You Wish You Were at a Pride Parade
Want “An American Marriage” read-alike or want to up your meme game
Hey book lovers,
Hope you had a great weekend. We celebrated my future sister-in-law’s wedding shower with family and friends — it was a delight and so wonderful to be able to gather safely.
I want to extend a special welcome to new subscribers who found this newsletter when it was featured by Substack last week. If you’re new here, each week, I offer three book recommendations based on my mood, what’s going on in the world, the latest Netflix show, etc. You can always respond to an email or tweet me for a personalized book recommendation. We’re also playing Summer Reading Bingo right now.
A couple of you reached out with questions and suggestions on the bingo card, so a few updates/clarifications:
We’re shooting for five-in-a-row Bingo, not coverall Bingo (although if you’re a completist, by all means, go ahead).
I made a couple of slight tweaks to the card. “Read outside” is now “read outside your house (the park, a coffee shop, a friend’s house, the car)” and “swap books with a friend” has been updated to “swap book recs with a friend.” The card is available here, and when you’ve hit Bingo, submit the card here.
In general, do your best to interpret the squares, so they work for you and your life within the spirit of the game — and let me know if you have questions.
Thanks to everyone who chimed in with sci-fi and fantasy recs last week. Mike McQuillian suggested A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, which features space diplomacy and a murder mystery.
This week, I’m looking for recommendations of your favorite graphic novels or graphic nonfiction books. Drop them in the comments.
And, now, what to read if…
You Love the Energy at a Pride Parade
If you somehow bottled up the feeling at a Pride Parade and then spilled it on a page, you’d end up with something like Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop, a rollicking romance between August and Jane, who meet on New York’s Q Train. The catch? Jane has been stuck on the train since a mysterious event in the 1970s, unable to leave the subway car or even remember how she ended up there.
What follows is both a love story and a mystery as the two work to uncover how Jane got stuck and how they can free her. Along the way, there are drag shows (featuring August’s neighbor Annie Depressant and her mentee Sara Tonin) and parties with the friends August has made her family. McQuiston uses Jane’s time in the ’70s to explore the homophobia of the time in a way that feels natural. The result is a book that celebrates the LGBT community while incorporating aspects of history that are often still ignored.
If One Last Stop or Pride Month, in general, inspires you to take action, consider donating to SMYAL, a D.C-based organization that provides housing and health services to LGBT youth in-need. From now till the end of June, my company, Subject Matter, is matching donations to SMYAL made at this link.
Bingo Boxes this Book Checks: Romance
You Loved An American Marriage
Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage is one of my favorite books of the past few years — it’s a beautiful exploration of family and forgiveness in the backdrop of the American justice system. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls covers similar topics, with the same gorgeous writing found in An American Marriage.
The novel follows Althea, Viola and Lillian Butler, three sisters. After Althea and her husband, restaurateurs and philanthropic pillars in their community, are arrested, Viola and Lillian begin to care for their teenage nieces. Each of the three sisters is forced to confront long-held secrets, a history of abuse and rethink their relationships with one another.
The chapters alternate perspectives — and Gray excels at giving each of the sisters a strong, distinct voice. She also writes with clarity and empathy about Viola’s eating disorder, drawing on her own experience with anorexia and bulimia. (Sidebar: I was reminded of this book after reading historian Angela Tate’s excellent essay about struggling with eating disorders as a Black woman in the 1990s and 2000s in Anne Helen Petersen’s newsletter.) The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls is a stunning debut, and I can’t wait to see what Gray does next.
Bingo Boxes this Book Checks: Debut, Summer that Changes Everything
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You Speak Fluent Meme — Or Wish You Did
Gretchen McCulloch has one of the coolest jobs. She’s an internet linguist studying how the way we interact online is changing the English language. In Because Internet, she documents her years of research in a compelling, accessible way.
She carefully chronicles the evolution of LOL, from an acronym that meant “laughing out loud,” to “lol” a word that can indicate “amusement, irony and even passive aggression.” In some of my favorite passages, she compares the way different generations approach the use of punctuation in written communication. What I — and my fellow millennials — view as a passive-aggressive period, earlier generations of computer users consider a polite form of writing.
It’s a fun ride, and a delightful reminder of the ways language is constantly evolving. Language lovers and emoji users will get a lot out of it.
Bingo Boxes this Book Checks: Nonfiction, Debut
This week’s guest rec is from Amy Ratcliffe, author of A Kid’s Guide to Fandom:
What are your favorite graphic novels or graphic nonfiction books? Let me — and your fellow bingo players — know.
What to Read If is a free weekly book recommendation newsletter. Need a rec? Want to gush about a book? Reply to this email, leave a comment or find me on Twitter @elizabethheld.
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