Matt’s Weekly Reads, January 7, 2023


Everything Sad is Untrue, Daniel Nayeri (2020)

For middle school student Daniel, life in his Oklahoma town is not easy. Kids make fun of him for the way his food smells, wearing the wrong baseball cap can get him beaten up, and even the toilets make no sense to him. But he uses every school assignment as an opportunity to become a new Scheherazade, telling the stories of his family: their history of wealth, his parents’ successful lives in medicine, his mother’s life-altering conversion to Christianity, and their subsequent flight from Iran and coming to Oklahoma. And he persists in telling these stories, no matter how deaf the ears upon which they fall may be.

These are stories about the humiliations of being a refugee, often intentional and systemic and not just circumstantial. But these are also stories rich in history, about family legacy, and the sacrifices we make for what we love. I really enjoyed and appreciated this delightful book and I encourage anyone to pick it up.

Read this if you’re interested in:

  • Persian culture
  • Iranian history
  • Refugee stories
  • Immigration stories

My Rating: Premise 10, Atmosphere 8, Main Characters 10, Plot 8, Intrigue 8, Relationships 9, Success 10, Writing 9, Enjoyment 9, Meaning 8: TOTAL 89

Weekly Roundup

  • Surrender, Bono (2022), 94: I don’t read celebrity memoir as a rule (this was the only one I read in 2022), but this one totally blew me away. It was a fascinating look at not only the history of U2 and Bono’s well-known activism, but also the psychology of what it looks like to go from outsider to insider, from raging against the establishment to working with it, and what it actually means to try to be a Christian in the public sphere. (Memoir, Celebrity, Activism, HIV/AIDS, Rock’n’Roll)
  • Young Mungo, (2022), 88: In this award-winning novel, a gay teenager in early 1990s Glasgow fights for survival at home, in the streets, and on a disastrous fishing trip orchestrated by his absent and alcoholic mother. This is a very good book but it’s a very hard book, and the marketing copy is more than a little misleading. This is a not a coming of age story; it’s a survival story. Trigger warnings about for everything, including rape, statutory rape, abuse of power, child neglect, and on and on and on. (Scottish History, LGBTQ2S+, Complicated Families, Poverty, Sexual Assault)
  • Even Though I Knew the End, C.L. Polk (2022), 88: A notorious killer dubbed ‘the White City Vampire’ has struck again and a disgraced augur is on the case, thanks to an offer she can’t refuse. This is a fun paranormal detective novella set in jazz-age Chicago. There’s a lot going on in this short book — there’s angels and vampires and possession and augury and secret societies and queerness and detectives and mystery and crime — and yet the author manages somehow to meld all of these genres together beautifully. A great job by Polk and I really hope they continue with the series! (Paranormal Mystery, Detectives, Chicago, 1920s, Noir, LGBTQ2S+)
  • Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell (1933), 83: This is a blistering exploration of the living conditions for the poor and under-employed in the capitals of two world powers in the interwar period. I could have used more story here and some deeper characterization, but the book does a great job of demonstrating what life could be like ‘but by the grace of God’. (Classics, Poverty, Interwar Period)
  • Anne of West Philly, Ivy Noelle Weir (2022), 86: This is a delightful contemporary graphic adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, with our beloved, plucky protagonist finding a new home — and excelling in STEM — after years in Philadelphia’s foster care system. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but probably not as much as the other two books I’ve read in the Classic Graphic Remix series. (Classics, Retellings, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, LGBTQ2S+)
  • Simply Clean, Becky Rapinchuk (2017), 82: This book has a simple premise: By establishing some simple habits, you can keep your house clean in ten minutes a day. The ideas in the book offer some helpful suggestions for ways to keep your space clean with minimal effort, but unless you really struggle in this area of life, they won’t be revolutionary. (Non-Fiction, Cleaning, Household Management)
  • Are You Listening?, Tillie Walden (2019), 78: A young lesbian runaway in rural Texas finds a listening ear and possible mentor on a road trip across the state. I wanted to love this graphic novel, but, as much as I appreciated the budding friendship between the two leads, I was taken out of it — and the important conversations that take place — by the more fantastical elements of the story, which were never really explained or even integrated into the narrative. I’ve rated it relatively highly because the areas in which it succeeds it really succeeds; I just found it very uneven and a little confusing. (Graphic Novel, LGBTQ2S+, Small Towns, Road Trips, Texas)
  • Foxhunt, Rem Wigmore (2020), 55: Orfeus, a musician in a post-dystopian distant future suddenly finds herself hunted by bounty hunters normally reserved for the worst kinds of wastrels and polluters. She has to figure out who’s put the target on her back and why, before it’s too late. I picked this up because it made a few lists of best ‘solar punk’ books; and I can see why it made those lists, since the best part of it is absolutely the future world the author creates. Unfortunately, for me at least, this wonderful setting was spoiled by poor characterization and very weak plotting. (Science Fiction, Solar Punk, Futurism, Bounty Hunters)

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