Here’s what I read this month:
How to Survive a Plague by David France
This was a really amazing work about the AIDS crisis which was improved by the author’s insider perspective as someone who lived as a gay journalist and documented the activist movement during the time of the crisis. This is the first hefty non-fiction text I’ve gotten through in quite a while due to the author’s easy and compelling writing style. I did have a bit of a hard time keeping track of the many key players and organizations, and there were a few times I had trouble focusing and understanding the science especially, but overall I really enjoyed reading this book and think it’s valuable for all who don’t know about the AIDS crisis, the activists whose actions saved so many lives, and the ways the government failed America’s gay community during that time.
Genuine Fraud (ARC) by E. Lockhart
I was sadly disappointed with this one, after being so impressed with Lockhart’s previous pseudo-mystery We Were Liars. This story, told in reverse chronological order so that it starts with a mysterious girl with a stolen identity on the run, just lacked the mystery that the aforementioned novel had, and it felt like many pieces were picked up along the way but not quite tied together well at the end.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
What a beautiful novel about a young girl during the 1930s who goes from living a privileged life as the daughter of a ranch-owner in Mexico to becoming a poor American immigrant, working on a dust bowl-era farm and experiencing prejudice and bias for the first time. The characterization of Esperanza as a spoiled rich girl felt slightly overly simplistic, especially in the beginning, but I really warmed to her and her story by the end as she started to become more empathetic to others. Overall, a wonderful, unique, and historically informative read.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (ARC) by Erika L. Sanchez
I had mixed feelings about this novel, which was billed to me at ALA as appealing for fans of Jane the Virgin. While this novel lacked the quirkiness I was hoping for, I was very impressed by the representation in this book, which tackles issues of illegal/undocumented immigration, poverty, life in inner cities and race/class divides, LGBT issues, mental health, and learning to appreciate one’s own culture. While there was something about the writing style that didn’t appeal to me directly, I would recommend this novel and was glad to have read it.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Wow. I actually started this book as an audiobook (full cast recording, unabridged) and made it halfway through before the book was automatically returned to the library. However, this month I got it back and was finally able to finish it! I think I missed something because of the gap and also because I have a harder time paying attention to finer details in audiobook format, which this book absolutely required. Still, I found the concept (people immigrating to America brought their culture and their Gods with them, but the old gods are dying out as people are believing in them less and less) and the many layers of symbolism and exploration of American culture fascinating. Everything didn’t really click for me until the end, so I could see myself returning to this novel one day (though probably the abridged version) to rediscover the things I missed the first time around.