What I read in February

I found it hard to get into a book last month. I have like 4 books started at the moment because I’ve been having a hard time committing. And TV is just so much easier, and I can needlepoint while I watch, when I read I need to only read. It’s a lot easier to consume media in podcast, music, or TV/movie form because you can work or craft or do other stuff and not have to carve as much time out of your day for it. However, I did read 4 books this month, although the book of poems is so thin that I don’t know if it counts!

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

I started reading this in December and it is a tome. It is a big book with a lot of thin pages and not huge text so there is a LOT of content in this book. It is a super interesting read for me (and most people my age I’d say) because he’s the first American president I really remember in office. Like I remember W in office, but I was a kid, I didn’t really understand anything that was happening. Like you know that your country is going to war because of 9/11 but you don’t grasp the finer details, and we left the US in 2006, before the recession. And the recession wasn’t nearly as impactful in Canada so we largely escaped it. It is also really interesting to read his full, uninterrupted opinion, reasoning, and rationale as to why decisions were made the way they were. It is also really interesting to read about the beginnings of the rise of white supremacy, the “Sarah Palin”-effect to distill one of his opinions. The reaction to his presidency, “birther-ism”, and the rise of Donald Trump as a political figure. Obviously he is writing and I am reading from the perspective of hindsight being 20/20 but it is extremely fascinating. The only downside is that he writes the way he explains policy, long-winded. I’d give it a 4/5, overall extremely interesting but long and as with most policy, occasionally dry.

Assorted Love Poems by Pablo Neruda

I read this every February, Pablo Neruda is one of the most famous, most romantic Spanish poems. I like this book because it has them in Spanish on one page and English on the facing page so that if I get stuck reading the Spanish or don’t understand the poetic language I can look over and see what it means. I don’t want to rate this one, I don’t think I know how to rate poetry.

Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

This book is the sequel to Moloka’i. They are both fantastic books that explain the racism, oppression, and mistrust the Native Hawaiians (in Moloka’i) and Japanese peoples (in Daughter of Moloka’i) have of the American government and speaks to the distrust so many marginalized groups have of the medical community and the government. Moloka’i covers the life of Rachel, who becomes infected with leprosy as a child and is sent away to Moloka’i to the leper colony. She lives out most of her life there, falling in love, and having a daughter. However, parents with leprosy were not allowed to keep their children. So her daughter, Ruth, is sent to an orphanage on another island and eventually adopted by a Japanese family. Daughter of Moloka’i follows Ruth through her life from the moment she leaves Moloka’i. She leads a great life, relocating from Hawai’i with her family to join her uncle’s family in California who need help with their farm. Already, they are encountering racism. Beginning from the fact that non-citizens are not allowed to own land and that “Orientals” are not allowed to become citizens. They also face racism from the local farmers who believe that only white people should be in the USA. Then the Pearl Harbor attack happens and changes everything for them. Ruth and her entire family are interned in a Japanese internment camp. They later learn that Japanese people on Hawai’i were not interned, because they represented too large a portion of the workforce. Later on, after they are released Rachel contacts Ruth and learns of the internment and there is a most heartbreaking moment when Rachel loses it and tells Ruth that the whole point, how Rachel got through having her daughter taken away was that Ruth was supposed to be free. And she wasn’t. They grow to form a beautiful relationship.

There is also a beautiful moment where you learn how far society has come. Young Ruth wants nothing more than to become a veterinarian. Her teacher laughed at her and told her that a woman can never be a veterinarian. Many years later, her young daughter tells her that she wants to be a veterinarian. And it isn’t outlandish, in fact she gets to, with no questions asked.

I also think this book is really important at the moment. It is maybe problematic that it is written by a white man, however with the rise in anti-Asian sentiment and racism in the past year I think it is really important to read stories about how embedded racism against Asian peoples is in our society, that it has always been here, and it hasn’t ever gone away.

Now, I don’t think it was as good as Moloka’i, however it is still a solid 4/5.

An Elegant Woman by Martha McPhee

I found this book to also be kind of a slog. It wasn’t that it wasn’t interesting, I mean how can a story about a mother and her two daughters who leave a cheating husband in the late 1800s and go west to start a new life with a mother who leaves them alone to fend for themselves all the time not be interesting? But I think that Tommy/Katherine is such an unreliable narrator, which is the point; even her own grandchildren don’t know which stories are true and which aren’t. It’s also such a survival story but also a cautionary tale about forcing your children to live up to your expectations when they want their own lives. It is also a story that could literally never happen after like 1950. Our lives are too tracked, too monitored now. You could never take your sister’s high school diploma and go to nursing school, even though you are a far better nurse than your sister could ever be. The story is told very well, but I think overall a 3.5/5 for just the fact that I didn’t particularly enjoy it.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?


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