I didn’t set out to create a collection of slightly sad books. But after looking over the list of completed reads this month, these were the stories that stood out to me the most.
Despite being a little bit heavy, all of these novels and memoirs added something valuable to my perspective— from exploring the blowback caused by unexpected DNA test results to hearing about the connection between women, today’s culture of overwork, and alcoholism.
The Atlas of Reds and Blues [Devi S. Laskar]
“Where are you from? No, where are you really from?”
This novel starts with police violence and moves on to content that seems almost banal on the surface — the day-to-day life of a second-generation immigrant and the tiny cuts of racism, stereotyping and ignorance that impact her life, career and family. Devi S. Laskar’s prose is almost like poetry, and what she leaves out (chiefly, the names of the main characters, who are called Mother, My Hero, and Youngest/Middle/Oldest Daughter) helps the reader to better imagine themselves in the protagonist’s shoes.
Nothing Good can Come of This [Kristi Coulter]
The person who recommended this book described it as a book about alcoholism. But it’s so much more than that — it’s about burnout, feminism, and today’s culture of normalizing crushing amounts of work and unhealthy amounts of drinking.
Kristi Coulter shares her experience with sobriety in a definitely-unsober world, from the awkwardness of not ordering drinks with dinner to the way that alcohol can become a coverup for what’s really wrong in our lives.
The Still Point of the Turning World [Emily Rapp]
Do you like to cry? Do you like to cry a lot? If so, this is the book for you.
Emily Rapp’s thoughts on death, dying and spirituality in the wake of her infant son’s terminal diagnosis is not a light read. I loved this book because it’s not tragedy porn – she doesn’t invite you to share in the grisly details, and you can feel the respect that she has for Ronan’s privacy. I’m struggling to find a good comparison for this book (perhaps Joan Didion?) as it lies somewhere between memoir and philosophy.
Inheritance [Dani Shapiro]
Genetic test kits are given as gifts and seen as a fun way to discover something new about yourself — but what happens when you learn something you didn’t expect?
Dani Shapiro writes about her experience reconnecting with her birth father after discovering her family was not what it seems. It’s an honest portrayal of a family trying to figure out how they can connect after decades apart, and how to consider your own identity and sense of self after learning that you aren’t who you thought you were.
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