Read ’Em and Weep

Minutes ago, I finished reading The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang. Near the book's end, Kalia's grandmother dies*, and I cried my way through the chapter. It occurs to me that I was fortunate to finish the book alone on my couch and not while riding the bus.

I don't believe that a book's ability to make a person cry is any way correlated to its literary merit. However, in this case the book is quite good by any measure.

What's the last book that made you cry?

*not a spoiler, she's an old woman and we're all going to die

44 thoughts on “Read ’Em and Weep”

      1. Thank you! It should have occurred to me that using an HTML character would solve the problem. Anyway, this was totally worth the one-week wait for you to see my comment and come up with a solution. 🙂

          1. Wait . . . so are you saying that it's not just me who memorizes the number of comments on the book post so that I know the moment the website loads if there are new comments?

  1. Books I’ve read at some point this year and keep forgetting to talk about.

    The Gratitude Jar: A Simple Guide to Creating Miracles by Josie Robinson. Nonficiton. So, this was a Christmas gift from my mom. I figured I would read it since it’s from her. And . . . hmmm. I don’t disagree with finding ways to cultivate gratitude and appreciate little things. But I don’t know that simply being grateful can entirely transform one’s life by itself. I also had the nagging feeling the author was unaware of her own privilege at certain points in the book.

    Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay. Nonfiction. A quick, engrossing read that asks powerful questions about the ripple effects of trauma on a person’s life. I thought I would say more about this one, but as I try to type the words telling the specifics of the trauma, I don’t think I can do it.

    This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jenkins. Nonfiction. I’d heard good things about this essay collection, and it mostly lived up to my expectations. Jenkins shares pieces of her personal history while exploring both black culture and feminism in contemporary America. A few of the essays felt uneven or covered familiar ground without necessarily offering something new, but by and large, it was a good read. If you've read Between the World and Me, this one makes a pretty good companion book to that one.

    And I already mentioned The Latehomecomer above. Apparently 2018 is the year when all the books I read are nonfiction by women with elements of memoir. Huh.

    1. Apparently 2018 is the year when all the books I read are nonfiction by women with elements of memoir. Huh.

      This is very much me as well so far this year. Currently reading The Argonauts (so far, whoa) and I've also read a couple of memoir-ish books in the last few months.

      When They Call You Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors

      This one matches the theme of the month, as it is the last book that made me cry. Heartbreaking context for the BLM movement and one of its founders, with lots of stinging injustice throughout.

      There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker

      Pop-culture poetry about being a black woman. Equal parts exhausted and exuberant, the book felt like a connected whole, not individual poems.

      1. I've heard such good things about The Argonauts and should really pick it up.

        Oh, I started Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, but it was due at the library when I was midway through. It's both good and weird--there's a long section in the middle with imagined synopses for something like 8 seasons of Law and Order: SVU.

          1. When I started it, I figured it would be 4 pages, tops, and assumed it was just kind of silly. But then it went on and on and I realized I had to find a different way to think about it.

    2. I also had the nagging feeling the author was unaware of her own privilege at certain points in the book.

      One of my least favorite things about these types of books ... or the other end of the spectrum, where the author beats the reader over the head with makes readers aware of their own privilege with no discernible goal.

      1. It's funny how it can go both ways. And as readers we come from such different places--what is old news to one person might be an entirely new concept to another.

  2. I've actually read some books! (thanks digital public library.)

    I've been reading The Farseer Trilogy and just recently started the third book. I've liked them quite a bit as its good, entertaining fantasy writing.

    Also read The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. I really enjoyed this one both because the backdrop is unique because its post-biological-apocalypse and its set in Thailand.

    Up next, I have just been informed by the digital library, will be The Dispossessed by Urusula K. Le Guin. I've been meaning to read this for awhile, but its taken some time to become available.

    1. Bacigalupi really scratches a particular itch for me. Sometimes I can rip right through one of his books, enjoying the post-apocalyptic mayhem, and other times I find him so cynical that it's distracting.

      I liked William Gibson's The Peripheral in the same vein. Same as Wind Up Girl it has a futuristic resource-poor world with lots of hidden corporate malevolence. Being that it's Gibson, it's focused on the digital world (augmented/virtual reality) instead of a bio-apocalypse, but that's one that I liked a lot.

      1. A friend whose recommendations I trust suggested I read The Windup Girl several years back, going so far as to give me a copy. I had a hard time engaging at the time; it’s probably due for a revisit this summer. There’s no reason I shouldn’t like it, so I’m guessing it was whatever headspace I was in at the time.

      1. Is that book five of the series? That's the one that started the series up again after he left it for a bunch of years, I think.

        I found that there was a new tone after the restart, but it all got completed, and the last books were well worth the read, which is not a given for these types of series.

        1. Correct on the fifth of the 'original' six*, but it's the second after a hiatus from '97 until Wolves of the Calla in 2003.

          I agree with your "tone" comment comparing books three and (four &) five, and drastically different from one: The Gunslinger. I am happy that I know I'll see the 'end' of this series and happily look forward to reading them.

          'Spoiler' SelectShow
          *From the repository (in order of action): SelectShow

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dark_Tower_(series)

          1. Huh, I read The Gunslinger through The Dark Tower back in 2008 (so no Wind Through the Keyhole). I guess I'm not as completist as I think I am.

            Wizard and Glass was the one that I remember most, although The Drawing of the Three was also really good.

            1. The Drawing of the Three was easily my favorite. I've read up through The Wolves of the Calla, but heard so many bad comments about the last two that I just haven't been motivated to finishing them.

            2. I sort-of hoped for more of these to be like Wizard. I did pick up a copy of The Eyes of the Dragon, which I originally bought at a school book fair when I was 9* and loved. Shares The Dark Tower world and some common characters. I'd recommend it.
              *I don't recall it being as graphic as many of King's other works, but still, probably not something my parents would have approved of or allowed if they'd been present when I selected it.

  3. I can read, really!
    The list over multiple months...
    American Gods, Neil Gaiman. Fun!
    Equal Rites, Terry Pratchet. Fun!
    The Peace Promise, John Kuypers. Not fun, exactly! A little self-helpy, but...applicable! Sometimes someone just needs to tell you to let shit go.

    With the little girls...Woof, Magic Treehouse books, BFG, Arf, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Bow Wow, Because of Winn Dixie . Working on A Wrinkle in Time.

    1. I've been meaning to read Good Omens (because Gaiman+Pratchett should be fun, right?), but when it was finally available I was still reading something else and I just can't carry two books at the same time.

  4. Books of March (all of these were 4 or 5-star books on goodreads, must have been a good month)
    ---------------------------
    The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North -
    Last year's World Fantasy Award Winner. A woman who cannot be remembered takes on a global personality cult
    and corporate control of our personal data/lives. The gimmick (Hope, the narrator, is quickly forgotten
    whenever someone looks away from her) is clever and sustains pretty well throughout the whole book. This
    is the second book by Claire North that I've read and both involve shadowy organizations and protagonists
    that move through our world without our knowledge.

    Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday -
    A novel in three parts, with little connecting them unless you read pretty closely. I really liked the writing
    in the first part, and then it was an exercise in connecting the rest of the book back to that. I think it's
    about the impossibility of the main character finding a perfect reflection of herself and thus the constant
    struggle against some kind of asymmetry (age, privilege, worldview, etc.). Halliday provides the reader with
    enough distance to see that struggle, but I don't know if the main character ever does. And then I don't know
    if that lack makes it a better book or not. It's ambitious and puzzling and I liked my time with it.

    Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash -
    This was a sweaty book. It made me smell locker rooms and agression and bodies smashed against each other.
    Stephen Florida is a division IV wrestler in North Dakota with a single-minded devotion to his sport that
    keeps getting distracted by other things. He's a memorable narrator that never let me get comfortable.
    Sometimes unreliable, sometimes crystal clear, and just crazy enough that I would believe him capable of
    almost anything.

    The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov -
    Translated from Bulgarian, this was a maze of a novel that played really well off of its dry observations
    and circulating themes to build a distinct voice and point of view. Over and over a sentence or a fragment
    or an idea would catch my attention and make me think a bit about how it would look to look at the world
    through this lens.

    House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard -
    Complex fantasy set in Paris involving a struggle for power between fallen angels and Vietnamese dragons.
    It hews pretty close to the colonization events that inspired it, but there are lots of factions and motivations
    that are very intricately revealed and hinted at and everything. I found myself enjoying this more and more
    as the book went on.

    Nature Poem by Tommy Pico -
    Read in a single sitting at the airport, I was absorbed by this book. I felt like every two or three pages
    brought me to another line that I wanted to save and they all built directly on what had come before.
    The main theme of the book was wanting an identity but being exhausted by the demands that come with
    continually defining and explaining that identity. Pico is a non-straight Native American poet, and both of
    those things play really strongly into his viewpoint.

    Walkaway by Cory Doctorow -
    This book nicely does what it sets out to do. A novel of ideas with future-tech and post-scarcity all pulled
    together well. It didn't really do it for me, but I can see how this book could hit the sweet spot for others.

  5. I know I missed the family read-along discussion in a previous Book Day, but we just finished The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown, and it was a favorite for the little guy. He was requesting extra reading time during the day so we could finish it faster.

    It's a sequel to The Wild Robot (which we read around September of last year), and both were really good. Themes of environmentalism, family, and responsibility.

    1. I've heard really good things about The Wild Robot but never picked it up; this might finally get me to do so.

      The jalapeno and I haven't found another chapter book to read since my last post; I've tried a few different things but he's not been interested. Favorite recent picture book read is The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds. I'd heard good things and was dubious about the hype, but I love it.

Leave a Reply