Friday Bookbag, 12.8.17

friday bookbag

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

Side note: I’ve been reading so many review-worthy books lately that I’m considering adding a second scheduled slot for reviews like I’m already doing with Monday Reads–I’m thinking on Thursdays or even Saturdays–or maybe I’ll drop extra reviews in randomly…I’m not sure yet!

Musings aside, here are two books I picked up this week that I’m dying to read.


9781250124579

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Loving thy neighbor is easier said than done.

Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbors. One is black, the other white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed and are living with questions, disappointments, and secrets that have brought them shame. And each has something that the woman next door deeply desires.

Sworn enemies, the two share a hedge and a deliberate hostility, which they maintain with a zeal that belies their age. But, one day, an unexpected event forces Hortensia and Marion together. As the physical barriers between them collapse, their bickering softens into conversation. But are these sparks of connection enough to ignite a friendship, or is it too late to expect these women to change?

Source: the library

Why I’m excited: This has been my year of making a conscious effort to read more books by women, and especially books about women who are different from myself. I’m 23, not in my 80s as these two characters are, and I’ll be interested to see if I find this book relatable anyway…even if I don’t, it promises to be funny and sweet, something I need this week.

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Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Freshly disengaged from her fiancé and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town, and arrives at her parents’ home to find family life more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory. Her mother, like Ruth, is smarting from a betrayal. But over the course of a year, the comedy in Ruth’s situation takes hold, gently transforming her grief.

Source: the library

Why I’m excited: I love books about family, which this is, and I also love NPR’s 2017 book concierge, where this book was featured. Like The Woman Next Door, it sounds like there’s a humorous component. Also, the cover design is pretty, and the spine was eye-catching on the library shelf. (What can I say? Sometimes I do judge by a cover.)


See books here that you’ve already read or that are on your to-read list? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to link to your own book reviews and  blog posts!

Friday Bookbag, 12.1.17 (textbook edition!)

friday bookbag

Friday Bookbag is a weekly feature where I share a list of books I’ve borrowed, bought, or otherwise acquired during the week. Unfortunately, I don’t have any new books to write about this week–mostly because I’m knee-deep in finishing my final semester of undergrad–so I hope you’ll join me for a brief, nerdy interlude.

When I started college in fall 2014, I was planning to be an English major with a journalism focus, but I was also having serious doubts about the whole thing, since health crises in my teens that had left me convinced I would never be able to write for a career. Fortunately for me, I stumbled into another program at my university that turned out to be a much better fit: public health sciences.

Studying public health was a welcome distraction from my writer’s block, and also gave me excellent opportunities to strengthen my research and technical writing skills (and academese-reading skills, too). I ended up unofficially specializing in the social determinants of health, especially issues of gender, sexual orientation, and disability, issues that are relevant to my life and to the lives of those around me and that certainly enrich my writing today.

Thankfully, my writing ability didn’t leave me after all, and I’ll be freelancing full-time starting in January. But I’ve learned a whole lot over the course of my public health major, and thought I’d highlight a few books that I’ve read for class and loved over the past 3.5 years.

Welcome to Friday Bookbag: Textbook Edition!


Becoming a Visible Man by Jamison Green

823882Written by a leading activist in the transgender movement, Becoming a Visible Man is an artful and compelling inquiry into the politics of gender. Jamison Green combines candid autobiography with informed analysis to offer unique insight into the multiple challenges of the female-to-male transsexual experience, ranging from encounters with prejudice and strained relationships with family to the development of an FTM community and the realities of surgical sex reassignment.

Goodreads | Amazon

Class I read it for: Sociology of Gender

Why I loved it: Green is a professional writer as well as an activist, and this gripping, highly readable book definitely bears that out. Because of today’s shifting gender landscape, some of the language Green uses is already outdated, particularly his use of the terms “transsexual” and “FTM” (female-to-male), both of which are falling out of use–but it doesn’t reduce the power of his narrative. My favorite part of the book is its first chapter, wherein Green recounts asking a roomful of students how, exactly, they know what gender they are. It’s a clever and important question we could all stand to ask ourselves. Green is an icon in the transgender community for a reason, and if you’re looking for insight or just a good book, I highly recommend Becoming a Visible Man.

Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School by C. J. Pascoe

1051091High school and the difficult terrain of sexuality and gender identity are brilliantly explored in this smart, incisive ethnography. Based on eighteen months of fieldwork in a racially diverse working-class high school, Dude, You’re a Fag sheds new light on masculinity both as a field of meaning and as a set of social practices. C. J. Pascoe’s unorthodox approach analyzes masculinity as not only a gendered process but also a sexual one. She demonstrates how the “specter of the fag” becomes a disciplinary mechanism for regulating heterosexual as well as homosexual boys and how the “fag discourse” is as much tied to gender as it is to sexuality.

Goodreads | Amazon

Class I read it for: Sociology of Gender

Why I loved it: Pascoe’s ethnography of a high school is raw and even painful (as its title might suggest). Especially in our current climate of sexual assault and harassment scandals, this book also feels necessary–it really gets to the roots of why sexism is so endemic and insidious by exploring how it is constantly enforced in school systems. Additionally, If you read or write YA at all, you’ll appreciate this nonfiction account of how awful high school can be (and the glimmers of hope at its margins).

Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America by Leslie J. Reagan

8084014Dangerous Pregnancies tells the largely forgotten story of the German measles epidemic of the early 1960s and how it created national anxiety about dying, disabled, and “dangerous” babies. This epidemic would ultimately transform abortion politics, produce new science, and help build two of the most enduring social movements of the late twentieth century–the reproductive rights and the disability rights movements. At most a minor rash and fever for women, German measles (also known as rubella), if contracted during pregnancy, could result in miscarriages, infant deaths, and serious birth defects in the newborn. Award-winning writer Leslie J. Reagan chronicles for the first time the discoveries and dilemmas of this disease in a book full of intimate stories–including riveting courtroom testimony, secret investigations of women and doctors for abortion, and startling media portraits of children with disabilities. In exploring a disease that changed America, Dangerous Pregnancies powerfully illuminates social movements that still shape individual lives, pregnancy, medicine, law, and politics.

Goodreads | Amazon

Class I read it for: My independent study researching the relationships between rubella, Zika virus, motherhood, and disability.

Why I loved it: I find the history of medicine–particularly the histories we’ve forgotten–fascinating. When I first read this book in the midst of the Zika crisis, it was impossible to miss the connections between rubella outbreaks fifty years ago and the current struggles that public health officials and everyday people in Zika-affected areas are facing now. The collision of those two ideas resulted in my undergraduate research focus and, honestly, my entire career focus on the intimate connections between motherhood and disability. I can’t recommend this book more highly if you’re interested in the history of disability, abortion, and the gendered structures of the modern medical system.

Trans/Love: Radical Sex, Love & Relationships Beyond the Gender Binary edited by Morty Diamond

11520321Exploring the crossroads of gender and sexuality, Trans/Love: Radical Sex, Love & Relationships Beyond the Gender Binary offers unusually engaging narratives that create a raw and honest depiction of dating, sex, love, and relationships among members of the gender variant community. FTM, MTF, thirdgender, genderqueer, and other non-traditional identities beyond the gender binary of traditional male and female are included in this often heartwarming, occasionally heartbreaking, always heartfelt groundbreaking anthology. From monogamous love and marriage to anonymous sex and one-night hook-ups (and everything in between), these stories offer readers insight into the precarious emotional and practical mechanics of intimacy among gender-variant experiences.

Goodreads | Amazon

Class I read it for: Sex and Sexuality: An American Perspective

Why I loved it: As transgender people, particularly trans women, face higher-than-ever rates of murder and assault, this book, full of essays by trans people writing about their messy, difficult, joyful, and diverse experiences is a breath of fresh air. The writings in this book range from academic to informal (and are all extremely personal), and I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the transgender community, and–cliché as it may be for me to say–learning more about themselves. The stories here are honest and lovely, and it’s a just-plain-great book of essays in addition to being an informative academic text.


Have you read any of the books here (for class or otherwise)? Did you have your own college textbooks that were surprisingly awesome? Let me know in the comments and feel free to link to your own book reviews and  blog posts!

I read all of these books for class (either textbook or library copies) and was not compensated in any way for these mini-reviews.

Friday Bookbag, 11.17.17

friday bookbag

Today I’m trying something new: sharing a list of books I’ve borrowed, bought, or otherwise received this week. I’m calling it Friday Bookbag and I plan to make it a weekly feature. I love spreading the book love around and it’s a nice way to give attention to some books I might not get the chance to review.

And so, without further ado, here are this week’s new books!


Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid

9781941040669It’s the summer of 1982 in Blacksburg, Virginia–seven years after the suspicious death of a son and sibling–and the Sobel family is hungry.

Francie dresses in tennis skirts and ankle socks and weighs her grams of allotted carrots and iceberg lettuce. Her semi-estranged husband Tate prefers a packed fridge and hidden donuts. Daughters Enid, ten, and Vivvy, almost thirteen, are subtler versions of their parents, measuring their summer vacation by meals had or meals skipped. But at summer’s end, secrets both old and new emerge and Francie disappears, leaving the family teetering on the brink.

Told from alternating points of view by the four living Sobels, Pretend We Are Lovely is a sharp and darkly funny story of forgiveness, family secrets, and the losses we inherit. At its core is the ever-complicated and deeply-devoted bond of sisterhood as the girls, left mostly to their own devices, must navigate their way through school, find comfort in each other, and learn the difference between food and nourishment.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Source: the library

Why I’m excited: I love stories about family secrets and I especially love compassionate and funny stories about mental illness. I hope this book fits the bill for both.

There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon

9780307907943From the award-winning novelist Mary Gordon, here is a book whose twentieth-century wisdom can help us understand the difficulties we face in the twenty-first: There Your Heart Lies is a deeply moving novel about an American woman’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War, the lessons she learned, and how her story will shape her granddaughter’s path.

Marian cut herself off from her wealthy, conservative Irish Catholic family when she volunteered during the Spanish Civil War–an experience she has always kept to herself. Now in her nineties, she shares her Rhode Island cottage with her granddaughter, Amelia, a young woman of good heart but with only a vague notion of life’s purpose. Their daily existence is intertwined with Marian’s secret past: the blow to her youthful idealism when she witnessed the brutalities on both sides of Franco’s war and the romance that left her trapped in Spain in perilous circumstances for nearly a decade. When Marian is diagnosed with cancer, she finally speaks about what happened to her during those years–personal and ethical challenges nearly unthinkable to Amelia’s millennial generation, as well as the unexpected gifts of true love and true friendship.

Marian’s story compels Amelia to make her own journey to Spain, to reconcile her grandmother’s past with her own uncertain future. With their exquisite female bond at its core, this novel, which explores how character is forged in a particular moment in history and passed down through the generations, is especially relevant in our own time. It is a call to arms–a call to speak honestly about evil when it is before us, and to speak equally about goodness.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Source: the library

Why I’m excited: I’ll admit that I saw the mention of the Spanish Civil War and got tunnel vision–I’m really interested in that period in history and I’m curious as to how the novel will handle it. I find the blurb wordy and heavy-handed (especially with the weird reference to the “millennial generation”) but I’m willing to take a chance on this one since sometimes blurbs are misleading. I have a good feeling!

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo

9781476761466What happens to the girl left behind?

When a masked gunman enters a local sandwich shop in broad daylight, Meredith Oliver suddenly finds herself on the filthy floor, cowering face-to-face with her nemesis, Lisa Bellow–the most popular girl in her eighth-grade class. Lying there, Meredith is utterly convinced she is going to die. Then the gunman orders Lisa Bellow to stand and come with him, leaving Meredith behind.

As the community stages vigils and searches, Meredith’s mother, Claire, toggles between jubilation that her daughter is alive and the grievous knowledge that she is irreparably changed. Her daughter is here, but not–and Claire grows desperate to reach Meredith. But Meredith is in a place where Claire can’t go, following Lisa Bellow where no one else can.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow is gripping and original, a hair-raising exploration of the ripple effects of an unthinkable crime and a dark, beautifully rendered illustration of how one family, broken by tragedy, searches for healing.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Source: the library

Why I’m excited: I like literary fiction that has a thriller tinge (as well as full-on literary thrillers in the vein of Gillian Flynn), and this book seems to have that suspenseful edge to it. I’m not sure how big a role gun violence will play in this book (other than the reference to the masked gunman), but that element also seems timely.


See books here that you’ve already read or that are on your to-read list? Let me know in the comments and feel free to link to your own book reviews and  blog posts!