Nonfiction November: Book Pairings

The prompt for week 2 of Nonfiction November is "Book Pairing" (hosted by Julz of Julz Reads), where we pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. I've got three book pairings for you today! The fiction titles I've chosen have the same subject matter as their nonfiction counterparts. C and I have been reading through the young people's version of Neil deGrasse Tyon's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry and are enjoying his goofy sense of humor and knack for explaining huge concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. I recently read To Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu [my review], which incorporates a lot of astrophysics and quantum physics in its hard sci-fi short stories. Some of those…

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Nonfiction November: 2020 Year in Review

Nonfiction November week one is hosted by Leann of Shelf Aware. This week, we're taking a look back at our year of nonfiction and reflecting on the following questions: What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? This is always a tough question, but I'm going to have to say Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, a memoir about growing up undocumented in the United States. I didn't end up formally reviewing it because I had so many feelings after reading it, everything in my head was a jumbled mess. It's a tough, heartbreaking, often frustrating read (frustrating in a way that only bureaucracy can achieve). But Castillo's writing is absolutely dazzling and there is joy, too.…

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Adventure by Chicken Bus by Janet LoSole

Janet LoSole's Adventure by Chicken Bus is a memoir/travelogue following the author, her husband Lloyd, and their two young daughters, Jocelyn and Natalie, on an 18-month long homeschooling field trip backpacking through Central America and, for a short while, living in Costa Rica. From the start, Janet and Lloyd were adamant about participating in community-based travel, supporting the local economy instead of corporations that gentrify the area. From the epilogue, community-based travel focuses on: 1. Benefiting the local community and its natural environment. 2. Respecting the culture of the host community. 3. Relying on local, family-owned businesses for food, shelter, and transportation. Travel memoirs like this can easily devolve into poverty tourism. The writer must remain aware of this at…

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How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon

With the exception of his essay in The Fire This Time, I had yet to really sit down and read Kiese Laymon's writing, until now. Halfway through the essays in How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, I paused to head over to Goodreads and add his entire backlist to my to-be-read list. Laymon's writing is so commanding. Even when talking about sports (something I don't care much about), I had trouble putting this book down because, in Laymon's hands, the essay is never about "just sports"—or "just" anything. He digs in far beyond the surface and creates connections people often miss (due to privilege, lack of interest, white supremacy, or any number of reasons). I highlighted so…

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Anarchy Works by Peter Gelderloos

I read Anarchy Works a couple years ago, but apparently only posted my review on Goodreads. There's been a lot of talk recently, both in the news and on social media, about "anarchists" that either misunderstands the philosophy or is flat-out wrong. This book corrects that misinformation with a hopeful, down-to-earth tone, and encourages solidarity and unity. Anarchy Works is set up Q&A style, addressing common arguments people make against non-hierarchical societies based on egalitarian principles, voluntary, non-coercive interactions, and mutual cooperation. Gelderloos addresses these arguments and backs up his points with examples from all over the world, past and present. Best of all, he challenges a colonized worldview right from the start, This book covers a lot of history…

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The Mindful Universe by Mark Westmoquette

The Mindful Universe is a mindfulness book like none other I've ever read. Written by astronomer Mark Westmoquette, this book communicates the depth of our connection to an incredible, awe-inspiring universe. Westmoquette explains the basic concepts of meditation and mindfulness, such as observing thoughts and how the body processes and responds to stress, in easy-to-access, everyday language. There's also a lot of science in here: physics, astrophysics, quantum mechanics, philosophy, and more. When the narrative did get heavy on the science, I was impressed by what a great teacher the author is. Some of the suggested meditations are really unique! They're also practical and applicable to our lives as they are, not how we wish they'd be. I've found that sometimes…

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Raising Them by Kyl Myers

In Raising Them, sociologist Kyl Myers shares how they and their husband Brent are raising their first child, Zoomer, without gender boundaries; with complete freedom to determine their own gender. Zoomer is still quite young, so the book doesn't go beyond the preschool years. And although this is a memoir, not a how-to book, Myers is clear and detailed about the thought processes that led to each decision they made along the way. Myers argues that working toward gender equality must start in childhood, by breaking down assumptions and boundaries when it comes to appearance, toys, activities, etc. This takes a lot of work, because the gender binary is pushed everywhere, even in situations where it shouldn't even be a…

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Tranny by Laura Jane Grace

I wasn't super familiar with Against Me!'s music going into this memoir, but I truly enjoyed Laura Jane Grace's memoir Tranny. The narrative was interspersed with journal entries, the writing style held my attention and interest, and I appreciated her openness about her experiences as well as her own shortcomings. It was eye-opening to read about anarchism within punk, how some really tried their best to live out their philosophical beliefs, but others claimed the label for optics without actually subscribing to that philosophy at all. I had assumed that most punk musicians and fans shared a deep belief in living out anarchist principles, so this surprised me. It was also interesting to read about punk's fraught relationship with major…

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Mini Reviews: Transathon Wrap-Up

All of July was Transathon, hosted by Ocean over on Twitter. This event was about reading and enjoying books by transgender and non-binary authors. I do this year-round, but it was the perfect opportunity to focus solely on my huge list of books by not-cis authors I've been meaning to get to. I ended up reading a total of 9 books for Transathon! I've already posted about Homesick by Nino Cipri (review here) and Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe (review here), but here are mini reviews for the 7 other titles I read during this event: Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel Lavery A memoir rooted in faith, literary classics, pop culture, and the author's experiences being…

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Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer is a graphic memoir that follows the author as e questions eir gender and sexual identities (nonbinary and asexual). It's important to remember this is one individual's story, but its greatest strength is how Kobabe differentiates between cis people who resist gender expectations and how a person comes to understand they are nonbinary. There were a couple spots that I recognized as normal parts of this journey, but I wish these moments were fleshed out a bit more. My fear is that cis readers who don't have the knowledge to fill in the blanks might miss the overall point and be tempted to medicalize gender identity. Kobabe is very open about the many questions e had along the…

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