January 2020 was quiet. I began the year reading The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, I loved it and will probably read again. I was finally able to watch the movie.
In February I picked up Heavy: an American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon on Brenna’s recommendation. Kiese shares his experiences growing up with a single mother. He covers honestly and unflinchingly many difficult subjects. It’s a shocking and emotional read, but worth it.
When she was an undergrad Lit major, Brenna fell in love with Black literature and recommended good books and authors to me occasionally, and I’ve read several. I became even more interested in Black stories when racial tensions and police violence began to gain national attention – again). On August 14, 2016, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem, and, well –BOOM. A good portion of Americans lost their minds. I served in the military, and spent ten years steeped in Christian Nationalism, so I felt I knew what white people were upset about, but I didn’t really understand on a personal level what Black Americans were experiencing daily in this country. I started reading and watching movies and documentaries by Black people, and I began to understand – but never will fully – the pain, anger, frustration, and outrage that results from being oppressed by racist policies and practices in most areas of government and society. And the deaths. So many deaths.
When I saw the footage on Nightly News of George Floyd being killed on May 25, 2020, I sobbed. I marched in a local protest on June 6th, and now understand why people participate: there is a sense of solidarity. It was my way of saying I see you, I hear you, I support you, I’m so mad at what you have to endure, there has to be change! It really was a life-changing experience for me. I donated to bail relief funds, supported Black businesses online, I shared my books — and I kept reading.
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir is a book I can’t recommend highly enough — especially if you don’t understand the Black Lives Matter movement other than what you’ve seen on the news. When I would see people posting #AllLivesMatter in response to BLM, I would say You’re not listening to Black stories. If you did listen sincerely, you would understand why that hashtag is demeaning and dismissive. This is the story of how #BlackLivesMatter began – the stories of its authors and their friends, family, and community.
Conversations in Black: On Power, Politics, and Leadership, by Ed Gordon. Conversations in Black offers sage wisdom for navigating race in a radically divisive America. I was lucky enough to catch Gordon discussing his book online with Mahogany Books in March.
The novels I read by Black authors:
The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nahisi Coates. I listened on audio. It’s beautifully written and narrated — just amazing.
The Vanishing Half, by Britt Bennette. I received from Brenna for my birthday. It’s a story about twin light-skinned black sisters who separate and lead different lives — one as a white woman, one as black.
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. I learned a lot of history from this book that covers character’s lives over generations of the slave trade from Africa to the Americas.
I lived for fifty years without ever having hated someone. Then DJT moved into American politics and people started writing books about their experiences with him — personal as well as professional. I read a few, and their words confirmed what the man was showing himself to be. If you had the displeasure of being one of my Trump-supporting followers on Instagram, you know how these books added fuel to my fire.
Too Much and Never Enough, by Mary Trump. This helped me understand why DJT turned out the way he did. I was mad I actually had a pang of sympathy for him for having such a horrible father. Despite how the conservative media spun this book, it was well-written and not sensationalistic.
Disloyal, by Michael Cohen. Oh boy. If you read this book by the man who knew DJT best for twelve years and did his dirty work for him, put your seatbelt on because it’s a wild ride. I believe every bit of what is written here. DJT and Barr had Cohen put back in prison to try and stop publication. I keep up with Cohen’s profanity-laced commentary on DJT’s current affairs on his podcast Mea Culpa.
These next three I haven’t finished yet. They’re big books and very compelling reading.
- The Room Where it Happened, by John Bolton
- Trump vs The United States, by Michael Schmidt
- Rage, by Bob Woodward
And in no particular order:
- Greenlights, by Matthew McConaughey 3.5/5
- I Have Something to Tell You, by Chasten Buttigieg 4/5
- The Pale-Faced Lie, by David Crow 3/5
- Karla Faye Tucker: Set Free, by Linda Strom 3.5/5
- The Lido, by Libby Page. I LOVED this charming story! 5/5
- Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom, by Thomas Dubay (This was the only spiritual book I finished this year – though I read a bit in many – and it showed.) 5/5