Welcome to the weekly roundup on Ink in the Archives! Every week I will share what I’ve been up to and interested in and ask you to fill me in on your week too.
Eventful Events and Happening Happenings
Okay. So October was basically a blur and November is shaping up the same way.
My dad ended up needing emergency surgery (but he’s on the mend!), and my partner and I decided to come up to help the family out and stay through the holidays. Because driving back and forth is lame! Also–it’s not like there’s anything much we have to do in the Bay area since we’re both working from home.
Here’s what we’ve been up to:
- Helping out with dinners/dishes/laundry/things that need to get done
- Watching shows with the parents and movies with my brother
- Talking politics, science, religion, philosophy and more over coffee in the mornings (this is my favorite part about coming to visit my parents)
- Making baked goods
- Reorganizing with my mom
- School work, school work, school work
- Seeing my Nana and aunt and one or two close friends (6 ft apart and with masks)
- Baking bread
- Ordering all holiday presents very early
So really not that different from normal life, but I love how quiet it is here and the smell of the trees. You can take a walk without seeing anyone and watch the little juncos peck around the porch. It’s quite relaxing. Also it’s really cold here. I’d kind of forgotten.
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer If you read my last post you’ll know that I was captivated by this story of daring that saved hundreds of thousands of medieval texts from potential destruction. However this book was only OK for me–the writing was pretty decent but I wanted the book to be more focused on telling the story of the manuscripts and less on the Jihadis that were threatening them.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks I loved this book! It tells the story of a medieval manuscript (are you sensing a theme here?)–a beautiful Haggadah created by Sephardic Jews before their expulsion from Spain–going backwards in time from when it’s examined and painstakingly preserved by a rare books conservator. Using the items that she finds tucked within the book as a jumping off point, the novel explores the history of this precious book from multiple daring rescues all the way to its creation. Ultimately it tells a story of tolerance and creativity and is just fantastic. My mom recommended this to me, and I’m so glad I read it because it is just amazing. I highly recommend this book.
Recipes for Reading, ed. by Anne Bower This is one of the only scholarly books that focuses on community cookbooks, which is the subject of my historical research proposal, and I finally finished reading all the essays. There’s a really good one in here that explores the novel Like Water for Chocolate and its connections to food.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman I loved another of Backman’s books (and its film adaptation), A Man Called Ove, and when this book appeared as a Book of the Month choice, I snapped it up. Backman is so good at writing communities of people and how they’re interrelated even when they don’t think they are or when they don’t want to be. This book tells the story of a bank robbery. But not all is as it seems.
The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim This book was really disappointing because I was prepared to love it. It’s a story of Korean immigrant Mina Lee and her daughter, Margot. Margot finds her mother dead in her apartment and investigates her death. Along the way she finds out more than she ever knew about her mothers life and her own as well. The story investigates immigration and family trauma. Some scenes are brilliant, but on the whole the writing is uneven and falters in places and the ending is not really a surprise. I also felt that the pacing was off and I wasn’t attached to the characters until I was almost halfway through the book. This is Kim’s debut novel, and I think that shows, but I did like the complicated relationships this book explored.
The week before we came to visit my parents, I watched a bunch of documentaries. I haven’t watched very many movies since I’ve been here.
Mucho Mucho Amor (2020) This documentary explores the story of Walter Mercado, entertainer and astrologist. I thought Walter was amazing and inspiring (those capes!), and it’s so sad that he gave his name and work away to a business partner who turned out not to be trustworthy. But I think he is such a force of positivity. I had not heard about him before watching this documentary, and I really enjoyed learning his story. Netflix original.
Dolly Parton: Here I Am (2019) I have never been a fan of country music, but I absolutely love Dolly Parton. I think she is an amazing songwriter and I love how she forged her own path and didn’t let anything hold her back. Though she may not refer to herself as a feminist, I think she is still a feminist icon. Listening to her music always makes me feel better. This documentary explores her work through some of her most famous songs and features some really great interviews. I especially enjoyed the section on “9 to 5.” Streaming on Netflix.
All In My Family (2019) I don’t think I’ve ever felt like such a short documentary was soooo long. The filmmaker spends the entire film trying to decide whether or not he should tell his family about his true identity as a gay man who has adopted a lovely family with his husband. I was fascinated (and saddened) by the family dynamics, but I have to admit I found the filmmaker to be very wishy washy. I just wanted him to make a decision and stick to it! Netflix original.
#AnneFrank: Parallel Stories (2019) I remember the first time I read Anne Frank’s diary. I was 11 or 12 years old and I remember being so moved by this girl’s story–by her hopes and dreams, her contradictory nature, her spirit and energy. When I read the added page at the end that details her death I cried. This documentary attempts to bring that experience to life for others by both interviewing other child victims of the Holocaust and by showing a young woman following Anne Frank’s story by visiting memorials and other places for contemplation. Helen Mirren narrates the documentary with emotion and customary grace. This documentary explores trauma and our collective responsibility for continuing to tell the story of the Holocaust. Streaming on Netflix.
The Witches (2020) The original movie scared the pants off of me as a child. My brother, partner, and I watched this on Halloween and let me tell you this movie is horrifying, but not because its conventionally scary (though it tries hard to be). The premise is that witches are real, non-human, and hate children. In fact, they want to destroy children, largely by turning them into animals. Although this movie has a number of actors that I typically enjoy like Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, and Anne Hathaway–these are not great roles for any of them. Also–the voice over work by Chris Rock is totally jarring. The effects are over the top. And most important the message is troubling. What are we telling kids about people whose bodies are different through this film? What are we telling kids about powerful women? What are telling kids about how to deal with problems or how to treat people we disagree with? Nothing in this film suggests that people can change or be offered redemption, that people are complex, that people even have agency. The idea that people who look different are evil is an old idea that has really harmful consequences for our society and we should challenge these deeply ingrained associations. HBO Max original.
Please know that I’m not paid for my opinions about anything. I just like to share things that strike me as interesting, useful, or engaging.
This artist takes paintings from the thrift store and adds Star Wars elements.
If you’re looking for something to listen to this week, why not try a podcast musical set on board a cruise ship.
Looking for a good party game? I just supported Don’t Get Got on Kickstarter. The idea is pretty simple: each player has a number of missions to complete by tricking or convincing other players to do actions in real life.
This In Her Words piece from the New York Times really spoke to me as we get ready to welcome a new president into the White House, and, more historically, welcome the first female VP.
My Nana sent me an article on Jewish comfort foods, and I want to eat all of them. Maybe I’ll have to make a babka next week. Or a coffee cake. Or pretzels….
How have you been doing? Been reading anything good lately? Let me know in the comments!