What’s on Your Nightstand is a monthly meme hosted by 5 Minutes for Books on the last Tuesday of every month that summarizes what you’ve read for the month, what you’re currently reading, and what you plan to read next. For my posts, I also include articles, music, art, TV shows, and whatever else I did in the month.
April: the month in which I realize I’ve been decieving myself this whole time about accomplishing personal goals. April: the month in which I realize my setbacks are actually MAJOR setbacks and I probably won’t accomplish my goals by my appointed date. This was disappointing and dampened my month some, but April was also filled with lots of fun moments: enjoying the arts with friends or just by myself.
April wasn’t all bad and realizing those major setbacks now is actually a good thing. It’s still early in the year and though I’ll have to adjust the timeline for my goals, there’s still time to correct the mistakes I made so I won’t have to do a huge reshuffling of my plans. April was a busy month. I had lots to do at work and because I enjoy my job, the busyness was invigorating. I also reconnected with some friends, attended a parody of the Harry Potter books, which was loads of fun, and got a private tour of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which, if you’re in D.C. and you love art, you should totally do too.
So it was a decent month, though I’ll continue to gripe about it because GRRR!!! I fucked up with them goals. At least my reading and blogging were on track. Here’s what I read in April.
I’m hooked on the Fairwick Chronicles, a paranormal romance series by Juliet Dark (pseudonym for Carol Goodman) so it’s no surprise that I read the second novel, The Water Witch, soon after completing the first. The Water Witch picks up about a month or two after The Demon Lover and focuses on Callie trying to master her powers while staving off an undine and working with the Fairwick witches to prevent the Grove from closing the door to Faerie. Oh! And she’s also pining for her incubus. I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I did the first book, but it was entertaining and I liked the parts where Callie read about and learned magic.
My eagerness to read Dread Nation (see below) put me in the mood for zombies, so I picked up the audio book of The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. It was narrated by Ron Perlman. Yep, the actor from Sons of Anarchy and Hellboy. The Strain was a reread for me and I loved it just as much as I did when I read the physical book for the first time last year. It’s a dystopian horror novel about a vampire-zombie apocalypse that begins in New York City. I love the story so much and can’t wait to get started on the second novel.
I then completed The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory, a quick romance novel about a man and a woman who fake date until they fall in love. The story focuses on an interracial couple, and I loved that about it. I liked the premise and enjoyed the beginning, but lost interest as the story progressed because I didn’t care for the characters.
Back to the zombies — Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. It’s a YA alternative history novel set shortly after the U.S. Civil War. Black and Native American adolescents and teens are trained to fight and kill zombies to protect White people. It’s not a horror novel in the traditional sense, but Ireland touches on the horrific lengths people will go to maintain the racial divide in society. This book has been receiving lots of praise lately and it’s totally deserving of it. I enjoyed it, though I wish the villains were a little more complex.
I ended the month with a light read. Geekerella by Ashley Poston was entertaining and sweet. It’s a contemporary YA novel inspired by the fairytale Cinderella, except that the Cinderella character is called Danielle, “Elle” for short, and works in a vegan food truck named the Magic Pumpkin, and the “prince” is an Asian actor who’s a huge movie star about to take on the lead role in a movie called Starfield that’s heavily reminiscent of Star Wars. It’s fun and entertaining and I enjoyed reading it.
Other things consumed in April:
Social issues & current affairs
Expose Thyself! On the Digitally Revealed Life (iasc-culture.org)
— On how our increasing reliance on technology has hindered our emotional development making it difficult for us to read others’ emotions and nonverbal communication, and how we become less empathetic the more we engage with technology and social media
— Was surprised to learn that emoticons are used to argue court cases to prove a person’s innocence
“…technology is less an extension of man than an invasion of him…”
Rebecca Solnit: Whose Story (and Country) Is This? (lithub.com)
— About the media’s portrayal of “real America” as White and middle-class and the media sympathizing with wronged White men; also about how we need to do better to ensure equality
— Solnit’s frustration and anger is palpable in this. The article stood out to me because I’ve been in conversation with White people where they express frustration at being mistreated in some way and their complaint/defense is “I am American. I obviously look American. I was the most American-looking person there. I don’t understand why I was treated that way!” Those exact words were used throughout a conversation I had about airports: getting searched at TSA security lines or being stopped for a random security search before boarding a flight. The person’s complaint there points to the fact that she is obviously White (she gesticulated to her hair and appearance as she spoke), so she shouldn’t have been searched. Her argument is if you’re White, you’re not a threat, so no need to further search such persons.
Meet Justina Ireland, YA Twitter’s Leading Warrior (vulture.com)
— A profile of Justina Ireland whose novel Dread Nation was recently published. The article talks about Ireland’s push to bring more awareness to the lack of diversity in YA/children publishing via Twitter and her “call-out” of problematic books and backlash received for doing so and that she started the sensitivity readers database
— This article is what got me curious about Dread Nation. I read it and enjoyed it.
No Sympathy for Amazon (newrepublic.com)
— On the spat between Trump and Amazon, and how Amazon gained influence over the years
— It also debunks some beliefs about Amazon, such as that it increases employment.
Menstrual Pads Can’t Fix Prejudice (nytimes.com)
— On the need to counter cultural stigma about periods
How Applying to Grad School Becomes a Display of Trauma for People of Color (electricliterature.com)
— The writer talks about her experience applying to a PhD program and how the essay portion affects people of color
— She makes a great point but I kind of disagree with her because I think people of color aren’t the only ones asked to tokenize and exploit their trauma and experiences in these essays.
“…the experience taught me that society, white America specifically, regularly asks minorities and people of color to tokenize and exploit themselves, talking about their cultural backgrounds in a marketable way in order to gain acceptance into programs and institutions we are otherwise barred from.”
— Atwood talks about writing The Handmaid’s Tale and its impact
“Nations never build apparently radical forms of government on foundations that aren’t there already.”
How Much Is a Word Worth? (medium.com)
— On the declining pay for freelance writers and how low pay affects quality of writing and reporting
— Was surprised to learn that staff writers at the New Yorker do not typically receive health insurance
How Do We Write Now? (tinhouse.com)
— An inspiring essay about writing, creating and wanting to create; simple things, forgotten things, and things once appreciated; concentrating and trying to concentrate; and much more
— On grammar usage and why people follow certain grammar rules
“A dialect is essentially a collection of social habits. We become so used to hearing particular forms that the choices behind them don’t feel like choices.”
Barbie Unveils 17 New Dolls Based on Inspiring Women (demilked.com)
Barbie conducted a survey of 8,000 mothers and learned that 86% of them are concerned about the kind of role models their daughters are exposed to. In response, Barbie has created 17 new dolls based on inspirational women of diverse backgrounds. (barbie.mattel.com)
(I really like this. I just wish they’d done it years ago, like when I was a kid or even before that.)
Personal stories and a short story
The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma (newyorker.com)
— Junot Díaz, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, talks about his childhood trauma and how it has affected his life.
— (Díaz was recently accused of sexual misconduct.)
“And since us Afro-Latinx brothers are viewed by society as always already sexual perils, very few people ever noticed what was written between the lines in my fiction—that Afro-Latinx brothers are often sexually imperilled.”
On Telling Ugly Stories: Writing with a Chronic Illness (theparisreview.org)
— The writer talks about her struggle with endometriosis
— She is the author of Heads of Colored Folk, which I really want to read.
— About how a man who was charged for drug trafficking and murder became a reporter while in prison. His articles have appeared in the Atlantic and the Guardian.
How to Bury Immortal Humans (electricliterature.com)
— A short fiction by Benjamin Schaefer called “The Underside” that’s set in an alternative world where humans can’t die
A Strange Condition (tinhouse.com)
— About a time in the writer’s life when she experienced a psychotic break
“All madness is practice in death.”
Why I Don’t Write About the Women in My Family (lithub.com)
— A short non-fiction story about the women in the writer’s family
Samanthan Irby: Why I’d Rather Live Alone (lithub.com)
— An excerpt from her book, Meaty
The Last Slave (vulture.com)
— An article on Zora Neale Hurston’s book about Cudjo Lewis, “the last survivor of the last slave ship to land on American shores.”
— The book, Barracooon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”, was not published during Hurston’s lifetime for various reasons — some Black intellectuals and political leaders didn’t like that the book spoke about Africans capturing and selling slaves and a publisher didn’t like that parts of the book are in dialect — but will be published this year on May 8. The article contains an excerpt from the book.
A System in Denial (newrepublic.com)
— A review of Empire of Guns by Priya Satia that also discusses how war, not peace, drove capitalism
“Contrary to liberal optimism, war, not peace, drove the development of modern capitalism. And the state, not the free market, served as midwife to the new world order.”
How Did African Hippos End Up in Colombia? (lithub.com)
— A fascinating read about how drug kingpin Pablo Escobar smuggled a bunch of animals from the African continent (according to legend) to Colombia, and how the new location has changed the hippos’ cycles and how the hippos might disrupt the ecosystem
My Search for an Incredible Piece of Sci-Trash (themillions.com)
— About the writer’s quest to find a trashy sci-fi novel he read in his teens
A feature on moko jumbies — the traditional art of stilt dancing in Caribbean carnivals and celebrations. This video focuses on Trinidad and the work of stilt walker Adrian Young, who’s introducing a new generation to stilt walking.
Push for accountability regarding sexual misconduct
‘Crisis’ at Swedish Academy Jeopardises 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature (thebookseller.com)
— The prize will probably not be announced this year due to a sexual assault scandal.
In the #MeToo Moment, Publishers Turn to Morality Clauses (publishersweekly.com)
— Publishers are including morality clauses in author contracts that allows them to end business dealings with an authors due to the author’s behavior. (Hmm… not sure I agree with this move.)
George R.R. Martin Reveals Release Date for Next Book (bookriot.com)
— The book, Fire & Blood, focuses on the Targaryens and begins 300 years before the events in A Song of Ice & Fire series. It’s apparently written by the character Archmaester Gyldayn and will contain illustrations and such. Fire & Blood will be published on November 20. (I’m not sure yet if I want it.)
‘Harry Potter’ 20th Anniversary Scholastic Covers by Brian Selznick Revealed (the-leaky-cauldron.org)
— Harry Potter books get new covers, this time illustrated by Brian Selznick. They will be published on June 26. (Meh, I don’t know if I like them. Need to see them IRL.)
The Fall of Gondolin to Be Published (tolkiensociety.org)
— J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fall of Gondolin will be published by HarperCollins U.K. on August 30.
— It opened in April on Broadway (and I hope I’ll get to see it!!). It’s the most expensive Broadway show.
— National Geographic has announced that the third season of its TV show Genius, an anthology series that focuses on the lives of brilliant innovators throughout history, will focus on Mary Shelley.
— Gaiman will adapt the classic fantasy series Gormenghast, which was written by Mervyn Peake, for TV. Two of the books in the series were initially adapted for a four-part BBC miniseries in 2000 but didn’t receive good reviews.
— “The Hidden Girl” is a short story by fantasy author Ken Liu, who wrote The Grace of Kings.
A New Generation of African-American-Owned Bookstores (publishersweekly.com)
— (I’m happy for this!) 😀
— The tool is called “Talk to Books”. It scans every sentence in 100,000 books in Google Books to answer your question.
Barnes & Noble Is Adding a Kids Graphic Novel Section (comicsbeat.com)
— (About damn time.)
Saudi Arabia Breaks 35-Year Cinema Ban With Historic ‘Black Panther’ Screening (hollywoodreporter.com)
Other awesome ‘ish
Kids’ Corner: STEM Picture Books Featuring Female Main Characters (cover2covermom.wordpress.com)
— I’m so happy for this post! I’ll definitely refer to it next time I’m at the library.
Mayhem, Humor, and Romance: Your Guide to Eric Jerome Dickey Books (signature-reads.com)
— Check it out if you’re interested in romance and contemporary novels.
10 Book Designers Discuss the Book Covers They Rejected, and Why (electricliterature.com)
Inspired by Homer: 20 Pieces of Greek Mythology Art and Swag (bookriot.com)
— I’m loving the list because it includes Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever as well as The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz and all the usual classics like Pride & Prejudice and shit.
5 Times Sean Bean Died for Your Amusement (unboundworlds.com)
10 Weird Places You’ve Never Heard Of (publishersweekly.com)
Your Pocket Guide to 10 Literary Movements (lithub.com)
Check Out This Free Digital Collection of 6,000 19th-Century Children’s Books (offspring.lifehacker.com)
— “The University of Florida Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature has a digital archive of 6,000 children’s books from the 19th and early 20th century, all free to read online.”
Another video break
LMAO!! LOVED THIS!!! 😀
Worth a listen
Gimlet: Reply All
— A podcast about the internet; the topics are always interesting. I highly suggest you check out this one:
Skip tracers are bounty hunters. These episodes are about a skip tracer who uses the internet to track a supposedly undocumented immigrant who killed someone while drunk driving. The episodes also touch on the Remembrance Project, a Houston-based anti-illegal immigration nonprofit.
First Draft Pod
— A literary podcast that features interviews of authors and other professionals in book publishing
Orliss is the associate director of events programming for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. In this interview, Sarah talks with Orliss about planning the LA Times book festival, addressing controversial topics and freedom of speech, and what policies are in place to address harassment at book festivals.
This American Life
— A weekly hour-long radio program and podcast hosted by Ira Glass. It covers a variety of topics and for the entirety of April, I was hooked on it so I have many episodes to recommend here:
About body perception; also hear from Lindy West, author of Shrill, and Roxane Gay, author of Hunger and Bad Feminist
About bad/misbehaving kids; I really like the short story at the end
On people who look for advice in unlikely places, such as a teenage boy who runs away from home to visit fantasy author Piers Anthony
About people’s misconception of others
Shows I’m hooked on
Into the Badlands
The new season has started and it’s so BADASS!!! I’m loving it! I still need to catch up on season 2 though.
A Quiet Place
Loved. It. Such a great movie. Loved the acting. Loved how quiet it was in the theater. Glad I saw it. HIGHLY recommend it.
This is a parody of Harry Potter that I saw at the theater. It’s great and hilarious. If it’s ever in your town, I HIGHLY suggest you attend.
…aaand I’mma stop there. I read way more articles than I thought. Hope one or two of them is of interest to you.
Well then, that’s the end of April. 🙂