What I’ve Been Reading Lately (October 2023)

This was such an interesting diverse reading month for me which feels so satisfying. Of the four books I read, they were all different genres (autobiographical novel, crime thriller/supernatural horror, short story collection, and memoir). Two of them were books in translation (from France and Argentina) and the other two by voices that I don’t read very frequently (Indigenous and Muslim). This is all thanks to the #DiversityAcrossGenres reading challenge that pushes me to read diverse genres and perspectives. Sadly, it’s to the detriment of my personal Nordic Literature Reading Challenge which I will have to revisit and revise for next year.

What have you been reading lately?

The Postcard by Anne Berest (2021)
(Translated from the French by Tina Kover, 2023) 🎧

I loved this autobiographical novel based on the author’s own family history. The story’s seed was an anonymous postcard the author’s mother received in 2003 with only the names of Berest’s maternal great-grandparents and their two children killed at Auschwitz in 1942. That seed sprouted 15 years later when the author’s daughter experienced anti-Semitism at her elementary school.

From there began an ongoing dialogue between the author and her mother and an investigation into their family history that spanned five generations starting in Moscow in 1918. I really enjoyed getting to know the family members throughout time and place (Russia, Latvia, Palestine, France), getting insight into various aspects of life in France during World War II (Jews, Resistance fighters, and collaborators), and observing the relationship between the author and her mother throughout their investigation. I loved the structure of the novel. It jumped back and forth from contemporary to past times and included letters and emails. It kept the suspense going as the mystery around the postcard continued.

I highly recommend the book. The translation by Tina Kover was seamless. I listened to the audiobook wonderfully narrated by Barrie Kealoha. It’s not always an easy read with the atrocities against Jews during WWII and the resulting trauma upon survivors and descendants. But the fact that this book has been written and will forever keep the deceaseds’ memories alive is powerful. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shutter by Ramona Emerson (2022) 📖

Rita, the protagonist, is an Indigenous forensic photographer with the Albuquerque Police Department. Not only does she have a great talent for capturing crime scene details, but she is also able to see and communicate with spirits of the dead. The story jumps back and forth in time between her upbringing by her grandmother on the Navajo Nation reservation and the present when the ghost of a murdered woman won’t leave her alone until the killer is brought to justice. I definitely enjoyed the Indigenous own voice narrative and Navajo cultural details. Might there have been too much graphic detail at some crime scenes and a couple of crime plot points that were too convenient, yes, but overall a great read. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enríquez (2016)
(Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, 2017) 📖🎧

This collection of short stories from Argentina certainly delivered a strong sense of time and place, which I love about books, especially books in translation. The twelve stories are set in the recent past with Argentina’s troubled history in the background, and they take place in various areas around Buenos Aires and beyond. The characters in each of the stories are all generally going about their regular business, but there’s always something unsettling and disturbing that happens. A very captivating read, but not for the faint of heart. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H. 📖

This is the coming-of-age memoir of a queer Muslim immigrant to the US. It begins with the author’s childhood in the Middle East (after having moved there from the South Asian country of her birth so her father could provide a better life for his family) and continues through her years at an elite college in the US and into her early adult life in New York City. She has always felt out of place. Her queerness would be intolerable and ostracizing to her Muslim family and community. Her journey to make sense of her identity is interspersed with her interpretations of stories from the Quran. This book was a very engaging read that provided insight into so much that is unfamiliar to me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What have you been reading lately?

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3 thoughts on “ What I’ve Been Reading Lately (October 2023)

  1. I found my late mother’s copies of Liv Ullmann’s autobiographies, Changing (1977) and Choices (1984) and read and enjoyed them both. I have read many of the books by her daughter, Linn Ullmann, and highly recommend her work. I have been interested in the punk scene in Hollywood in the late 1970s and early 1980s that changed music forever (I am 55, old enough to remember it but too young to have gone to the clubs to see the bands) so I just read Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of LA Punk (2016) by John Doe of X with Tom DeSavia and friends, a collection of essays by members of the original punk scene and the follow-up book, More Fun in the New World The Unmaking and Legacy of L.A. Punk (2019) by John Doe of X and Tom Desavia and Friends. I also read Lips Unsealed: A Memoir by Belinda Carlisle, an L.A. native, best known as leader singer for the Go-Go’s. The Go-Go’s were formed as a punk band and had roots in the late 1970s L.A. punk community. They shared a rehearsal space with the Motels and X, and Carlisle, under the name “Dottie Danger”, was briefly a member of punk rock band the Germs and one of the 50 or so “original” punks in the Hollywood scene. In 1981, released their debut album Beauty and the Beat. A first for an all-female band writing their own material and playing their own instruments, the LP topped the Billboard album chart which remains an achievement yet to be matched over 40 years later. Having sold over 7 million records, they are widely considered the most successful all-female rock band of all time. The Go-Go’s were an all-girl’s venture, with a female manager, a female lawyer, and even all-female roadies at the beginning of their career. Because of misogyny in the still male-dominated record industry, the history-making Go-Go’s were not inducted into the Rock n’ Rock Hall of Fame until 2021, a year after a documentary released in 2020 about the band by Allison Ellwood premiered at Sundance and was shown on TV in the U.S on Showtime. As a native of L.A. (born at Good Sam in 1968 to a Norwegian mother and American father), I love books about Los Angeles and although these books are hardly literary, if you are interested in rock music or the cultural history Los Angeles, they are extremely interesting and worthwhile reads.

  2. Finally in October I read 2 books that have been on my “to read” list for years! Having only read 1 book set in Hawaii (“Hawaii”), it was time! And I’ve not read a book covering the Japanese Internment Camps (Manzanar Relocation Camp) In California during WWII. “Moloka’i” is mainly set in Hawaii while “Daughter of Moloka’i” is mainly set in California. Alan Brennert is the author. I was quickly hooked on both books. A book club book for November, “Saved by Schindler: The Life of Celina Karp Biniaz” was an interesting (and of course, hard to read) biography of a holocaust survivor. She happens to live in Camarillo AND, I had visited many of the places in Krakow she mentions in the book. Another amazing story of a survivor.

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