This past Wednesday marked my one year anniversary of living in San Francisco. I never imagined I'd still be living in the same house a year later- it was just supposed to be housesitting for a month until I found my own place! But living with my friends has turned out to be one of the best parts of this whole experience. I've learned so much and grown more into myself as a result. Thanks, SF.
Read and Reading
Three high school misfits band together in their small rural town the debut YA novel The Serpent King (Zentner). It's their senior year and while they long to graduate, their futures do not all hold the same possibilities, making this a rich coming of age story. Questions of identity are raised: how well do we know ourselves and others, especially when people try to limit or make us smaller than we are. The impeccable character development and bold plot choices made this book hard to put down, as well as hard to forget. I could not love it more.
P.S. Jeff is great to follow on Twitter!
The Forbidden Wish (Khoury) is my favorite retelling of Aladdin yet. This time around we get jinni Zahra's perspective, from when she's trapped in the lamp to when Aladdin stumbles upon it and sets her free. She may have to grant him three wishes but she's trying to figure out a way to set herself truly free, even if that means manipulating Aladdin and hoping the King of the Jinn keeps his word. She is a true badass and I loved all the feminism flowing through the pages. Khoury is a marvelous writer for the way she introduces us to Zahra and her tragic past and how that directly impacts her relationship with Aladdin. I raced through the book, unsure how it would end even though I know how the story of Aladdin works.
At the top of my Books I Gush Over list, you'll find All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation (Traister). This is a remarkable undertaking, not only because of the scope of Traister's research and interviews but because of how well it's compiled together. She manages to validate a number of singles' experiences, while also acknowledging her shortcomings, namely the bulk of her examples are white women in their 30s and 40s in NYC. However, she does feature stories from Women Of Color, as well as drawing from research and other works. What I loved is how validated I felt as a single woman. There was good food for thought- I especially loved the chapters about cities and friendship. There's also pointed critiques of society and religion, which is much needed in this age of marginalization. You don't need to be single to gain insights from this book- in fact, I'd encourage everyone to read it. But if you are single, you'll walk away feeling heard and seen and maybe even inspired.
I'm joining the chorus to say every woman should read Come As You Are (Nagoski), whether single, married, virgin, lackluster or on fire sex life. I learned so much from Nagoski (her fact checking about the hymen blew my mind) and truly appreciated her resounding exhortation, "you are normal." Her insights will go a long way toward undoing the misinformation so many of us have been fed and even patriarchal oppression. I feel incredibly empowered!
Nagoski appeared on Smart Podcasts, Trashy Books to discuss Come As You Are, as well as her first romance novel How Not To Fall, which uses the pen name Emily Foster. Nagoski read Fifty Shades Of Gray in the course of her research and was so angry about it, she decided to write "a feminist, sex-positive, medically accurate way to tell a story about a college senior who experiences her sexual awakening at the hands of a more experienced man." Nagoski/Foster has an unusual writing voice, which is different from the tone of other romance novels out there. Annie, our heroine, almost addresses the reader directly and gives us all of her thoughts. She is finishing college and speaks with the slang and vernacular that's typical of a 22 year old. This was off-putting at times but didn't detract from my reading experience. Additionally, the two main characters are nerdy scientists and there's lots of science talk, some of which went over my head but it was unique enough, I didn't mind. It's an interesting coming of age tale, while also exploring how relationships succeed and fail and what our part is in all that. I had a hard time putting this one down and it made me feel so many different emotions, especially because it's a duology and does not end on a happy note. I am DYING to know what happens next. (I tweeted Nagoski and she told me book 2 comes out December 23. Yay!) I'm glad Nagoski decided to try her hand at writing romance because what she included and omitted was quite telling. On the Romance Novel Spice Scale, the sex scenes are very explicit- this is where the sex educator in her comes out to play- so skip this one if that's not your thing. (Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
As a long-time Top Chef viewer, I had a barebones sketch of Padma Lakshmi's life but it turns out she is so much more than what I had gleaned. There is much more honesty and vulnerability in her memoir Love, Loss, and What We Ate than I would have guessed and as such, her decisions don't always come across in the best light. Yet that's what makes the writing so compelling. I appreciated her advocacy for women's rights from the options for women growing up in India to how endometriosis has impacted her life and health. Plus, there was some fun behind-the-scenes on Top Chef. I haven't tried any of the recipes but there were plenty that made my mouth water.
Currently reading: The Complete Enneagram (Chestnut), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander), To Bless The Space Between Us (O'Donohue), Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn't The Only Option- And Other Things The Bible Says About Sex (McClenaghan), Glass Sword (Aveyard), A Bollywood Affair (Dev)
(I read 35 books this month. A new record. Yay for stress reading!)
Must-see TV: Real Housewives of New York, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Southern Charm, Outlander
Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.
I've been a big Gene Demby fan for a while now and love whenever he pops up as fourth chair on Pop Culture Happy Hour. But we no longer have to wait for his guest appearances! Code Switch has a podcast now and it is EXCELLENT.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books had a fascinating episode called Closing The Door at the Intersection of Religion and Sex, interviewing Dr. Kristen Nielsen Donnelly, who is conducting research about the relationship between romance novels, religion, and sex. I really enjoyed listening to their discussion of whether and how religion is portrayed in romance novels and novels with strong romantic themes.
Invisibilia's second season finally started and it's blowing my mind per usual.
Things I Love:
- Alysa and I have been internet friends for a while so when it turned out she and her family would be in California for the summer, we conspired a get together. I drove down to San Jose to hang out with her and her kids for the afternoon and then we topped off the day with a baseball game and fireworks. It was so much fun to hang out in person, as well as meet her family, and I loved getting to talk baseball with her, too.
- Alysa found us a wonderful place for dinner: Delicious Crepes. The batter was vegan, which meant I got to eat crepes for the first time in ages because dairy-free crepes are hard to come by. It was incredibly delicious!
- The first full week of June was dedicated to VBS, which was a ton of work and I went home every day exhausted. In fact, it's taken all month for me to recover. But the kids had fun so that's what counts. Plus, I parked in the lot of a gorgeous Catholic church and the church building we rented had all manner of stained glass to keep me inspired.
- Sweet B graduated from preschool (complete with cap and gown!) and I was honored to accompany the family to his graduation, followed by a fantastic dinner at Sunset Reservoir.
- My friend/coworker Katie and I debriefed our VBS experience over mules and appetizers at Sunset Reservoir the next night. This could be the closest I get to Cheers.
- I happened to have the day off work when Senator Chris Murphy started his filibuster over gun control. I was glued to the coverage and so proud to be a Democrat. Similarly, I was over the moon when Representative John Lewis led his colleagues at Congress in a sit-in less than a week later. I highly recommend listening to Lewis's speech if you haven't already. I am hopeful for change thanks to these brave men and women.
- Rachel and I explored the Japanese Tea Garden. I could not get over how intentional every part of that place is, from how the stones are raked, to how the bushes are trimmed, to what's in the ponds with the koi fish. It was such a serene, peaceful experience.
- We couldn't leave without getting tea. I tried Hojicha, which had a nice smoky flavor. I'm not much of a green tea drinker but I would totally get it again.
- Micha and I ordered our favorite Chinese food and watched Outlander together, along with taking prom photos in front of the sunset, before she headed out of town. It's been so fun to watch Outlander together this year and we're sad we won't be together for the finale. I'm really glad we made the most of this.
- My team at work has had our fair share of bonding experiences lately and this included cleaning out our rooms at the building we rent. Barbara, Sarah, and I transformed that place and had a good time in the process.
- I found my new favorite underwear at Naja and the company is even better than I guessed: they are all about social justice!
- I was way past due for a haircut, like two months past, and I finally got my act together and saw Gaby. She is such a miracle worker. I feel like myself again!
- My coworker Jason hosted a Pride BBQ and I helped him set things up in his awesome backyard patio. It was really fun getting to know more of the LGBTQ group at church, as well as catching up with friends. Good food, good conversation, great night. My only disappointment is not making it over to the Trans Parade, which was a few blocks away. Time got away from us!
- My friend Jennifer was in Palo Alto for a work conference so we met up for dinner at Oren's Hummus, which has the best hummus I've ever tasted. Truly incredible! It was great catching up with Jennifer and talking about all that's changed in Nashville since I moved away.
- I celebrated my one year anniversary of living in San Francisco by getting gelato from Holy Gelato with my friend Rachel and then going to the Moraga Steps, which is a gorgeous community-inspired project. It was super cold and windy but worth it.
- A friend gave me a free trial to Blue Apron so I gave it a whirl and was pretty impressed with all 3 meals they sent. I'm thinking it might be a nice treat once every month or so.
In the Blogosphere:
You can find the best of what I've been reading at Storify.
(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)
On The Blog:
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What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:
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What have you been into this month?
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