It’s the same every year – the month of May is like running a marathon to the end of the school year at a sprinter’s pace. It takes forever to get there, and I’m totally burnt out and exhausted by the end. It’s totally survival mode – we don’t clean the house and live off take-out. Once it’s over, I can hardly remember enough to distinguish one day from another.
Frankly, it’s a miracle I read anything at all. It was productive towards one of my reading challenges, at least – every book I read checked a box for the Read Harder Challenge, though I now have even more catching up to do for ReadtheWorld21.
The end of May means it’s officially Summer Break. Hallelujah, and here’s to relaxing summer reading!
Here’s what I read last month:
This Is the Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism by Don Lemon ★★★★☆
Chosen as the “nonfiction book about anti-racism” for the Read Harder Challenge; I just read about it in the NYTimes Book Review and wanted something different than the standard list of anti-racist books that have made the rounds since last summer. Don Lemon is the anchor of CNN Tonight; this book blends his experiences as a Black, openly gay journalist with commentary on the events of 2020 as COVID ravaged the country and people grappled with the death of George Floyd and continued violence against Black lives. It was very strange to read a physical book about something so present – usually that ground is covered by essays, articles, and podcasts. There’s a permanency to a book that gives it more gravitas, which is maybe what the author and publisher intended. Lemon reflects on stories he’s covered the past decade or so while two things were simultaneously happening: on the one hand, the spark of Black Lives Matter ignited and, on the other, the rise of the Trump brand of white supremacy maintained a chokehold on government and policy. His musings are direct and well-articulated; much of what he writes, I have felt. The past year has given us many reasons to be down, but Lemon’s book has an undercurrent of hope and optimism; change is slow to come but, once on a trajectory, it’s impossible to stop. In this, Lemon shares the evidence that he believes makes this, joyfully, true.
Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens ★★★☆☆
It was easy to find a book for the “middle grade mystery” category; all I had to do was walk through the shelves in my library. I ran across this one that has caught my eye for a few years, and it’s the first in the “Wells and Wong Mystery” series. (It’s also a British import, so the original series and titles are different, and a couple Goodreads comments have indicated the text has been slightly “American-ized” as well.) The setting is 1934 at the Deepdean School for Girls. Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have just set up a detective agency for their own amusement. Business is slow until Hazel stumbles upon the body of their Science teacher, Miss Bell, in the gym, but in the five minutes it takes to run and grab Daisy, the body disappears. Now it’s up to the girls to prove their teacher was murdered and didn’t just quit AND find the killer who must be in their midst! There’s more plot in this story than character development (which I’ve also read improves later in the series), but the story has an enjoyable tone. I do love the branding and design of the American series, but if I were to read on, I think I’d seek out the original version.
The Stonewall Reader edited by The New York Public Library ★★★★☆
This was my pick for the “LGBTQ+ history book” category. The Stonewall riots erupted on June 28, 1969, after the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a cornerstone locale for the gay community in Greenwich Village. The uprising lasted several days as people gathered in the area to protest the police violence and continued discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ+ people, and it”s widely considered to be the launchpad of the modern gay rights movement. This book was the perfect format of book for my curious librarian soul. It’s a collection of texts curated by archivists at the NYPL that attempt to share full context of the riots and their significance. It’s divided into three sections – Before Stonewall, During Stonewall, and After Stonewall – and features primary sources such as essays, articles, journal entries, and literature that document the personal experiences of many pivotal figures of gay liberation. It’s such a compelling (and enlightening) format because it reminds the reader that stories evolve. History is often defined in retrospect; we remember based on a recollection that has been edited over time. Revisiting pivotal moments through firsthand experiences shares the full story and deepens our understanding through the details that are often forgotten and lost with the passage of time. Definitely a recommended read for Pride Month!