December 19, 2016

Recent Reads

181. The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil
I'm conflicted about this graphic novel. On the one hand, I really liked the black and white art, and the themes explored are not only relevant today, but have been relevant since Sapiens started forming into little bands. Oh, and the main character is a man, who draws his surroundings at the end of each day. Loved that.

What's it about? Well, it's about communities, and needing to fit in, and fear of the unknown, and how whenever some people are faced with something new/different, they react in rather narrow minded and hateful ways.

Wonderful themes for sure, but I did not feel that this graphic novel shed any new light on them. So while I enjoyed this fairy tale like story, it will not leave any lingering traces in its wake. Rating: 3 stars.

182. The Singing Bones: Inspired by Grimms' Fairy Tales
I'm a fan of Shaun Tan and his work, so was delighted to get my hands on this one, and it does not disappoint.

The thing to know going in is that it is not a typical book that you read. Like many of us, the author is fascinated by fairy tales, and he created little sculptures that capture the essence of 75 of the Brothers Grimm stories. I had not heard of many of these fairy tales, so it was lovely to have a little synopsis of each story at the end of the book.

The format of the book is as follows, each two page spread has the name of the story, and a little blurb from it on the left, and a beautifully composed photograph of a little sculpture that interprets the text on the right. It's the imagination that created these little sculptures that will take your breath away.

I would highly recommend this one to fans of fairy tales, art, and Shaun Tan. This book is like holding a wonderfully curated gallery of art in your hands. Rating: 4 stars.

183. The Bluest Eye
At 10.0%: "When I find myself disappointed by recently hyped books, I find myself reaching for the classics. They are classics for a reason. Loving this one."

At 60.0%: "I'm slowly making my way through this one. It simultaneously makes me smile and makes my heart ache."

I've read a couple of books by the author, and have decided to go back and read her work in order of publication. That this is the author's debut novel is mind boggling. I don't know if I can put into words how much I loved this book.

Since this is a classic, I'm sure most people know what it's about, so let me start with the question by Malcolm X that the author quoted in her afterward, "Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?"

When you think about this story it might be little Pecola Breedlove that comes to mind, a poor "ugly" black girl, who is mocked for her blackness, who prays daily to be beautiful, which she equates with blond hair and blue eyes. Where does one's sense of what is beautiful come from? Take a minute and answer that question for yourself. For most people of color, the answer to that question looks nothing like what we see in the mirror. Why is that?

This is not an easy book to read, but it is important that it be read, and the themes it explores be discussed. One might think this is historical fiction, a thing that is no longer relevant today, and you would be wrong. There are young girls of color close to me who would give anything for blue eyes, and I mean anything. Breaks my heart. I am actually in tears as I write this, as I love these girls dearly, and the depths of their self hatred is heartbreaking. In this novel Toni Morrision asks insightful questions about race, class, gender, and community that we all would do well to ponder.

I listened to the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by the author, and I loved the afterword where the author talks about her inspiration for this book. Highly recommended. Rating: 5 stars.

184. Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq
What is journalism? How are stories retold? Where do memory and truth meet? These are some of the questions explored in this wonderful graphic nonfiction book. This is timely read for our times, when there are unprecedented numbers of refugees and displaced people on the planet.

The author is not a journalist, but goes along with two journalist friends and a former Marine, as they travel around Turkey, Iraq, and Syria trying to understand the effects of the Iraq War on the people who lived in the region. This book is an exploration of the questions above. The muted watercolor art is lovely and works really well.

The death of mainstream journalism is not news to anyone, and I for one am much heartened to see that there are still people who work hard at telling stories that affect, and should matter to, all of us. Rating: 4 stars.

185. Make Your Own Ideabook with Arne & Carlos: Create Handmade Art Journals and Bound Keepsakes to Store Inspiration and Memories
I spotted this book on my library shelves and brought it home with me. I'm a fan of idea books, and the authors show how they make theirs, showcase several of their books, with tips for themed books. I loved the photography in this book, seeing all those fat, splayed out books make me want to paw through them. However, the content itself was on the light side, so just OK. Rating:2 stars.

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