Book Review: The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide by Steven W. Thrasher

I admit, as a book person, and as a huge nonfiction book person, when the pandemic first hit, I thought, ‘Man, the books about this time period are going to be fascinating.’ And they’ve started to roll in, and they are indeed fascinating, along with being utterly devastating. The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide by Steven W. Thrasher (Celadon Books, 2022) is one of those books, and it’ll pull you in and squeeze your heart with both hands.

Dr. Steven Thrasher is both Black and gay; both of these are markers for experiencing more adverse health outcomes. HIV/AIDS hits both these groups at a higher rate than white people, or straight people. There are groups that experience adverse outcomes in much higher rates than others, and Dr. Thrasher examines these, using the AIDS epidemic, the COVID pandemic, and various other viruses throughout history. This isn’t stodgy academic writing; he delves deeply into his own life, his experiences and those of his friends and colleagues, his communities, to drive the point that we have created a society where illness spreads more easily and more surely along class and racial lines. It doesn’t have to be like this…but try telling that to the people at the top of this hierarchy and see how fast they riot when there’s no one from those lower classes to serve them at Applebee’s. We’ve seen this type of behavior all throughout the pandemic. Members of the viral underclass are more likely to have public-facing jobs and cannot isolate or work from home, and we as a society demand they get back there as soon as possible. And thus, they die at much higher rates, and we as a society see this, shrug, and await their replacements.

This is a sobering book, and it needs to be read by everyone. I can’t vouch for other countries, since I’ve only ever lived in the US, but here, we’re all so disconnected from each other. We stick to our circles and don’t engage with people outside of them, and thus, we don’t understand the devastation caused by this stratification of society, outside of, “Huh, wonder where that one guy that worked at the gas station went. Haven’t seen him in months. Anyway…” Dr. Thrasher has really written an eye-opening account of how blasé we are a society of throwing away people who aren’t like us. It’s a major wake-up call, one I’m not hopeful that the majority of us will hear.

Visit Dr. Steven Thrasher’s page at Celadon books here.

Follow him on Twitter here.


Book Review: How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing by KC Davis

I’m a homemaker, and I’m…kind of only a fair-to-middling one, to be honest. My house does NOT look like something out of Better Homes and Gardens; my meals are never perfectly plated; there are usually piles of books and toys and laundry waiting to be folded scattered in inconvenient places all over; my cobwebs have cobwebs. I’m no Martha Stewart. But I’m also always looking to improve my skills, even though I’m already kind of maxed out in terms of time and ability, so when I heard about How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing by KC Davis, LPC (S & S/Simon Element, 2020), I put it on my list immediately. Drowning? Absolutely.

This book truly is a gentle way to figure out what kind of housekeeping routine works for you, no matter what your hurdles. Depression? Chronic pain? ADHD? Sensory issues? This book covers how to get things done with all these and more, in a relaxed, friendly way that won’t leave you feeling ashamed, but rather, empowered, and confident. It’s not going to leave you with a magazine-shoot ready house (unless you follow their advice to call in outside help if it’s affordable). It will, however, make you realize that if you’re pulling rumpled clothes out of a laundry basket instead of hanging them all up, that’s okay. If you’re entirely tapped out and all you managed to do today is heat up a frozen pizza and serve it off paper plates because you can’t imagine having the energy to do dishes, that’s okay. It’s okay to set up systems that serve you during your hardest times, and this book is an excellent coach when it comes to getting you to stop the negative self-talk that keeps you from even trying to make a dent in your chores. (We all know that voice. It’s a really stupid voice.)

I’m happy to report that most of the things in this book are tactics I’ve learned to implement myself over the years, either through trial-and-error or with outside help. The parts about the inner voice really spoke to me, however, and I’ve been focused on watching how I speak to myself lately. I’ve also been taking the opportunity when I have the spoons for it to be kind to future me (emptying or loading the dishwasher at night, for example, so morning me has fewer things to do), as the book suggests. It helps.

If you struggle with getting it all done, or getting ANY of it done, you need How to Keep House While Drowning. It’s a tiny book, but it might just change everything for you.

Visit KC Davis’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.


Book Review: True Identity: Cracking the Oldest Kidnapping Cold Case and Finding My Missing Twin by Paul Joseph Fronczak and Alex Tresniowski

A friend recommended True Identity: Cracking the Oldest Kidnapping Cold Case and Finding My Missing Twin by Paul Joseph Fronczak and Alex Tresniowski (Post Hill Press, 2022), and I thought it sounded fascinating, so onto my list it went. I didn’t realize it was the second book Mr. Fronczak has written about the mystery of his identity until I began reading it. It’s not necessary to read the first; I had no trouble understanding exactly what was going on throughout all of this, but if you’re interested, it’s there!

Paul Joseph Fronczak was kidnapped from a Chicago hospital at one day old. Over a year later, police in New Jersey contacted his family with news: we have a little boy, he looks like he could be yours, do you want to come see him? So the parents traveled out east and returned home with a little boy, whom they raised as their own (this was in the 60’s; DNA testing wouldn’t exist for years), but Paul always felt like he wasn’t *quite* part of the family, and he only learned about the kidnapping when he found a newspaper clipping when he was ten. His parents never spoke of it.

As an adult, DNA testing confirmed it: Paul was not the Fronczak baby who was kidnapped. So who was he? And where was the real Paul Joseph Fronczak? Through scrupulous detective work (his own and people he hired) and DNA testing, not only does Paul discover the real Paul Joseph Fronczak (though who kidnapped him and why remains a mystery), he also discovers his own identity and learns that he has…or had…a twin. Where she is remains unknown, but if you’re interested in true crime and the kind of work it takes to uncover these in-depth mysteries, you don’t want to miss this book.

True Identity is an absolute page-turner. Mr. Fronczak’s history, both the one he’s lived and the one he learns about, is complex, and I couldn’t wait to get back to this book every day to learn about what he would dig up next. I felt for him; no one in his life seemed to understand his need to learn about who he was and what happened so that he grew up with an entirely different family. I could see how his desperate need to know the truth of his past and his family might affect his time spent with his family, his finances, things like that, but these are basic life questions that most of us already have the answer to. It’s entirely understandable that someone who doesn’t have these answers would need to figure them out, and reading this, I felt like a lot of people could’ve given him a bigger break. There’s also a lot of secrets in this book. Biological family members that Mr. Fronczak interviewed were loathe to speak of something that happened over fifty years ago, reluctant to speak about people who died many, many years ago. Which just baffled me. Sorry, but if someone came to me with questions like that, I’m spilling the beans. (Sorry, fam. Don’t want your beans spilled, don’t have beans in the first place!)

Super fascinating book. Now that Paul Joseph Fronczak is on my radar, I look forward to following his case and am wishing him all the best on his search for his missing twin sister.

Visit Paul Joseph Fronczak’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

memoir · nonfiction

Book Review: Shores Beyond Shores: From Holocaust to Hope, My True Story by Irene Butter

I know I’ve said before I feel a huge responsibility to read Holocaust memoirs, because those stories deserve to be heard. I do need to ration them out, though. They’re painful to read, because so many people collectively lost their humanity, and others temporarily stashed theirs away in order to survive (sometimes understandable), and the death and damage and trauma can be a lot (hat tip to Holocaust scholars; I truly admire their strength and their ability to engage with this material on a daily basis. I wish our local Holocaust museum were just a little closer; I’d absolutely sign up to volunteer there if it were). This is how Shores Beyond Shores: From Holocaust to Hope, My True Story by Irene Butter (White River Press, 2018) ended up on my TBR, and interlibrary loan brought it into my life.

Irene Butter, known as Reni throughout the book, was born in Germany, to her parents, Mutti and Pappi, with an older brother, Werner. The family moved to Amsterdam due to the growing threat of the Nazis, sharing a neighborhood with Anne Frank (Reni knew her, but they weren’t close), but leaving her grandparents, who hadn’t received permission to move, behind. And of course, eventually, the Nazis invaded Holland as well, and like so many others, Reni’s family was rounded up.

The family was first sent to Westerbork, and then on to Bergen-Belsen. Through miracle after miracle, the family manages to stay together. Mutti and Pappi are forced to do hard labor; everyone starves; death is all around them, as is suffering in so many forms. A plan that Pappi put in place before their internment comes to fruition, though it doesn’t have all of the outcome they’d hoped for. Through it all, Irene holds it together, remains stronger than any child should ever have to be, and goes on to build a beautiful life for herself.

The story of Irene Butter’s life is one of joy, suffering, tragedy, beauty, horror, and survival. Her relationship with her brother is a deep point of joy in this book; the two always look out for and car for each other, with a healthy dose of sibling teasing thrown in for good measure. Her parents are strong and thoughtful, desperate to keep their family together and safe through it all. The book covers the time from Irene’s birth through her time in Camp Jeanne d’Arc in Algeria, a displaced persons camp; it tells a little of her life afterwards – returning to high school, attending college, marrying, having children, and eventually becoming a sought-after speaker on the Holocaust, among other accomplishments. I do wish it would’ve gone into a little more detail about her life in America post-arrival. What must it have been like to return to school, to sit at a desk surrounded by students your age who had zero idea the nightmare you’d survived? How old she must’ve felt looking around at everyone around her. My heart goes out to all that Mrs. Butter suffered, and the young child she was, and the carefree teenager she should have been but wasn’t allowed to be. She’s managed to live a remarkable life, and living well truly is the best revenge. It doesn’t make up for so much loss, of course, but every bit helps.

I hadn’t realized it until the end, but Mrs. Butter had written this book with John. D. Bidwell and Kris Holloway. Ms. Holloway wrote and Mr. Bidwell is the contributing editor of Monique and the Mango Rains, the memoir of Kris Holloway’s time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali and her friendship with the dynamic midwife Monique. I absolutely loved this book and think of it often, so it was a delight to read the bios at the back and realize they were a part of bringing this book to life.

Visit Irene Butter’s website here.

memoir · nonfiction · YA

Book Review: All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir Manifesto by George M. Johnson

Okay, so a few weeks ago, I attended a virtual talk on all the garbage book banners out there and the mess they’re making and the stupid things they’re doing. Seriously, what a bunch of whiny toddlers throwing super gross adult-sized tantrums. Mind your own business, skunkbags. At one point in the presentation, one of the people presenting mentioned the book All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2020). I was aware of the book, had seen it around, and knew what it was about, but it wasn’t on my TBR…until the presenter mentioned that whiny Texas governor and human sack of lawn cuttings Greg Abbott had thrown a fit over this book. Knowing what I know about that crapweasel with no taste who is grossly lacking in humanity AND leadership skills, I knew this was likely to be a good read, so onto my list it went. And hey! I was right and Greg Abbott is wrong. Shocker, I know.

George Johnson, who has also gone by Matt (story explained in the book) is a queer Black man who grew up with more feminine traits, who took some time getting comfortable with his queer identity, and was fortunate to grow up in a family who accepted him and loved him for who he was.  All Boys Aren’t Blue is the story of his life: his childhood, spending time with his beloved grandmother, called Nanny, who worked so hard to make him feel loved and accepted; his adolescence, where he began to understand some things about himself and worked to hide other parts; his college years, where it all began to come together. Through it all, George learns and grows, and begins to accept himself for who he is: a delightful, intelligent human being who lives at the intersection of Black and queer.

He has so many good lessons for the reader, lessons about self-acceptance, love, courage, confidence, safety, and more. I deeply appreciated how he related stories from his childhood and adolescence to show how he learned about himself, what he learned, and how he applied this to his life as a whole. I enjoyed particularly the stories he told about how he got into sports and how that surprised everyone around him: an effeminate boy who could play football and run like the wind? Don’t box yourself in. We all contain multitudes. 🙂

George M. Johnson has always lived outside the box, but he’s also always found ways to thrive, and he’s sharing everything he’s learned with the YA set. This is an important book; queer kids, and queer Black kids, deserve to see themselves in books, they deserve to have books that speak to and about them. And people outside the LGBTQ+ crowd need to read these books to get a fuller picture of what life is like for their queer friends and family.

And Greg Abbott and people like him are welcome to fuck off into the sun if they don’t have the humanity to recognize that. : )

Great book. I’d love to hang out with Mr. Johnson sometime, because he seems like a great guy and tells some fascinating stories.

Visit George M. Johnson’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

fiction · YA

Book Review: The Summer of Lost Letters by Hannah Reynolds

Another list of Jewish books clued me in to the existence of The Summer of Lost Letters by Hannah Reynolds (Razorbill, 2021). Modern day Jewish characters? Check. Mystery of said characters’ grandparents? Check. Love letters? Check. Blossoming romance? Check. Amazing setting on the island of Nantucket? Check. Fabulous storytelling that puts you right in the story and keeps you turning pages at a breakneck speed? CHECK CHECK CHECK. Oh, how I loved this book!!! (And there’s a follow-up; it doesn’t focus on the main characters, but it is about some side characters. Eight Nights of Flirting. It’s already on my TBR, and I’ll be reading it in 2023 for a prompt on the Popsugar Reading Challenge (yup, I’m in!).

Abby Schoenberg’s grandmother died somewhat recently, and it’s upon receiving a box of her possessions that Abby discovers some mysterious letters – love letters –  from a man named Edward, back in the 1950’s. The family never knew much about her O’ma, who was a very private person who never spoke about her past. They knew she came to the US alone at four years old, and that O’ma’s parents had been killed in the Holocaust, but that was it. Upon the discovery of these letters, Abby is determined to find out more, and she sets herself up for a summer on Nantucket, where this mysterious Edward was from.

It doesn’t take long for Abby to learn more about this small island community. Edward is Edward Barbanel, the patriarch of the wealthy Barbanel clan and head of their successful business empire. His grandson, Noah, is fiercely protective of Edward and the entire family, but little by little, he begins to allow Abby access, and the two discover long-kept secrets about the romance between their grandparents, along with growing closer themselves. But the course of true love never does run smooth, and it’ll take some growth from both Abby and Noah to not only discover the full truth, but to figure out how to be together.

Ooh, this was a fun one. Abby is mature, but doesn’t always make the right decisions, which is true for this age group. She’s stressed about her future, trying to manage her relationship with her mom (this was SO well done. She and her mother have a great relationship, but Mom can get on Abby’s nerves from time to time – realistic! – something Abby recognizes and is trying to keep in check. Again, super mature of her, which I appreciated). Her willingness to take this trip to Nantucket, to discover her grandmother’s past, made her a really interesting character.

Noah Barbanel is a good hero as well. He comes from a wealthy family, but isn’t stuck up about it. He’s protective of his family, but not to the point of rudeness, and he eventually lets Abby in. Their adventures together are fun, sweet, fascinating, and Hannah Reynolds brings Nantucket alive around them. I haven’t read too much in recent years set on Nantucket, but what I’ve read in the past, I’ve always enjoyed, and this is no different. Ms. Reynolds makes me want to pack my bags and head east.

I’m not a huge mystery fan, but the mystery of O’ma’s past was perfect, enough to keep me wondering and guessing as the story progressed. Mysteries of the past are far more interesting to me than whodunit-style mysteries, so this really checked all my boxes.

So looking forward to reading Eight Nights of Flirting now!

Visit Hannah Reynolds’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

memoir · nonfiction

Book Review: My Boy Will Die of Sorrow: A Memoir of Immigration from the Front Lines by Efrén C. Olivares

The absolute horror of the parent-child separations at the border during the Trump administration has stayed with me. I cannot even begin to fathom the horror, the terror, and the fear that this must have caused parents and their children (infants! Even nursing infants!!!), and the lasting trauma this is still causing. I knew as soon as I learned about My Boy Will Die of Sorrow: A Memoir of Immigration from the Front Lines by Efrén C. Olivares (Hachette Books, 2022), I needed to read it. These are stories that need to be heard.

Efrén Olivares was born in and grew up in Mexico, moving to the US with his mother and siblings to live with his father (who had citizenship) during his middle school years. His was a life of not just poverty, but of family togetherness, of parents who worked way harder than they should’ve had to in order to provide Efrén and his siblings with opportunities, but who also provided them with examples of hard work and humanity. Efrén grew up to become a lawyer, and, as it turned out, one who helped fight to document the atrocities at the border perpetuated by the Trump administration.

He and his very small team interviewed the separated parents, getting what information they could on paper so that hopefully, the parents and children could be reunited at some point in the future. This wasn’t an easy or simple task; they weren’t given time or space for this and were frantically trying to interview detained migrants in the small bits of time before court proceedings began. These were desperate parents who had no idea where their children were: if they were safe, if they were being taken care of, WHO was taking care of them, if they would ever see their children again. Mr. Olivares and his team used the information they collected to reunite some of these parents with their children; he alternates their stories with his own story of immigration, pointing out that there’s no real difference: anyone who leaves one place for another is only looking for a better life.

An absolute heart-wrenching book. The descriptions of the parents’ tears, of how they’d cry and barely manage to speak at all is soul-crushing. It drives home the purposeful cruelty of not just the previous administration but of the American government as a whole throughout history. This isn’t a new story; we have a foul history of separating parents and children, and imprisoning them, for a multitude of reasons (orphan trains, anyone? Those weren’t all orphans; many of them were just children of poor parents. Japanese internment camps? Can we please just start calling them what they were, which is American concentration camps? We hold no moral upper hand at any point in time). Efrén’s story of his youth and the work it led him to as an adult is moving, and I think it’s the responsibility of all Americans to read stories like this, to look at who Americans (those born here and those who became American later in life) really are, to find the humanity in these people and in themselves, because it’s only by viewing others through the same lens as we view ourselves that we can stop treating other people as less-than.

A moving, painful read, but a necessary one. I’m so thankful there are people out there like Mr. Olivares, who have both the necessary credentials and the heart it takes to see such injustice and to do something about it.

Read Efrén C. Olivares‘s profile at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website.

memoir · nonfiction

Book Review: A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome by Ariel Henley

I think it was a BookRiot email that alerted me to the existence of A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome by Ariel Henley (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2021). The description of the memoir piqued my interest; I haven’t read all that much by or about people born with facial differences, so I was intrigued from the start, and, luckily, my library had a copy on the shelf.

Ariel and her sister Zan were born seemingly ‘normal,’ but within a few months, it became obvious that something was drastically wrong. Many doctor appointments later, the twins were diagnosed with Crouzon syndrome, a medical condition that’s usually genetic, but in the twins’ case, it’s merely a fluke of nature. This syndrome causes the skull to fuse together prematurely, leaving the brain with no room to grow. Surgery is needed to allow for space, and constant reshaping of the face is necessary. People affected have noticeable facial differences, including bulging and/or wide-spaced eyes and a protruding chin.

Ariel and her sister grew up knowing they were different. They were stared at constantly in public and treated terribly by their classmates and teachers. Their lives were marked by constant painful surgeries (over sixty of them), and middle school began a whole new level of hell for them. They became constant targets for their classmates; certain teachers actively made their lives more difficult; even their friends’ parents and coaches worked hard to make them miserable, simply because they looked different. And all this time, both girls were struggling with pain, constant medical appointments, and all the heavy emotions that come with being a young child and dealing with hardcore medical issues.

Ariel and Zan struggle. Ariel lashes out; she develops bulimia and PTSD from both the medical problems and the emotional difficulties. But along the way, she begins to learn who she is underneath it all, what she’s capable of, and she ultimately finds her voice.

Whew, this is a painful memoir. My heart broke again and again for Ariel and her sister, for the necessary medical torture they were put through, for the absolutely unnecessary mental and emotional torture the people around them put them through. I hope every last asshole who treated them poorly recognizes themselves in this story and feels well-deserved shame every day for the rest of their lives. Who acts like that???

I hadn’t read anything like this before, so I’m grateful to Ariel for being able to open up and share what living with Crouzon syndrome has been like. I had no idea what such intensive surgeries were like, and what the recovery period would be like. I’m so sorry that anyone has to go through that, especially children. I hope that hospitals and their social work departments will take note of this book and maybe develop better programs to help support families and patients going through these procedures, and living with these medically intense conditions.

Incredible memoir by an incredible young lady who has had to fight so much harder for any bit of normalcy that anyone should.

Visit Ariel Henley’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

graphic memoir · graphic nonfiction · nonfiction

Book Review: Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting by Kindra Neely

I usually wait until I have a few graphic novels under my belt and then do a mass review, but this book deserves a review all its own.

I learned about Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting by Kindra Neely (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2022) from, I think, Twitter a few weeks ago, and it immediately went onto my TBR. My library was in the process of getting a copy, and I got the email that it was ready for me fairly quickly. I knew this would be an important book, and it’s exactly as powerful as I expected it would be.

Trigger warnings exist here for, obviously, mass shootings, and a suicide attempt.

In this stunning debut graphic novel, Kindra Neely describes her account of the 2015 Umpqua Community College Shooting. She was a student there at the time, just a regular, average young adult, when her life changed entirely. Eight students and a professor were killed, and the shooter committed suicide.

Kindra and her friends weren’t wounded – not bodily, anyway. That doesn’t mean they weren’t affected. Kindra finds herself struggling with the symptoms of PTSD, having difficulty being in public, affected by panic attacks, depression, and numbness. And what seems like almost the greatest insult is that instead of being allowed to heal, she’s forced to return to the incident again and again as nearly every day, news alerts appear on her phone, informing her of the newest mass shooting, of the latest creation of more victims, more deaths, more people grappling with how to move on from this kind of life-changing terror.

It’s an ongoing process, and Kindra makes many efforts to heal. It’s not easy, though: therapy isn’t always easy to come by in this country (cost and availability are a massive problem), and it’s really difficult to talk to even our closest friends about emotional struggles. And collectively, our country has decided that owning guns is more important than human lives, or the ability to live our lives without fearing death at every turn, so the fear of this happening again never really goes away, something Ms. Neely addresses when she brings up the fact that someone who survived one mass shooting was killed in another here in the US. Utterly horrifying.

But this book talks about it. This is an in-your-face, colorful, art-filled book that talks about the horror that our indifference to mass shootings has wrought. It shows in full color what the aftermath looks like years out. It demands to be heard, and I think this is going to be one of the most important books of the year. This book should be on every library shelf; it should be accessible to every student out there. It should be in the faces of every weak-willed member of Congress who laugh awkwardly at questions about why they continue to force us to live like this.

Kindra Neely is amazing and so brave to use her voice and her talent to bring her pain to the forefront. I’m beyond impressed, and grateful that she’s taking this stand, when she shouldn’t have to.

Read this book as soon as you can, and start demanding better for all of us. We all deserve it.

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: November 2022

It’s the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaar! (Mostly because I get a break in a few weeks, and there will also be LATKES. YUM.)

Welcome to December, my fellow readers! So strange to think that the next time I’ll post one of these recaps, it’ll be 2023. This is a year that has gone by in a blur of worry and stress, of new discoveries and reshuffling, of mindfulness, tears, and determination. And books, of course. Lots and lots of good books! (I’m still behind in reviews. That’s okay!)

Speaking of books, I also found out this past month that my town’s new library will be opening up in April of 2023. We drive by it often, as it’s on Main Street, and they recently posted a video walk through so you can see how the construction is going. The outside is mostly done; they’ve got lighting in there (and there are TONS of huge windows; seriously, sitting in this place is going to be so full of light and gorgeous!), and they’ll be starting to work on all the inside full-force soon. I’m so excited about this, I could scream! It’s SO much bigger than our current functional (kind of; the A/C breaks down constantly, the walls leak, the building is so old, it’s impossible to be ADA-compliant, etc) but way-out-of-date building. I’ll miss this old library, but I’m more than thrilled to welcome our new, updated library in April!

Anyway, let’s get this recap started, shall we?

Books I Read in November 2022

1. Consumed: On Colonialism, Climate Change, Consumerism, and the Need for Collective Change by Aja Barber

2. America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility by Rajika Bhandari

3. Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

4. Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting by Kindra Neely (review to come)

5. A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome by Ariel Henley (review to come)

6. My Heart is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl, Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania, 1880 by Ann Rinaldi (no review; read out loud to my daughter. SO problematic)

7. Looking for an Enemy: Eight Essays on Antisemitism by Jo Glanville (no review)

8. My Boy Will Die of Sorrow: A Memoir of Immigration From the Front Lines by Efrén C. Olivares (review to come)

9. Ban This Book by Alan Gratz (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

10. The Summer of Lost Letters by Hannah Reynolds (review to come)

11. True History: Indigenous America by Liam McDonald (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

12. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (review to come)

13. Shores Beyond Shores: From Holocaust to Hope, My True Store by Irene Butter (review to come)

14. Talking to Strangers: A Memoir of My Escape from a Cult by Marianne Boucher (review to come)

15. True Identity: Cracking the Oldest Kidnapping Cold Case and Finding My Missing Twin by Paul Joseph Fronczak (review to come)

16. How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing (no review)

Not a bad total for this month! I’m yet again behind in posting reviews, but that happens. I should be able to get caught up over our winter break. It’s just so hard to get everything I need to get done in the morning before we start homeschool work, and then suddenly it’s like 4 pm, and I’m all, “Ehhh, I’ll just post it tomorrow.” Lather, rinse, repeat!

I don’t count everything I read to my daughter – certainly not the smaller nonfiction books we read for her schoolwork, but once in a while, there’ll be something more substantial that I really get something out of, and that’s when I count things like the True History: Indigenous America by Liam McDonald. I almost always count the chapter book read-alouds, however. I earned those! : )

Thirteen of these books were mine alone. Twelve of the books were nonfiction (including memoirs); four were fiction. Twelve came from my TBR.

State of the Goodreads TBR

I started off this month at 133 books. I read twelve books from this list, putting me at…127 books.

TBR math sucks. But I made it to the 120’s!

And it’s only downhill from here (or uphill, in terms of a growing TBR)! NPR has already released part of their Best of 2022 book list, and all the reading challenges will be out soon, giving suggestions and posting gorgeous full-color covers, and I assume my TBR is just going to explode. OY.

Books I Acquired in November 2022

Other than some books for gift, and a few books on Jewish history I picked up from a used book sale at the library, I grabbed this stack from someone on a local Buy Nothing group. (Zero clue why WordPress won’t allow me to adjust the size of the photo here. Weird.)

Bookish Things I Did in November 2022

My son and I popped into a used book sale at a local library. I picked up a book or two on Jewish history, and a few holiday gift books for my daughter, but that was really the only bookish event this month!

Current Podcast Love

All over the place here!

So I started the month out listening to Freakonomics. It’s more about the narration style for me (that calm, cool NPR-type style!), since I listen when I’m falling asleep and during the 234893749823 times I wake up at night (this has very much been a thing lately, sigh), but the subject matter of some of the episodes started to annoy me after a few weeks, and I began to search for something else.

I attempted a few other true crime podcasts and a homeschooling podcast, none of which worked well – seriously, people, a good portion of your podcast shouldn’t be you and your cohosts just laughing. (ANNOYING.) I listened to two other homeschooling podcasts (desperately trying to get ideas and inspiration to switch things up for my daughter, because there are some things right now that just aren’t working for her), and while they were okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, it gets bothersome to constantly have Christianity injected into every. little. thing. I need ideas about how to help my daughter get through math; I don’t need a lecture about how to relate novels to Jesus. (I’m Jewish; a homeschooling podcast isn’t going to change that. Nothing will, which is just how I like it!) I truly don’t mind if the podcast hosts or guests talking about going to church, or incorporating Bible lessons into their homeschool day, that’s fine. I don’t want to listen to how the moms won’t let their kids read books where a character has gay parents. NOPE. Unfollow, immediately.

So currently I’m trying out Honey I’m Homeschooling the Kids. So far, it seems really diverse and has an interesting spread of guests who span the homeschooling spectrum, from unschooling to much more structured. I’m *really* wanting to delve into Book Riot’s For Real, a podcast just about nonfiction books, but my TBR is already crying for mercy at the thought of that, so I WILL get to it, I just don’t know when!

I’ve also been poking into Conspirituality, which is so far over my head, but it’s still pretty fascinating.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

So, not really much time for this right now. I’ve pulled my copy of Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin upstairs to the pile next to my bed, and every night before beginning my regular reading, I read an entry in this book. It covers over 300 subjects and is 688 pages. I read a lot of it for my conversion class but not all of it, and now I’m reading the whole thing. I like reading it this way; it gives me something to think about all the next day. I’d eventually like to read all of Rabbi Telushkin’s writings.

Real Life Stuff

Right now, I’m basically up to my eyeballs in homeschool stuff again. Math isn’t working out for us, so I’m having to change things up a bit and also relax a lot more, which basically goes against my entire personality, so it’s not easy for me. I’m more of a, “Let’s get everything done NOW NOW NOW so we can do EVEN MORE later!!!” And my daughter just doesn’t work well under those conditions, so this is very much a growth moment for me. It’s hard. I’m still trying to figure out a way – if there even IS a way – to parent this child without her blowing up at me constantly. It’s her anxiety and her perfectionism that causes so much of this, so I try not to take it personally, but it’s really, really hard.

My son is still doing awesome in college and really liking everything, which is a relief! It’s nice to see him blossoming academically. High school classes just weren’t his thing, but he’s all about the stuff he’s learning here in college, so I’m absolutely thrilled for him.

That’s really about it. Nothing else new for me. Hanukkah starts on the 18th (which is a Sunday), so I’ll be over here cranking out some amazing latkes (seriously the best potato product out there, hands down), but other than that, I’m just trying to maintain my sanity with my pile of books.

Wishing you a lovely December, however you spend it! See you in January for next year’s roundup! 🙂