Hi everyone, Happy Mother’s Day to you if you are that way inclined!
Here’s a run down of my reading week:
If you haven’t heard of Hidden Figures by now you must have been hiding under a rock. Hidden Figures is the story of some of the black women that worked behind the scenes for NASA, working on the computations that helped get people into space. I appreciate the research that went into the book and it’s wonderful that the stories of these women are coming out, but I think I would have felt more lost understanding exactly what the women did if I hadn’t read Rise of the Rocket Girls a few months ago. Shetterley seems to have focussed more on the women’s family lives and how they coped fitting working and family together than on the amazing work these women did, which I found a bit disappointing.
The last of my Stella shortlist reads, this one was a punch to the gut. Chris and her sister Bella live in a small country town. They have no real family except for each other. After a weekend of no contact, Chris gets a visit from the police that no one wants. They’ve found a body, could she please identify it?
Maguire takes you through the cycles of grief experienced by Chris – the horror of what has been done to her sister, the desire of the media to get a juicy story, the speed of which all of this circulates in a small country town and the pressure that Chris feels. This book is a raw examination of grief and how we live through it. Have the tissues ready.
Jodi Taylor’s St Mary’s series has been my go to read for palate cleansing for a little while. I love the St Mary’s crew and Max in particular. I love the irreverent and very British tone of Taylor’s writing, and I absolutely love the idea of travelling around through history to see what happened rather than having to rely on inaccurate accounts. This one was lots of fun, as usual. I’m waiting for my library to buy the next one!
I discovered quite by chance that Susan Faludi is out here talking about this book, which is about the journey that started with her estranged father contacting her to let her know that he had undergone gender reassignment surgery and was entering the world as Stefi.
In the Dark Room is an exploration of identity and how gender, religion and culture make up parts of who we are. Can you tease out one without the others? Faludi seems to have had limited contact with her father over the years (and the book demonstrates why). She describes her journey to get to know her father as a woman as well as from her own changed point of view as an adult. This seems to be further complicated by Stefi’s desire to erase, or at the very least mask, the pieces of the past that she would rather not acknowledge. Stefi also talks about the number of different roles she has willingly played during her life, and her own self awareness of this is fascinating given the context. This is a complicated narrative and a very interesting exploration of identity. I’m really looking forward to seeing Faludi talk to this topic.
In 1845, John Franklin’s expedition to chart the Artic passages, consisting of 2 ships and 129 men, was lost. This is the story of the journey to find the lost ships and determine what happened to the crew. Watson gives a great account of all the missteps taken between the disappearance of the ships and their eventual discovery over a century later. I found his account of Lady Jane very interesting – she sounds like one hell of a women. I was a bit mystified when she was described by Watson as “high strung” almost immediately after a number of details of her adventures through very harsh conditions. (Lady Jane was considered “highly strung” as she was a vocal opponent of the British Navy’s lack of action to find her husband when his ships had gone missing. I wonder how a similarly vocal man would be described in this situation?) What I did enjoy about this book was the inclusion of Inuit oral history about the wreck – it seems that if the Navy had taken this information into consideration that answers would have been found much sooner.
This week I’ve also discovered the Deviant Women podcast. Alicia and Lauren are exploring women who push against the boundaries of society in life and literature. Give them a listen – they are smart and sassy and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the episodes I’ve listened to.