What I Read: August 2015

I read 9 books in August: 4 non-fiction, 5 fiction. 3 were on the Kindle, 4 were in print, 2 were in audiobook. 3 were by writers of color.

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor (2013).

I actually listened to this on audiobook on my phone. It was really interesting to hear about Sotomayor’s life and her path to the Supreme Court, but it wasn’t the most engaging read ever. I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think I’ll be pushing it on other folks.

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev (2014).

This was sort of the opposite audiobook experience. I had heard good things about this romance novel, and though I don’t read a ton of romance, this seemed like one I might like (see NPR’s recommendation here). It was so good, you guys. Totally hooked me from the start, full of the really luscious descriptive language that romance is known for. Would recommend.

Eating Viet Nam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table by Graham Holliday (2015).

This was a combination of my two favorite types of memoirs: travel and food. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and yet, still have no desire to travel to Vietnam/eat truly authentic Vietnamese food. If you like travel or food, you might like this one as well.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson (2014).

The new Ms. Marvel is a Muslim, Pakistani-American teenager (Kamala Khan) living in Jersey City. If that’s not enough to peak your interested, the series is written by G. Willow Wilson, who is one of my favorite graphic novelists. I was so excited to find this in my local bookstore.

Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok (2014).

I got this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program. It took me a while to pick, but I’m glad I did. It was a delightful tale of growing up and becoming your own person, mixed with a healthy dose of ballroom dancing. Charlie Wong is a thoroughly enjoyable protagonist. I’ve read Kwok’s first book, Girl in Translation, and I like her sophomore effort even more.

Ms. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson (2015).

I liked the first volume so much, that I went back two days later and bought the second! You may like it as well.

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman (2014).

I forget where I first read about this, but as soon as I heard the description (children’s chapter book about a 6th Grade food critic), I knew I wanted to read it. It did not disappoint. Gladys Gatsby *loves* food, but after an unfortunately creme brûlée incident, she is banned from the kitchen by her non-culinary parents. When an essay she wrote for a newspaper contest is mistaken for an actual job application, Gladys finds herself reviewing a restaurant for the New York Standard. Charming and fun.

Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession by Erma Bombeck (1983).

Erma Bombeck is a national treasure. A often funny, sometimes sentimental take on motherhood.

Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle by Kristen Green (2015).

This was such an interesting and important read for me. Prince Edward County closed its public schools (for years) rather than integrate after the Brown v. Board of Education (in which black residents of Prince Edward County were a party). Growing up in Virginia, just a few hours away, I was aware of this. My dad had pointed out Prince Edward Academy (the private school for white student founded in the wake of the schools closing) and told me the bare outline of what had happened. I did not realize just how long the schools were closed though and had not considered fully the effect that the school closure had on the lives of those individuals who were denied an education as a result. I would really recommend this for anyone interested in civil rights or American history (especially all the Virginians I know).

What I Read: August 2015

Books for Queer Families: A Tale of Two Mommies

A Tale of Two Mommies

A Tale of Two Mommies, written by Vanita Oelschlager and illustrated by Mike Blanc, features a little boy at the beach with his two moms. Two other kids at the beach are curious about his family and ask him lots of questions about just how this two mommies thing works (Who takes you fishing? Who comes if you have a bad dream?)

Pros: Super cute illustrations. Features a brown skinned kid and two pale mommies, so yay for reflecting families that are diverse in more ways than one!

Cons: CAN WE STOP WITH THE “HOW COULD TWO MOMS (OR TWO DADS) HANDLE THE FULL PARENTING BUSINESS” TROPE ALREADY?!?! Do kids even ask these questions?!?! No one has asked Frances yet, but maybe it’s coming (I have gotten on the playground a few times: “she doesn’t have a dad?”, but no one has ever followed up with “but then who brushes her teeth?” or whatever.)

The Bottom Line: Unless you are specifically looking for a book that reflects transracial adoption in a family with two moms, then I say skip it. I discovered this book at my local bookstore and despite the fact that I loved the illustrations (and it was in paperback, thus cheap), I did not buy it because DEAR GOD, stop already with this ridiculousness.

(I know this will invariably get some comment on how I should write a children’s book, but that’s hard work, and not particularly my skill set. Maybe I’ll attempt it someday, but I’m still hoping that someone who is actually a children’s book author will write a regular old kid’s book, with a kid who just happens to have two moms or two dads).

Books for Queer Families: A Tale of Two Mommies

What I Read: July 2015

I read eight books in July – 7 were fiction, 1 was non-fiction. 1 was in print, the rest were on the Kindle. 3 were by writers of color (I’m trying to keep track, so that I’m better about diversifying my reading). Amazingly, I read 4 of these on our vacation in Maine, so I guess 3 years old is when your kid is finally old enough to entertain themselves regularly while you read!

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan (2015)

The sequel to Crazy Rich Asians, this was just a fun as that was – full of the lifestyles fabulously wealthy throughout Asia. Kwan writes perfect vacation / plane / escapist reads.

Eight Hundred Grapes: A Novel by Laura Dave (2015)

Georgia is supposed to be getting married, but on the day of her dress fitting she runs into her fiancé with his ex girlfriend and 5 year old daughter, who she didn’t existed. Georgia escapes to her childhood home – a vineyard in California wine country – but things there are messier than expected as well. Just okay for me.

Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie (1935)

I think I’m officially over Agatha Christie. I love a mystery, and Christie is a master of them, but she also is product of her times, by which I mean, the mysteries come with regular servings of misogyny, racism, and homophobia. The idea of this mystery was interesting (woman killed with a poisoned dart during a flight), but I just didn’t enjoy it.

The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber (2015)

This book gave me lots to think about – how to talk to Frances about money, when to introduce allowances, etc. I took notes on the sections that seemed most important to me and I expect I will be revisiting them in the years ahead. The book is definitely aimed at parents who are reasonably well off – able to afford all of a child’s needs and at least some of their wants. Worth reading.

Blanche Among The Talented Tenth by Barbara Neely (1994)

The second book in the Blanche White mystery series – this one set on a black resort in coastal Maine. Social criticism and whodunit in one.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (1961)

One of those classics that I never read in school. Glad to have rounded out my own education, but not much to say beyond that.

The Kizuna Coast by Sujata Massey (2014)

Rei Shimura lives! In my twenties I loved this series featuring a Japanese-American antiques expert/sleuth. There hadn’t been a mystery in the series in years, so I was happy to discover this, published in the aftermath of the Fukushima earthquake and dealing with a death that occurs during that time period. Great series to pick up if you like mysteries.

Castle Waiting Vol. 2: The Definitive Edition by Linda Medley (2013)

If you like graphic novels, you should definitely read the Castle Waiting ones – this is the second volume, picking up where the others left off. A fairly cozy tale of a bunch of misfits living in a mostly abandoned castle.

What I Read: July 2015

Books for Queer Families: Mommy, Mama, and Me

Mommy, Mama and Me

Mommy, Mama and Me, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Carol Thompson, is a board book about a young toddler with two moms. It’s actually never stated whether the kid is a boy or girl and the clothing is gender neutral, so you can totally project your own kid onto it! (Hence I choose to believe the kid in question is a girl. But she could be a boy!)

Pros: Book features two moms! Just your basic toddler board book, but with a family that looks like ours. Good illustrations, pretty straightforward story: I do these things with my Mommy. I do these things with my Mama. That’s it.

Cons: The rhyming cadence is sometimes a bit awkward, but that’s a pretty minor quibble.

I avoided this book for a while, because when Frances was a baby, we were both Mommy and the names didn’t match up. She has since taken to calling us Mommy (Jami) and Mama (me), and I feel pretty silly for avoiding to for that reason. The book is a little too young for her now (although we have it out of the library at the moment and she likes). If she was younger, I would totally buy this.

Books for Queer Families: Mommy, Mama, and Me

A Time of Mothering Transition

It seems pretty appropriate that this time of transition for Frances, this BIG move from the land of daycare to the land of public school (her home for the next FIFTEEN years), coincides with what feels like a big shift in my experience of motherhood.

Up to this point, my main goal as a mother has been to keep my kid alive and safe. The things I’ve had to offer her, the things I’ve been focused on have been practical things: is she eating enough, is she getting the right amount of sleep? I’ve been focused on the things she needed to master in these early years: first rolling over and then crawling and then walking. Sleeping through the night. Potty training. Learning to feed herself, dress herself, put on her own shoes. Really basic, but vitally important things.

But in the last few months, I’ve felt my gaze start to shift from the practicalities of the here and now to the open landscape of the future. How do we teach her to be a good person? How do we strengthen her core, so that when the harsh winds of the world blow, as they will, she will remain strong and confident and whole? How do we help her become a good person, concerned about justice and the world beyond herself? As we enter a time where her own memories of her life will begin, how do we want her childhood to look? How can we make it a good one – one where she learns what she needs, feels protected and loved, has the space to explore and have fun and make mistakes?

It’s daunting. But exciting too.

A Time of Mothering Transition

An Ode to Daycare

This morning I wrote out our Very Last Check for daycare. There will be plenty more kid expenses in our future, but for the past three years, we have been paying the equivalent of a second mortgage payment every month and it’s pretty exciting to be stopping that. I have loved Frances’ daycare so much. They have been such a big and important part of our lives for the past 3 years, and this seems a good time to celebrate them!

Oh, daycare, I love you so. Let me count the ways:

1. You kept me sane. My first months home with Frances were filled with anxiety. Is my baby broken? Am I breaking my baby? Is this NORMAL? I cannot even explain the weight that lifted off of me when I dropped Frances off for the first time and realized that for the next 10 hours multiple people with years and years of experience with babies would be taking care of my child. If something was wrong with her, they would notice. If she needed something new, they would notice. BECAUSE THEY HAD DONE THIS BEFORE. Amazing. So helpful.

2. You taught me super useful stuff. Like how to get rid of cradle cap (olive oil on the head, comb it out). You told me, gently, that it was time for Frances to have shoes. (Babies need shoes before they start walking? Who knew?! Daycare!).

3. You taught Frances super useful stuff. Blowing her nose? I never taught her that!

4. You did crafts. Every day. I hate crafts. Thank you for handling that for me!

5. You fed her. After she started eating “regular” food, you made her breakfast, lunch and snack every day. From scratch. One less thing on my plate, for which I am so grateful.

6. You gave me friends. Other parents with kids the same age who I like spending time with. It’s so amazing to have folks like that who you can just hang out with at each other’s houses while the kids play. I do not take that for granted.

7. You loved my daughter, more than I thought it would be possible for someone not related to her to do. I feel so lucky, that every teacher Frances has had at daycare has been loving and nurturing and has thought my kid was the bee’s knees. (She’s totally the bees knees). What a gift to a child to know that there are adults other than their parents who care about them deeply. Thank you for being a part of our village.