Weekend reading

Seira Wilson on July 31, 2020

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September is always a big month for books, and this weekend some of us are going to start on that giant stack of September releases. The books we're looking forward to include a powerful young adult novel in verse, and a debut you won't want to miss. Other editors are finding guides to floral and houseplant happiness, and reading a highly praised novel about four generations of Cherokee women that spans four decades. I hope you read something you love this weekend.

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

Set in post WWII Japan, Fifty Words for Rain follows the story of Noriko Kamiza, the love child of her married mother and an African American soldier. Left with her scandalized grandparents and kept out of sight in an attic, “Nori” succumbs to her sorry lot—which involves regular beatings and excruciating chemical baths to lighten her skin—until the unexpected arrival of her half-brother, which sets off another chain of page-turning events. Depressing much? Actually no. You will root for Nori as I am, her resilient spirit, and determination to assert her own identity and live life on her own terms. Mark your calendars for September 1. This is a debut you won’t want to miss. —Erin Kodicek

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Now that our August Best Books of the Month picks are in, I'm turning my attention to a giant stack of September titles. I'm starting with Punching the Air (September 1), a book I've been wanting to read since I first heard about it. I've really enjoyed Ibi Zoboi's previous novels and this collaboration with Yusef Salaam, activist and one of the Exonerated Five, is getting high praise from critics and renowned authors, including Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, and Ibram X. Kendi. Punching the Air is a powerful novel in verse about a young man wrongly accused of a crime and imprisoned. It's about an unjust justice system, a fight for freedom and humanity, and finding shelter for your soul in artistic expression. Pretty sure I'm going to read this in one sitting.... —Seira Wilson

Decorating with Plants: What to Choose, Ways to Style, and How to Make Them Thrive by Baylor Chapman

Despite my black thumb, one of my quarantine hobbies is gardening. First up was veggies, and I’m living the dream by harvesting lettuce for my lunch salads. Next I took an interest in cut flowers, aided by the gorgeous book Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden. And now that Amazon corporate employees are working from home until 2021, I’m moving on to houseplants. I have gone full on “plant mom” in the last few weeks (this is in addition to my roles as human mom, dog mom and cat mom), and have already started dog-earing pages in Decorating with Plants: What to Choose, Ways to Style, and How to Make Them Thrive by Baylor Chapman. As I mentioned, I’m definitely a plant newbie and this book has so far been a very helpful guide on how to care for the clippings I’ve received from friends these last few weeks: spider plant babies, a money plant “pup” and a clipping from a pothos, which Chapman calls “a ‘black thumb’s’ best friend.” The pictures are beautiful and aspirational, and the text is incredibly helpful and straightforward. Broken into sections like "The Go-To Plant List" and "A Room-By-Room Guide," this book delivers on its promise to help you keep your plants alive and make the most of their natural beauty. —Sarah Gelman

Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford

Having just finished Winter Counts, set mostly on a reservation, I am inspired to read more about Native Americans, and what life has been like for them. Crooked Hallelujah is set in 1974, in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and centers on 15-year-old Justine. The jacket copy tells us she’s growing up in a family of tough, complicated and loyal women presided over by her mother, Lula, and Granny. As they move from Eastern Oklahoma’s Indian Country to take advantage of the possibilities in Texas amid the oil bust of the 1980s, unreliable men and unpredictable weather threaten them in different ways. I’m excited to read on to see what Plimpton Prize winner, Kelli Jo Ford, has to say. —Vannessa Cronin

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