I love reading for fun, but during the semester, I find it hard to read for pleasure while juggling all my other responsibilities as a student. So, instead, I shove all of my reading into the breaks and force myself to sit back and relax! Here are some of my favorite books from this winter break!
*SPOILER ALERT* While I will be avoiding huge plot spoilers, I may spoil little things about some of the books. You have been warned!
- Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness
I loved this book! If you don’t know, Jonathan is the “groomer” on Netflix’s revival of Queer Eye, and he is absolutely fabulous! But this memoir really shows the gritty backstory of our fav gender non-conforming queen and a more three-dimensional view of himself as a person outside of the always bubbly Jon we see on the show. I love that I see Jonathan in all of his complexities now, rather than just the made-for-TV version of his person (although that side of him is just as authentic as the gritty stuff!). I definitely recommend this book for someone who needs an inspirational tale of coming up from nothing and fighting (and winning) against your demons that features an amazingly queer person.
- Evelyn by C.L. Stone
Stone is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read practically all her books, and I’m in two fan club Facebook pages for her series’ Ghost Bird and The Scarab Beetle. When I read in her newsletter that she was publishing a new series, Charleston’s Leading Ladies (of which Evelyn is the first novel), I knew I would love this series as much as the other two. Stone’s work is a lot of fun to read. It lets you suspend reality to imagine yourselves in the not-too-realistic situations of our main protagonists. Something I specifically enjoyed about Evelyn, however, is that the characters are older and more adult than the teen characters in her previous two series. As someone who is technically aging into the “adult fiction” category, it’s a nice, refreshing step into more adult fiction. It also helps that this series is all about girl power, focusing less on the male characters (and potential love interests) and more on the women of the story being successful and not needing to rely on the boys. I’m definitely looking forward to the second book, Celeste, coming out in mid-February!
- X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon, narrated by Dion Graham
I have made a personal goal to read more novels by and about people of color which, in the young adult scene, is kinda hard to do without intention. So, when I got my free trial of Audible, I used my one free coin (or whatever it is) to get X, which is a fictionalized retelling of Malcolm X’s childhood by Shabazz, his middle daughter. I was blown away by this story. In the current state of public education in America, the most you learn about Malcolm X in high school U.S. history is that he was against the idea of nonviolent civil disobedience, he was Muslim and he was kind of the inverse of Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement. I learned so much more about Malcolm X through this novel such as where he came from, who his parents were (important black activists in the 20s!) and his journey towards who history remembers him as. From leaving his small town in Michigan to live with his half-sister in Boston and later to Harlem to getting involved in hustles and drugs. There’s his experience in prison, his conversion to Islam and back to the beliefs of his parents before him. I am interested in reading more about Malcolm X because of this novel!
- Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite
As mentioned above, I want to read more novels set outside of my culture and experiences, and the sisters Moulite transported me into the amazing, sometimes mystical, but mostly realistic existence of Haitian culture. Curses and superstition abound, Alaine seeks to break her family curse to save her mother and the rest of the family line. Along the way, she learns about her own culture (as a first-generation American whose family emigrated from Haiti), bonds closer with her family and learns about the world along the way. It also helps that a cute Haitian intern for her aunt’s company is by Alaina’s side! Overall, though, Alaina’s story is largely about girl power, the importance of women in history and self-discovery and growth. I loved this novel, and I loved learning more about Haitian history and culture!
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This book honest to God ripped me into shreds and made me question everything. Set in World War II, the story follows Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a young, blind, French girl, and Werner Pfennig, a young German orphan boy with a penchant for electrical work and radios. As the novel goes on, you see how their lives slowly come together, and when it happens, you wish it could have been for longer. It took Doerr ten years to write this book and you can see it in the impeccable detail of the world, the historical accuracy and the raw emotions he was able to portray through his characters. He weaves a story of morals, resistance, love, trust and survival in this heart-wrenching, soul-crushing book. And, like I do for all heart-wrenching, soul-crushing books, I recommend them to anyone and everyone I meet.
I really enjoyed having time to sit down and read over this winter break! I hope you all had the opportunity to read some good books too!