Matt’s Weekly Reads, November 19, 2022


Calling for a Blanket Dance, Oscar Hokeah (2022)

It seems that Ever Geimausaddle’s life is marked for tragedy and trauma from his early childhood, when he witnesses his father being beaten at the hands of Mexican police. This novel follows his life, as viewed from the perspectives of his Mexican, Kiowa, and Cherokee family members across four generations.

I had no idea what to expect when I picked this up. There are times when reading literature from marginalized communities can feel a bit like ‘disaster porn,’ less an empathetic witness to trauma than a voyeuristic indulgence in it. It takes a particular kind of genius to be able to tell difficult stories in a way that prevents them from feeling a little creepy or even just depressing. (That was my main criticism of All the Quiet Places; rather than having a plot, it just felt like a never-ending stream of horrible life experiences.) This book could have very easily stumbled in that way, but it avoids it through some deft storytelling. The potential monotony is broken up by the multiple narrators, each unique in their own circumstances and relationships with Ever. But more importantly, the story is less about “Ever’s shitty life” than it is about the power of family and culture to build resilience and hope. And for that, I genuinely loved this book.

Read this if you’re interested in:

  • Indigenous Perspectives
  • Trauma
  • Resilience
  • Recent American History
  • Kiowa and Cherokee Cultures

My Rating: Premise 8, Main Character 10, Setting 8, Plot 8, Intrigue 10, Relationships 10, Success 10, Writing 10, Enjoyment 9, Message 10: TOTAL 93

Weekly Roundup

  • The King of Infinite Space, Lyndsay Faye (2021), 87: This is a fascinating Hamlet retelling, with the protagonist, ‘Benjamin Dane’, cast as a brilliant but deeply troubled, neuro-atypical philosopher of physics and scion of a dysfunctional leading family in the New York arts scene. The references to Hamlet and a few other Shakespearan favorites were welcome and poignant. Not everything about this worked for me — in particular Lia (the Ophelia character)’s plot didn’t land as I think the author intended — but overall, I was left very impressed by this novel. The prose, especially when we’re inside Ben’s mind, was nothing short of mind-blowing. (Shakespearean Retellings, New York City, Mental Health and Addiction, Dysfunctional Families)
  • Stragility, Ellen R. Auster and Lisa Hillenbrand (2016), 89: This is a solid entry into the crowded business and strategy landscape. It focuses on specific competencies — and tools to help assess and grow them — needed to promote strategic agility (what they call ‘stragility’) in an environment of constant change. (Business, Strategic Planning, Agility, Change)
  • This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us, Edgar Cantero (2018), 81: Adrian and Zoe Kimrean are a brother and sister private investigating team. They couldn’t be more different: Adrian is cold and analytical while Zoe is personable and wild. Unfortunately for them, they share the same body. In this story, our pair are hired to assist the San Francisco police in stopping a mob war before it gets out of control. I’m really torn on this one. Like Cantero’s Meddling Kids, the writing sparkles with life and wit. The satires of both noir detective stories and action movies land really well, and the exploration of these two characters who cannot get away from each other is very successful. Unfortunately, for me at least, the story itself felt secondary to all of this other stuff, so the book as a whole wasn’t the rave it could have been. (Noir, Satire, Humour, Detective Stories, San Francisco, LGBTQ2S+)
  • How to Succeed in Witchcraft, Aislinn Brophy (2022), 70: Shay is an overachieving high school student determined to do whatever it takes to get a prestigious scholarship that will allow her to get into the magical university that will be her family’s ticket out of financial struggles. But when a teacher linked to the scholarship starts to push her boundaries, she’s forced to wonder just what ‘whatever it takes’ entails. This book has been well-received by many readers, so it’s probably more of an issue of me not being the right audience, but for me, while a YA novel addressing the pressure on kids to get into a ‘good college’ and the ways people in power can take advantage of them is timely and important, I felt like this one rendered the magical aspects of the story irrelevant, which was really disappointing because I really liked how Brophy introduced and talked about the magic of this world. (YA, #metoo, College Admissions, Sexual Predators, Fantasy, Magic, LGBTQ2S+, Own Voices)
  • Restoring the Kinship Worldview, Four Arrows and Darcia Narvarez (2022), 80: This book is essentially a dialogue between the two authors as they discuss excerpts from other Indigenous thinkers about different aspects of Indigenous worldviews which Four Arrows had identified in previous work. It excelled for me in highlighting the work of individuals and communities I hadn’t heard of before, and in the personal nature of the dialogues. Where it didn’t work as well for me is in how it talks in binaries, reducing the Western worldview to its worst manifestations, and rarely mentioning the diversity inherent in both sets of worldviews. And, while the dialogues were wonderfully insightful and personal, they also sometimes used the excerpts as jumping off points for their own discussion, which may or may not connect to the chapter’s theme. This made the book warm and inviting and organic, but also meant that it didn’t quite do ‘what it says on the box’, and so I was left a little disappointed. (Indigenous Perspectives, Own Voices, Spirituality, Ecology, Sociology)
  • The Enchanted Life, Sharon Blackie (2018), 71: A good friend of mine and I have a shorthand for a certain type of nonfiction book: “It should have been an essay.” This is an unfortunately common problem with books, since we don’t really have a way of monetizing good and important ideas unless they’re book-length. This is one such book for me. It is ostensibly a book offering a “set of practical and grounded tools for enchanting our lives and the places we live.” And, Blackie certainly does this; however, these tools are scattered amidst a lot of repetition and couched in so many personal stories that the book felt more like a memoir than anything else. It’s certainly worth a skim but, boy, could it have been a great essay. (Enchantment, Memoir, Nature, Forest Bathing)
  • Comfort Me with Apples, Catherynne M. Valente (2021), 74: In this domestic suspense novella, a young wife has everything she could possibly want in an impossibly perfect neighborhood with a husband she knows down to her bones she was ‘made for’. What could possibly go wrong? I felt conflicted about this one, and judging from the wildly divergent reviews I’ve seen elsewhere, I’m not alone. There are things to really love about this novella and things that will probably make you roll your eyes. Whether the payoff is satisfying is really in the eye of the beholder. (Novella, Domestic Suspense, Myths and Legends)
  • Agile, Harvard Business Review (2020), 85: This is an excellent book with a misleading name. Rather than being about how to deploy Agile project management methodology in an organization, it is about the opportunities and risks in scaling Agile techniques within an organization beyond its software development roots. (Business, Strategy, Project Management, Agile)

2 responses to “Matt’s Weekly Reads, November 19, 2022”

  1. […] Ellen R. Auster and Lisa Hillenbrand (2016), 89: Please see my November 19 post for my […]


  2. […] Shelly’s wives, lovers, and children. (In this ‘mosaic’ format it resembles the structure of Calling for a Blanket Dance.) While I would have welcomed some time inside the minds of these two wonderful characters, it was […]


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