Running the Books by Avi Steinberg
This is one of those rare books that I found at the library, at random, rather than specifically seeking it out because it was on my TBR. This details the experiences of a prison librarian. Not too much stands out about it, but it was good. He meets some good, interesting people in the prison, he talks about the ups and downs, how it becomes stressful after awhile, particularly if you happen to meet a former inmate in the outside world. I thought he did a good job for the most part of not being too judgmental of the inmates. I couldn’t help but think of Orange Is the New Black and Shawshank Redemption for much of the reading…
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
This book was really moving. Our main character, modeled after the author (who, by the way, is GORGEOUS) is mixed race, black and white, African-American and Danish. Her dad sort of leaves, it’s a bit vague, and her mom is left with three children and a shitty boyfriend, and decides all their lives would be better if they were over, and jumps off the roof of her building with her children. Her daughter is the only one who survives.
Rachel has to deal with her past trauma, which she tries to ignore much of the time, as well as struggle with her identity. She discusses how so many groups of people feel she should choose a group to be part of – she must be black OR white – they don’t want to accept her as both, but neither group seems to want her entirely.
Despite that her dad left, she ends up in the custody of her paternal grandmother, since her mom’s family is in Denmark. This makes things hard for Rachel – there’s judgment from the family for her mom’s choice and the tragedy, yet her dad isn’t around either.
Using a teenaged girl, who is already going to struggle with identity, and throwing mixed race into the mix, and dead or missing parents – I found it wholly compelling.
Shine, Shine, Shine by Lydia Netzer
I’ve tried to explain this book twice, and have been really bad at it. I guess it’s just a book about being human, honestly.
You have this dysfunctional family – dad’s very detached and stoic, perhaps autistic, perhaps the product of an abusive childhood, perhaps both – he builds robots and goes into space. Mom, Sunny, was a star of a child, has a condition where no hair grows anywhere on her body, so she’s bald, and that’s a huge marker for her. After they get married, she adopts this suburban housewife persona, starts wearing wigs, hosting tupperware parties, that sort of thing. They have a 4 year old boy, Bubber, who is autistic. Mom is pregnant with Baby #2. Grandma, mom’s mother, took care of dad (Maxon) growing up, teaching him social cues, helping him go to school, etc, but never wanted the two to get married, nor does she want her daughter wearing a wig.
Grandma’s dying in the hospital, baby is almost due, dad’s in space, mom gets in a neighborhood car accident, minor, but her wig flies off and everyone sees. She decides she’s tired of the whole charade, stops wearing wigs, takes her son off his meds, pulls the plug on Grandma who’s only still alive because of machines. Then as if mom’s not going through enough, a meteor wipes out some of the ship’s equipment, so Maxon may not be coming home.
We’re basically dealing with Sunny’s development, her choices, how some were mistakes, and some weren’t exactly wrong, but she might have done better going the other way. She has to figure out a lot of things, including how much Maxon means to her.
In the end, it’s sweet, in an offbeat way. I think it would be neat to discuss in a book group setting, to see what others got out of it. I’m just not sure what the whole takeaway is, as it feels like a story with a larger point, that I’m missing.