United States of Grace by Lenny Duncan

Rev. Lenny Duncan's first book, Dear Church, implored the ELCA—the whitest denomination in the US—to stop hiding behind its social statements and take action for racial equality and justice. His newest book gets even more personal. United States of Grace is a memoir of growing up Black and queer in the US while experiencing racism, homelessness, addiction, incarceration, and redemption. The book hit me as I was spiraling into such a deep cynicism about this country (hello anti-trans legislation at every turn) I was pretty sure I would be stuck there. It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. It gave me much-needed perspective and made me think more about my own beliefs and principles. "I believe systemic…

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The Sandbox Revolution edited by Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

Edited by Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, The Sandbox Revolution: Raising Kids for a Just World is a collection of essays about parenting with social justice at the forefront of our lives. I need to state upfront that trans readers will want a content warning for two of the essays: Jennifer Castro's essay included gender essentialist phrases like "the power of the feminine body and the sacredness of feminine knowing" when speaking out biological functions such as pregnancy. The essay attempts to be inclusive, but using more personal phrases (like "my feminine body") could have warded off the bio-essentialist feel. Michelle Martinez's essay refers to gendered bodies and uses the term womyn. I want to be clear that, reading these essays in full, I…

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Titan by Francois Vigneault

Set in a mining colony on Saturn's moon Titan, this graphic novel by François Vigneault is far-future sci-fi that tackles issues of class, workers' rights, colonization, genetic engineering, and other political, social, and ethical issues. There are times when white text is printed on a light(ish) pink background (see image below). I hate to say how frustrating this was for me. My eyes simply aren't good enough to handle that without lighting that's much brighter than I prefer to read with. Aside from this one issue, I did love the artwork and that minimalistic color palette overall. It drew me in to the story and felt perfect for this off-world setting. I'm a huge sucker for a story that brings…

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The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

"If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?" The Immortalists hinges on the question above, and explores how four siblings' lives play out after finding out, as children, the dates of their deaths. This was my virtual book club's March pick. I finished reading it a week ago, but I feel like I'm still processing some things about this book. It'll be interesting to see how tonight's conversation goes. I loved Chloe Benjamin's writing. The prologue starts off with our four sibling protagonists as children, and it reads like an especially beautifully-written middle grade novel. This style places you right into the children's perspective, complete with all their wonder and curiosity, bravery and trepidation.…

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Nothin’ But a Good Time by Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock

Nöthin' But a Good Time is a flashback to 80s hard rock music and its history, in uncensored glory. I've never been so giddy to receive a book in the mail. I had my 80s rock Spotify playlist at the ready! The nostalgia was unreal. I loved so many of these bands as a kid, and still do! I was struck by how young these musicians actually were at the time. I was in elementary and middle school in the 80s, so even young 20-somethings seemed "old" to me then. And of course as a kid, especially pre-internet and living overseas, I didn't know much about these musicians' backstories, and didn't hear about all of their antics, which is probably…

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Unity by Elly Bangs

When Tachyon Publications reached out to me about Unity, Elly Bangs's post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk, sci-fi debut, I couldn't resist accepting a review copy based on the blurbs I read. The novel is said to "evoke the perilous grittiness of Mad Max and the redemptive unification of Sense8." And then Meredith Russo's description really got my attention: "Imagine Neuromancer and Lilith’s Brood conceived a baby while listening to My Chemical Romance and then that baby was adopted by Ghost in the Shell and Blue Submarine no. 6." Does that sound super creative and unique, or what?! I know it also sounds like there's a lot going on, but Bangs ties it all together so masterfully, it reads at a smooth, fast, thrilling…

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The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Lucy Foley's The Guest List was my virtual book club's pick for February. Our book club started at the beginning of the pandemic, and we chose this title because we realized we hadn't yet read a thriller. I was on the edge of my seat reading this book, ready to shout, "I knew it!" even though I wasn't exactly sure I really did "know it." And turns out, I didn't! I never did, even at the end! And wow, was this was ever a fast, curvy roller coaster by the end. The pacing was great, I loved the different points of view, I loved the execution of the jumps in time, and I loved her writing style. Even the teaser…

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30-Day Journey with Dorothy Day edited by Coleman Fannin

Broadleaf Books has a wonderful 30-Day Journey series featuring important spiritual thinkers. I requested a copy of the 30-Day Journey with Dorothy Day because I've been drawn to Christian anarchism in recent years, and thought it would resonate. (It did.) It's hard to sum up a life like Dorothy Day's in a brief introduction, but Coleman Fannin does a great job helping us get to know what Day accomplished, what motivated and inspired her, and making us to want to learn more about her. Day was one of the founders of the Catholic Worker Movement, so her Catholicism is deeply woven into her writing. But as someone who isn't Catholic, I didn't find that alienating at all. I enjoyed learning…

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Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih

Zak Salih's debut novel Let's Get Back to the Party is a look at cultural identity (specifically, gay identity) in the midst of a rapidly changing society. Set in the year between the U.S. marriage equality ruling and the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando, the novel follows two gay men, Sebastian and Oscar, childhood friends recently reunited after years of estrangement. I enjoyed the character-driven, leisurely pace of Salih's writing. He digs deep into the psyches of these two men, and the slower pace and alternating points of view gave me the opportunity to get to know Sebastian and Oscar on a profound level. Let's Get Back to the Party explores cross-generational friendships within the gay community—and the feelings…

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Ladder to the Light by Steven Charleston

I truly needed the boost of hope and courage that reading Steven Charleston's Ladder to the Light gave me this past month. This is one powerful little book. Charleston, a retired Episcopal priest and bishop, is also an elder of the Choctaw Nation and a practitioner of Zen meditation. He leaves interpretation open for the phrase "the Spirit" so that as many people as possible feel at home in his writing, saying, "theological debates are for another day." He throws those doors open wide and invites readers "to interpret the nature and meaning of the Spirit for themselves." This book is radical in its inclusion and unity without falling into syncretism, and avoids the trap of offering spiritual platitudes and…

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