February 2017 Reads

And here are the books I read in February.

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel is about parenting and how choices you make in raising your child have long-lasting effects. In this case, the fifth child of Rosie and Penn decides when in kindergarten that he wants to wear girls clothes. So they let him wear them to school where the school decides he must use the bathroom next to the nurses office since he “identifies as a girl.” And the story goes on from there. While I understand more about how parents might end up with a “transgender” child and the challenges they face, I still am not convinced that identifying children at such a young age as transgender is really the best way to handle this. When I was a kid and I played football and built forts with the boys during recess, no one made me start using a different bathroom and rename myself with a boy’s name. Girls are encouraged to do boys things like play with Legos, wrestle and join the military. Maybe we need to likewise let our boys “be anything they want to be.” The issue is by no means settled. This was the February main selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. More on this topic with the next selection…

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 and a February book flight selection in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. This book was the story of someone who was actually intersex – in this case, someone with XY chromosomes and sexual organs that appeared to be female as an infant but developed modified male aspects at puberty. Birth defects are real, and obviously the sexual organs are not exempt from that. I listened to the audiobook version of this read by Kristoffer Tabori which was excellent. The story covers three generations and is very well written and plausible. I enjoyed it both as a story as well as exploration of a very delicate issue in today’s society. It really brought out the humanity of the main character and his/her family as this issue came to a head. If you want to develop empathy by walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, this book is a great choice.

George by Alex Gino is a book written for a grade 4-6 audience about a kid who “comes out” as transgender. Someone mentioned it in the discussion of the two books above so I grabbed it from the library and listened to the audio in one day. “Coming out” with a different viewpoint from that of your parents or those around you is nothing new, really. Since we homeschool and I know what books my kids read and understand, I found the style and reading level of this book very interesting.

The Mothers by Brit Bennet was the other February book flight selection in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. This umbrella theme of this book is about the mothers of a black church and how they look out for everyone. The specific story tells how a girl gets pregnant, has an abortion and what happens from there. The father of the child is the pastor’s son and his parents gave him money for the abortion. Everything is kept quiet, yet it is a secret that does not refrain from influencing how things go from there. The first half doesn’t seem to be very plot-driven, but second half has with twists and turns I wasn’t expecting. I love the umbrella theme of the book. The specific discussion of abortion and it’s ramifications was also good. Lots of good fodder for thought here.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte was the Well Read Mom selection for February. I listened to the audio version narrated by Juliet Stevenson which is outstanding. I had read this on my own in college and enjoyed it, but I enjoyed it all over again with this reading. This time, it was a story about crazy neighbors and staying away (or not) and what you tell your children about why you are staying away (or not). Of course, it’s also a love story and a tragedy. Fascinating on so many levels.

Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers was the book featured in the Circe Institute Close Reads Podcast in January and February. I love this podcast because it has two English teachers who argue about good books. When I was in school, if your essay didn’t reflect your English teacher’s opinion, you were graded accordingly (or so it seemed); thus I find this podcast endlessly fascinating since they are always disagreeing with each other. I am not into mysteries per se and thus likely would not have read this save for the podcast. With this book, I would read the next portion and feel sort of lost. Then Angelina would say something on the podcast about how Sayers just throws you into the story and just like Lord Whimsy would be if he were starting a new job at a new company, you have all these facts thrown at you that you have to sort out. And then I didn’t feel so silly for feeling so lost. (Have I mentioned that I just love this podcast?) While there were times I had my doubts as I was reading the book, Murder Must Advertise turned out to be a very good read and well worth my time. Next up: Everything Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor (one story per week). I’m looking forward to it.

Columbine by David Cullen was my nonfiction read during January and February. This book has been touted as a very well-researched take on what happened, including setting right various false narratives spread by the media in the days after the event occurred. While I remember what happened, I didn’t really follow the media about it at the time so there was very little that was different from what I already knew. That said, it was a well-written account of two boys who did something horrible – what led up to it and how they carried it out. In my reading queue is Sue Klebold’s book as a follow-up to this (she is the mother of one of the boys who carried out the attack).

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell is a winner of the National Book Award and my first venture into the YA (young adult) genre. It’s a coming-of-age story. Rather simple. Eye opening in terms of the reading level (grades 9+). The YA genre probably won’t become a favorite of mine. That said, the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club has a YA book as one of its book flight selections in March so I will be giving the genre another chance.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is free audiobook for Amazon Prime members on Audible, a newly discovered feature with several more titles I want to read. Really, the title of this book says it all. The father is Asian, the mother American; women’s rights also drives the narrative. It all comes together with various family dynamics revolving around the unspoken. The narration is well-done but slow – by the end I was listening at 1.5 speed in order to finish it before the end of the month. Initially I only gave it three stars, but today I changed it to four. Good book.

In other news, I finished several books with the children this month. I read aloud every morning when we begin school. We also listen to audiobooks in the car.

Daniel Boone by James Daughtery is a John Newberry Award winner I checked out from the library. This book was an especially fun read since we go to Kentucky to visit family and are thus familiar with the setting. I now have a new list of places I want to visit next time we are in Kentucky.

Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright is a good book on the backlist of a favorite author. The kids loved it and we are now reading its sequel – Return to Gone Away Lake.

Shaking the Nickel Bush by Ralph Moody is book number six in the Little Britches series which we started listening to last fall. We listened to this series a couple years ago but Caroline was too young to remember much of it. I could read this series over and over again as I did the Little House books when I was a kid. Great series, especially for boys.

On the docket for March:

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis – Well Read Mom

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline – Modern Mrs. Darcy (MMD) book club main selection

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes – MMD book flight selection

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon – MMD book flight selection

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – MMD book flight selection

Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor – new Close Reads selection

And several others, I hope.