June! It is the start of summer and one of my favorite months. We began the process of moving and spent the last few days of June driving across the country from Madison, WI to Portland, OR. We will be moving to our home in Eugene as soon as our stuff arrives via Uhaul! My post is a little late this month due to all the changes. With all the packing and cleaning I didn’t get to read quite as much as I would have liked but I still got four books in. One of the books was pretty heavy so it definitely took more time to process and get through but I’m glad I was able to read it.
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom was a 2019 National Book of the Year winner. It’s on a ton of “Best of…” lists and it was recommended to me by my sister too! It’s a memoir but it is more a memoir of a family rather than one person. It takes place in Eastern New Orleans from the 1960s until after Hurricane Katrina. The author begins the story with the origins of her mother and her mother’s family. Her mother grew up in New Orleans and all the stories from the city paint a picture of life in Louisiana in the 60s and 70s. Sarah’s mother Ivory Mae had 12 children and two husbands in her long lifetime. Her and her second husband Simon purchased the Yellow House in Eastern New Orleans when the neighborhood was developing. People claimed it was the next big neighborhood, near a NASA plant during the Space Race houses and apartments shot up and people came. However, over time, the land proved difficult to develop on and had more issues than it was worth. Eastern New Orleans never became the up and coming neighborhood that was promised. Ivory Mae’s house started as a dream project and quickly turned into another difficult child.
The book examines how a house and a home can be a source of both comfort and pain. The house left Sarah feeling ashamed when she was younger yet the Yellow House always drew her back when she tried to leave New Orleans. The book tells the history of her family over 100 years. It was fascinating learning about a part of New Orleans that you often don’t read or see. It was also interesting learning about the effects of Hurricane Katrina first hand. The hurricane wiped out the Yellow House but her family’s ties to the city and their neighborhood remained even after the storm. Sarah has led an amazing life and she has accomplished so much. She is a talented storyteller and I enjoyed reading about a life so different from my own.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
As a teacher, I try to educate myself to understand systematic racism and inequities in our society. At the beginning of June I purchased a few books on Amazon to try and read in the next couple months to help myself be better educated and understand some of the complex issues at hand when looking at racial inequality in the United States. The New Jim Crow examines the criminal justice system in the United States and dives into the War on Drugs and its impact on African Americans, especially African American men. The book reminded me of Ava Duvernay’s documentary 13th which is on Netflix and I highly recommend to all people. I think it’s important that people read books like The New Jim Crow, it helps you examine your biases and helps build a better understanding of the criminal justice system and in some of the inequities of so called justice in the US.
Although the book is fascinating and insightful, it is definitely a heavy read. It’s broken into a preface, introduction and then six chapters. However, each chapter is long and full of statistics, facts, stories and information. I read one chapter each day in order to take my time, better process the information and really learn from the book. My eyes were opened to a lot of the facts about the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs was declared before my time, however, the so-called war is still being fought and it’s disproportionately impacting people of color. There are mandatory sentencing laws, laws that impact people re-entering society and rules in place that impact people in profound ways. I wasn’t aware of how much a felony conviction can impact all aspects of a person’s life. Also, I was amazed at how some laws seem to impact groups of people differently. The book is an important read and I hope more people take the time to educate themselves. I don’t believe there will be criminal justice reform until more people are aware of just how serious an issue it is in the United States. Just from reading it, I found myself engaging in more conversations with people and I appreciate the knowledge the book gave me.
The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda
I listened to two audio books this month and my drive cross country certainly helped! The Last House Guest was the first audio book I listened to. It’s a thriller/mystery and it was a lot of fun, it’s part of Reese’s Bookclub and I usually like her suggestions so I was excited to check it out. The story kept me guessing until the end and I was surprised by the ending! The story takes place in a town called Littleport. Littleport is a small town with a tight knit community who’s economy thrives from the wealthy summer tourists that come and stay. Two girls, one local and one visitor meet one summer and quickly develop a friendship that lasts a decade. Sadie Loman, the wealthy visitor and Avery Greer the troubled local become closer than sisters until one summer Sadie is discovered dead on Breaker Beach. The authorities rule it a suicide but Avery doesn’t believe it.
One year later, Avery is still reeling from the loss of her best friend. Her death seems too suspicious and she’s eager to get to the bottom of it. Retracing her steps from the night of Sadie’s death, Avery uncovers clues that make her believe Sadie didn’t kill herself. The book is full of twists and turns and suspicious characters. The author does a great job of creating a suspenseful story that feels smart and creative. I read another of this author’s book called All the Missing Girls. She is definitely a fun author to check out for a strong female protagonist and a plot that will keep readers guessing.
Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness
If you’re like me, you fell in love with the Fab 5 when Netflix rebooted Queer Eye. If you’re not, what are you waiting for!? I love the Fab 5 and I think the show is so endearing. One of my favorite Queer Eye Guys is the hair, self-care, yoga expert Jonathan Van Ness. When I heard he wrote a memoir I was excited to check it out. I downloaded it on Audible since he narrates it himself. He is so expressive and his storytelling is incredibly entertaining.
On the show, Jonathan is happy go lucky and a bundle of energy. It was so interesting hearing about how he started his career and the trials and tribulations he went through to get to where he is today. Jonathan has faced an immense amount of trauma and his early 20s were a rollercoaster. His childhood stories were entertaining and I loved learning his origins. At the beginning of the book he talks about how much is life has changed since Queer Eye and he wonders if people would still love him if they knew everything about him, all the ugly and wonderful things. I have so much more respect for him after listening to his story and it makes me want to re-watch all the seasons! I would love to be his friend and I feel like I know him after listening to his story. I highly suggest the Audiobook and it’s only a little over five hours so it’s a quick listen!
That’s it for June. Again, I didn’t read as much as I would have liked but I think between packing, saying goodbye, ending the school year and driving across the country June just flew by. Hopefully now that we are back in Oregon I can take some more time to read and relax! Well, once we get moved into our new house!!