What a week! We wrapped up crop planting on the farm yesterday, and it was a hectic last few days. Honestly I think the only reason I managed to post this week was thanks to having a couple of solid drafts saved in advance. In The 365 updates are a couple more planting photos, including the tractor and planter in action, and the seed tender I’ve been ferrying around. That’s been my main role this planting season- I take the seed tender, attached to a pickup, to the farm supply place to get it filled up with seed (which is what’s happening in the photo) then I drive it out to whichever field is being planted, to go into the planter. And repeat. The main challenge for me with this is that I often have to back it into the field approaches, which is… not fun. But at least it’s in good working order! In contrast…
The last photo of this batch is the interior of another pickup we use (sparingly) for farm errands (I had to drive it at night this week, hence the bad lighting), and this one’s interesting because it’s older than me. (The dust buildup is actually not that old, it’s just the product of driving on gravel roads with the windows down.) You may be able to spot the little wrench in the bottom left of the dash that now controls the wipers, and at the top of the photo, the missing rearview mirror. (Its glue gave out suddenly. It’s temporary.) The air conditioner hasn’t worked in ages, which is mostly fine if you drive with the windows all the way open in summer, but this is the reason the passenger window got stuck all the way down in the door last year. That just got fixed this spring, so over the winter there was much appreciation for the heater that seems to run hotter every year- it could probably heat hell. I’m sure it’s fine. The fuel gauge is stuck on F until it suddenly flatlines on E, so we always keep a couple spare gallons in the backup tank. The high beams are controlled with a peg on the floor. I’m pretty sure there are no airbags, but the thing is like a tank. This is the vehicle I learned turn signals in, helping my dad make a light repair when I was small enough my feet didn’t reach the floor.
Cat of the Week is Fuji, an eight month-old black and white kitten who’s been uber friendly since day one. The story here is that Fuji had/has a sister who looks similar and is also uber friendly, who seems to be living four miles down the road now with a neighbor who mysteriously denied knowledge when asked. I suspect they just loved her too much to return her, which makes perfect sense. If I didn’t have so many cats I might be bothered, but I know they’re good cat caretakers we’ve gifted farm cats to in the past, and Fuji seems perfectly content with her other feline friends here so I’m choosing to be amused. Bonus appearance: Matchy being stealthy in a box!
My week in film:
- Outlander ssn 4 [2018-2019] – I actually only watched the last two episodes this week; I’ve been slowly working my way through this season for about a month. As someone who was once a big Outlander fan (I binged all of the books about five years ago and got in on the first season of this TV adaptation) I have to admit this season was awful. It’s been trending downhill for a while, but this one was all-around cringe and horror. It’s set in colonial America, shortly before the revolution. So of course, Native Americans are being driven out of their lands, slavery is running rampant, and misogyny is everywhere. This season sits in a really uncomfortable position of striving for ~historical accuracy~ while also prominently featuring a more modern character (this is a time travel narrative) who tries to live by the morals of her own era but doesn’t believe she can make significant changes in a time period that is, for her, history. There’s a lot of racism here, including some truly bad choices made by the MCs we’re supposed to sympathize with. Slurs are used throughout this season, particularly against Native Americans. And this is all before we’ve even mentioned the terrible handing of a rape plot that goes from bad to worse when it’s used as a sort of plot twist, featuring a major misunderstanding in which people are blamed for things they couldn’t have known and then are dramatically forgiven for misunderstanding while the violence at the heart of the mess is never challenged. I’ve already been gifted season 5 (hence suffering through all of 4), and I am still curious about a few of the time traveling aspects of this series, but most of the published material is also set during these early years of the United States so I may have to abandon ship.
My week in books:
- Consent by Annabel Lyon – 4 stars. This was a fun, almost literary-thriller type read that I initially thought would be a 5 for me, but as I’ve sat with it and started drafting my review I’ve bumped it down to 4. I had a few personal dislikes that I’ll cover soon in a review, but on the whole this book did a lot that I liked, with imperfect but vibrant characters who lead the reader through some interesting conversations around various forms of consent, utilizing sharp prose and including a number of twists that keep the plot interesting even though I’d call this more of a character or theme study.
- Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller – ongoing. I’ve got an eARC courtesy of Netgalley for this next Women’s Prize read, and though reading digitally tends to go a little slower for me I am enjoying this. It’s very atmospheric, which is something I particularly enjoy, and I appreciate the topics of poverty and dependence that this is digging into, though I’m not sure that’s going to be quite enough for me in the end. It’s just lacking a bit of spark. But I’ve still got about half left to go, so nothing’s certain yet!
My week in posts:
Plans for the upcoming week include sharing my review of Consent, and possibly Unsettled Ground. I’ll definitely finish that book soon, but I’ve got another of Fuller’s titles on my shelf from BOTM (and catching up with BOTM is one of my top 2021 goals) that I’m tempted to read for some sort of joint review (which would mean taking a few extra days before I’m ready to review). But whether I want to delay other reading projects to dive right into another of Fuller’s books will probably depend on how I’m feeling about the rest of Unsettled Ground. Stay tuned to find out whether it’ll be a single or double review. After Fuller, I’ll be reading Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters.
On the subject of upcoming plans, I want to share here my TBR for the rest of May, which I’ve assembled largely in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander heritage month. There’s also a whole Asian readathon going on throughout May that I encourage you to check out here if you’re interested in readathons and/or expanding your Asain and AAPI reading; even if you don’t want to join, Cindy’s put together a page on Storygraph with tons of Asian reading recommendations, by genre, country, and a few other great categories as well, if you need any reading inspiration! Personally I am not reading regularly enough at the moment (and am determined to complete my 2021 Women’s Prize journey before starting anything new) to commit to a community activity with specific prompts and a deadline (though I’m sure you’re welcome to commit to as much or as little as you can handle!). But I do want to make sure I’m supporting AAPI writers with my reading and reviews, so even if I don’t quite get to all of these within the month they will stay on my 2021 TBR to help hold me accountable:
- The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue – starting off this list with the one title that’s not Asian or Asian-American reading; in honor of the Women’s Prize shortlist a couple of weeks ago, the Women’s Prize Squad (Callum, Hannah, Marija, Naty, Rachel, Sarah, and I) put together a little shortlist of our own based on 2021 WP eligibility rules. Last year we assembled a whole longlist, but agreed on a shortlist for 2021 in which each of us added any 1 book we would’ve liked to see shortlisted, drawn from the entire pool of 2021 eligible books whether they were officially longlisted or not. It’s a bit of fun for trading favorite books or most anticipated reads with each other, and I’m very excited about this list so I will be reading each of the titles and doing a round up at the end as I did last time. 2021’s Women’s Prize Squad titles include: Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, Luster by Raven Leilani, The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha, The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey, We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan, and The Pull of the Stars. This one’s an Irish-set historical fiction following a nurse during the Spanish Flu outbreak as she works on a ward of quarantined expectant mothers. Everyone seems to love this, and I’ve had great experiences with Donoghue books in the past, so I have high hopes.
- If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha – Also from our Women’s Prize Squad list and doubling as an AAPI read, I’ve just gotten this one in from the library. The blurb calls this story: “A riveting debut novel set in contemporary Seoul, Korea, about four young women making their way in a world defined by impossibly high standards of beauty, secret room salons catering to wealthy men, strict social hierarchies, and K-pop fan mania.” I am hoping for some great characterization and a nuanced dive into the strengths and pitfalls of modern Korean culture.
- Imposter Syndrome by Kathy Wang – Because I live in the US it’s important to me to focus some of my Asian reading on Asian American authors and characters, and this sounds like a fun one. It follows a white woman who’s worked up the ranks of a Silicon Valley startup, thanks in part to the Russians she spies for; our other main character is a Chinese-American woman farther down the company hierarchy who discovers the espionage. It sounds techy and mysterious, and brimming with potential for social commentary.
- Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa – this is a Palestinian-based story I’ve heard such great things about, thought we might see on the Women’s Prize longlist this year, and anyway have been wanting to read for months. It follows a woman born to refugee parents, who is made a refugee herself when the US invades Iraq. It’s not until she lands in Israeli-controlled Palestine that she is able to make a home for herself. This sounds like an incredible exploration of identity, and conflict in the Middle East.
- Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, translated by Geraldine Harcourt – I wanted to up my intake of translated lit this year, which has somewhat fallen by the wayside in recent months as I’ve struggled to read much of anything in any sort of timely manner. But here’s a short Japanese novel depicting new motherhood in the face of failed marriage, said to include some deep underlying tension juxtaposed with incredibly beautiful descriptions of light. Shoutout to Ellen’s book recommendations tag post for reminding me that I need to read this one!
And just for fun, here are a few further Asian and AAPI recommendations for anyone in need, all of which have been favorites and/or very memorable reads for me:
- The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang – romance
- The Vegetarian and/or Human Acts by Han Kang, both translated by Deborah Smith – literary fiction and historical fiction, respectively
- How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
- Severance by Ling Ma – satire/dystopian
- Know My Name by Chanel Miller – memoir
- The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder – magical realism
- Made in China by Amelia Pang – investigative journalism
- The Farm by Joanne Ramos – contemporary/dystopian (that seems like an odd blend of genres, but this story focuses on a current practice, taken here to potential future extremes)
- Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu – literary fiction
- How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang – historical fiction
Have you read any of these books, or have a top-notch Asian- or AAPI-authored title you want to share? Let me know in the comments below!
The Literary Elephant