February is a crappy month. I did not have much to look forward to (no travel plans, holidays, or even a friend’s birthday to celebrate) and spring still seems far off. A few good books, however, can more than compensate for the dreariness. I was fortunate to have some new releases that fit the bill: a sweet YA fiction, a really incredible memoir, and an evocative genre-bender.
- Yes No Maybe So (Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed)
- My Autobiography of Carson McCullers (Jenn Shapland)
- Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning (Cathy Park Hong)
I found Yes No Maybe So to be uplifting and sweet. I haven’t read a YA book since early last year, and this story was a welcome reintroduction. The outcome of the “maybe so” romance between Jamie and Maya is predictable, but the circumstances of their relationship — they grow close while canvassing for the liberal candidate in a special election — sets the story apart. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit that I learned a fair amount about what composes a political campaign from this fictional story, but I’m not. Considering that tons of teenagers across the country will read this book, I commend Albertalli and Saeed for wanting to invent a great story while empowering their youthful readers to contribute to the political policies that affect their lives.
What an inviting title for My Autobiography of Carson McCullers (I love that it’s a kind of riddle). I read Carson’s most famous books several years ago, at the recommendation of a new friend. And he was right, because I loved them. I don’t remember much of them now, but I can clearly recall how her works made me feel. Shapland conjured the same response from me with her memoir. I started off by underlining sentences, paragraphs, and then whole sections, but abandoned the practice once I realized I could never, unfortunately, mark what I wanted to capture: how her words made me feel. As a queer woman, Shapland sees Carson for what she is (but what everyone else ignored): a fellow queer woman. I hadn’t seen myself expressed on a page in the same way since I read Fun Home and it is, truly, an underrated experience to identify strongly with a protagonist (real or fictional). Shapland is an author whose career I will closely follow.
To review Minor Feelings is an assignment in futility. That’s how I felt when I set forth to write about it for a local nonprofit magazine, whose focus is to reflect the pan-Asian Pacific American community in the Pacific Northwest, in advance of Hong’s visit to Seattle next month. Hong confronts the insipid and oppressive experiences that coincide with being an Asian American through several essays that comprise both memoir and cultural criticism. I want to be clear that, rather than a symptom of Hong’s book, my failure in knowing how to adequately write about this work is, substantively, because I am not her target audience (which, I think, is a great thing). Instead, I want to tread carefully around a racial identity I do not possess. What I am sure of is that Hong’s book demands to be read by all audiences.
It feels incredible that, only two months into the year, I have already encountered some amazing and life-altering books. This is why I love reading! Now, I’m off to approach some new picks for March.
[I am not compensated for my unsolicited opinion. Links are not affiliate.]