Thoughts on Policing the Planet Edited By Jordan T. Camp and Christina Heatherton

Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter is a collection of 22 incredibly intersectional and deeply researched essays on policing in the US and internationally. The collection is edited by Jordan T. Camp and Christina Heatherton and contains a poem as well as numerous essays by and interviews with activists and scholars.

I don’t know where I first heard about this book, but it’s been on my wishlist since around the time that it was published last year. Mid-January my boyfriend gifted it to me, because clearly I picked an amazing partner. Now all I want to do is push it on everyone – seriously, it’s that good.

Cover image for Policing the Planet

How policing became the major political issue of our time

Combining firsthand accounts from activists with the research of scholars and reflections from artists, Policing the Planet traces the global spread of the broken-windows policing strategy, first established in New York City under Police Commissioner William Bratton. It’s a doctrine that has vastly broadened police power the world over—to deadly effect.

With contributions from #BlackLivesMatter cofounder Patrisse Cullors, Ferguson activist and Law Professor Justin Hansford, Director of New York–based Communities United for Police Reform Joo-Hyun Kang, poet Martín Espada, and journalist Anjali Kamat, as well as articles from leading scholars Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Robin D. G. Kelley, Naomi Murakawa, Vijay Prashad, and more, Policing the Planet describes ongoing struggles from New York to Baltimore to Los Angeles, London, San Juan, San Salvador, and beyond.

Broken Windows Policing, also sometimes called Community Policing, is the idea that by cracking down hard on small crimes such as littering, graffiti, loitering, public drunkenness, and et cetera with a zero tolerance policy people will be dissuaded committing major crimes. In other words, by showing that the police care about and enforce all rules punitively, it will theoretically scare people away from the idea of larger or more violent crimes. It was developed originally in 1982 in The Atlantic Monthly by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, and has been embraced hugely since then.

The problems with this theory are legion, but a key point raised throughout the book is this – who defines community? Because certain people get identified as being “outside” of the community (the homeless, the racialized poor people, LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming people, Native people, immigrants, drug users) it is considered acceptable if they are harmed by the police in order to maintain “order” and “safety” for those considered within the community. This harm can come through increased stops, increased fines and arrests, and increases in prison populations. All of these harms then appear on a person’s record which leads to further cascading harm as they are shut out of what remains of the social net, in many cases. The policy can lead to “cleanup” of neighborhoods, increasing property value and enabling further gentrification in neighborhoods people have lived in for years.

A second main problem, raised again and again, which is tied to the first, is the way that the policy targets and disorders individuals and behavior as opposed to issues and crimes. For example, the homeless are arrested and / or fined and /or removed from the area, but there is no action taken against slum landlords who aren’t maintaining their properties. And no action on actual broken windows on bank owned foreclosed homes. As another example, people of color are routinely stopped and frisked in certain neighborhoods because they are seen as not belonging but there is no action against discriminatory hiring practices and stealing of tips.

Abolition of policing is provided by many as the true solution to the problems. Many essays discuss the history of policing and about its beginning in the days of slave patrols and its continued use throughout history to maintain separation and penalize difference. While some activists point to short term solutions, it is important to look intersectionally at all facets of the situation to ensure that existing structures and issues aren’t maintained. Although broken windows policing originated in the United States, it has been exported around the world as some of the essays discuss. The issue is a global one and many organizations are working together for justice.

An example of the definition of community and of how activism can sometimes provide limited gains while leaving the underlying structures in place is given in Christina B. Hanhardt‘s essay “Broken Windows at Blue’s: Queer History of Gentrification and Policing“. In the essay she talks about the rise of broken windows policing in New York City and the concurrent rise in the acceptability of white gay identity due to investment in gentrifying neighborhoods. The white gay middle class investment in the city was seen as part of the “back-to-the-city” movement and this group started to be seen as increasingly different from poor, immigrant, and non-white gay individuals, as well as from trans or gender non-conforming individuals. They thus because part of the accepted “community” while the underlying structure and problems were left unchanged.

She states:

[…] mainstream gay political claims in the city emerged by expanding the distance – conceptual and spatial – between affirmative gay identity and the broad matrix of so-called deviances often associated with racialized poverty.

They thus because part of the accepted “community” while the underlying structure and problems were left unchanged. As we move forward with advocacy, this is what reform efforts can often lead to and is why we have to think critically about any reforms being proposed.

As Rachel Herzing says in “The Magical Life of Broken Windows“:

We need terms of engagement that don’t root our own survival in the suppression or denial of another’s humanity.

In the coming days I will put up a few related posts on related reading, organizations working on the topic, and other media.

Noir Reads Subscription Box – Did You Subscribe?

Earlier this month I heard about a new monthly subscription box, Noir Reads, which promises to deliver great Black Authors to your front door each month. Their site says, about the books:

Noir Reads is simple and easy way to read Black literature to develop or deepen your understanding of Black culture & the Black experience by introducing readers to writers of the Diaspora and engaging in dynamic discussions with a growing private online community.”

The box will contain 2-3 books as well as a reading guide and access to an online book club. I LOVE this idea. I’m a huge fan of subscription boxes, but because I’m in Canada and the majority of them seem to originate in the USA, shipping can be prohibitive. While this box was way more cost friendly then most I’ve seen (at $35 per month), the shipping was still expensive to Canada ($25 – sad face). For that reason I didn’t sign up, but I’m curious – did you? It was open to only the first 200 subscribers and is now sold out, I’m interested to see if they will open it up to more subscribers, or if a separate access will be available to join in the book club.

One of the main goals mentioned by the co-founders (Zellie Imani and Derick Brewer) is to foster community and a deeper understanding. The February theme and books have been announced, and they are both books which I already own, so I’m glad for that reason that I didn’t subscribe.

I am going to try to make sure to read the books each month that they select, as I love the premise and am going to be making even more of an effort this year to read diversely. February’s theme is From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation and features Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis (which I read earlier this month) and From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor (which I ordered earlier this month and is expected to arrive tomorrow).

 

Readathon: October 2016 Wrap Up

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Surprisingly none were super daunting – I may even have been able to stay up the entire 24 hours if I hadn’t had to go to bed because of a baby shower for a family friend in the morning.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Nimona by Noelle Stevenson is always a fantastic choice, as was Cass’ recommendation of poetry.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? None, loved it as it was
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I thought it all worked well.
  5. How many books did you read? I read 6 books and 1427 pages. All but one were re-reads.
  6. What were the names of the books you read? I read Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, How to Be Alone by Tanya Davis, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange, The Mothers by Brit Bennet, Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, and Uprooted by Naomi Novik.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? Because all but one were rereads, I really couldn’t choose! The Mothers was fantastic, and the others were all books or collections that I read specifically because I loved them.
  8. Which did you enjoy least? See above 🙂
  9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I’ve got the next one already marked in my calendar! I would plan to do the same, although do a bit more blog cheering (which is my favorite place to cheer). I hope that next year the list of blog readers is provided again!

Also, I won a prize in hour 14!! Woohooo!

Did you readathon? Do you plan to join next April? (April 29th, 2017!!) If so, let me know and I’ll know whose blog to go check out during that time 🙂

Readathon: October 2016

It’s Readathon time again!! Are you joining in the fun today? I won’t last the full 24 hours, because I never do, but I will get as much reading time in as I am able, although with a few planned breaks. I’ll be updating this post as the day goes on.

Hour 20

Reader friends, I can’t believe I’m still up. I just finished my sixth book, Uprooted by Naomi Novik – another reread. This has definitely been the readathon for rereading, and also the latest I’ve stayed up for one. We have a baby shower tomorrow to attend but I feel like I’m so close to the finish line… 😀 (But I’m still throwing in the towel and going to bed now…)

Hour 13

Over half way through!

1. What are you reading right now? I just finished The Mothers by Brit Bennett (so good!!) and am about to dip into a reread of Milk and Honey.
2. How many books have you read so far? I just finished my fourth book – one comic / graphic novel, two poetry collections, and one novel. All but the novel were rereads.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I haven’t made a pile of books, so not looking forward to anything in particular.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? So many kitty cuddles – they keep interrupting me and I just can’t say no!
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? Not a thing 🙂

Hour 8.5

Not a lot to report here. I spent some time with the boyfriend (I got home yesterday from two weeks away), and I took a mid-afternoon walking / Pokémon Go break with a friend (Dacey). I completely spaced on taking a picture, but it was a lovely time. Plus I got to meet Betel! I’ve put on some food, and now am back to reading.

Hour 3

Hard to believe it’s three hours in already! I ate some crepes, cuddled with the kittens, and checked out Twitter a bit. After seeing Cass’ great reading choices, I read two short poems. First I read Tanya Davis’ illustrated How to Be Alone (watch a video of the poem at the link), and then Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.


Hour 1.5

I was having trouble updating my site, but it seems to be working now, so I’m posting the opening survey a bit late. I just finished a lot of kitten snuggles (I’m so happy to have kittens this readathon!) as well as Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. I have so much love for Nimona, and spent forever trying to push it on everyone, and am SO HAPPY it exists.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? I am in Toronto, Canada
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? I haven’t really made a stack, I’m going from my whole library today!
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? My boyfriend just woke up and is making crepes for breakfast. It doesn’t get much better than that!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I’ve been pretty inactive on the blogging front for the last couple of years, but have still been reading as much as I can. Readathon is always a great excuse to get back on here and interact more.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I’ll be doing the same as usual, reading some books and generally enjoying the day.

Recommended Reading: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Let me tell you a little story:

I had about 40 minutes to kill before an eye exam, so I decided to start a new book. I took a look at my TBR shelves, and picked up Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I had never read anything by Holly Black, and I really didn’t know anything about the book – I got it as part of a Bunz trade for some makeup I didn’t use, and it had been sitting on my shelf since late last winter.

I sat on the edge of my bed with my phone beside me and started reading.

When my boyfriend came home and interrupted me, I was still sitting on the edge of the bed reading. I jumped up, looked at the clock, and THREE HOURS had passed. So much for my eye exam.

So… if you’re looking for a thoroughly engaging book with great characters and world building, you can’t go wrong with The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black.

Happy reading!

Readathon – April 23

Another readathon is here!! Life sure is good, here on the blog. Life just seems to go from readathon to readathon, as if that’s all there is. I have been reading all kinds of great books in between, I just haven’t been posting any reviews or details here. These days, my only social media presence is Instagram. If you want to see what I’m up to and what I’m reading, that’s the best place to go!

I’m home, and I’ve gathered my potentials for #Readathon! #readathonstack who else is excited for tomorrow??

A photo posted by Amy McKie (@amckiereads) on

Opening Meme, 8am EST

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? I am in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? I made a pile of books, though I don’t always tend to stick to my pile. I’ve tried to chose a varied list of non-fiction, fiction, and young-adult, as well as a couple of romance (which is a new thing I’ve been reading lately!). I’m quite excited for everything in the stack today!
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I haven’t planned them out in too much detail, but I did pick up some ginger lemon cream cookies, which I’m very excited about.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I’m a project manager with an IT company, and am spending every second week or so in New Orleans this year – any tips for me while I’m there?
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I have to admit that I am shamefully nervous about this year – I’ve LOVED cheering in the past couple of readathons, but this year all of the cheering is on Twitter. I’m hardly on Twitter anymore, and have no idea how to cheer nearly as well there! Silly, right? I shouldn’t be so sad about missing cheering on blogs when I can’t even be bothered to update mine all year long! 😉

Happy reading everyone!

 

Readathon – October 2015

Hello dear readers! It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I last posted. Then again, when I think back on the past year, I find it hard to believe that October is here again. The past year has been ridiculously busy at work, and I’ve not really done a lot else. I am working on changing that, however, and getting back to more normal hours.

I had so much fun last year with the reading and cheering, and so when I found that I was free (semi-free, I am on-call all weekend, boo) I knew that I wanted to participate again!

Readathon Oct 2015 Reading Stack

Readathon Oct 2015 Reading Stack

Opening Meme, 8am EST

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? I am in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is chilly today with a current temperature of 1* Celsius (34* Fahrenheit) and SNOW possible for later today. I am not a fan of this, and hope to spend most of the day curled up with my electric blanket!
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? I have a pile of comic trades, as well as a few library books to read. I’ve also added in a few fiction books from my tbr shelves. I am quite excited for all of them, and may or may not even stick to the pile. I find certain books can spark a desire for other topics or types of books, and I love following that trail.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I haven’t planned them out in too much detail, but I do have some leftover dahl from my boyfriend’s parents that I’m looking forward to for lunch!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! Hmm… almost-thirty reader, who works too much. Lover of cats, travel, tea, and wine.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I think I’ll spend the day the same way as last year! Lots of cheering, lots of reading, a trip to the library (which is about a 5 minute walk from my apartment), and hopefully I’ll manage to stay up later this year!

Update hour 2: 9:30am

I’m cheering with Team Dogwood this readathon, and completed my first round of visits to each of the blogs. I’ve also participated in the Cover Escape mini-challenge hosted by Unabridged Chick.

If I could escape into any book cover… This would be my pick! Beach > cold. #readathon

A photo posted by Amy McKie (@amckiereads) on

On this cold, fall day, I chose the lovely beach on Paradise, by Abdulrazak Gurnah, which is also a fantastic read. Update hour 3: 10:30am I’ve had some breakfast and tea, finished reading The Wicked + The Divine: Fandemonium, which was as fantastic as I expected it to be. I thought I’d start off the morning with a few of the comic trades I have, and dig into a book in a few hours. This hour also features the Diversity Shelfie mini-challenge, hosted by Pam at An Unconventional Librarian.

Obviously I couldn’t pick just one, but I couldn’t hold more than four at once, so you know. I guess it’ll have to do 🙂 And now all I want to do is reread The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin…

Update hour 6: 1pm

Lunch has been eaten, and I’ve powered through four more comic trades: Rat Queens: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth, Ms. Marvel: Generation Why, Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max, and Sex Criminals: Two Worlds, One Cop. I have two more comic trades, but I think I’m going to circle back and finish the book I started last night, Assata Shakur’s autobiography, which I was really enjoying. After that, I’ll do another round of cheering.

I hope you’re all enjoying your readathon!

I’ve finished a few comics, now it’s book time. #readathon #amreading #books

A photo posted by Amy McKie (@amckiereads) on

Update hour 8: 3:45pm Phew I can’t believe it is already hour 8 – how did that happen?! I’ve finished Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur, which was really interesting. I’ve also completed another cheer-leading round for Team Dogwood! I really enjoy the cheer-leading and finds it gives a nice break from reading. I love seeing what everyone else is reading. I’m now going to take a short break and wander to my library, and pick up a few more snacks. Because one can never have enough snacks.

Update hour 12: 7:15pm, Mid Event Survey

The library and snack excursion was a nice break, however… it SNOWED while I was out, which was not my favorite at all! I made up for it by buying extra tasty snacks. Since my return, I’ve finished another book: An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah, a collection of short stories set in Zimbabwe.

1. What are you reading right now? I’m about to start Hinges, another comic trade.
2. How many books have you read so far? I’ve finished five comic trades, one non-fiction book (102 pages, the rest I read last night), and one collection of short stories.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I’m not sure, really. I haven’t decided yet how late I will continue reading, or what I will read after the next two comic trades.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? No surprises yet, except possibly how quick time seems to be flying by!

How about you, are you still awake and reading?

Update hour 16(!): 11:45pm

If you are shocked that I’m still up and reading, don’t worry, I am as well. I just did a third cheering round and am pretty happy about that (44 blogs, each visited 3 times!). I’d like to get a fourth cheering round in, in another 6 hours or so, but I’m not going to make any promises of being awake at that time!

Prior to that, I finished two more comic trades: Hinges (volume 1 of Clockwork City), and Bitch Planet. I also had some supper, and a wonderful bath paired with a book. That book was Do What You Love: And Other Lies About Success and Happiness by Miya Tokumitsu, and which I just finished. Given how work has been going this year, it was a book I was very interested to read!

About to begin my next #readathon book and a bath.

A photo posted by Amy McKie (@amckiereads) on

Update, Post Readathon: 8:15am, Closing Survey

Well. As I had mentioned, I was on-call for work all day yesterday, and I am again today. I saw some emails come through and knew I would have to be up and working at 8am, so I figured at 1am that I better get some sleep.

Which hour was most daunting for you? Well, I had to give up at 1pm and go to sleep, with 7 hours left, so I suppose that one.
Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Comic trades worked really well for me!
Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope, it’s always fantastic as it is 🙂
What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? It all worked!
How many books did you read? I read 7 comics and parts of four books – one I had started the day before and finished, two I started and finished, and I started another book but didn’t finish it.
What were the names of the books you read? I read:

  1. The Wicked + The Divine: Fandemonium by Gillen McKelvie and Wilson Cowles – comic, 168 pages
  2. Rat Queens: Thte Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch, and Stjepan Sejic – comic, 136 pages
  3. Ms. Marvel: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, and Adrian Alphona – comic, 136 pages
  4. Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke A. Allen – comic, 112 pages
  5. Sex Criminals: Two Worlds, One Cop by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky – comic, 128 pages
  6. Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur – non-fiction, 102 pages read
  7. An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah – short stories, 224 pages
  8. Hinges: Clockwork City Book 1 by Meredith McClaren – comic, 112 pages
  9. Bitch Planet: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro – comic, 136 pages
  10. Do What You Love: And Other Lies About Success and Happiness by Miya Tokumitsu – non-fiction, 188 pages
  11. Untwine by Edwidge Danticat – young adult fiction, 100 pages read

Which book did you enjoy most? Hmmm I don’t know if I can answer this, I really enjoyed everything, and it was a varied list of books!
Which did you enjoy least? Hmmm I quite enjoyed everything, but the comic Hinges was a bit harder to follow with very little text, so perhaps itt.
If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? Moat cheering!! I tend to open a few tabs at once and cheer on all off them before going back and updating the spreadsheet, working top to bottom. I also try to go straight through and hit everyone at once, starting reading the next post as my comment is still posting on the last. Efficiency is key 🙂
How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I’m a big fan of reading and of cheering, so I’d stick to the same thing!

Brief Thoughts on November Nonfiction Reads (2)

As I get back into blogging, one thing I’m going to have to keep reminding myself is to keep reading what *I* want to read. During my time away from blogging world, I read fairly widely and diversely. I find as I get back into the blogging world, I’m getting all kinds of great sounding recommendations that I’m searching out – but the end result is that my reading is threatening to become less diverse. Where you get your recommendations matters, as does the echo chamber that blogging often creates.

In the past week I’ve read another 4 non-fiction books. Here are some brief thoughts on each of them.

When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson

This collection of essays was not at all what I imagined it was going to be. I tend to like going into books with little to no advance knowledge of their subject, because I like the surprise. Generally with nonfiction, however, I pick books based on their subject. In this case, I added the book to my hold list at the library based on a couple of tweets on her writing and how fantastic it was. Obviously I gravitated toward the nonfiction offerings, and this collection appeared to be about books and reading and so I requested it.

Imagine my surprise when I begin reading and find a collection of essays on religion, divinity, theology, history, anthropology, science, culture, politics, and more! The writing is beautiful and the ideas are expansive and kind and marvelous. Her take on religion is one which grants every human the highest level of intelligence. She dissects many texts on religion and atheism and science, bringing up different opinions or aspects, looking at anthropology and history, and comparing what we say to how we act. A key point she makes a few times on the subject is that all authors have their own biases and start from certain assumptions, and so even the most objective nonfiction books should be read skeptically. This is a great point that we should all remember, and is a great reminder on why we should read widely.

A truly remarkable collection of essays that, while I didn’t agree with in all parts, I still enjoyed reading.

I am convinced that the broadest possible exercise of imagination is the thing most conducive to human health, individual and global. (page 26)

Since it is intelligence that distinguishes our species and inventiveness that has determined our history, by what standard should an unconventional act or attitude be called unnatural? (page 145)

When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life by Andy Miller

I’m not sure what is dangerous about reading fifty books, but Miller does make a case that the reading that he did changed his life, reminding him of the pleasures of reading and bringing more happiness into his life. The book chronicles his decision to actually read many of the books he claimed, throughout his life, that he had actually read. From that list of 12, he continued on to read another 38. The titles are varied but ranging mostly from classic to male cult favorites.

At one point the author remarks on the internationalism of his list (which contained only British, American, Irish, Russian, and German authors…) while bemoaning the sparsity of female authors on the list. That tells you something, perhaps, of my thoughts on the books he chose – I found the lack of diversity and gender ratio (5 to 1) disappointing. While there are titles I want to read from among his list, some of the books didn’t interest me at all.

The idea of books having an impact on your life is of course something I would agree with. Miller’s constant assertions on the imminent death of libraries and paper books I agreed with less, as with his comments on giving up on a book, or his frequent disparaging comments on Dan Brown. He seemed to go back and forth on what could or couldn’t be included as a “great book”, often seeming rather dismissive of things he didn’t particular enjoy.

Could someone honestly call themselves well-read without reading Middlemarch, Moby-Dick, and Anna Karenina? Probably not. (page 53)

I frequently yearned to escape from my dull routine and a great book – of any stripe – offers us a cheap getaway from reality. But there are all sorts of holiday destinations and a multitude of ways to travel. (page 101)

Stitches by David Small

Another graphic memoir! (I swear I usually read a lot less memoirs…!) This book takes us through Small’s early life growing up in Detroit, his family troubles, and the results of a harmless operation. Beautiful illustrations and an interesting story.

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig

I have some feelings about this book as well. It was interesting and informative, and I highly recommend it as a great historical look at an important scientific breakthrough that affects so many of us. That being said, I think it, as with any book, contains some biases.

As the author mentioned a few times, the results of some of the trials and tests may have gone differently if more women had had a say in what were acceptable side effects. Along the same line, I wondered if a woman or a person of color might discuss some points in more detail that Eig seems willing to brush aside. For example: Sanger was a remarkable lady who accomplished much, but Eig seems a bit forgiving of her part in the eugenics movement, almost arguing that she said the things she did and allied with groups that she did solely to advance her own cause. As well, the trials in Puerto Rico are still a point of bitterness and contention, and when I’ve read about them in the past they’ve been used as examples of how trials should not be done. Again, Eig almost brushes this off, as if it were necessary to do the trials in the way they did.

While an interesting read, I recommend reading with an open mind and then doing some independent research. I haven’t read it, but one book on my wish list dealing with this subject is Sonia Shah’s The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World’s Poorest Patients.

What have you been reading for nonfiction November?

Brief Thoughts on November Nonfiction Reads

I had plans to actually get some longer thoughts posted on a few books I read and loved recently, but work got busy, and now my mom and aunt are visiting for a few days. My mom flew in from PEI with oysters and mussels so we’ve had a seafood feast, and now we’re entertaining ourselves with food and shows and more tasty food!

Since November 1st I’ve read 5 non-fiction books. That number is so high because three of them were graphic novels (which seems to be a bit of a theme this year in my reading, and in the nonfiction reading of others this month), one was a cookbook, and one was a book of poetry (which perhaps shouldn’t count, but I think do). Here are my thoughts on all five of them.

Dinner: The Playbook by Jenny Rosenstrach

I picked this book up because I LOVE Dinner: A Love Story by Rosenstrach. It is basically my food bible. I’ve gifted it a number of times and each time I have, I get back rave reviews. It is a good story, but also packed with simple yet truly delicious (and complicated tasting!) meals. Unfortunately I didn’t love The Playbook nearly as much. It is written as a challenge – to cook 30 new meals for your family in 30 days, as a way to get out of the rut of eating the same thing and of kids being unwilling to try new things. The recipes look good, but if you’re already happy enough with your cooking and variety, I recommend her first instead of this one. If you need a challenge to help you out, then try this one.

Fun Home: A Tragicomedy & Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel

Odd fact about me: I am generally very uncomfortable with memoirs. People are writing about their own lives, without the distance that an outside third-party might bring to their story, and they are writing while other inhabitants of their stories and worlds are still alive. This always leads me to wondering what those being written about actually think, and how much their lives may be disrupted by the publication.

Bechdel, in her defense, does talk about this. Are You My Mother? includes various discussions between her and her mother about the writing of Fun Home, about her mother’s thoughts on it, and about her mother’s thoughts on writing a book about her. It also included conversations with girlfriends and with therapists, and was really as much a look at the psychoanalytical theories on growing up and the bond between mothers and daughters, the effects of growing up in abusive homes, and so on as it was a true story about her and her mother.

Fun Home, rather than tackling the subject of the effects of family on later life, is all about her father, their life growing up with him, some of his history, and his death. It discusses his violence, his time in therapy, his brush with the law, and his sexuality. Bechdel compares her coming out as gay to his closeted gayness. I’m just going to say that the parts about her dad and his, basically, grooming of younger men did put me off slightly, as the power imbalance (he was a teacher) could have affected consent. Did anyone else wonder on this, or was that just me?

Both books are graphic memoirs, broken into different chapters which don’t necessarily flow in a chronological order. I found them both to be slightly disjointed, although interesting. Decent reads, though not favourites.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Another graphic memoir, although this one, being more about the author herself and not disparaging of others in her life, didn’t make me quite as uncomfortable as memoirs generally do. In Relish Knisley discusses memories and food, and how the two are often linked for her. Her family is heavily involved in food and the food industry, and so food made up a large part of her life. Through the memoir she shares different memories through her life of food, cooking, and travels. Each chapter ends with a short recipe, which all looked interesting and delicious. I again found it decent but not a favourite.

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppernann

I saved the best for last – this collection of poems was incredible. The collection starts with an opening poem titled The Woods:

The action’s always there.
Where are the fairy tales about gym class
or the doctor’s office of the back of the bus
where bad things also happen?
Pigs can buy cheap building materials
just as easily in the suburbs.
Wolves stage invasions. Girls spit out
cereal, break chairs, and curl beneath
covers like pill bugs or selfish grannies
avoiding the mess.
No need for a bunch of trees.
You can lost your way anywhere.

So many lines and stanzas and whole poems in this collection really resonated and could become quotable favourites. Heppernann does a great job bringing the fairy tale to every day life, showing the ways the stories we are told as children continue to both resonate through our lives and haunt our lives. She expertly skewers the beauty myths and expectations placed on young women throughout, in unsettling, dark, and beautiful poems.

You can feel free to skip the rest, but I highly recommend you pick up this one!

What have you been reading through the start of nonfiction November?

Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction

I am a huge fan of nonfiction, so am ridiculously excited about Nonfiction November! The event is being hosted by Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness), Leslie (Regular Rumination), Katie (Doing Dewey), and Rebecca (I’m Lost In Books). The opening meme is being hosted by Kim – go on over and participate!

While I read a variety of types of books, nonfiction usually makes up between 30-40% by year-end. Right now it’s sitting at around 36% of my reading for the year so far. I’ve read 56 nonfiction books so far this year. Of those: 16 male authors, 44 female authors, 2 with trans or genderqueer authors (some were anthologies which contained multiple authors). 15 were by authors of color, another 9 were international (outside of US or Canada), and 14 included LGBTQ authors and topics.  Without really trying, mainly due to my interest in sociology and social justice, my reading tends to fall to at least 25% non-white authors and GLBTQ authors and topics.

New this year, 8 of the nonfiction titles I read were cookbooks or craftbooks. In the past I’ve not read many of these types of books. (Unsurprisingly, they skewed toward female authors, but white and het- cis- authors.) This has been due to my increased time for cooking and crafting. Another 7 could be classified as memoir – most of which I wasn’t a huge fan of (more on this later this month, I’m sure). Three were graphic novels.

Overall, quite a variety. You can see the full list of what I’ve read here.

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

I am having a hard time trying to pick just one or even just a couple. I want to list over a dozen here… But let me try to at least keep it only to a dozen! Here they are in order read:

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

As has Kim, I’ve recommended The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison many times! I’ve also recommended A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory From a Prairie Landscape by Candace Savage and Israel / Palestine and the Queer International by Sarah Schulman to various friends.

(I cheated by taking these off of my favourites list and moving them here – they are all also very high on my favourite reads of the year list!)

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?

Hmmm… to be honest, I think I’ve read fairly widely so far this year. I hope I can just continue that trend!

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I’m mainly excited to see more bloggers talking about nonfiction – it just doesn’t get nearly enough love! I’m also hoping to help ease myself back into blogging with it.