This past weekend, the very fabulous Rachel hosted a #24in48 Readathon. It’s pretty self explanatory – the goal is to complete 24 hours of reading during the 48 hours of Saturday and Sunday. We had close to 450 participants (we could honestly have gone over – I was so busy focusing on busting my challenge that I stopped paying attention to the count) and you guys – what a fun bunch! I had a blast with the call and response on social media; it really enhanced the experience for me.
So what did I get accomplished during my 24 hours?
My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrick Backman. Holy bananapants, you guys – this book very well might be my favorite of the year! The book was translated from Swedish, and sadly doesn’t count for any ReadHarder challenges this year. But don’t let that stop you! It’s the tale of a precocious almost-eight-year-old who is terribly close with her wacky – no, Ya-Ya – grandmother. Her grandmother is the only person who understands her and has helped her deal with her parents’ divorce and remarriage to others, the impending arrival of her half-sibling, the bullies at school, and all manner of things. She does it with secret languages and made-up fairy tales about the Kingdom of Miamas. Oh, and secret languages. You guys – I desperately want to be Granny when I grow up. The plot was riveting, the voice was one we all pine to perfect, and the characters were well developed, complex, and unforgettable. It was like the next saga in Harriet the Spy’s life, mixed with Turtle’s from Westing Game, mixed with the craziness of the Ya-Ya-hood. I finished it for the readathon, and it’s a MUST-READ, people. 5 of 5 stars. Obviously.
This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp. Another Scandinavian author, another missed challenge. It’s a Young Adult read that translates well for “grown-ups” and is the story of a school shooting told minute-by-minute by four voices: two high school girls caught inside the gymnasium with the shooter; one who is in the school, but missed the principal’s Welcome Back speech; and a fellow senior who was practicing with her track team instead of being inside with the brother she’s bound to protect. I was really looking forward to the release – in fact, I pre-ordered the hardcover – but was disappointed by the characters. I didn’t find Tyler, the gunman, as one-dimensional as many other reviewers did. I did have a problem with how over-the-top evil Nijkamp drew Tyler. He was like many school shooters: he felt unloved, bullied, and abandoned every last person in his life. He had nothing to live for. But to make him a rapist and a bully and everything else? C’mon; we can be less black-and-white than that. Let’s draw complex characters! I applaud the diversity the We Need Diverse Books author created; now let’s make them less like cardboard cutouts without any storylines. Or two-line storylines thrown in. Bottom line: I raced through it, but wanted more than what I found. 2 of 5 stars.
The Kindness of Enemies, by Leila Aboulela. Aboulela tells the story of a professor, half-Russian and half-Sudanese, who becomes entangled with her star student and his mother when she discovers her student is descended from the Muslim warrior she is studying. I appreciated how intense Natasha’s internal conflict over her Muslim political and religious leanings was as she interacted more and more with Oz and his mother. This book was shaded as much as I hoped This Is Where It Ends would be. It wasn’t riveting and felt much more like a “duty” read (I was reading it for the “political book” challenge on Read Harder), but it was okay. 3 of 5 stars.
Tiny Pretty Things, by Sona Charaipotra. This was much more riveting! A bit of a guilty read, actually. It’s the story of a young ballet academy where fighting is fierce for a spot in the showpiece that might get the young ladies and men a spot in the ballet company attached to the school. I had a hard time keeping the characters straight at first, but once the story got moving, it moved. It felt diverse, petty, hilarious at times, and a good drama that would adapt well to a show on prime time. If you’re looking for a first book in a series by a Person of Color for the Read Harder challenge, this is a great choice! 3 of 5 stars.
The Best American Travel Writing: 2005, Jamaica Kincaid, editor. I felt like this was cheating a bit on the Travel Writing challenge for Read Harder since the POC is the editor, and not all of her choices for the collection were writing by diverse authors. Still, it was nice to have shorter selection (each piece was about 3-10 pages, most on the shorter side), so it was easy to pick up and put down as I was doing laundry and other house chores. Nothing in there really knocked my socks off, though. 1 of 5 stars.
Yes, Chef, by Marcus Samuelsson. I had a hard time finding a food memoir by a person of color, but I found a great one that was all the rage back in 2012. It tells the story of a young boy who grew up in Ethiopia, got tuberculosis with the rest of his family, was orphaned very young, and then adopted (with his sister) by a loving family in Sweden who already had a bi-racial child. I thought it was interesting that Marcus mentioned early that he had no race wounds, and yet a goodish part of the story that deal with his growing up in Sweden centered around how race factored into daily life. Then the foodie part of his life began and goodbye race stories! I wanted to hear more about that part of Marcus’s extraordinary life, but the foodie part was rather interesting, too. I felt like I was watching a special on TV instead of reading. It was compelling, even to a reader who could care less about food or cooking memoirs. It’s exactly the sort of book I never would have picked up without the Read Harder challenge. Good job, guys. 3 1/2 of 5 stars.
So there you go! I also started Dumplin‘, by Julie Murphy, but I didn’t get very far before time expired and I had to go be a mom and a girlfriend and a homeowner again. Escaping into my reading-only bubble was fun while it lasted, though! I’m so glad I played along!
So….how soon can we Readathon again, guys? Heh.
Tags: 24 in 48 Readathon, 24in48, Books in translation, Fredrik Backman, Jamaica Kincaid, Leila Aboulela, Marcus Samuelsson, Marieke Nijkamp, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry, Read Harder, Readathon, Sona Charaipotra, The Kindness of Enemies, This Is Where It Ends, Tiny Pretty Things, Travel Writing, Yes Chef