Multi-Week Roundup: October 11 – November 7

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.

Books Read

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.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Movies Watched

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.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

#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.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Links/Articles

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!

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 2016 Releases I’m Really Excited About

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is all about what 2016 releases we really meant to get to, but weren’t able to read for whatever reason. My reading is almost always at least a year (if not a century) behind, so I actually like waiting for the best-of-the-year lists to come out, and a lot of times I build up my to-read list from these compiled lists by people who do actually read the books when they come out. In particular, I really like NPR’s list because it’s super fun and visual and easy to sort through (I am a huge nerd about good indexing and cross indexing), not to mention the blurbs are written by people like librarians and NPR staffers instead of publishing houses. I like the different perspectives. So here are ten books that I mostly haven’t mentioned yet, but that I can’t wait to read whether that’s this year or years down the road when they happen to find me.

  • The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson–Starts on the brink of WWI in a small English town–a book about manners and how they’re affected by the chaos of war. Sounds like a great read. (in the Book Club Ideas Section)
  • Umami by Laia Jufresa–I love reading translated books (part of the enjoyment being thinking about how the book is different in the native language–pure speculation), and this debut novel about loss and connection in Mexico City seems like a great read. (in the Staff Picks Section).
  • Patience by Daniel Clowes–Graphic novels are so interesting and moving, and I like the change of pace from regular novels every now and again. This book is supposed to be a love story, but also involves time travel. Can you really ask for more than that? (in the For Art Lovers section)
  • Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung–A boarding school story set in Australia with a young woman who struggles to find a place for herself and her heritage, a YA with plenty of nuance–my favorite kind. (in the Tales From Around the World section)
  • The Vanishing Velázquez: A 19th Century Bookseller’s Obsession With A Lost Masterpiece by Laura Cumming–a nonfiction book about a man obsessed  with a work of art. (in the Seriously Great Writing section)
  • The Glass Universe: How The Ladies Of The Harvard Observatory Took The Measure Of The Stars by David Sobel–A group of female astrologists, long relegated to the sidelines are brought to the forefront. This books talks about the women themselves as well as their contributions to science. (in the It’s All Geek to Me section)
  • The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg–A spin on the 1,001 Nights, and that’s all I have to know to be interested in this graphic novel. (in the Ladies First section)
  • The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer–A nonfiction book about brave librarians who risk everything to save books…um yes please. (in the Identity & Culture section)
  • The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman–YA historical fiction that takes the historical part seriously but isn’t afraid to throw a few demons in. (in the Rather Long section)
  • The Book of Magic: From Antiquity to Enlightenment ed. by Brian Copenhaver–I love reading about magic and how the perception of it has changed over time. This book looks like something of an undertaking, but a good one. (in the Eye-Opening Reads section)

 

How do you find new books for your TBR lists? Was there a book you missed this year that you really were looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Debut Books I Loved + 5 I’m Eager to Read

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from the Broke and the Bookish.

So I’m not up to date on the current debut novels, mostly because I check everything out from the library and I love old books and recently published books just as much as new ones. So instead, I’m sharing five of my favorite debut novels of all time, as well as five debut books published in 2015 that I’ve got on my TBR list. In keeping with the theme of the year, they’re all written by women, but my favorites would be the same, even if that wasn’t the case.

My Favorites:

  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith–this is actually one of my favorites of all time, forget debuts. There is so much wit and the novel is so finely crafted.
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath–there is just something about this book. It’s so sad and beautiful.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt–it’s hard to believe this is a debut. It’s so smart, the writing is so tight, the subject matter is so dark, mature and immature all at once. Brilliant, even if it took me a while to get through.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee–if you only got to publish one book in your lifetime, this one wouldn’t suck.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling–obviously this one was going to be on here.

Five I’m Excited For (synopses from Goodreads):

The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell (sic-fi): Inez wanders a post-pandemic world, strangely immune to disease, making her living by volunteering as a test subject. She is hired to provide genetic material to a grief-stricken, affluent mother, who lost all four of her daughters within four short weeks. This experimental genetic work is policed by a hazy network of governmental ethics committees, and threatened by the Knights of Life, religious zealots who raze the rural farms where much of this experimentation is done.

When the mother backs out at the last minute, Inez is left responsible for the product, which in this case is a baby girl, Ani. Inez must protect Ani, who is a scientific breakthrough, keeping her alive, dodging authorities and religious fanatics, and trying to provide Ani with the childhood that Inez never had, which means a stable home and an education.

With a stylish voice influenced by years of music writing, The Only Onesis a time-old story, tender and iconic, about how much we love our children, however they come, as well as a sly commentary on class, politics, and the complexities of reproductive technology.

The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman (historical fiction): For fans of Sarah Waters and The Crimson Petal and the White, a vibrant tale of female boxers and their scheming patrons in 18th-century Bristol.

Some call the prize ring a nursery for vice . . .

Born into a brothel, Ruth’s future looks bleak until she catches the eye of Mr. Dryer. A rich Bristol merchant and enthusiast of the ring, he trains gutsy Ruth as a puglist. Soon she rules the blood-spattered sawdust at the infamous Hatchet Inn.

Dryer’s wife Charlotte lives in the shadows. A grieving orphan, she hides away, scarred by smallpox, ignored by Dryer, and engaged in dangerous mind games with her brother.

When Dryer sidelines Ruth after a disastrous fight, and focuses on training her husband Tom, Charlotte presents Ruth with an extraordinary proposition. As the tension mounts before Tom’s Championship fight, two worlds collide with electrifying consequences.

The Fair Fight will take you from a filthy brothel to the finest houses in the town, from the world of street-fighters to the world of champions. Alive with the smells and the sounds of the streets, it is a raucous, intoxicating tale of courage, reinvention and fighting your way to the top.

Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry (historical fiction): A ravishing first novel, set in vibrant, tumultuous turn-of-the-century New York City, where the lives of four outsiders become entwined, bringing irrevocable change to them all.

New York, 1895. Sylvan Threadgill, a night soiler cleaning out the privies behind the tenement houses, finds an abandoned newborn baby in the muck. An orphan himself, Sylvan rescues the child, determined to find where she belongs.

Odile Church and her beautiful sister, Belle, were raised amid the applause and magical pageantry of The Church of Marvels, their mother’s spectacular Coney Island sideshow. But the Church has burnt to the ground, their mother dead in its ashes. Now Belle, the family’s star, has vanished into the bowels of Manhattan, leaving Odile alone and desperate to find her.

A young woman named Alphie awakens to find herself trapped across the river in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum—sure that her imprisonment is a ruse by her husband’s vile, overbearing mother. On the ward she meets another young woman of ethereal beauty who does not speak, a girl with an extraordinary talent that might save them both.

As these strangers’ lives become increasingly connected, their stories and secrets unfold. Moving from the Coney Island seashore to the tenement-studded streets of the Lower East Side, a spectacular human circus to a brutal, terrifying asylum, Church of Marvels takes readers back to turn-of-the-century New York—a city of hardship and dreams, love and loneliness, hope and danger. In magnetic, luminous prose, Leslie Parry offers a richly atmospheric vision of the past in a narrative of astonishing beauty, full of wondrous enchantments-a marvelous debut that will leave readers breathless).

The Shore by Sara Taylor (fiction): Welcome to The Shore: a collection of small islands sticking out from the coast of Virginia into the Atlantic Ocean. Where clumps of evergreens meet wild ponies, oyster-shell roads, tumble-down houses, unwanted pregnancies, murder, storm-making and dark magic in the marshes. . .

Situated off the coast of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay, the group of islands known as the Shore has been home to generations of fierce and resilient women. Sanctuary to some but nightmare to others, it’s a place they’ve inhabited, fled, and returned to for hundreds of years. From a half-Shawnee Indian’s bold choice to flee an abusive home only to find herself with a man who will one day try to kill her to a brave young girl’s determination to protect her younger sister as methamphetamine ravages their family, to a lesson in summoning storm clouds to help end a drought, these women struggle against domestic violence, savage wilderness, and the corrosive effects of poverty and addiction to secure a sense of well-being for themselves and for those they love.

Together their stories form a deeply affecting legacy of two barrier island families, illuminating 150 years of their many freedoms and constraints, heartbreaks, and pleasures. Conjuring a wisdom and beauty all its own, The Shore is a richly unique, stunning novel that will resonate with readers long after turning its final pages, establishing Sara Taylor as a promising new voice in fiction.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (YA): Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

From those of you that read debuts when they actually debut, did I miss any of your favorites from this year? Do you have a favorite debut novel? Let me know in the comments!