5 books, 5 books with, books, doctor who, empowered judaism, fangirl, maurice, savannah, summer falls, the dark is rising, The Fault In Our Stars, The Handmaid's Tale, the new jim crow, The Scarlet Letter
Welcome back to 5 Books, our occasional series exploring the reading habits of our editors, writers, and commenters. This week, we’re spending some time with Savannah, one of our long term contributors and commenters. She’s always got something interesting to say and her choice of books is no exception.
1. Which book would you give to a potential significant other?
Um… I’m not sure? Let’s be honest, it’s been five years since I last had a romantic relationship. (Different from sexual relationships, of which I’ve had a couple that were also fairly intimate, but not romantic.) I wouldn’t know what to have them read if I were given the chance, even though I’d certainly like to. But I guess I could still try to answer the question.
Out of recent reads, I’d guess The Fault in Our Stars. It’s romantic, sad, and actually treats teens with terminal cancer like *gasp* actual teenagers. Sick folks and people with disabilities, we don’t stop wanting things just because we’re sick or disabled. We don’t stop craving romance because of it, or sex for that matter. It doesn’t make us all perfect angels and innocents. And that’s something my friends and I with various different disabilities really appreciated about this book. Also, I would like to know if they are a sob reader, like I can be. I don’t mean reading sob stories, I mean continuing to read while sobbing hideously. It would be nice if a significant other wouldn’t mock me for that.
Alternately, and less recently, Maurice. Because closet stories with what could be either a happy or horrid ending are pretty great, and the age of the book makes the stakes a lot higher. I had all sorts of feels about this book in high school.
2. Which book would you give to a high school senior?
FANGIRL — no doubt and with no hesitation. It deals with a lot of things that are heavy without being preachy, and deals with them from the sort of young/new adult perspective that feels most familiar to me because of my teen years. I like how in some places it doesn’t shy from the whole white-men-in-writing being entitled jerkfaces thing.
I also liked how her father’s mental health doesn’t become a reason to love him any less, nor is it a reason to delegitimize his love for his kids. I know when I was Cath’s age, I was scared that I’d be a horrible parent because of my disabilities. And there weren’t any positive portrayals of parents like me aimed at people my age that I saw, just books that were the equivalent of very special episodes. And that kind of sucks. I’m still not a parent, but I’ve since realized that I do want to be one, that my image of what it meant to be a parent with mental health disabilities wasn’t what had to be.
Also, this book was one that I wanted to stay up all night reading, but at the same time, I didn’t want to finish because I didn’t want to be done. I got an ARC of it, and it’s probably my favorite out of all the books I’ve had the chance to read this year.
3. Which book would you give to your political representatives?
Probably The New Jim Crow? Or maybe some poetry by some of my friends in the activism world. I’m really not sure. Honestly, I have doubts that my political reps would actually read anything I sent them. And honestly, some of them I wouldn’t send anything to because of the inevitable long rant in the local papers about how wrong and deviant it all is based on the cover blurbs. Oh rural America…
4. Which book would you give to a former teacher?
I’m waiting until I get a book published, be it fiction, non, or poetry, then I will send them both happily and snidely to people. The snide is more for school administrators, though. They didn’t want me taking advanced classes in my strong areas because of my disabilities. I had to ace moderate English to enter advanced, and lo and behold, I did. And proceeded to ace the AP exam for the subject.
If I had to send something right now, I’m torn between sending my 11th grade English teacher a copy of The Scarlet Letter along with a rant about how awesome it is. I’m still super bitter we didn’t read it even though it was on the possible reading list in the state curriculum — it’s a favorite if you can get past the immediate struggle of the writing style. I might also send my 10th grade teacher a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale, which I had promised to let her borrow but never got around to.
5. Which book would you give to your best friend?
My best friend and I have had some back and forths reading wise, but usually he’s the one giving me books, because he has the money for them. One of my favorites that he has given to me was Empowered Judaism. It really made me think about ways that my work as an activist and advocate are intertwined with my faith, and about how the same things that can positively move our movements forward can move our faith communities forward, and vice versa.
As for books I’d give to him, I’m not entirely sure. If he hasn’t read them maybe The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper? The movie MURDERED the books by adding all sorts of Christian imagery to a book that was actually filled with Celtic pagan imagery and Arthurian influences in a way that is deeply tied to folk settings. I think I still have the metaphorical smoke coming out my ears about that movie, because these are really important books to me.
There are places in them that tie the young people to their ancestry in a way that was amazing to me as a child. And having young people and children have such a driving force was pretty wonderful — it was real danger, real life or death, save the world danger, the kind that grown ups tend to act like shouldn’t be the purview of children. The thing is, that when it comes to the realms of imagination, it really is the sort of danger that children should see and feel, because it can both allow them to escape and reinforce bravery in the face of a really horrible, real world. Following these characters, having them face very real risks, and seeing them come out as heroes — quiet heroes, real heroes, not hailed throughout the land heroes like few people actually get — is important. A book I found recently that really reminded me of these books is one of the the recent Doctor Who tie-in books, Summer Falls.