Wednesday, June 01, 2022

May 2022: Slow Read, Take It Easy

I read a whopping four books in May, and maybe I gave you an earworm when you read the title of this post.  So all is good.

Just noticed that they're all library books! As the receipt at one of my libraries likes to point out, I saved a bajillion dollars. 

Did I mention Mother's Day? The Spawn gave me a gift certificate to Reader's World, the local bookstore. He also treated me to Thai food. He's definitely got game when it comes to this mother of a holiday.

Anyway, here's what I read in May:

1. Films of Endearment (memoir/film criticism) - Michael Koresky.

2. The Taking of Jemima Boone (history/nonfiction) - Matthew Pearl.

3. The Leavers (novel) Lisa Ko.

4. What is Juneteenth? (nonfiction) - Kirsti Jewel.

Films of Endearment stemmed from a project Michael Koresky undertook -- since he and his mother bonded by watching movies together throughout his growing-up years in the 1980s, he decided to revisit one film from each year of the decade. Some of the selections included: Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Terms of Endearment, Places in the Heart, Nine to Five, and Aliens. These films were chosen because they all had strong female characters. Like works of art should do, each movie spawned memories and associations for Michael, as well as fresh realizations about what a remarkable, strong, multitalented woman his mother is. At first, I thought the book was all over the place, a little messy and disjointed, but now it's had time to settle, and now I deeply appreciate how Koresky's musings made Films of Endearment a far richer book than if he'd just stuck to a strict film essay format.

The Taking of Jemima Boone follows a chain of events that began with the kidnapping of Daniel Boone's 13-year-old daughter and two of her friends by one of the Indian tribes that were unhappy with white settlers streaming into Kentucky and violating previous treaties. Meanwhile, the Revolutionary War is just beginning, and the English are eager to have the Indian leaders on their side. This book is meticulously researched, and I particularly liked Pearl's acknowledgment of all sides involved.

The Leavers turned out to be my favorite book for May. 11-year-old Deming and his mother, Polly, a Chinese undocumented worker in a nail salon, live in the Bronx, New York City with Polly's fiance, Leon, Leon's sister, Vivian, and Vivian's son, Michael. One day, Polly goes to work as usual, but never comes home. Since she has an independent nature and has talked about moving to Florida, it's assumed that she has abandoned Deming. Within a matter of months, Deming's world is turned upside down, and he finds himself fostered then adopted by a childless couple living upstate, two academics who rename him Daniel and seem intent on having him forget his Chinese identity and turning him into a replica of themselves. Although this seems cruel, they are well-intentioned, and among the main characters, there are no real villains. Ten years go by, and upon returning to NYC, Deming reconnects with Michael, and begins to unravel the mystery of what really happened to Polly, who also relates events from her point of view. The Leavers is beautifully written. Fans of Barbara Kingsolver will be interested in this smart, honest, and perceptive novel.

What is Juneteenth? is a valuable resource that sheds light on and much-needed information about our nation's newest holiday. I knew a few historical facts about its origins, but in reading this book, I learned about how Juneteenth celebrations began, how they slowly spread around the United States, as well as the types of food served and popular games that are played. Recommended reading for all ages!

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