Wednesday, February 1, 2023

January 2023 Reading Stats and Booktube Uploads

January favourites:

Valley of the Birdtail: An Indian Reserve, a White Town, and the Road to Reconciliation by Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Douglas Sanderson
A breath of hope for the future of Indigenous-NonIndigenous relations in Canada. I want every Canadian to read this.

No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani; translated by Omid Tofighian; audiobook read by a full cast
I tried this in print last year but got bogged down in the extensive translator notes at the beginning. This time, I listened to the audio, performed by 10 different narrators, including Richard Flanagan (who wrote the foreword) and Omid Tofighian, who translated the work from Farsi. Kurdish Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani was illegally imprisoned by the Australian government. This book was smuggled out in text messages on a contraband phone. An AMAZING call for justice for asylum-seekers everywhere.

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson
A supernatural mystery and a coming-of-age, set in a contemporary Haisla community on British Columbia's west coast. It's the third time I've read this and it gets better every time.

Ain't Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin; audiobook read by a full cast
The print edition -- which consists of a verse narrative composed in three long sentences, set within stylized collage art created by Jason Griffin -- was my favourite YA book last year. It's about a boy coming to terms with the challenges of our world, including the Covid-19 pandemic and police brutality against Black bodies. I wasn't sure how it would translate to audio but it works. It REALLY works! There are two performances, one by author Jason Reynolds, followed by a full cast version. The audio edition also includes a conversation between the two Jasons.

Foster by Claire Keegan; audiobook read by Aoife McMahon
A small girl spends the summer with childless relatives in rural Ireland. From that unprepossessing outline, Claire Keegan has crafted a perfect novella about family secrets and the acquisition of wisdom. Beautiful and haunting.

Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us by Rachel Aviv; audiobook read by Andi Arndt
The connection between mental illness diagnosis and identity is explored with great sensitivity in this audiobook, beginning with the author's own experience of being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at age six.

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville; audiobook read by John Lee 
This epic fantasy is a wild and wondrous ride, fully deserving of the many awards it has garnered. I was fully immersed in a steam-powered world shared by humans, bird people, insect people, frog people, cactus people and conscious metal constructs, and their love, loyalties and betrayals. 24 hours in audiobook, superbly performed by John Lee.

Ten Days In a Mad-House by Nellie Bly; audiobook read by Rebecca Gibel
A classic work of investigative journalism: Nellie Bly writes movingly of the shocking abuses she witnessed and experienced during her time undercover in a mental asylum. It was 1887; she was 23. Once inside, she acted as she normally did outside, but every doctor dismissed her claim to sanity and attempts to advocate on behalf of patients who were being mistreated. Her exposé yielded an investigation and improvements, a laudable achievement.

Hotline by Dimitri Nasrallah
I had this on my shelves ever since it made the Giller longlist, then was spurred to pick it up because it's in the running for Canada Reads. Wow! I fell hard for the wonderful central character, widowed Muna, who escaped the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s by emigrating to Montreal with her young son. 

Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au
It‘s cold and rainy in Japan in October, where the Chinese Australian narrator is travelling with her elderly mother. “[Writing] was the only way that one could go back and change the past, to make things not as they were, but as we wished they had been, or rather as we saw it.” The simple, self-reflective prose style of this novella grew on me until, by the end, I absolutely loved it and the way it left me feeling melancholy yet satisfied.

Creature: Paintings, Drawings, and Reflections by Shaun Tan
A collection of essays and gorgeous narrative artwork from a prodigiously talented Australian artist, Shaun Tan. There‘s something for every reader of every age when you open one of his books, including this one.

The Call of the Red-Winged Blackbird: Essays on the Common and Extraordinary by Tim Bowling
The first 74 pages contain nine philosophical essays, including "Should I Really Read The Remains of the Day in What Remains of My Days?" The second part is a long essay (195 pages)--"The Hermit's Smoke"--about the author's conflicted desire for solitude. Edmonton author Tim Bowling is considered a writer's writer, meaning that his language is exquisite. I really enjoyed his  ruminations.

Waves by Ingrid Chabbert and Carole Maurel; translated by Edward Gauvin
A graphic novel that sensitively portrays a lesbian couple and their anguish after a stillbirth, and then the subsequent journey towards emotional wellbeing, based on Ingrid Chabbert's own experiences.  

A qui appartiennent les nuages? by Mario Brassard and Gerard Dubois
Told from the viewpoint of a woman looking back on a traumatic time in her childhood during un unspecified war, this deeply moving Canadian graphic novel with vintage-style art captures the uncertainty of memories. When she was 9, she was afraid to fall asleep because every time she woke up, more of her world was destroyed. When she did sleep, it was always the same terrible dream of a line of people walking. Her family eventually joined the line. An English translation is now available. Age 9 to adult.

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy and Janelle Washington
Angela Joy‘s outstanding picture book biography and history book is summed up by the subtitle: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement—and truly does justice to its subject. Distinctive papercut art by Janelle Washington manages to capture the love, dignity and strength. Lots of helpful back matter too. Ages 8 up. Adult readers: this would be a good book to pair with Percival Everett‘s The Trees.

Pink, Blue, and You!: Questions for Kids about Gender Stereotypes by Elise Gravel with Mykaell Blais
This appealing Canadian picture book about gender stereotypes is well-suited to its audience: children from preschool through to Grade 2. Author/illustrator Elise Gravel received the Rights and Freedoms Award in Quebec for “raising awareness and popularizing complex and sometimes taboo subjects among children.” Gravel worked with trans educator Mykaell Blais.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
“I love goat! Let me count the ways.”
I love authors who sneak in some exposure to Elizabeth Barrett Browning to preschoolers.
As expected from this brilliant duo—Barnett and Klassen—this picture book retelling is hilariously clever. It follows the traditional pattern, with surprises. The convention of the troll‘s poetic manner of speech has him fretting over what rhymes with strudel. The trick played on him by the first two goats becomes, in the troll‘s mind, his own doing. Goat number three 
is astonishingly huge. There‘s another big, bigger, biggest towards the end. Etc. Kidlit fun!

Maybe: A Story About the Endless Potential in All of Us by Kobi Yamada and Gabriella Barouch
An award-winning picture book with whimsical, dreamy illustrations and an inspirational message for all ages. 

Still This Love Goes On by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Julie Flett
Buffy Sainte-Marie says writing the song that has been made into this picture book was like “taking photos with my heart of the things that I see on the reserve.” Cree-Métis illustrator Julie Flett has contributed her gorgeous collage artwork. Sheet music is included at the end. This book is a celebration of nature and community, and a treasure for readers of all ages.

My goals for 2023 include reading more from my shelves. In January I read 4 books that I had purchased in 2022 and 2 that I purchased this month, so I'm happy about that. I also reread one that was gifted to me about 20 years ago. Woohoo!

Another goal is to continue to focus on Indigenous authors. I read 9 books by Indigenous or mixed authors in January. Good job, me.

These are the two I gave up on, because, in both cases, I wasn't in the right mood:
Booktube uploads in January:

Book clubs and buddy-reads:

Valley of the Birdtail - with Kathy R
Monkey Beach - with Kathy R
Boat Number Five - with Shawn the Book Maniac
Homegoing (previously read, not in January) - Feminist Book Club
Braiding Sweetgrass, YA edition, plus Does My Body Offend You? - YA Book Club
How to Read Now (previously read, not in January) - Lesbian+ Book Club

Reading challenges:

Read Across Canada (January is BC + nature): The Call of the Red-Winged Blackbird. (Monkey Beach would have fit this prompt also)