Friday Bookbag, 7.12.19


Friday Bookbag is a weekly feature where I share a list of books I’ve borrowed, bought, or received during the week. It’s my chance to buzz about my excitement for books I might not get the chance to review.

I’m catching up on a backlog of purchases over the past few weeks when I was taking a break from blogging, so expect extra-stuffed Friday Bookbags for the next few weeks.

This week I’ve got a novel about an Afghani family in crisis, a memoir of teaching English undercover in North Korea, and two very different (and exciting!) lesbian YA titles.

When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

When the Moon is Low Cover
cover description: A hijabi woman sits on a hill and gazes at the moon.

the premise: From Goodreads:

“In Kabul, we meet Fereiba, a schoolteacher who puts her troubled childhood behind her when she finds love in an arranged marriage. But Fereiba’s comfortable life implodes when the Taliban rises to power and her family becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime. Forced to flee with her three children, Fereiba has one hope for survival: to seek refuge with her sister’s family in London. 

Traveling with forged papers and depending on the kindness of strangers, Fereiba and the children make a dangerous crossing into Iran under cover of darkness, the start of a harrowing journey that reduces her from a respected wife and mother to a desperate refugee.”

why I’m excited: “Excited” seems like the wrong word to use about my feelings for a book with a premise this sad, but this book has gotten great reviews, so I’m interested to read it. It’s about an earlier refugee crisis than the ones that make the news right now, but it still couldn’t be more timely.

Without You, There Is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

the premise: From Goodreads:

Without You There Is No Us Cover
cover description: An illustration of a classroom against a reddish-pink background. Shadowy figures look up at portraits of North Korean leaders.

“Every day, three times a day, the students march in two straight lines, singing praises to Kim Jong-il and North Korea: Without you, there is no motherland. Without you, there is no us. It is a chilling scene, but gradually Suki Kim, too, learns the tune and, without noticing, begins to hum it. It is 2011, and all universities in North Korea have been shut down for an entire year, the students sent to construction fields—except for the 270 students at the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a walled compound where portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il look on impassively from the walls of every room, and where Suki has gone undercover as a missionary and a teacher. Over the next six months, she will eat three meals a day with her young charges and struggle to teach them English, all under the watchful eye of the regime.”

why I’m excited: This is the real-life memoir of a woman who went undercover in North Korea. I’m fascinated by how difficult and dangerous that must have been. In fact, I’m almost looking forward more to learning more about the author than I am in reading about what she saw, since it takes a special kind of person to be willing to do this kind of unimaginably risky undercover work.

Ash by Malinda Lo

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Ash Cover
cover description: A black and white image of a girl in a white dress laying in a fetal position in tall grass.

the premise: From Goodreads:

“In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love–and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.”

why I’m excited: To call Ash, a lesbian Cinderella retelling, ahead of its time for YA literature would be an understatement. I first read it when the first edition was released 10 years ago, when I was a baby gay and years before I came out of the closet. It’s not just its queerness that matters to me, though–it’s also a genuinely gripping and unusual fantasy novel, especially for a Cinderella retelling. I bought the 10th anniversary edition for my Kindle. I can’t wait to revisit it.

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel Cover
cover description: Two girls’ faces are opposite to each other on the cover, one at the top of the cover and one on the bottom. The background is pink stripes.

the premise: From Goodreads:

“High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.”

why I’m excited: Unlike Ash, I’ve never read this lesbian YA novel, even though it came out back in 2014. This premise is my favorite out of all the books I’m featuring this week. A lesbian romance that’s also about learning to loosen up, make friends, and find your faith in humanity? Oh, hell yes. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. In fact, I think I’m going to start reading it right away. Bye, y’all.

What’s in your bookbag this week? Do you have any exciting weekend reading plans? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to link to your own book reviews and blog posts!

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