Books I have read … December 1st

Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay

Most of the women in these stories lead isolated lives. Because they have been mistreated in the past or they tend to mistreat others in the present. In an interview, the author states, “I am drawn to isolation because I have always been quite lonely. I was shy and awkward as a child so it was hard to make friends. I’m still, in many ways, that same person and I’ve also often lived in rural places where as a black woman I am isolated for several reasons” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Gay’s writing is honest. Here characters endure through anger, bitterness, frayed hope, tiredness, and right-on-the-tip-of-my-finger dreams. Sometimes their endurance is their greatest achievement. Check out her other title, Bad Feminist in the HCCC collection.

My Favorite Thing is Monsters. Book One by Emil Ferris

The late 60’s Chicago: A ten year old girl walks you through her life in pictures and words. Ferris’s love of odd-balls shows through her characters’ quirks and flaws. “Ferris uses all this to explore the idea of monstrousness, from the small-scale cruelties of schoolyard bullying to Nazi death camps. Along the way, Karen learns to see a difference between what she calls “good monsters” who are scary because they’re, quote, “weird looking and fangy” and so-called “bad monsters.” They’re scary because they want everyone to be scared so they can control them” (NPR). I don’t usually like graphic novels. They take away too much from my visual imagination. But I really enjoyed this one and am looking forward to Book Two.

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Farber

A novel of Victorian London showing the seamy side of life. Our heroine. Sugar, is a prostitute looking for a way up in the social spheres. She latches on to a ne’er-do-well, William Rackman (played by Chris O’Dowd, who I adore, in the British TV mini-series) who has inherited his father’s fortune, made from the manufacture of perfumes and soaps. Sugar implicates her way into the Rackman’s household only to feel sympathy for William’s wife and child; enough that she transforms into their benefactor, saving both from the overbearing male head of household. It’s not a new story; women coming together to overcome male domination. But, these characters have an authenticity and freshness, with just the right touch of weird, that made them intriguing. Read it, then catch the Netflix series.

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