If you’re looking for some book recs, here is a handful of recent reads we couldn’t put down.
By: Melissa Fine, Soulara
2020 has gifted us with spare time. Why not use it mindfully by swapping those hours scrolling through social with getting lost in a good book? Whether you’re after a meaty memoir or want to learn more about the issues hitting the world hard today, we’ve got you covered.
Happiness: A Memoir by Heather Harpham
Heather is in a devoted relationship with her boyfriend Brian, who has made it clear that if he were to have kids with anyone, it would be with Heather. Regardless, Brian doesn’t want to be a father and refuses to be one when Heather accidentally falls pregnant. They break up, and Heather plans to parent solo, which proves to be a feat more difficult than she could have ever imagined when her daughter is born with a rare and life-threatening blood disease.
We won’t reveal any more, but prepare for plot twists that make for an unputdownable read. The story might sound heavy, but true to the title, Happiness is also peppered with heartfelt moments of joy, hope, and humour, and is a homage to love, and the people who were Heather’s life raft through a parent’s worst nightmare.
Good Talk by Mira Jacob
A graphic (think comic-book-style) memoir in candid conversations, Jacob invites you into her world as a person of colour, chronicling her East Indian family’s immigration from New Mexico to the US, through to what life is like for her as a young adult in New York during Trump’s presidency.
You’ll feel like you’re sitting in the room with the characters – including Jacob’s Jewish husband, her full-of-questions six-year-old son (“Was Michael Jackson brown or was he white? Is it bad to be brown?”), and Trump-supporting in-laws. As they navigate life as an interracial family in America, some of the stories will make you laugh out loud; others will have you welling up, and all of them will have you thinking about how your life has been defined by your race and gender, and examining your own culturally-ingrained prejudices.
This is How it Always is by Laurie Frankel
Rosie and Penn are happily married with four kids – but they’re all boys, and Rosie is dying for a girl. So they try one more time, and alas, they have a boy, Claude, so Rosie accepts her fate and life carries on happily. But from the moment he can express himself, Claude persists that when he grows up, he wants to be a girl. Frankel chronicles the journey of Rosie and Penn’s family as they relentlessly try to make the world a safe and welcoming place for Claude.
A Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, this is a heartfelt story about love and family, with a powerful underlying commentary on gender constructs and identity. The characters are delved into so richly that you’ll forget you’re reading fiction; Frankel raised a transgender daughter and so the topic of gender identity is approached wholeheartedly, tastefully, respectfully, encouraging the reader to be open-minded about what it really means to be a boy or a girl.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
A timely read for 2020, Oluo walks you through the history of systemic racism in America and shines a light on your own racial prejudices (which, until reading this book, you probably think you don’t have). The goal is to assist you in having informed and constructive conversations about racism with your friends, family, and colleagues – a topic we often shy away from because we don’t know how to approach it. Oluo explains in the preface, “I wanted people to have a tool they could hold in their hands and turns back to, time and time again, as different issues regarding race came up in their lives.”
Each chapter addresses a different question relating to race (ranging from ‘What are microaggressions?’ and ‘Why can’t I say the “N” word?’, to ‘Why can’t I touch your hair?’) and is peppered with first-hand accounts of racism as real-life examples to reflect on. With the racism experienced by minority groups in America sharing striking parallels with that experienced by Indigenous Australians, this is as much a must-read for Australians as it is for Americans.
Educated by Tara Westover
In this mind-blowing memoir, Westover chronicles what it was like to grow up in a Mormon family in Idaho, who was relentlessly preparing for the ‘end of days’. Westover had no education, had never set foot in a hospital, and according to the government, she didn’t exist, as she had no birth certificate. Rather than going to school, Westover and her six siblings spent their days working in their father’s junkyard, one of the many sites where their lives were put at risk due to his ‘in God’s hands’ mentality that spurred reckless behaviour.
At 16, Westover escapes home, her increasingly radical and controlling father, and increasingly abusive brother in the hopes of getting educated; and that she does, making her way to some of the most prestigious universities in America. Torn between her family and freedom, Westover’s transformative journey towards an education – not just academically, but on life beyond the confines of her upbringing – is both heartbreaking and uplifting.
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle
If you couldn’t put down Glennon’s #1 New York Times 2020 Bestseller, Untamed, it’s worth going back in time and reading her memoir that preceded it, which shines a light on just how far Glennon has come since Love Warrior was published in 2016.
This is the story of Glennon’s healing process after discovering that her ‘ticks all the boxes’ husband of 10 years, and father of her three children, had been cheating on her from day one. As Glennon says, “We can do hard things,” and that she does in Love Warrior, dealing with the pain of heartbreak – and reflecting on her strength in overcoming addiction and bulimia in her early 20s – to rebuild her relationship with her husband, and herself, from the ground up.
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