I’ve got some great books to include in my March Reading Round-up, including one of my favorites so far this year.
I read Women Talking back in January and I have been waiting and waiting for its release so that I can tell you all about it! This book blew me away. Based on true events, the story takes place in a Mennonite colony in Bolivia where women and children have been sexually abused and assaulted by the men of the community for years. I was immediately drawn in and intrigued by the narrative choices the author made. Her ability to create a male character that the reader trusts in a story full of violent, disrespectful, reprehensible men is incredible. August is a fully drawn character - and yet, he is still a man speaking for women. Can we trust him? Have we received all of the words of the women? Within this horrific story, there are also moments of so much joy at the beauty of the world and the possibilities of freedom. I absolutely loved this book.
Since April is National Poetry Month, it seems only fitting to include Ilya Kaminsky’s new poetry collection on this list - plus, it is a stunning collection. If, like me, you find it challenging to approach poetry, Deaf Republic just may be a great gateway into exploring the genre. The poems tell the chronological story of an occupied town. At the outset, a deaf boy is killed in a skirmish, rendering the entire community deaf. Poems are told from the perspectives of a young, newly married couple; Mama Galya, an older woman and pillar of the community; Mama Galya’s girls who take justice into their own hands; and the community as a whole. Sign language is also pictorialized throughout. It is a very visual collection, filled with poems of love, hate, war, despair, triumph, and the beauty of the everyday - laundry drying on lines, the smell of a baby’s head, the endless possibility felt during new love, and the deafening sounds of silence in the face of political injustice and unimaginable cruelty.
My husband is a huge Wilco fan. When I saw that Jeff Tweedy was writing a memoir I automatically knew what my Christmas gift to him would be. He finished this book in about three days and spent the next few months telling me that I needed to read it. I finally did, and he was right. I did need to read it. I loved it. I loved being allowed a glimpse into Tweedy’s ideas on writing and the process that he goes through. Here is a passage that I find particularly inspiring:
“I try to make something new, something that wasn’t there when I woke up, by the end of every day. It doesn’t have to be long or perfect or good. It just has to be something...I used to assume that the people who were great at writing songs were just more talented than everybody else...As I’ve gotten older I’ve concluded that this is rarely the case. The people who seem the most like geniuses are not geniuses. They’re just more comfortable failing.”
Tweedy is funny, self-aware, and honest throughout. There are fantastic stories about his time growing up in small-town Illinois, playing in Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, and finally in the band that he formed with his son, Spencer. There is also a fantastic story about Gene Ween that made me laugh so hard I cried.
I particularly enjoyed the sections about his wife and two sons. I would like to request that his wife now write a book about their experiences raising a family and supporting each other through many difficult and beautiful times. I’ll be the first in line to read it.
One more helpful suggestion, reader: make sure that you have some Wilco handy to listen to because you’ll need it. I found myself wanting to listen to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on repeat for quite a while after I finished this one.