Two Books to Blow Your Hair Back

18 May

ng

There is no way to talk about this book that will do it justice– just go read it. It was recommended by pretty much everyone in the book world (NYT Best Seller, Amazon’s 2014 Book of the Year, Darling of Oprah’s Book Club), and none of them were wrong. I loved this book so much I walked to and from the grocery store instead of driving just so I could read it while I walked.

The novel follows a family as they deal with the sudden loss of their teenage daughter, Lydia. They’re a biracial family (a dad who’s Chinese American and a mom who’s white) in nowhere Ohio in the 1970s, and Lydia’s death opens the wounds long-since incised on their relationships. Honestly, there’s no point in saying anymore– the strength of this book is not in its plot but in how carefully Ng guides us through the history of a family via one very specific period. It’s definitely one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time.

consequence

Last time I wrote about what I was reading, I was about half way through Consequence: A Memoir by Eric Fair. When I told people I was reading it, no one was surprised–my general literary interests are (in this particular order): identity politics, oppression, and stories about those who complicate oppressive identity politics. So the account of how egregious human rights abuses like Abu Ghraib became common place in Iraq and Afghanistan is pretty much a no-brainer on my bookshelf.

But this book should be required reading for everyone, even if oppressive systems ain’t your bag. I wrote last about how much I admire the way Eric Fair does not exclude himself when providing examples of cowardice, corner cutting, and callous disregard for human life and dignity. As I finished the book, I also came to respect his outright refusal to make a work of torture porn–there are no prolonged waterboarding scenes, no full pages of gory details. Instead, there are plain statements of fact that serve as an illustration of how in the hell we got here: forged resumes, faked credentials, and private corporations more than willing to look the other way in order to cash in on their lucrative government contracts. It’s an indictment of the military industrial complex and an endorsement of the military, a call to action and a plea for de-escalation. It asks as many questions as it answers, and complicates what we know with the simple statement of how much the American public does not know.

Next up: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas. It’s DC Greek Easter and then finals so it may be awhile… let me know if you’ve read it, too!

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