June was a spectacular reading month. All of these books were good, but Invisible Child, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, and Wholehearted Faith were books I absolutely lived in. They were troubling, enlightening, left me trembling sometimes, and always made me think and offered new perspectives. The other three were just good reads.
Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival, and Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliot. Journalist and author Elliot followed Dasani and her family for 8 years, from the time Dasani was 11 years old until she became the first person in her entire family to graduate from high school. Dasani is the oldest of 8 children in a close-knit but poverty-stricken family. From her earliest years, her parents told the kids to always stay together; unfortunately, the broken system doesn’t work that way. Throughout the eight years, they go from shelter to shelter and into and out of foster care, while parents Chanel and Supreme, who battle drug addiction and despair, fight to maintain/regain custody. Dasani is accepted into a boarding school for low-income kids, and she then faces being torn between two worlds. This is such a heartbreaking story. Much like Evicted, it’s a story of inequality, poverty, and racism in America. Highly recommended.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. This is an astonishing novel in its breadth and depth. It's a story across multiple generations of a family that includes enslaved people, free Blacks, white enslavers, all part of Ailey Pearl Garfield's ancestral line. Woven throughout are snippets from W.E.B du Bois's reflections on Black American live in the South, including several from "The Lives of Black Folk." This is not an easy read. It unflinchingly explores class, race, sexual assault, addiction, ancestry, and education in a very big way, and I was mesmerized at every moment. I can hardly believe this is Jeffers' debut novel. Highly recommended.
Wholehearted Faith by Rachel Held Evans and Jeff Chu. I love Rachel Held Evans and every single word she ever wrote. We've been reading through and discussing this is a book club for several months, and at the end, we all wept, knowing that these were her last words before she died tragically in 2019. I finished this book feeling hopeful, seen, and reassured. Here's a great review at the Washington Post.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I'm late coming to this one; it seems to have been on everyone's list last year. I love this kind of story—a bit “It’s a Wonderful Life” and a bit “The Road Not Taken.” The question is one we all ask ourselves at some point: what if I’d made a different decision, even a small one? How would my life had changed? Great for book club discussion.
Mary Jane by Jessica Blau. I love a good coming-of-age story, and I could really relate to the 14-year-old girl in this one. It’s 1975, and Mary Jane’s summer job is as a nanny to a little girl whose parents are much different than her own conservative, country-club ones. Joining them for the summer are a famous rock star, who is being treated for addiction, and his wife, a movie star. Needless to say, it’s an eye-opening summer for Mary Jane. I loved Mary Jane’s discovery that she is a whole person separate from her parents, that there is magic and freedom in finding out how other people see her.
The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth. A fun, fast read. Hepworth is great for when you need something in-between hefty books.
I love months like this when every book is fantastic! Those first three, though... phew! Those will definitely be on my Top 10 list for 2022.
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