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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Fall has officially arrived and the semester is in full swing. I’ve definitely forgotten how busy our days can get when we’re on campus and sadly, that leaves a lot of us with less time to read. I wanted to take some time to look back on the books I’ve read this year so far and pick out some of my favorites. The five I selected — which was a very difficult decision to make, by the way — are near and dear to my heart. If any of them sound interesting, please consider reading them!

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Trigger warnings: sexual assault, rape, medical examinations

“This is not about the victims’ lack of effort. This is about society’s failure to have systems in place in which victims feel there’s a probable chance of achieving safety, justice, and restoration rather than being retraumatized, publicly shamed, psychologically tormented, and verbally mauled. The real question we need to be asking is not, ‘Why didn’t she report?’ The question is, ‘Why would you?’”

In her memoir, Chanel Miller takes us to the night Brock Turner raped her behind a dumpster on Stanford’s campus. She recounts the long, exhausting journey it took to reclaim her voice afterward. Miller sheds a lot of light on how dehumanizing the justice system is for victims of sexual assault and it made me absolutely frustrated. She has such a poetic way of expressing her thoughts and her writing is both gripping and heartbreaking. 

Given the current issues surrounding sexual assault incidences on campus at UMass Amherst, I couldn’t pass up recommending this. However, this is not an easy read. It is an important one for sure, but only when you feel you may be in the right headspace for it.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Trigger warnings: loss of a loved one, cancer, death

Michelle Zauner’s memoir tells the story of a complex relationship between mother and daughter. It is about the mother she lost far too soon and how intimately connected family and food are. She reflects back on her life as she seeks comfort in cooking traditional Korean food while coping with the grief and hurt she experienced in the wake of her mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis. It’s about appreciating the time you have with your loved ones and not taking any of it for granted. This memoir left me an absolute wreck. It is so honest, heartbreaking, and beautiful.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Trigger warnings: addiction, racism, homophobia, death, bullying, animal violence

The next book on this list is that of one of UMass Amherst’s very own, Ocean Vuong! This novel tells the story of a young Vietnamese-American man, Little Dog, and is written in the form of a long intimate letter to his illiterate mother. His letter is filled with memories and stories, his own and those of his mother and grandmother, as they flee from Vietnam. With lyrical writing, Vuong explores masculinity, gender, sexuality, love, grief, and more. It was difficult to read but so very powerful.

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

Trigger warnings: child death, riot violence

In The Stationery Shop, Bahman and Roya fall in love at a small stationery shop during the summer of 1953 in the midst of political upheaval in Tehran. They plan for a long and beautiful future, but on the evening right before their marriage, Bahman never shows up to the town square where they planned to meet. Roya will eventually be forced to move on after his disappearance, and she will finally have her questions answered 60 years later. This is a heartbreaking love story about loss, regret, forgiveness, and destiny.   

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Trigger warnings: cheating, homophobia, murder, violence, abuse

In this short novel, the protagonist David escapes to Paris in the 1950s, where he meets a bartender, Giovanni. There is a feeling of impending doom as the story progresses and we see David struggle to understand his identity and the love he comes to feel for Giovanni despite having a girlfriend waiting for him in Spain. This is brutally honest and painful. I am a huge fan of Baldwin’s writing and this novel is packed with emotions. 

I know my words can’t sufficiently convey to you how amazing these five novels are. If any of them sound even remotely interesting, go grab a copy! I know you won’t regret it. Make sure to find some time to relax during this very overwhelming semester!

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Genesis Medina

U Mass Amherst '23

Genesis Medina is a junior double majoring in Public Health Sciences and Psychology. She likes to read, watch movies, and spend time with her friends and family.