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In The Club

All Thrill, No Chill

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

Friends! Have you been keeping up with Only Murders in the Building? Last week I told myself that I would only watch again once all the episodes were in. Those cliffhangers really irk my soul. Naturally, I watched it anyway and found myself, once again, being upset at those credits rolling. A part from that, though, Jane Lynch in last week’s episode was *chef’s kiss*. I mean, she’s always wonderful in everything she’s in, but her role in this show! Plus, that whole gag about hip motions was sending me. By the time this newsletter comes out, the finale will have aired. We’ll talk more about who killed Tim Kono then. In the meantime, don’t forget to get your Book Riot 10th anniversary schwag that’s only available for a short time!

Now, on to the club!


Nibbles and Sips

I had some drunken noodles for the first time the other day, and let me tell you, they slap. Like many Thai dishes, fresh basil is center stage in the flavor profile. Many add chicken or shrimp, but the tofu I had with mine was delicious. Just make sure your noodles are extra t h i c c. Pai leads us to glory.

SN: the picture is from a different site.


For When You Want a Little Turbulence

…but don’t want to crash. Know what I mean? Here are some interesting thrillers by women to shake you up a little.

Your House Will Pay cover image

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Learning about the story that inspired this made my blood boil. Grace Park’s family, despite the sheltered life her Korean immigrant parents have afforded her, is broken. Shawn Matthews deals with a disjointed family as well. One that suffered the murder of his teenage sister in 1991. When Grace’s mother is shot in a drive-by, Shawn must provide an alibi. Although he’s eventually cleared, he begins to wonder about his cousin Ray’s involvement, and Grace starts to realize why her sister Miriam hasn’t spoken to their mother in years.

The Lost Man cover image

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Here, three brothers manage land in Queensland so vast there are hours between each of their houses. One of the brothers, Cam, never comes home one day and is later found on the stockman’s grave— an old landmark associated with local ghost stories— with his keys neatly placed in the front seat of his car. Cam is thought to have taken his own life, but the unsettling dynamic amongst those in his household as well as family secrets seem to suggest otherwise. Jane Harper always seems to write the Australian settings she uses as other characters, and this one helps to push themes of isolation, which serves to amplify the family drama.

cover image of Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

This YA novel falls under what the kids call dark academia and secured its twenty one year old author a seven figure book deal. Gen Z just being built different is a reality I often discuss, and clearly, Àbíké-Íyímídé is no exception. It follows head girl Chiamaka and the talented Devon —the only two Black students at a prestigious and very white high school— as they contend with an anonymous texter known as Aces. Aces is hellbent on exposing everything Chiamaka and Devon want to keep secret and takes their torture of the two students quite far in this queer novel that explores systemic racism with echoes of Gossip Girl.

Suggestion Section

From Book Riot


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me choppin’ it up with Kelly Jensen on the Hey YA podcast every couple of weeks. I also write the new newsletter In Reading Color that focuses exclusively on literature by people of color. It’s out every Tuesday.

Until next week,

-E

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In The Club

The Witches Have It

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

Before we get to the books, shimmy on over here to get some 10th anniversary merchandise that’s only offered for a limited time.

Now, book club besties. I feel some type of way. My little brother and I are trying to coordinate holiday travel. Holiday travel. Already. How is next month Thanksgiving?? I feel like… someone’s been lying to me. Like I need a refund or something. On the other hand, I am ready for a lil Black Friday deal or two, if I’m keeping it real.

Conflicted feelings aside, let’s get to the club!


Nibbles and Sips

image of a plate with Chile rellenos

Have you ever had chile rellenos? Because you should. They’re basically fried poblano peppers stuff with cheese (usually Oaxacan cheese, but other cheese can work), which sounds simple enough, but they’re boommmb. Isabel at Isabel Eats guides the way.

Now let’s get to the books!

The Witchery

The reason so many fall releases are so much fun to me is because of all the new books about witches. I’ve always loved reading about powerful women, whether their power is based in how they carry themselves or some outward thing (like magic, say).

Cover of Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis

Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis

Katrell is a mess. Period. It’s not her fault, though. Her mother is even more of a mess and exploits her daughter’s ability that allows her to speak to the dead. The money Katrell gets from connecting people with their departed loved ones goes towards paying for said deadbeat mother and whoever her mother’s abusive loser-of-the-month boyfriend is. All while (barely) going to high school and working a low-wage job. Bless her heart, you know how much I would be charging with that power?! I would have what they call eff-you money. Katrell is young and doesn’t know any better, though, and it shows. She’s warned one day by her best friend’s dead grandmother during a session to stop communing with the dead, but she doesn’t listen. And, it gets bad bad.

Book Club Bonus: Talk about the type of family trauma that binds and why Katrell seemed to keep making the same mistake over and over. Why do you think some people hurtle towards self-destruction?

book cover of The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore

Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore

This is set in a small town in England in 1643. While I feel there’s a lot written about witches during this time, this felt a little different because Manningtree is a place where there is a dearth of men on account of the war. Women are left to their own devices. That is, until Matthew Hopkins arrives dressed in head-to-toe black, asking what the women in town are up to. To which I say: Sir, if you don’t mind your damn business. You can imagine what happens next. Whispers of suspicion, betrayal, covens, and pacts converge as the independence of the women of Manningtree starts to be realized.

Book Club Bonus: Female independence and sexuality are often viewed contentiously in witch stories set in Puritan settings. It’s obviously sexist, but why do you think that is? What do you think is it about these things that Puritans found so threatening?

Conjure Women Book Cover

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora 

This technically came out last year, but you’ll still want to bump it up on your TBR, especially since Atakora used interviews from formerly enslaved people collected by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s to inform her writing. It’s set on an isolated former plantation in the south after the Civil War. Rue is the reluctant local midwife and occasional setter of curses (upon request), continuing on her beloved mother’s position in town. One day Rue helps to deliver a baby that’s got the whole town pressedT. He’s born with a caul and strange, black eyes. Then other children start dying. Whispers of Rue being a witch rather than a healer start to circulate, and people seek comfort in a preacher. Rue has to determine if this preacher is for her, or not, as she tries to keep her own secrets hidden.

Book Club Bonus: It’s interesting how a lot of witches throughout history have had a close tie to medical things. Many times a connection to witchcraft may be drawn to midwives, healing women, etc. Even the potions and tinctures of the craft may be likened to medicine (and were the only medicine available at times). Discuss: Would a man doing similar things as witches (mixing herbs, delivery babies, etc.) be considered a witch or something else?

Suggestion Section


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me choppin’ it up with Kelly Jensen on the Hey YA podcast every couple of weeks. I also write the new newsletter In Reading Color that focuses exclusively on literature by people of color. It’s out every Tuesday.

Until next week,

-E

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In The Club

Latinx Tales to Haunt You

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

Friends, do y’all have a safe space? A place to go when just need a pick me up? Well, one of mine is Target,  or “tar-zhay,” as us cultured folk call it. I once saw a tweet on Black Twitter asking what everyone was getting at Target that day. Someone responded “Target will let me know when I get there,” and I agree. This week, when I got to Target, she let me know that I should get a mug that said “witch’s brew” and sparkly, glam pumpkins from that lil discount section they have at the front (as well as *whispers* a pumpkinspicelatte). Target is so wise.

Now, on to the club!


Nibbles and Sips

Y’all. Two words: pumpkin flan.

a plate of pumpkin flan on a white surface next to a plate, cutlery, and four small pumpkins

Look how at how beautifully caramel it is. Meseidy over at the Noshery gives us the tea on how to achieve this. You’ll need: sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, and pumpkin spice. Basically what dreams are made of.

Spooky Latinx

In celebration of Latinx History Month, which is September 15-October 15— and just in time for spooky season— we’re discussing tales from the Latinx crypt.

her body and other parties

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Genre chameleon Machado uses magical realism, horror, comedy, and science fiction in this collection of stories to examine what it’s like to have a female body: the entitlement others have to it and the feeling of disembodiment the owners of such bodies feel at times. Among the eight stories are: a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit tale with ghosts, a horror story about a woman who refuses— against her husband’s pleas— to remove a green ribbon from her neck, and the unfortunately timely tale of a woman who remembers her sexual encounters as an epidemic rages. In addition to having writing that is inventive, queer, and beautiful while being furious, Machado is also apparently clairvoyant. Reading that plague story now might hit a little close to home.

cover of The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova

The Ecuadorian matriarch of the Montoyas has been through it. Now, she summons her descendants to distribute amongst them their inheritance. They hope to finally get some answers concerning the secrets that surround her. Instead, she is transformed, leaving a bigger shroud of mystery than before. Years later, Orquidea’s blessings are visited upon her descendants, but then an unknown entity starts to make its way through the Montoyas in this book about generational curses with Marquez vibes.

cover of things we lost in the fire by

Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez, translated by Megan McDowell 

Enríquez brings the dark parts of Argentina to life in this collection of stories that feature macabre and grotesque explorations of life in a place ripe with inequality and violence. A young woman walks into an abandoned house and never returns; a fanged and feral boy is kept chained; and women set themselves on fire to protest domestic violence. Fans of Shirley Jackson will appreciate Enríquez’s dive into the terrors of everyday life.

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson cover image

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Before her best friend Riley died, she and Mila were the somewhat outcast spooky girls of their small town high school who dabbled in witchcraft out of boredom and curiosity. Once a string of high school girls die— including Riley— Mila decides against her better judgement to use a mysterious grimoire that showed up randomly to bring her friend back to life to. She accidentally brings back the high school mean girls as well. Now, she has to keep three undead teenage girls together as she tries to be on her Olivia Benson ish and figure out who killed them all before the spell wears in a week. This also has a little in common with the reveal in Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. If ya know, ya know.

Suggestion Section

RIP, Chadwick! Netflix, Howard University Establish $5.4M Chadwick Boseman Scholarship

“Bewilderment” is the latest selection for Oprah’s Book Club

Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga to Star in ‘Macbeth’ on Broadway


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me choppin’ it up with Kelly Jensen on the Hey YA podcast every couple of weeks.

Until next week.

-E

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In The Club

Poetic Justice

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

I said goodbye to the latest test prep class I was teaching this past weekend. In the last discussion we had before actually starting class, I asked them what career fields they wanted to go into. It’s a basic enough icebreaker type of question, but one I hadn’t asked yet—I had always focused on the fun stuff like their favorite video games and food, naturally.

As before, their answers were so interesting. There was a range of interests. One student wanted to continue her love of dancing while also working in law. Another wanted to go into music, and a third wanted to be a dentist with a café. I love how they all already knew what they wanted to do and were willing to step outside the box and do things that interested them.

This was one of the funnest groups I’ve had, and I’ll really miss them. In my final go-forth-and-prosper spiel to them, I told them to be proud of what they had accomplished so far and to go easy on themselves as standardized tests were never meant for us— as in people of color or non-rich people— to do well on. Afterwards, one of them said I was a G and a real one. Excuse me while I cry thug tears.

Now, let’s get to the club!


Nibbles and Sips

Today I present to you vegan lomo saltado. It doesn’t have to be vegan, that’s just the way Alexis Marie Montoya of The Bronx Vegan prepared them. Feel free to use the usual steak in this Peruvian dish, especially since Alexis said the fake steak wasn’t exactly cutting it. Here’s another non-vegan recipe by Tasty.

Now, let’s get to the books!

Poets as Novelists

Poetry requires such an acute command of language that makes poets excellent novelists. I’ve heard of poets’ prose being likened to having a Midas touch as far as their ability to construct sentences goes. Below are a few novels by poets for you and your book clubs to see for yourselves.

cover of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

A son writes a letter to a mother that can’t read. He writes of the details that make him different —a generational curse of abuse, life in Vietnam before immigrating, and an alienating otherness— building up the stories of himself until a great revelation. When You’re done with this novel, consider Vuong’s 2016 book much lauded book of poetry, Night Sky with Exit Wounds (or even read the poetry first).

cover of Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

Memorial Drive by Natasha Tretheway

At nineteen, as Tretheway set out to start her life, her mother’s was brutally ended. An abusive former stepfather first tried to kill her mother and was imprisoned. Once he was released, he tried again and succeeded. Tretheway examines all of her life leading up to that fateful moment, including recounting her happy childhood in the south as a child of a Black mother and white father, and traveling back to the place her mother was killed. With poetic precision, she reopens old wounds and wades through her grief. Tretheway won a Pulitzer for Native Guard and was appointed the United States Poet Laureate in 2012.

cover of How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith

How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith

Smith takes the history of slavery and shows us where it exists in the physical. He does this by bridging the gap between historical fact and what some feel is present day relevance. He passes through Monticello, Angola Prison, and more, showing how each place tells of their involvement in slavery. In addition to being a poet, Smith is a staff writer for the Atlantic. His collection of poetry, Counting Descent, won a Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Award.

Book Club Bonus: Select a few poems of the authors’ to discuss alongside their novels.

Suggestion Section

For Banned Book Week, Te-Nehisi Coates shares his thoughts on recent book bannings.

The Tragedy of Macbeth, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDorman, is out in December.

Rioter Kelly Jensen writes about libraries, accessibility, and ebooks here.


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me choppin’ it up with Kelly Jensen on the Hey YA podcast every couple of weeks.

Until next week.

-E

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In The Club

Only Murder Books in the Building

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. Book club besties, can we talk about Only Murders in the Building?!

Let me start off by saying that when I saw ads for the show, I was like “eh.” I wasn’t a super big fan of anyone starring in it (although I like them all well enough), and it didn’t seem worth trying to battle my short attention span for. One day, I felt like watching something kind of low-key and possibly mildly funny, so I turned it on. I was pleasantly surprised.

It’s got just enough whimsicality, broadway, and people dropping F-bombs to feel so authentically New York City. There are also the main characters, who, in addition to having their own fun personality quirks, have some dark secrets of their own. It’s campy, murder-y fun that has the added bonus of showing beautiful Manhattan condo interiors *cries in broke*. And, although it fully embraces today’s technology (it’s all about how the main characters are making a podcast), I think it also has nods to some more classic elements of crime stories. It got me thinking back to those noir detective movies that took place in New York City that always involved some dame and a guy named Johnny.

And with that, we’re on to the club!


Nibbles and Sips

Get into this vegan tres leches cake with strawberry (!!) from Anita’s Coconut Milk Yogurt founder and fair trade advocate, Anita Shepard. Support sustainable Latinx owned businesses like Anita’s, too, if you’re able.

Noir in the City and Beyond

cover image of Harlem Shuffle showing a collage

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

This uptown caper from two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author Whitehead is an obvious choice, being set in 1960s Harlem and all. It follows Ray Carney as he tries to escape his heritage as a crook by supporting his family with selling reasonably priced used furniture on 125th street. Problem is it’s not quite enough to pay bills, or even keep his wife’s bougie parents from talking mess. To supplement, his cousin Freddie brings him side hustles…of the illegal variety. Freddie’s latest opportunity for Ray involves robbing the Hotel Therese, which is the nicest hotel in Harlem. That goes about as well as you’d expect, in this novel with a cast of characters that include everyone from gangsters to crooked cops and “pornographers.”

Velvet Was the Night Book Cover

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

That S.M.G. reign just won’t let up. She manages to release interesting titles back-to-back and even in different genres! Similar to Harlem Shuffle, this is also a bit different from the author’s norm. This one is set in 1970s Mexico City, though. In it we find Maite, a secretary who, amidst the political upheaval of her city, seems to only live for the escapism that romance comics can provide (I feel you, girl). Maite suddenly finds herself trying to find out what happened to her beautiful and intriguing neighbor, Lenora, who went missing. As she’s looking for her, so is Elvis, an enforcer for a government backed anti-uprising team. He finds himself becoming more and more intrigued with Maite and the many things they have in common as he also tries to find out what happened to Lenora. Coming closer to unraveling the mystery of Lenora’s disappearance means surviving dangers, some of which come in the form of Russian spies and government agents intent on maintaining Lenora’s secret.

Side note, we actually see real-life examples of Maite’s desire for the happy endings that romance novels provide. This post by Trisha Brown shows how people read more romance during the pandemic.

Winter Counts cover image

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Virgil is who victims of violent crimes go to on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota when they are failed by the U.S. government, and the Tribal courts. He suddenly has to turn his efforts to his 14-year-old nephew, who becomes wrapped up in the heroin trade that’s blossoming on the reservation. Virgil and his ex set out to stop the influx of drugs and chase down leads all the way to Denver as new tribal initiatives are enacted and Virgil must grapple with his Native identity.

Book Club Bonus: All three books deal with people of color who display seemingly shady moral character. They are also part of a group of people on the other end of privilege. They are the descendants of people whose communities and cultures were ravished in order to carve out a space for a protected class, free from the mire that comes from being them, essentially. Discuss if it is fair to judge them based on the same set of rules that is applied to those from higher socioeconomic classes who had more opportunity. Or, does criminality not allow for gray area? Are the main characters ultimately unredeemable?

Suggestion Section


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me choppin’ it up with Kelly Jensen on the Hey YA podcast every couple of weeks.

Until next week.

-E

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In The Club

Women in STEM

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. I hope you all had nice weekends. I recently started leading a weekend prep course through a public library again. This course began last year through a public library in Jersey City, NJ free to students. All of my students are Asian, Black, Middle Eastern, and/or Latinx and are super lovely. I’ve been surprised not only at how proactive they were to seek out a course for themselves, but also that they are willing to sit in front of a screen for even longer trying to study for a tedious standardized test.

They’re also really interesting. In getting to know them, I’ve found out they code for fun. Literally. Like, I asked what they do to chill when they have down time, and they said they code. And all the students who said that were girls! Meanwhile, some people in my generation. When I tell you this younger generation is built different! Sheesh! As we lift our thoughts and prayers to Sultan in his Excel endeavors, I feel inspired by my students to talk about women in STEM.

Let’s get to the club!


Nibbles and Sips

Fellow Rioter Susie Dumond reviewed some cookbook recipes for buttermilk biscuits in this article that has my southern heart tingling.

Here’s one of the recipes. I know they’re technically different from scones, but I still think they’d be delicious with some clotted cream and jam. Just saying.

And Now For Some STEM

cover image of The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung

Katherine grows up knowing she is different. She’s the child of a Chinese mother and white father in the mid-twentieth century, sure, but it’s more than that. Her parents are not exactly who they’re letting on to be. From the first sentence, we’re given an explanation– an apology of sorts, even– of the narrator’s womaness: “I suppose I should warn you that I tell a story like a woman, looping into myself, interrupting.”  Her otherness as a girl/woman is felt when she is discovered to be a math prodigy as a child as well as when she is one of the only female students at MIT. Her desire to solve one of the greatest mysteries in math, the Riemann hypothesis, leads her to theorems and equations that may help her also solve the mystery of her parents.

Book Club Bonus: The book opens with a story of the Muses of ancient Greek mythology and how they must sing into and through men. How does this relate to the current state of women being in certain professions? How does it relate to Katherine and what some of the men she encounters want from her?

cover image of Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Gifty is a on her way to getting her PhD at Stanford in neuroscience when her mother starts to experience severe depression again. She had experienced it before when Gifty’s brother, a 16-year-old gifted high school athlete, died of an opioid addiction that started with a prescription for an injury. Gifty hopes to find salvation for her family in the lab mice’s brains she examines as she finds herself turning back to her evangelical upbringing to cope with loneliness in this novel that grapples with depression, grief, addiction, and the juxtaposition of science and faith.

Book Club Bonus: Gifty’s pastor father sent her mother to her “folding her up the way you would a jumpsuit.” Discuss how women are often made to feel like they should take up less physical space. How does this relate to taking up space in other arenas of life?

Honey Girl book cover by Morgan Rogers

Honey Girl Morgan Rogers 

Grace Porter has always done everything the right, Porter way and followed her father’s instructions on life. This includes getting a PhD in astronomy by the age of 28. Now, despite this great accomplishment, she’s finds herself unfulfilled. During a celebratory Las Vegas trip, her need to break free comes to a head and she drunkenly marries a stranger. When she sobers up, she realizes she doesn’t even know her name and, what’s more, the woman is on her way back to New York City. As the pressures of her father’s expectations and what it’s like to be the only queer Black woman in a mostly white field mount, she decides to leave the West coast for an opportunity to see if maybe this marriage is worth saving. She and Yuki get to know each other in a testament to good friendships in the queer community and finding your own way.

Book Club Bonus: Grace seems to have a community of people supporting her, but still feels alone. What does this say about the true nature of loneliness?

Suggestion Section

Exciting news! We’re looking for an Ad Ops Associate at Book Riot. If you or anyone you know may be interested, please click here to apply by September 30, 2021.

Amerie’s Book Club selection for September is Night Bitch by Rachel Yoder.

Support these Indigenous owned bookstores if you can!


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me choppin’ it up with Kelly Jensen on the Hey YA podcast every couple of weeks.

Until next week.

-E

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In The Club

Fantastical Novellas

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. We’re now in that weird transition period where it still feels hot, but all the Halloween decorations and spooky book releases have me ready to hop into an all black turtle neck ensemble. I may even be ready for a pumpkin spice latte or two *hangs head in basic shame*. I’m starting to lean into all the fall vibes, I just need for the temperature to catch up!

And with that said, to the club!


Nibbles and Sips

I have been on a tofu kick lately as I have been consciously trying to eat more plant-based meals. I grew up thinking tofu was super flavorless and have since learned the error of my ways as an adult. Try these Vietnamese sandwiches with marinated tofu and let me know what you think! The key I think is the baguette (you want fresh! soft on the inside, but crunchy on the outside) and to marinate the tofu. If you’re not feeling the tofu, of course you can switch it out for another protein.

Magical Short Stories

You know how there are teachers that you’ll always remember because of something they side that kind of blew your (at the time) little mind? I’ll never forget how one of my science teachers in middle school said how so many modern inventions first made appearances in books and movies before they became a reality. It made me have a whole new appreciation for books and the power of writers’ imaginations, which was saying a lot as I was already a little bookworm.

Today I’d like to focus on some science fiction and fantasy books that not only re-imagine history, but also think of new inventions. This list will serve the double purpose of recommending great SFF reads as well as offering them up in short and sweet novella form. Sometimes it’s honestly hard to find the motivation to read an entire book, especially with life and everything going on. I think book clubs have served such a special function for the past year, going on two of the pandemic (*ugly cries*) as they have allowed us an easily adaptable way of still socializing while having good conversations. So, if the group needs a shorter book for the next meetup, then keep these in the reserve! You can even discuss a couple at a time if you like.

A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djeli Clark

A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djeli Clark

I’m just getting into Clark’s worlds, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long. This very short story set in 1912 Egypt centers on Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi as she investigates the death of a Djinn, which is a kind of supernatural creature based on ancient Mesopotamian mythology. Magic had been brought to the land and history rewritten as the Egyptians used it to fight back against colonial rule. It’s a great start, but you’ll wish this story was longer as you see Fatma reconcile being one of few female investigators in this steampunk world with ghouls and mechanical angels. Luckily, there is a full length novel that comes after: A Master of Djinn.

cover image of the empress of salt and fprtune

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

When I tell you that Nigh Vo is THAT. GIRL. In this first of a series with surreal elements, Vo has cleric Chih meet an aging woman named Rabbit who was sold to the emperor for a basket of dye as a child. Rabbit’s world is sent spinning once she befriends the emperors new and lonely foreign wife, and the tale she has for Chih could mean ruin for the current empress. Vo is a master of concise, yet beautiful prose and Rabbit’s story had me in my feelings. Whew!

cover image showing a slightly pixelated red cardinal is mirrored by a blue bird with a white stomach; both are against a light blue background

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

An agent finds a letter that reads “burn before reading.” What follows is correspondence between two time traveling agents who fight for opposite warring factions. As their rivalry expresses itself, so does a romance in this very unique story that features queer romance. El-Mohtar is also a poet, so expect beautiful writing, naturally.

Book Club Bonus: Another aspect of SFF I like is how it often discusses social issues in a nuanced (or sometimes very blatant) way. Discuss what parallels these foreign worlds have to ours. For instance, how does the role of women compare to women’s roles the world over? Given the advances, do you think these roles were realistic? Additionally, could you see any of the advancements making their way to our reality?

Suggestion Section

Inaugural poet and my play sister Amanda Gorman has signed a deal with Estee Lauder and also looks AMAZING in purple.

Get into this Indigenous led book club if you haven’t already!

Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke is the Good Morning America September book club pick.

Also, L.A. Weather by María Amparo Escandón is Reese’s September pick.


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me choppin’ it up with Kelly Jensen on the Hey YA podcast every couple of weeks.

Until next week.

-E

Categories
In The Club

The Girls Are Adapting

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. Whew, so the last few days of August decided to keep up the raggedy standard with the hurricane that hit Louisiana and nearby states on the anniversary of hurricane Katrina. Now, one million people are without power with it possibly taking weeks before they have it back. I found my big sister mode switched fully on when I asked my little brother if he was prepared for the storm, as Nashville was in its path. Naturally, he asked me “what storm?” and I proceeded to turn into my father by stating all the things he needed to make sure he had (flashlights, toilet paper, drinking water, canned food, etc.) before making an annoyed point that he needed to watch the news more. For context, he’s about to be 25. I don’t know when I started transforming into my parents, but I suddenly feel attacked by these commercials, smh.

With all of that said, I hope everyone in the path of the storm is safe and that this nightmare ends soon.

Now on to the club!


Nibbles and Sips

I think we can all be real and say that we need a drink. Well, I can, in any case. This watermelon sorbet and Prosecco looks bomb and easy to assemble. It’s also a nice way to close out the summer, I think. Here’s a recipe for watermelon sorbet. *Pro Tip: If you throw extra fruit into it, it counts as healthy.

To the books!

Adaptions

The Cowboy Bebop live action series was announced and got me feeling some type of way. I just don’t think it’s giving what it’s supposed to give. One problem with it is that they’re debating whether they should have a key character in a show where the relationships between the main characters are a major part of the story. Now, how that would work is beyond me, but they need to stop trying to ruin my childhood memories of staying up past my bedtime and watching Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. Just throw it all away.

This got me thinking about some books being adapted into movies or shows that I am actually hype about. I also think reading a book and then watching its film or show adaption offers more opportunities for discussion, or, you know, just more fan-girling.

cover image of Fever Dream by Samantha Schweblin

Fever Dream by Samantha Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell 

This is being adapted into a movie by Netflix called Distincia De Rescate. Amanda is dying in an Argentinian countryside hospital. A child, David, sits beside her, insisting that she tell the story of the trauma that led to her current condition. David is not her child. We’re led through an unsettling deathbed narrative, as we ponder the mystery concerning her hospital stay and just why this child David is there with her. It has been described as “a nightmare come true, a ghost story for the real word, an inquisitive tale and a love story” by its director.

image of Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

The author herself has been commissioned to create a drama series for Channel 4. Queenie follows its namesake, a young British woman of Jamaican heritage, as she stumbles through her dating life. Emphasis on the stumbling part, because she seems to keep making some of the same mistakes, but at least has the support of her group of friends and some ultra traditional Jamaican parents. It has been dubbed a Black Bridget Jones, which was also adapted into a couple movies.

cover image of Passing by Nella Larsen

Passing by Nella Larsen

Passing will be on Netflix in November. It stars Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson *lightly squeals*. Passing is the classic 1929 story that shows the very real practice that some lighter-skinned Black and mixed people did to pass as white back in the day. Irene is living it up in Harlem with her doctor husband when Clare comes back into her life. Light-skinned Clare had left the Black community years ago in order to “pass” and enjoy the benefits afforded to white people. Turns out Clare is a hot mess, and Irene is shook. Chaos ensues.

Both Passing and Queenie give plenty of opportunities to discuss the intersection of race, class, and gender for the female protagonists. There’s also the chance to discuss how those aforementioned things are influenced by location (i.e. The United States vs. England). How are things the same and how are they different? Fever Dream gives opportunities to talk about gender as well, especially as it relates to motherhood.

Side note: I love that all of these adaptions are being or were written by women, with the Fever Dream and Passing adaptions having also been directed by women. The girls are outchea adapting! We love to see it.

Suggestion Section

There’s still a little time to bid on some romance novels for Haitian earthquake relief if you’re able to.

Fellow Book Rioter Annika Barranti Klein lists more Netflix adaptions coming out.

Oprah Announces The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers as her new book club pick.

There is a Terry Pratchett book club going on over at Tor.com: Terry Pratchett Book Club: Witches Abroad, Part I

Dr. Imani Perry joins the Noname Book Club digital meetup to discuss August picks Looking for Lorraine by Imani Perry and The Autobiography of Malcolm by Alex Haley.


As always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me choppin’ it up with Kelly Jensen on the Hey YA podcast every couple of weeks.

Until next week.

-E

Categories
In The Club

Understanding Afghanistan

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. I, like everyone else I imagine, was shocked when the Taliban moved right in after the U.S. started to withdraw from Afghanistan. More shocking, though, might be how little I know about a war my country has been fighting for the past twenty years. I’d like to correct that now and explore with you all what life is like for Afghani people and start to try to understand what they are facing (and how this mess came to be).

If you’d like to help, here’s a list of different ways you can. Many local mosques are also accepting donations.

With all of that said, let’s get to the club!


Nibbles and Sips

I don’t know about y’all, but I love fresh hummus. Store bought hummus, on the other hand, makes me regret all my life choices leading up to the moment I decided to buy store bought hummus. The duality is interesting. Apparently, it’s not that hard to make at home, though, so here’s a recipe for sriracha hummus to be coupled with some crispy pita chips. If you’re not feeling the heat aspect, just leave the sriracha out. Also, I know some people have this thing with cilantro (to each their own), so you can substitute with parsley if you prefer.

A Decades Long War

cover of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi showing an Afghan woman holding a child's hand

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

This fictional account of what it’s like for girls and women is included because I’ve always felt like I learned more from fiction at times. I chalk this up to the immersive experience it grants. Here, in Kabul in 2007, young Rahima and her sisters can’t leave the house and can only occasionally go to school because they are girls. She finds out that a great-aunt used a custom to change her life around a hundred years ago called “bacha posh,” which allows one to live as a boy/man (so, pretty much to be free), and decides to do the same. With her new found freedom she can go to school and be a chaperone for her sisters. The only issue is, girls are supposed to go back to having women’s lifestyles once they mature, but how will Rahima be able to give up her freedom when the time comes?

cover of The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock

The Afghanistan Papers by Craig Whitlock

To say that the timing of this book is impeccable would be an understatement. Good timing or not, though, this account of the war in Afghanistan by an investigative reporter from The Washington Post is scathing. Whitlock draws understandable parallels between the Vietnam war and the one in Afghanistan. Apparently, the U.S.’s efforts were a mess from the start in Afghanistan as well, and it was never set up to be a successful endeavor. The documents that The Washington Post unearthed and share here show all of the inadequacies that got us to where we are now.

cover of Dancing in the Mosque by Homeira Qaderi

Dancing in the Mosque by Homeira Qaderi

This is it. This is the one. Qaderi writes of her extraordinary life where she survived a brutal Russian occupation of Afghanistan, only to have to suffer through the Taliban rule of the early 90s right after. As they took over the country, the Taliban immediately started their campaign of misogyny by closing girls’ schools and forbidding them to read. Engaging in these forbidden things might result in being whipped or worse. To put this more in perspective, if I had been caught writing this newsletter by the Taliban in the 90s (and now?), I would have been gravely punished. Lucky for those around her, Qaderi was a rebel and held private tutoring lessons where she taught boys and girls and even some Taliban members at home and at a mosque. She clearly has Mother Teresa-level forgiveness capabilities, because I could never. In this account, Qaderi also tells of the everyday dangers she faced simply for being a woman, what other women and girls suffered, and how she had to ultimately leave her son behind.

Suggestion Section

More books about Afghanistan that are written by women in this list compiled by Carolina Ciucci.

Here’s a great article written by Teresa Preston on discussion questions for book clubs: 40 Great Book Club Discussion Questions For Any Book

So, Jeopardy finally axed that guy that nobody (literally nobody) asked for. My fellow Book Rioter Kelly Jensen tells the Jeopardy team what they need to go ahead and do.

Dictionary.com decided to throw their hat in the ring and gave a quick lil tug to Mike Richards’ wig with this tweet. Don’t you love it when people are rightly called out?

Also, here’s a chat that will take place between Bitch Media and Nicole Perkins about her book I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, Sometimes I Trip On How Happy We Could Be (on Tuesday, August 31, 2021).


As always, thanks for joining me today! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com.

Categories
In The Club

That New Hotness

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. I know not too long ago I was bemoaning it already being August, but now I’m ready for August to be over. It’s still hot and things are in shambles all over the world. At the very least, I can say we’re starting to get the new fall releases! I have a feeling we’re going to start having more time to read again, so these new releases are something to look forward to.

On to the club!


Nibbles and Sips

Being back in Jersey City allowed me to visit one of my favorite ramen places where I could get some Taiwanese popcorn chicken again. The dish takes a little prep work, but it’s super satisfying to pop these marinated and crunchy little bad boys in your mouth as you discuss books. Here are some substitutes if you can’t find or don’t have Chinese five spice.

Now for the books!

New Tings

cover image of The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass showing a drawing of a Black teen boy about to be grabbed by a ghost

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass

As we continue to get to know each other, I’m sure you’ll learn I love fantasy stories, especially involving witchy things and magic, so a Black teenager in Atlanta who can see ghosts and who’s medium powers are burgeoning will always be right up my alley. We meet Jake as he constantly deals with micro aggressions from students and teachers in his very white private school. I like how Douglass constructed the world here. At times it’s grotesque, but it’s also kind of lush and beautiful. Jake comes to be haunted by a white kid named Sawyer who shot up his school before turning the gun on himself. He has to figure out how to get rid of him before Sawyer ruins his life. Some reveals in the second half had me looking like shocked pikachu, and I liked how realistic Jake’s reactions to things were. Dealing with micro aggressions is real and gone are the days where we just grin and bear it. There’s also a cute romance that develops.

Book Club Bonus: Phew, there is a lot to talk about here. There’s a lot to say of child abuse and its long term effects on the child, but also of the parent’s state of mind during the abuse. Are they forgivable?

cover image of Fuzz- When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach showing an iron on patch with a bear, a cougar, and an elephant

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach

When I say I need to read more nonfiction, I’ve always been recommended books by Mary Roach. She is the reigning queen of taking obscure topics, researching them, and making them actually fun to read about. This one is about the conflict that arises when the human and animals worlds collide, but more specifically, when animals commit crimes. Apparently, a few hundred years ago, offending animals would be given representation and put on trial. I mean, that’s more than some people get now *side eyes the justice system*. Roach speaks of her travels across the globe where she consulted wildlife experts, as well as saw firsthand some of the animal offenders. It’s a great addition to the ongoing and needed conversation of humanity’s impact on the world and what we can do to prevent further damage.

Book Club Bonus: The United Nations released a rather damning report on the state of the climate. Discuss how Roach’s book factors into the report. Also, discuss why humans are considered separate from animals. Is there some inherent quality that makes us different?

cover image of Sometimes I Trip On How Happy We Could Be by Nicole Perkins showing the drawn torso of a Black woman with her hand squeezing a peach

Sometimes I Trip On How Happy We Could Be by Nicole Perkins

First of all, I love this cover. And the title. And Nicole Perkins. Perkins is a pop culture and social commentator as well as a 2017 Audre Lorde Fellow, a 2017 BuzzFeed Emerging Writers Fellow, and a 2016 Callaloo Creative Writing Fellow for poetry. In other words, sis can write. Through her podcasts and writing, she explores pop culture and desire through a feminist lens. She lays herself bare in this memoir as she explores her life growing up as a Black girl in Nashville, TN and how she struggled with depression, as well as a drug-addicted father. She also talks about self-care and the show Frasier (which I also love).

Book Club Bonus: Discuss how the digital era has affected feminine desire. Has it liberated or stifled it by further objectifying women?

Suggestion Section

In a lil more Olympic related news, soccer star Megan Rapinoe has a book club!

In game show news: Jeopardy decided to be real messy and hire Mike Richards as one of the hosts and not LeVar Burton, to many people’s dismay. I would wager that people are upset because LeVar is wonderful (period) and Mike is a hot mess who has had two lawsuits from his days at The Price is Right. John Oliver also had some shade for the choice. Tsk tsk


As always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com.