Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Haint No Stopping Us Now: The Turner House

I started The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy, sometime over my winter break when I was trying to read 12 books in 24 days. I also started a metric ton of other books, so it took me a little longer to read this than I'd anticipated. At times, I also found myself reading slowly and stretching it out because I was enjoying it and wasn't ready to be done.

The Turners, Viola and Francis, have 13 children and raise them in Detroit. As the book opens, Viola is getting up in age and losing her independence. The Turners' house sits empty in a crumbling neighborhood amidst rising crime.

Cha Cha, the oldest of the Turner kids takes care of everything whether his siblings always appreciate that or not. He and his wife Tina take care of his mother, and when it's time to decide what to do with the family home, Cha Cha is not so fond of being the patriarch.

The book bounces around from various perspectives: Cha Cha, dealing with the fallout from an accident at his job, seeing a therapist, and haunted by a haint, or restless spirit; Lelah, the youngest of the Turner siblings, newly evicted with a gambling addiction; Troy, a police officer who resents Cha Cha; Viola and Francis when they were young, separated by distance, struggling,  and Cha Cha was the only child.

My favorite thing about this book was the narrative voice. It felt comfortable, easy to settle in, and the individual characters, as well as the setting, were vivid. It was quirky, charming, but there were also a lot of heavier themes at play. The supernatural element, as well as the rotating perspectives, really kept this one moving, and while I usually don't like rotating narrators, this one suited me just fine.

By the end, it did buckle a bit. While I continued to love all of the wonder things I mentioned above, it got cluttered. I think it could've been more cohesive, even if it had to be a little longer to flesh out some of the latter chapters.

Angela Flournoy is a formidable voice, and even though this book let me down just the tiniest bit at the end, I'll read anything she writes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Back in the Swing

Ahhh yes. Getting into the swing of a new semester. Tomorrow is the day that the last of my classes starts. I'm teaching beginning composition on MWF mornings, and it's one of my favorite courses. The readings are really diverse and tend to push students to think outside their norms and consider the Other. Obviously, a favorite.

I just finished writing what could be a controversial post for Book Riot. We'll see. It depends who reads it. I'll share when it goes live.

I developed an itch to make some videos this week, so I finally started a channel for planning. You can see my first "Plan with Me" video here.

I also finally, FINALLY, made a video for my long-ignored BookTube channel. If you've been reading here or following me on Twitter, you probably already know all this, but here's the link for my own recordkeeping.

I have finished all of my sticker shop duties and class prep for the day, so I'm off to read before I have to start the drive to work. I'm currently into My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier. Love the atmosphere!

See y'all soon with another review!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans

“I explained that when our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends aren’t welcome at the table, then we don’t feel welcome either, and that not every young adult gets married or has children, so we need to stop building our churches around categories and start building them around people.” 
For many years I've struggled with church attendance. Ok, in truth, I gave it up a long time ago. Why? Because every time I attended I noticed that things weren't falling in line. That is, a jab at my liberal politics (the horror!), an all-white, all straight (or so we pretend) congregation. A money-rules attitude. Everyone knows who the big donors are, y'all. No women allowed to deliver a message outside of Sunday school, and then, only for the littlest of the congregation.

In short, feeling invalidated, not good enough, not wealthy enough, not subservient enough. Not "lady like" enough. Not knowledgeable enough.

I have hated Sunday School my whole life. As an elementary school child, worksheets and reciting verses. As a teen, empty discussion, judging the people in the room who everyone knew had premarital sex or smoked weed. Playing favorites.

In Rachel Held Evans's book Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, I finally saw my concerns. While Evans's father is a theologian and she grows up in church, her experience as an adult was much like mine: the overwhelming disillusionment, the hypocrisy, the exclusion. A sense of the lack in the conversation. A lack of complete and utter realness. A hiding from the problems of the world.

Despite the problems, Evans feels the conviction of any devoted Christian. She always comes back to her belief system, despite her questions, her doubts. She believes in science and religion, in the grace of God, the necessity for social justice work, the importance of equality for all, a place for every person at the table. Every person.

In listening to her experiences--the ones that weren't so great, like mine--as well as the really great ones, I found an overwhelming amount of hope. Knowing that there are Christians with these concerns and that they are writing and sharing and preaching and loving gave me more incentive to search for myself, to study. I am not alone. None of us are. And no person is perfect and no church is either, but the Christian world is not wholly disregarding these issues. We are not alone.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Monday Reading and Bout of Books Wrap-Up

It was a good week of reading, though per usual I didn't read as much as I would've liked. That's always the case with readathons, isn't it? Our book gluttony reaches new heights, though our proverbial stomachs are never as big as our eyes. That's my story of Bout of Books.


Princess Jellyfish 01 (omnibus) by Akiko HigashimuraI have a tendency to refer to this as my "first manga" though that's not the truest. I had to read another one in grad school, but that was something crazy like 10 years ago (!!!) so I feel like I'm starting over. This is the first manga I've read of my own volition! This omnibus edition had something like 12 or 13 issues in it, and I looooooved it. It's about Tsukimi is a nerdy young woman who lives in an apartment building full of fellow woman-geeks. She's obsessed with jellyfish and in the beginning of this collection a beautiful, stylish woman who she finds completely intimidating, helps her save a dying jellyfish from a pet store. Turns out that stylish woman is a man who cross dresses as a hobby. There's a specific Japanese term for this in the book but I'm having no luck finding it and Google is letting me down. Hold that thought. I will definitely be reading the rest of this series. It was funny and silly and charming and just delightful. (#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks)

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance: I have a complicated relationship with this book. I'll just tell you that I did enjoy it, and I rated it 3 stars on Goodreads. Don't be confused...for me that's not a bad rating. It's a good rating, though I couldn't give it 4 because of those mixed feelings I mentioned.

Still Reading

Fervent by Priscilla Shirer: This is a Christian living book about prayer and it's specifically focused on women in prayer. Still undecided about this one. I'm working through it in the workbook style the book intends, but I don't know about Shirer's delivery.

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit: Goooood book. I'm taking it slow--one chapter at a time--because for a small book I do find there is a lot to absorb. It's one of those books, in fact, that I'd like to read each chapter twice before moving on. Greyson asks me, "Mom, what did you just write in that book?" a lot.

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy: A family story set in Detroit, the 13 Turner children must decide the fate of their family home as their mom ages and loses her independence. Love the alternating perspectives in this one, even though that's something that generally annoys me. I feel equally invested in each family member and love Flournoy's writerly voice. (#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks)


Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans: Another spiritual growth type book, this one is also a lot memoir. Evans is a progressive, doubting Christian and I sooooo appreciate her point of view. She reads the audiobook, and I love it so far. 

What are you reading? 

Images by Freepik