Warning: this review thoroughly spoils the plot, especially the ending. Additionally this review discusses the portrayal of racial and sexual violence.
After I finished reading Out of Darkness, I started thinking about the different ways authors writing historical fiction construct narratives rooted in historic realities of violence and oppression. Specifically, how do authors do justice to that pain? Does there exist a point of “too much”? If so, at what point does a story reach it? Can happy endings exist in stories rooted in racial and/or sexual violence, or do they demean the real lives of those who either lived through or died from it? Alternately, does the definition of a happy ending change when writing stories about pain, suffering, and loss? Out of violent, unjustified crimes against innocent people, is there anything to salvage? Anything that has the slightest chance of creating a better world?
I’ve been looking forward to reading Zero Sum Game, the first book in the Russell’s Attic series, since I first heard people talking about it on the Internet. I was intrigued both by the premise of a protagonist whose superpower is math and the fact that S.L. Huang has committed to self-publishing this book and all its sequels using a Creative Commons license.
Also the cover. The cover was particularly alluring.
Near the end of Are You My Mother? Alison Bechdel describes the comic as a “meta book”—an exploration of Bechdel’s relationship with her mom and Bechdel’s grappling with how to write about her mom as she’s writing the comic. It’s probably the most apt description anyone will ever come up with for this title, so I’m going to run with “meta book” as the phrase that encompasses everything Are You My Mother? is and chooses to be.
As a current Portland resident, This Side of Home is an especially relevant book for me to have read. The block I live on is currently undergoing gentrification, the main difference being that my neighborhood isn’t a historically black neighborhood and (as far as I’m aware), most of the residents are white. As of now, historically black neighborhoods in Northeast and North Portland are almost entirely filled with white residents and white-owned businesses, and many of those neighborhood’s former residents have been forced by escalating property values and raised rents to move to East Portland, and further and further away from the city proper.
I am hereby giving myself permission to not write reviews of all the books I read in December. I am also giving myself permission to not feel bad about not doing so.
I have one more review drafted for a book I read last month that I wrote a few weeks ago while visiting my parents, and I’m going to post it later this week. Otherwise, I’m going to start off 2016 with a clean slate. New books, new reviews.