to be. She meets a man who is extremely dark-skinned, they get married, have a baby, and then he becomes abusive. She takes her daughter back to their tiny town to hide from him. The townspeople are horrified by the dark skin on this child. Stella, on the other hand, is now white. She lives in Los Angeles with her wealthy white husband and their bratty, spoiled, very white daughter. This books is just so so good. The writing just draws you in. You're invested in the lives of these girls while also marveling at the beauty of the words themselves.

Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne - The subtitle of this book says it is about Quanah Parker. Well, QP doesn't make more than a passing appearance until well past the halfway mark. I learned a lot about the Comanches. I enjoyed learning about places I have spent time in Western Texas and Oklahoma and Kansas and Western New Mexico. While it was not clear if the author took a side in the war with Native Americans, but it was clear to me that white people are just ridiculous.

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone - Justyce is the protagonist in the first book in this series about a young black boy writing letters to Martin Luther King, Jr. In this one, Quan is another young black boy whose father gets sent to prison, thereby removing the only positive male adult in his life. His step father is abusive and hates him. He joins a group of people working for a local guy by doing his accounting. One day some cops show up and one gets shot. Quan takes the rap for it, even though it wasn't him. While in Juvenile Prison, he writes letters to Justyce who is now a pre-law student at Yale. Justyce realizes there are some big problems with Quan's arrest and works to free him and give him a chance to start over. This book really makes it clear that "gangs" provide a family and belonging and support for young people who don't have that in their lives in other places.

I started My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me by Jennifer Teege but it was really bad and I couldn't stand reading it. The story was interesting, but the way it was written was just awful. Hard pass.

I didn't get to Secret Sisterhood, so I just put it back on my shelf for another time.

This list, plus the list from the first half of December, makes 13 books read in December which made my goal of 150 books in 2020! I cam in just under the wire, finishing Dear Justyce on New Years Eve. Whew! I did it!