Week 11: Homegoing, plus an absolutely amazing MUST READ book

Hello!

This week, I took a break from audio-books to catch up on some of my favorite podcasts, so I don’t have one to share with you today. However, I have two books I can’t wait to share with you! One I haven’t quite finished, but I still want to share it with you.

I have been mostly reading physical books recently, but this past week, I charged up my e-reader. I don’t love reading digitally, but being in a rural area, e-books are the easiest way to access books from the library. Considering how much I read, it just doesn’t make sense to buy all the books I read. Luckily, I love to re-read, so I am also willing to buy a book I loved so that I can read it again as a physical book.

I was also interviewed by Abbey over at The Rad-ish this week!  Their blog is awesome and you should check it out. Their book club section highlights good books, reading experiences and great authors, and they also write about other things as well. You can find their site here, and my interview here.


 

Books I finished this week

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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This book came out last year and was highly acclaimed. While it is published as a novel, I would say that it is more accurately described as a family saga told through interlinked short stories.  It tells the story of two half sisters who are caught up in the slave trade. One marries a British slaver, while the other is sold to the United States. However, their legacies are much more complex then this, and despite the initial disparity in their fates, both lineages must struggle with their heritage in different ways.

What I liked about this book is that Gyasi uses these stories to look at the legacy of the slave trade on both sides of the Atlantic. Each story seems to highlight one particular experience or aspect of this. Maybe it is because of my familiarity with parts of them, but I found the stories set in the United States to be the most powerful and successful. I did struggle with the fact that some of the character’s stories seemed to be bridging the gap between generations rather than powerful in their own right.

I did absolutely love the last few stories, and the way that Gyasi brought together many of the narrative lines. This is where the stories set in Asanteland and modern-day Ghana came into their own and became extremely powerful. It’s not my favorite book by a female African author that I have read recently, but I would still highly recommend it, especially to people who love interlinked short stories or family sagas.

 

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Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer (with bonus book Braiding Sweetgrass)

Before I start talking about these books, I want to say that if you typically don’t get into science writing, or feel like you can’t understand science, please don’t turn off! These books are about science, but they are really about how we interact with and understand the world, as scientists, but also as mothers, citizens or people.

Gathering Moss is the book I was thinking about when I was struggling with Lab Girl. Part of my struggle with that book was that I felt like she often seemed to be highlighting her misfortunes and struggles in a way that was designed to make people feel sorry for her. In contrast, Kimmerer, who in addition to being a female scientist like Hope Jahren, is also Native American, and a member of the Potawatami Nation, never asks for sympathy in spite of the obstacles she has overcome, and yet I find her a much more sympathetic figure.

She is honest about her struggles, but rather than focusing on them, she presents a vision of the world and of science that is inclusive, empathetic and full of heart, both towards  humans and the plants that she studies. I honestly don’t have the words to explain the many levels on which this book works for me, or how good it is. As an environmental educator, her works have changed the way I see my role as an educator. As a human being, they have changed the way I see my relationship with the world, especially as the descendant of a colonizing people, but not in a way that feels onerous or threatening.

How I recommend these books:

– If you are interested in plant science, or just want a shorter read: Gathering Moss

– If you want to get a full sense of Kimmerer’s world, or are not as interested in the scientific details: Braiding Sweetgrass

– If you still are not convinced: Listen to Kimmerer’s interview on On Being with Krista Tippet, and then pick up whatever caught your eye


 

What went well

I’m glad I took this week to finish up some books I have been meaning to finish and find out about new books that are exciting me. I didn’t actually read as much, but I feel moe excited about reading.

What did not go well

I don’t feel like anything didn’t go well this week in terms of my reading life. It has been a fun week. Obviously, I would always like more time to read, but I also feel like I consciously chose to do some other things with my time this week, and I am fine with that.

What I am reading next week

I’m not ready to make any commitments in the upcoming week. I have a few books checked out on my e-reader and only have a limited time to read them, including Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead. I also need to find a good audio-book for my commute, but I haven’t committed to that. I’m thinking I am ready for another lighter book like Sofia Khan, which I read a few weeks ago.

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