What We’re Reading

What We’re Reading March 19, 2015

Occasionally (usually when I’m sick, out of ideas, or pressed for time – like this week!) I like to post what we’re reading in my house.

Niki’s books

IMG_20150319_143553519 I am embarrassed to admit it, but I’m STILL reading This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. I started this book back in September. The introduction and opening chapters were so intense, so bleak, that I began to have anxiety attacks at night after reading it. What sort of world were my children born into?? I had to put the book away for a bit. I’ve come back to it, and I’m happy to say that while it remains intense, it isn’t nearly so bleak. This is too important a book to walk away from just because it’s challenging. Climate change is not just coming -and fast- it is already here! We can’t keep our heads in the sand because the subject matter and the solutions may be difficult.

Jacobin Magazine. Like the Economist to which I also subscribe, I don’t read every single article, but I find the intelligent and challenging perspectives and subject matter important. One issue of Jacobin can take me weeks to get through.

Your Face is a Forest by Rhyd Wildermuth. I purchased a copy of this book for several reasons: I wanted to support Rhyd, as he is a friend and colleague, I wanted to help him go on pilgrimage, and I wanted to read more of his writing. And hot damn, he is a good writer. Really good. I even like his poetry. This last piece is a big deal, because (true confession time) I almost never read anyone’s poetry. There is a 90% chance that I will dislike it. I love poetry and have very particular tastes and frankly, most poetry isn’t very good. Some of Rhyd’s poetry isn’t my favorite ever, but I don’t hate it! I can’t tell you how relieving this is. My own personal poetical issues aside, the writing and content of the book is what I am reaching for at the end of my days, when I need something beautiful to think on before bed. I read it in small doses, because every so many paragraphs I’m gazing up, away and into myself, reminiscing or feeling or musing over something in my own experiences or longings that Rhyd’s words have touched. Or I’m laughing out loud over an unexpected description of gorse. Ugh, this is beautiful work. Highly, highly recommended.

Kids’ books

We’re on book three in a series by Meghan Whalen Turner, The King of Attolia. This book is about a thief who has finagled his way onto the throne of a neighboring kingdom. It’s very political and the writing focuses a lot on geography in a made up world that is remarkably similar to Greece and Turkey and the countries around the Black Sea. It’s quite good, though a little dry; the thief-king character is cheeky and surprising. My kids seem to like it, as do I, though I think it would be more enjoyable for me if I read it to myself. I am coming to find that some books just don’t work as well when you read them aloud.

The book on the left was a gift, a find in someone’s neglected storage. The Book of Runes: Handbook for the Use of an Ancient Oracle: ThIMG_20150319_143624385e Viking Runes, commentary by Ralph H. Blum, 10th anniversary edition, 1993. It looked like a good introduction for the kids, who are keen to not only learn runes, but make their own. Now that I’ve googled the author a bit, I see that it’s not super traditional, but not so problematic that it will ruin the kids for ever. Starting in April we’re going to begin learning runes together ,and my son, and possibly myself and the 4 yr old, will make a set of runes. I’m looking forward to this!

Coming Soon

I have a reading project that I have devised for myself for the spring and summer.

When I was in graduate school (over a decade ago now!) I went through a period where I chose to only read books and listen to music by women. It was a revelation to my spirit. It helped facilitate a “leveling up” in my feminism, as well as helping me to hear more clearly my own voice.

I now need and desire to apply the same “leveling up” to myself around issues of race. I’m really, really white. I’m an Anglo-phile and Eurocentric in my tastes. I don’t have a conscious aversion to voices of color, but it’s time to expand the dialog inside my head. Once my choir concerts are over in mid-April (they’re free, they’re good, please come), I will be reading books by and listening to music by people of color. I will be suspending my subscription to the Economist. I’ve looked around the bookshelves in my house and it’s a little depressing how few books by people of color I have. There may be a few more that I don’t identify as people of color, but still. My goal is to read all the books in our house that apply first and then I’ll head to the library. I’ll let you know what I’m reading once that gets underway!

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  • Except for books with a political bent (which I try to avoid), I’m not familiar with many genres that have a lot of non-white authors. I have Alex Haley on my shelf. I don’t choose books by the color of the author’s skin though, so there may be others.

    In the field of sci-fi/fantasy, I think novels built around the Vodun culture as it evolved in the Western Hemisphere would be an interesting read. Voodoo and Santeria both evolved from Vodun. That is a subject that I doubt someone with European roots could write. Let me know if you see anything like that and if you do, what you think of it.

    • I’ll definitely do some “What we’re reading posts” during this time!

    • RD777

      The Lucumi and Ifa religions are rooted in the Yoruba culture of Nigeria. Vodun has its cultural roots in the Benin/Togo areas just over the western border of Nigeria. Santeria—now considered a pejorative term in some Iles—is not descended from Vodun. They are separate religions that share some similarities due to proximity in Africa and, both were brought to the New World via the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.They are cousin religions at best. Our deities,ceremonies, songs,liturgy, dances and initiation rites are quite different.Our priests cannot officiate at each others rituals unless initiated to both religions,which is pretty rare as one would need a great deal of time and space to tend to each set of deities requirements separately and they need to be kept in separate spaces.

      If you are interested in books on these religions these are some good titles:

      Non-fiction:
      Finding Soul on the Path of Orisha by Tobe Correal Malobe- a really good intro to what we do and why we do them

      Haitian Vodoun by Mambo Chita Tann- Excellant intro to Vodou

      Mama Lola, A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn by Karen McCarthy Brown

      Fragments of Bone, Neo African Religions in a New World edited by Patrick Bellegarde-Smith

      Fiction:
      Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

      The Accidental Santera by Irete Lazo

      Island Beneath the Sea by Isabelle Allende

      Happy reading 🙂

      • Thanks for clearing that up! Most of the references I have seen just say that the Yoruba just use a different word for the same belief system.

      • Thank you for this! And for the clarification on the Afro-diasporic traditions. I know very little about them and always appreciate getting some education about them.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I can highly recommend Crystal Blanton’s books (both her monographs and anthologies); and if you haven’t read anything by Octavia Butler, you might enjoy those, too–the Xenogenesis trilogy (also known as Lilith’s Brood) is really quite wonderful. On the nonfiction end, there is a Black classicist called Derek Collins who has written some interesting stuff about Greek and Roman magic, and also ancient poetry; and Derrick Bell (a former Harvard Law School prof) has also written some interesting fiction as well–Gospel Choirs is quite interesting, and I was lucky enough to hear him read excerpts at an event at Sarah Lawrence my senior year, in which he also had the Columbia-Barnard Gospel Choir performing the songs referenced in the stories. It was an amazing performance!

    I’m going to be reading a fiction trilogy by Brother G (Gregory Walker) about Memnon, I hope, during my break over the next two weeks. It will be nice to read some fiction for a change! And if I can get through those (and maybe a few others), something else on my shelves that I really want to read is a graphic novel series by Mari Yamazaki (a Japanese woman) called Thermae Romae, which is about a time-traveling Roman bath engineer who keeps ending up in modern Japan, and it has Hadrian and Antinous in it! 😉

    • Here’s what I have on my shelves, which is what I’ll be starting with first:
      A couple of Thicht Naht Hanh books, some BKS Iyengar, Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow, bell hooks Teaching to Transgress, two books by Ivone Gebara, Leonardo Boff’s book on the Virgin Mary that I’ve never read!, Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami, Mookerjee’s book in Kali and Inga Muscio’s Cunt (the last two I’ve read, but it’s been quite a while).

      I’ve also got Dombrowski’s Against Culture, which isn’t by a person of color, but is directly related to issues of race and imperialism in my home land, so I’m tempted to add it in.

      I am embarrassed that my selections are so few. Again, there may be a few others on my shelves that I am unaware of. If I get through all of these, Octavia Butler is at THE TOP of the list.

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        Michelle Alexander’s is very good indeed…