Books, Life

What I Read Last in April 2021

I haven’t posted any in the month of April but I have been meaning to move my website to WordPress.org (from WordPress.com) and I didn’t want to write more blog posts until I was done with the migration. I was able to move my website after a couple of attempts on the last day of April. Now that the whole website migration is behind me, I am excited to write and share more posts! Since it is now May, I am starting with a book post for the month of April. Happy reading!

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo – 4.5 stars

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives of twelve women in the UK, most of whom are Black. Each character essentially has a chapter dedicated to their story, often involving or relating to characters you have met or will in the upcoming chapters. A chapter may sound like not enough to get to know a character but the Evaristo has written, you learn so much about the person in the relatively short amount of words. All of these women are connected to each other in one way or another, even the ones you might be unsure of how.

I enjoyed reading this so much! Evaristo writes fantastically so that you are interested and invested in each character despite how quickly the book moves from one character to the next. I loved reading about the different experiences of Black British women.

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio – 4.5 stars

As an immigrant and a DACA recipient herself, Villavicencio tells the stories of her fellow undocumented immigrants she has met across the US. The media often focuses on DREAMers—undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as young children—and how their academic and professional accomplishments define them as contributing members of the society and sometimes even using the fact that they do not have a childhood they remember in their home country as the reason why they really are Americans.

Parents of DREAMers, people who were older children when they arrived in the country, and others who do not qualify for DACA or the DREAM Act (which has not passed) for various reasons are forgotten or left out of the narrative as their stories are not worth telling or their presence in the country cannot be justified. In The Undocumented Americans, you get to meet these undocumented immigrants—the undocumented workers who helped with the 9/11 cleanup, those in Flint who are afraid to ask the government for clean water, those who are in constant fear of their employers and neighbors. I really appreciated reading the real and raw stories of these undocumented immigrants we don’t hear from enough.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman – 4.25 stars

This was my second book by Fredrick Backman! I recently read A Man Called Ove, and I actually have Beartown in my current TBR pile (picked it up from the library next week). It seems like everyone has read at least one book by Fredrik Backman but if you haven’t, he writes these stories that are set in mundane, everyday situations but somehow make your heart feel all warm and hopeful and full of love. He’s superb at describing subtle ways in which people care for each other in relationships and creating characters with distance personalities and voices that you can’t help but understand and love every character!

In Anxious People, there is an unexpected hostage situation at a real estate showing when a would-be bank robber flees the scene and somehow ends up in an apartment full of people. While the bank robber and the “hostages” are locked down together, you learn a little bit about everyone’s story and the compassion they develop for each other. Outside the apartment, two police officers, who are also father and son, try to do their job to the best of their abilities while protecting each other.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – 5 stars

Sometime during the month of May, I am planning to share my favorite books by Asian authors (still plan to, fingers crossed). I first read Pachinko back in 2018 but wanted to re-read it for that post and also because it’s being adapted into a TV show (coming to Apple TV later this year)!

Pachinko (title based off of an arcade game/gambling machine) is a multigenerational saga that chronicles four generations of Koreans immigrants in Japan. The story begins in early 1990s Korea when Sunja, the daughter of a modest boardinghouse gets pregnant with a child of a wealthy, older stranger who is already married, and she refuses to be his mistress. A minister who was staying at the boardinghouse offers to marry her, and they move to Japan together. In Japan, life is not easy for Koreans as they have little to no rights, there are a limited number of jobs available, and discrimination is prevalent. Some people resort to working in Pachinko business while some pretend to be Japanese. You see Sunja’s family struggle to survive in the new country and to understand each other.

A small part of me was afraid that I wouldn’t like it as much as I remembered but I loved it once again! If you enjoy reading multigenerational narratives or immigrant stories, I highly recommend Pachinko! It gives you a glimpse into a very unique community and time period as well. For those of you who enjoy stories like this, I also recommend Toji (meaning land in Korean), which tells the stories of multiple generations of a wealthy Korean family in a similar time period (slightly earlier) but in different places as the family members disperse during the Japanese occupation.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel – 4 stars

Infinite Country follows a Columbian family with a mixed immigration status. Elena and Mauro, having first met as teenagers, temporarily move to the US with their first daughter Karina, to save some money for their future. When their visa expires, they make the decision to stay and eventually have two more children–Nando and Talia. As with all undocumented immigrants, they live in constant fear of deportation until one day Mauro is deported after a fight with a friend. Now alone in the country, Elena struggles to provide for her children while also taking care of the littlest one Talia. She makes the decision to send Talia to her mother back in Columbia until she is a little bit older, which stretches to be longer than initially planned.

While this situation may seem complicated, families with mixed immigration status are very common, which makes the debate around legal vs undocumented immigrants futile in my opinion. The families separated across the border are under a tremendous amount of strain on how to be and stay as a family. Infinite Country also portrays the difficulties of living undocumented–from the constant feeling of wrongdoing and living in fear to challenges of finding a job to staying in a place where you don’t feel safe because that is the only option available to you. Infinite Country highlights the violence that is so prevalent in America (mass shootings, for example) and how America is not necessarily the paradise people had yearned for but many people feel stuck and are unable to leave because it’s still a land of (more) opportunities.

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn – 4 stars

Like many people, I watched and loved Bridgerton, the Netflix TV show. I read The Duke and I a couple of months ago and have been meaning to read more of the Bridgerton books, especially with Netflix having renewed it for a few more seasons! I decided to listen to them on audiobooks (on OverDrive via the public library near me). The Viscount Who Loved Me is the second book of the series and follows Anthony who is the eldest Bridgerton and London’s most eligible bachelor. At the beginning of this book, you learn a little bit about the family history about the late Viscount’s death, which explains why Anthony seems (maybe too) serious all the time.

[SPOILERS:] Similar to how Simon was determined to not marry, Anthony is determined to marry a woman with whom he will never fall in love (I know…what is up with these rake bros trying to deny themselves of happiness because they are taking their lives too seriously? insert eyeroll). His love story with Kate Sheffield is an unexpected one as it is Kate’s sister Anthony first chooses to marry (yes, he just chooses the most eligible lady of the season because he’s ~Anthony Bridgerton~). As a protective older sister, Kate tries her best to get Anthony away from her younger, half-sister Edwina.

You know it’s true love when two people who don’t want to like each other fall in love. Anthony and Kate actually have a lot in common–losing a parent, fear/trauma around the parents death, responsibility of being the eldest child, and more. This was a nice little romance to listen to with a little bit of ups and downs. I saw that Simone Ashley from Sex Education has been casted for Kate, and I can’t wait to see the chemistry between her and Jonathan Bailey, who plays Anthony.

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters – 4.5 stars

Reese and Amy were two trans women in a happy and loving relationship until they fall apart as Amy detransitions and becomes Ames. A few years later, Ames finds out that his boss/lover Katrina is pregnant. Remembering how Reese has always wanted to be a mom, Ames wonders if Katrina’s pregnancy presents an opportunity for the three of them to be parents together.

While some of the book portrays how Reese, Ames, and Katrina interact with each other and the conversations they have as they seriously consider their joint parenthood scenario, the book spends a significant amount of pages on Reese and Amy’s experiences leading up to becoming and being trans women, which are the most vulnerable and raw chapters. I enjoyed reading about the full, complex, and multifaceted lives of these trans women and the family structures that look different from the traditional, heteronormative, nuclear family.

An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn – 4 stars

An Offer From a Gentleman is the third book of the Bridgerton series and follows the love story of Benedict Bridgerton, the second oldest. Too start off, I feel more conflicted about An Offer From a Gentleman than I did towards the two previous Bridgerton books. I think it is partially because I did not care for Benedict as much since he has the smallest role out of the older Bridgerton siblings in the first season of the Netflix show and I was not as invested in Benedict’s happiness (sorry, Benedict). On the other hand, this book has some parts that really annoyed me.

[SPOILERS:] An Offer From a Gentleman begins like a Cinderella story. Sophie Beckett, is a bastard child of an earl who raised her as his “ward.” He eventually marries a woman named Araminta who has two daughters of her own. After the earl’s passing, Sophie becomes a lady’s maid for Araminta (without pay, of course). One day, Araminta and her daughters are going to a masquerade ball hosted by Lady Bridgerton. Sophie, with the help of other servants who have always adored her, dresses up in her late aunt’s clothing and attends the ball where she meets Benedict Bridgerton. Following this magical night, Sophie’s life gets even worse somehow,

Sophie and Benedict don’t cross paths until years later when Benedict rescues Sophie at a party. Long story short, Benedict loves Sophie but cannot think to marry her because of their class difference. Instead, he suggests Sophie be his mistress. Sophie does not accept, knowing how difficult her children’s lives will be, having lived her entire life as an illegitimate child. After lots of frustrating events, there is eventually a happy ending. Besides some of the inappropriate comments Benedict makes in intimate situations, I was so annoyed at Benedict for pressuring Sophie into being his mistress and for flipping out upon finding out Sophie and the lady in silver were one and the same (shouldn’t he have been ecstatic?!). I appreciated that this book introduced a romantic relationship between the nobles and the working class and the challenges that come with it. I am curious to see how this particular book will be adapted into a TV show.

You’re the Only One I’ve Told: The Stories Behind Abortion by Meera Shah – 4.75 stars

As the title suggests, this book tells stories of abortion. Dr. Meera Shah prefaces the book by explaining how there isn’t a typical abortion story, which speaks true to the diverse narratives that follow. Each chapter is centered around one person who has had an abortion or has a close one who did. Some chapters have a secondary narrative with a similar challenge, perhaps during a different time period or in a different state. Dr. Shah brings in her perspective as a medical provider who primarily practices in New York but has been a fly-in doctor for more conservative/abortion-restricting states. She also provides information about medical procedures, relevant legislations and historical context. I really appreciated how inclusive Dr. Shah was throughout the book, from correctly using people’s pronouns to telling stories of trans people to emphasizing the importance of abortion as health care for all rather than women’s health. This is a book I would recommend to anyone and everyone!

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