Review: An Unnecessary Woman

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I picked up my most recent read at a semi-local independent bookstore. I know they say not to judge a book by it’s cover, but the cover and title are what drew me in. Feeling a little unnecessary myself lately, I just had to know what this book was about. To put it much too simply, An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine is a meditation on the love of language and literature as well as what it is like to live your life by continually bucking social norms, not as a political statement, but as simply a way to live life true to yourself.

An important element to this book is its setting: Beirut, Lebanon. The protagonist, Aaliya, is above all resilient. She has to be due to the unrest she has lived through. A basic knowledge of the historical events of the area is helpful when reading through this story, but I wouldn’t say it’s critical.

Now while the world is changing around her, Aaliya lives a simple life. Alone in her apartment, she translates a book into Arabic every year. Her life is solitary and she surrounds herself with literature. Throughout her meditations on her present day life, you go through many flashbacks of how she got to be so “unnecessary” as a divorcee living apart from her family.

While this book is an enjoyable read, I couldn’t make myself care much about the characters or the plot, which I think is showing though in my brief synopsis of it. The prose, however, is beautiful. Alameddine is a master at crafting sentences, weaving together allusions to other works with his own observations, and writing deeply about loneliness, aging, politics, etc. That’s what made the book for me.

I was never completely absorbed or felt as though I couldn’t wait to get back to it after setting it down, but I by no means regret reading it. My copy will probably make it’s way to a used bookstore eventually in order to make room for something else, but I’m glad I picked it up.

 

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Race and Literature: A Few Recommendations

Race is a complicated issue in the United States. While we may not be in the era of Jim Crow laws or legalized segregation anymore, racism is unfortunately alive and well. Just this week five high school students in a small town not too far from my own wore white hoods and burned a cross while waving around a confederate flag. It’s despicable, but racism includes so much more than these larger events that can easily be pointed out.

Our nation, particularly the white majority, needs to educate itself on race issues. Even the most well-intended social justice interested person has to constantly fight the internalized racism that is entrenched in this nation’s culture. While I am by no means an expert on race, I have learned a lot over the past few years and have had to challenge my own assumptions time and time again. Sometimes it’s by noticing the reactions of my friends when I unintentionally say something I didn’t understand the repercussions of, sometimes it’s by listening to the stories of others and learning what they have to deal with on a daily basis, and sometimes it’s through reading. I took a few classes that focused on literature that challenged the narrative we are often fed about race in the United States. Here are a few recommendations to get you started: Continue reading

Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse: an Introduction

Before I actually dive into Leigh Bardugo two connected series, the Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology; I just want to acknowledge that this post (and possible follow up posts on these works) is not going to be my typical book review. Originally I planned on doing separate reviews for each book, but I read the Grisha trilogy before I rebooted my blog so the books didn’t feel adequately fresh for regular reviews and then I got sick as I was reading Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, so those reviews were delayed. Okay, let’s quit procrastinating and dive into this AMAZING universe. Continue reading

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

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I’m a big fan of crime-based tv shows and podcasts, but for some reason I’ve never ventured into crime books. Deciding it was time to remedy this lapse in my reading practices, I picked up The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson at a used bookstore.  Continue reading

Everyone’s Read That But Me

Even though I read a lot and studied English in college, there are some books that I truly feel as if everyone around me has read that I just haven’t. This list is just a snapshot of the holes in my personal reading history and is by no means exhaustive.

The Chronicles of Narnia

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So many people grew up with a parent reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to them or picking it up when they got a bit older. It’s a classic children’s series. I, on the other hand, was obsessed with the Boxcar Children as a kiddo and never picked this series up.

Frankenstein

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Ah, the famous doctor and his monster. I know the story of Frankenstein and have been meaning to read it for ages, but for some reason I keep putting it off. Most of my English-major peers read this book in high school, but I never did. I’ll get to you someday Mary Shelley. I promise.

Dracula

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Even though I definitely fell prey to the vampire craze that was going on during the Twilight era, I never went back to the O.G. vampire novel. I’ve read some fascinating literary criticisms about it, so I really need to pick it up and interpret it myself.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

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As a lover of fantasy, it is a true crime that I’ve never read Tolkien’s trilogy. I read The Hobbit a year or two ago, but I still have yet to pick up the trilogy. I blame the fact that my older sister was obsessed with it. I must have subconsciously avoided it as a way to create an identity outside of her shadow. I’m thinking I’ll get the audiobooks once I finish listening to Harry Potter.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels like they have critical holes in their reading history. Surely no one can keep up with all the books they should have read, right?

Also, I’d love to know what would be on your list! Tell me in the comments or make a post of your own.

American Gods

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Imagine, if you will, that every god, goddess, or legend that has ever existed in the mind of mankind not only exists, but has a physical form and walked among us mere mortals. The belief in these deities is what brings them into being and sustains them. As a result, every immigrant or visitor to a place would bring  those that they worshiped with them and plant them like a seed in the land they walked upon.  New gods are born as people begin to worship new objects or ideas. Not only are new gods created, old ones can die as faith decreases. It is this ploy for man’s veneration that creates tension between the gods of old and the newly risen. That tension is the foundation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Continue reading

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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The topic of my most recent read, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, is easy to pick up from the title. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not only a powerful and influential Supreme Court Justice, but a feminist icon meme-ified by the internet. This biography covers much of RBG’s life; from her early-life, her struggles as one of the few women to study law, the courtship and devoted relationship between she and her late-husband Marty, her rise to political power, her unique strategy for bringing about gender equality and civil rights, and so on and so forth.

The physical book itself is a beautify. As someone who has lightly studied book history and wants to explore book arts and preservation in the future, I love me a finely-constructed tome. I’m a big fan of the red and black color pallet that flows through the book and the shiny gold crown and wording on the cover. The chapters are named after rap lyrics from Notorious B.I.G., who was the inspiration Ginsburg’s nickname. They physical stature of the two couldn’t be any more oppositional, but the power of RBG’s words, particularly when she dissents, is just as impactful as the rapper can appear (or so I read, I actually don’t know anything about him).

The pages are interspersed with all sorts of images–from photos from Ginsburg’s life, internet memes of RBG, court drawings, and fanart of liberal and progressive Americans’ favorite justice–adding increased visual interest to the interesting tale held within this book. The narrative will also take occasional breaks to include annotated segments of RBG’s court-writings to emphasize the power of her words and the impact she has had on our legal landscape.

I won’t rehash RBG’s life story myself, you’ll have to read the biography for that, but I will say it is a joy to read. I must confess though that I read the majority of Notorious in January as my sister gave it to me as an unexpected Christmas gift, but  then my life got uber hectic and I had to put it down until recently. As such, some of the beginning is a bit foggier than I would like while writing a review. Regardless, the life of RBG is motivational for anyone who wants to make a change in the world. You don’t even have to be a legal buff or an intense fan of politics to enjoy this read.