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In The Club

In the Club 04/07/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. I’m over here simultaneously giddy with love over my nephew and week-old niece and bleary-eyed with exhaustion due to a health emergency with my dad. I made sure to take a power nap before composing this newsletter to avoid it going completely off the rails. Then again, I do that on a good day, so….to the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

There’s been a lot of takeout round these parts due to all the hubbub of having a newborn in the family and a family member in and out of the emergency room. I hope to whip up some homemade meals soon and this pasta from (you guessed it) Half Baked Harvest is at the top of my list: a 20-minute orzo carbonara with burrata and crispy prosciutto. Looks like a book club crowd pleaser if you ask me!

No Theme, Just Good.

I’m coherent enough to write a newsletter with words that make sense but not enough to come up with a fun or quippy theme. So today I’m hitting you with a few of my recent reads that have nothing in common besides being excellent picks for book clubs. Let us proceed!

cover image of The Imposter Cure by Dr. Jessamy Hibberd

The Imposter Cure: How To Stop Feeling Like a Fraud and Escape the Mind Trap of Imposter Syndrome by Dr. Jessamy Hibberd

Book Riot staff recently read this book together and it was truly a surprising read. I thought I knew plenty about imposter syndrome, and you might think you do too! But this book was full of aha moments and connections that I for one had never made before, from the way I was parented to the way my workplace surroundings themselves shaped how I often process/view/undermine my abilities and accomplishments. In short: it dragged me, but it needed to be done.

Book Club Bonus: I think you’ll watch the convo flow pretty organically here since I’d be willing to bet almost all of us have experience with imposter syndrome (that’s another thing: imposter syndrome casts a much wider net than you might think of in your current definition). An added layer I suggest you discuss is how some workplace environments force us to reinforce the behaviors of imposter syndrome.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

An actual message I sent to my friend (and Book Riot Contributing Editor) Nusrah Javed while reading this book: “I was not prepared for ‘granny eating raccoon guts straight from the source’ but I persevered.” Billed (most correctly) as Steel Magnolias meets Dracula, this book follows a women’s book club in Charleston that reads grizzly true crime books almost exclusively (but their husbands all think think they’re studying the Bible, lol). After a series of mysterious events in their neighborhood, the women find themselves fighting to protect their little community from a pale-skinned stranger with an appetite for blood. It’s mostly pretty campy horror and so much fun, though I cringed a lot because I am a weenie and terrified of <redacted to avoid spoilers. Hint: it’s in the attic scene>.

Book Club Bonus: So much to discuss! The main character Patricia Campbell is a white woman feeling bored with her life (she has a workaholic husband, teenage kids going through that “I hate you!” stage, and a senile mother-in-law whose condition is worsening by the minute). So when the unspeakable happens in her neighborhood and she tries to do something about it, she’s gaslit repeatedly and written off as just a bored housewife. Discuss that pattern of gaslighting, but also dive into the idea of “nice Southern ladies,” both the good and the bad. Also unpack the root of the real horror in this book and the ways in which communities of color continually get left behind.

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

This phenomenal book comes with some bonus content: white knuckles, blood pressure spikes, and fits of panic, all free of charge! Beauregard “Bug” Montage is an honest mechanic and shop owner, a devoted husband, and a loving father who’s just trying to stay out of trouble and do right by the people he loves. He’s also known as the best wheelman on the East Coast, but that life is behind him—or so it was, until a new auto shop moved into town and ate up his clientele. Now Bug is drowning in debt and the bills keep piling up. So when he’s approached by a shady character who did him real dirty on a past job, Bug knows he shouldn’t trust him and the big, shiny payout he’s promising once again. He should say no, but he can’t. So he agrees: one last job and then he’ll be out of the game for good.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss Bug as a character. You’ll find yourself rooting for Bug, but he’s a complicated man. He’s flawed and makes a lot of poor choices, some that feel avoidable and others made with his back against a wall. You feel for him even when he goes down the path we as readers know will not end well, and you also have to leave space to consider that so much of his experience as a Black man in the south plays into the choices made available to him in the first place. Whew. Such a good book.

Suggestion Section

April book club announcements from Today with Jenna Bush Hager, The Mary Sue, and Vox.

This week on When in Romance, Jess and Trisha announce the next installment of the WIR Book Club.

The latest episode of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour features Book Concierge top picks for book clubs.

at Vox: The Power author Naomi Alderman talks patriarchy and revenge with the Vox Book Club


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 
Vanessa 

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In The Club

In the Club 03/31/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. This week I’m awash in the warm light of happy optimism. It’s warm and sunny in San Diego, I got my first dose of the vaccine, I’ve been subsisting on a diet of tacos and avocado everything, and my beautiful baby niece was born on Sunday. I got to babysit her big brother all weekend and can confirm that toddlers are the shadiest age group. I’d be all, “Hey, I love you!” and he’d respond by my picking up a piece of my hair, shaking his head, and saying, “Ay ay ay, Nana.” Well damn.

But let’s talk about books. To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

Either a few weeks or a few months ago (because what is time?), I talked about this awesome roundup of Black mixologists by Food & Wine. This gorgeous weather has me in the mood to whip up some tasty cocktails, so I’m making this beautiful Rosemary Paloma by featured mixologist Camille Wilson, creator of The Cocktail Snob. Not only do I get to push my Herbal Simple Syrup agenda, but I also found a beautiful soul who understands that the paloma, not the margarita, is Mexico’s most popular tequila-based drink. Salud!

Pero that’s not all. Warm weather pairs so well with one of my absolutely favorite cocktails: the Caipirinha! Here’s a super easy recipe for this Brazilian classic from Lucas Assis, a creator I recently discovered on el Tiki Toki.

So Misunderstood

I absolutely love this Miss Havisham character analysis written by D.R. Baker for Book Riot. I don’t know about you, but I am 100% guilty of picturing a dusty old crone knock-knock-knocking on heaven’s door whenever I think of Miss Havisham, not a woman in her 40s! This got me thinking that it might be fun to do a book club theme on misunderstood women. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Circe

Circe book cover

Circe by Madeline Miller

How any of you read that theme and immediately thought, “Here goes Vanessa pushing that Circe stuff again!” Congrats, friend, you know my heart. I will never stop singing the praises of this absolute gem of a book wherein the sea witch you probably first came across in The Odyssey tells us her story from her perspective. There’s nothing I don’t love about this lyrical, powerful reclaiming of Circe’s narrative.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss the ways in which women have been vilified in lit (and movies, tv, etc) since the dawn of time. I know I talked about this book earlier this month, but Jess Zimmerman’s Women and Other Monsters would be an amazing companion read for an exploration of this trend in mythology.

Bertha Rochester

cover image of  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Ooooookay bro: so you marry me when I’m just a rich hottie to you, but then your ass locks me in an upstairs closet for the rest of my life when you realize I’m battling addiction and mental illness? Then you have the nerve to be all, “I’m so sorry, she’s just so crazy” to the woman you now want to replace me with and wonder why I had the audacity to tear up her veil? Kick rocks, Rochester!

Book Club Bonus: I’d like to point out that I absolutely love Jane Eyre but the older I get, the more I realize that Bertha kinda got a raw deal. Was Eddie Rotch really acting in her best interest, or was his solution really more about his own convenience? Or is it both? How we do still push aside people dealing with mental illness today for the sake of not having to inconvenience ourselves? Discuss!

Iranian Women in Post-Revolutionary Iran

cover image of embroideries by Marjane Satrapi

Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi

Writer and cartoonist Marjane Satrapi is more widely known for her bestselling graphic memoir Persepolis. Embroideries is often slept on though and I’m here to tell you it’s both poignant and absolutely hilarious. This honest, intimate, and revelatory peek into the lives of six Iranian women is a blend of graphic memoir and graphic novel. In 1990s Tehran, Satrapi’s mother, grandmother, aunts, and their friends are all gathered for their regular afternoon tradition of sipping—and spilling—tea. Their chat includes talk of love, sex, and each of the women’s various dealings with men. It’s like if the Golden Girls were Iranian and swapped cheesecake for piping hot tea.

Book Club Bonus: This book should inspire some good chat on the social and cultural stereotypes that are shattered in these women’s candid conversations on sexual politics. This should also lead to an examination of women’s sexual agency and related stereotypes in modern society here in the U.S. of A.

Suggestion Section

at The Washington Post: How women invented book clubs, revolutionizing reading and their own lives

GMA announces it’s April book club pick

Barnes & Noble Selects Kirstin Valdez Quade’s The Five Wounds as April 2021 National Book Club Selection


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 
Vanessa 

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In The Club

In the Club 03/24/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. I am hopping into what was a finished newsletter where I talked about feeling so disheartened in the wake of the Atlanta shootings to now add additional heaviness over a separate shooting in Boulder. I don’t know what to say that I and everyone else who cares haven’t already said. If you’re looking for ways to get involved, I’ve dropped some links below.

AAPI Authors, Bookstagrammers Organize Support Campaign

Anti Asian Violence Resources

Colorado Healing Fund

Okay, let’s talk about books to help combat AAPI racism. To the club.


Nibbles and Sips

No nibbles and sips this week. Make some calls, donate if you can, and be kind to one another.

Very Not Minor Feelings

Friends, I confess that I initially felt conflicted about composing this reading list. How many anti-racist reading lists did we see this summer, and what did those accomplish? Is reading a stack of books by and about AAPI authors going to help? It’s easy to feel helpless, like the gesture is empty. I’m frustrated.

Here’s where I landed after some tea and reflection: while I don’t think white supremacy and racism are going to be solved just by reading books or that reading books is enough to pat ourselves on the back, I do think there is enormous value in education and books are a great way to accomplish that. While I of course advocate for amplifying books by all BIPOC now and always, my hope is that this list of nonfiction (and one fiction title) will help you along in learning about our country’s loooooooooooooooong history of Anti-Asian racism and the damage it has caused. This list focuses on East Asian stories in light of the recent surge of COVID-19-related racism against the AAPI community. It encompasses more than just Chinese stories because racism is not even smart enough to distinguish between different East Asian identities. I know, it’s infuriating. Go ahead, scream into a pillow and then come back & keep reading.

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

Linking the essays in this blend of memoir, history, and cultural critique is Cathy Park Hong’s theory of “minor feelings.” She uses this term to refer to the shame, suspicion, and melancholy that characterized Hong’s upbringing as the daughter of Korean immigrants. These feelings, the result of American optimism contradicting your lived experience, then make you begin to believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity. Her story is a starting point for a broader, deeper discussion about racial consciousness in America.

cover image of Yellow Peril edited by John Kuo Wei Tchen and Dylan Yeats

Yellow Peril: An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear edited by John Kuo Wei Tchen and Dylan Yeats

The Yellow Peril, the Yellow Fear, the Yellow Terror: sadly all of these racist metaphors painting East Asians as an existential threat to the Western world are far (so far!) from new. Published in 2014, this book was the first comprehensive archive of anti-Asian images and writing, documenting the rise of Anti-Asian fear-mongering and paranoia through an extensive collection of paintings, photos, pulp novel drawings, movie posters, comics, pop culture ephemera, and more.

cover image of All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

Nicole Chung was a preemie and transracial adoptee who was raised by a white family when her Korean parents put her up for adoption at birth. She grew up in a sheltered Oregon town and was told a mythologized version of her adoption story since childhood, one that framed her biological parents as making the ultimate sacrifice to give her a better life. “But as Nicole grew up—facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity as an Asian American and as a writer, becoming ever more curious about where she came from,” she began to question whether the story she’d been told all her life was the truth, a lie, or somewhere in between.

cover image of everything I never told you by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Marilynn and James Lee, a white woman and Chinese man, are raising their family of five in 1970s Ohio. All their hopes and dreams seemingly rest on the shoulders of their favorite daughter Lydia, their perfect golden child who will surely go on to live the life they each once envisioned for themselves. But when Lydia’s body is found at the bottom of a local lake, the gossamer threads holding their family together come undone. Told in flashbacks and from multiple perspectives, the truth of what happened on the night of Lydia’s death is slowly revealed, as is the web of secrets and lies the Lees kept from each other and from themselves. I included this title because there’s a lot of discussion to be had here on the idea of the “model minority.”

Suggestion Section

Food for thought for book clubs: do queer books still need happy endings?

This lis of romance featuring aspiring women in fields they would have had a very hard breaking into in their times is great for book clubs: a fun romance with a good discussion of the professional barriers women have faced throughout history.

Curious about solarpunk? Here’s a primer on the subgenre and reading recs to consider for your clubs.


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 
Vanessa 

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In The Club

In the Club 03/17/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. I spent a glorious weekend sitting and hiking in the sun, then giving my place a good spring clean and cooking whatever’s left in my fridge as I prepare to spend the next six weeks in San Diego (my fam is vaccinated, I could cry!). I finished two phenomenal books and got started on a third thinking I’d take my time with it, but I blasted through it in a little over a day. It’s about a cult, pairing nicely with my weird obsession with cult documentaries lately, so the club’s getting real cultish this week.

To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

I find most salads woefully boring, so I’m always looking for one that will rock my taste buds. I love Greek salad, but this recipe takes a classic to the next level (ignore the detox stuff at the beginning, eat what you like). The secret? Roasting! Quickly toss some thickly chopped bell peppers, whole baby tomatoes, and big chunks of feta with a dressing of olive oil, garlic, salt, and oregano (I used dried), then roast that plus 1-2 halved lemons on a lined baking sheet for 17 minutes at 475 degrees. Mix in some sliced cucumbers, thinly sliced red onion, and Kalamata olives (for those of you that can stand them) with the roasted peppers, tomatoes, and feta. The juice from the lemon gets added to the dressing which you’ll then pour over the composed salad. The whole thing comes together in about 20 minutes and it’s bursting with flavor! This is one I’ll be busting out for my next in-person book club gathering for sure.

It’s a Cult Thing

There are so, so many books about cults. Book Riot has a list of 100 must-reads about cults and it’s from 2017! I’m highlighting just three titles today: two newer books and one by an author of color since a lot of cult book lists are hella white. As a bonus, Leah Remini’s Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology is the book that first looped me into the wild world of Scientology and it’s very wow.

My discussion points for all three of these are the same. 1) Examine the trends, the language, the behaviors, and the targets of cults and fanatic groups. 2) Where do you see those signs/trends in your everyday life? Do any of the groups you’re a part of use the language of fanaticism? 3) Why you think some people are so drawn to cults? Do you think you could ever be convinced to join one (or have you already)? Why or why not?

The Project by Courtney Summers

I just finished this YA novel on audio and I had to scream into a pillow every few chapters. Lo and Bea Denham were teenagers when they lost their parents in a tragic accident that very nearly killed Lo too. After Lo’s long and difficult recovery, Bea joins an organization called The Unity Project and leaves Lo in the care of their great aunt. On its surface, the group appears to be doing great things for its members and the community, but Lo suspects The Unity Project isn’t what it seems when Bea cuts off all contact. Lo uses her job at an online publication to start a not-altogether-sanctioned investigation into “the project.” Her determination to uncover the truth behind the group and its leader Lev Warren will put her in some very hot and murky water. (tw: emotional and physical abuse)

Side note: Lo is referred to by her last name at her job and I thought her boss was calling her “Denim.” Oh… it’s Denham. Got it got it got it.

For more YA books about cults, here’s another list for you, this one from just last year.

cover image of Cultish by Amanda Montell

Cultish: The Language of Fanatacism by Amanda Montell

I knew I wanted to read this after Rebecca read it and told staff that it compares the language of actual cults to the language of cross-fit and basically concludes they use the same tactics but to different ends. Whew! In no uncertain terms, the book “analyzes the social science of cult influence: how cultish groups from Jonestown and Scientology to SoulCycle and social media gurus use language as the ultimate form of power.” Well alrighty then!

cover image of World in Flames by Jerald Walker

The World in Flames by Jerald Walker

It’s 1970 in Chicago and Jerry Walker is six years old. His parents are members of the Worldwide Church of God, a community that believes they’ve been divinely chosen for a special afterlife and that all others will perish in a fiery hell. Jerry finds the church’s beliefs both confusing and terrifying (like its prohibition against doctors and hospitals), but his parents see the church as their salvation: they joined the church when they were living in poverty in a dangerous housing project with the first four of their seven children and were both were blind as a result of childhood accidents, and they took comfort in the promise of that special afterlife for them and their children. They remain staunchly faithful to the church, even if it means following a religion rooted in white supremacist ideology and tithing to a megachurch that rakes in millions. This is Jerald Walker’s story of living through that experience.

Suggestion Section

I love these roundups we do of lesser-known titles and think they’re excellent fodder for book clubs. Try one out and see what you think!

This piece in defense of reading “guilty pleasures” reminded me of the importance of reading for fun in these chaotic times; it’s important to read for other reasons too, but don’t forget to come back to the fun part. If your book club hasn’t already done so, pick up a book that is 100% a pleasure read, no guilt involved! I do this in a two-person book club with a friend of mine where our “meetings” are only ever an exchange of texts. It’s all “WUT” and “OMG” with lots of emojis and exclamation points, and you know what? It’s delightful.


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 
Vanessa 

Thanks again to our sponsor Hanover Square Press, publisher of The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin! This powerful work of historical fiction is set in London, 1939: a city torn apart by war and brought together by books. 

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In The Club

In the Club 03/10/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. I’m writing this on International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month, so today’s book club picks are all about the women’s stories we either haven’t heard or ones that need revisiting for… reasons! It so happens I have three very recent reads for you on this topic, plus an anecdote about me almost ruining my oven.

To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

In preparation for a quaranteam potluck gathering this weekend, I rolled up my sleeves to do some cooking. I learned a hard lesson: if you are going to store leftover food in your oven that’s been wrapped in beeswax cloth “real quick” while you clean your counters and stovetop, be sure to remove said leftovers from the oven before you turn it on to make brownies. UGH.

Those brownies never saw the light of day, but the papas rellenas I made were on point! They’re these perfect balls of mashed potatoes that you fill with leftover picadillo, a seasoned ground beef dish, then roll in egg wash and breadcrumbs before frying to perfection. I combined a version of two recipes from Cuba: The Cookbook (first make the Havana-style picadillo, then use that to make the papas) with a recipe buried somewhere in my brain. Here’s a simple version to try if it’s your first time, and a tip: do NOT skip the refrigeration step. It’ll help your papas hold up and not completely fall apart while frying. While not traditionally served this way, I love the way these pair with that Peruvian aji verde sauce I shared recently.

Now Let’s Hear From the Women

cover image of Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology by Jess Zimmerman

Women and Other Monsters by Jess Zimmerman

This book just came out yesterday (you can hear me gushing about it on this week’s All the Books episode). Jess Zimmerman is the editor in chief at Electric Lit, and this is her cultural analysis of female monsters from Greek mythology. She dedicates one chapter to each of 11 female monsters, including Medusa, the Harpies, the Furies, Scylla, and the Sphinx, breaking down how women have been labeled as monsters for daring to be everything from sexual to angry (ya know: human). This is a wonderful work of feminist cultural critique and a sweet sweet hit of dopamine for all my mythology nerds.

Book Club Bonus: Zimmerman gets into the idea that ugliness is so often portrayed as the worst possible thing a woman can be, asking readers to reexamine our relationship to hunger, anger, ugliness, and ambition, traits that are so often vilified. But my favorite part is her challenge to reclaim the monster label because monsters get a certain kind of freedom that “well behaved” women rarely do: the freedom to be complete, unrestrained, and larger than life. Discuss aaaaall of that.

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

“A war does not ignore half the people whose lives it touches. So why do we?” !!!!!

Did I mention I love mythology? This gave me Circe + The Silence of the Girls vibes which is just pure catnip. Haynes passes the mic to the silenced women of the Trojan War. Told 100% from the perspective of these women, from the goddesses and nymphs to Penelope and Briseis and Cassandra (oh, my poor Cassandra) and lots more, we get a whole new and gutting layer to a story that until recently has always focused on the heroism of men. (TW: mentions of sexual assault, violence, child death, use of the word “slave” to describe the women who are captured and enslaved)

Side note: Penelope’s letters to Odysseus start off very sweet and “hubby where art thou, come home!” But towards the end, the tone shifts to a very “I just think it’s funny how…” and I DIED. I don’t know if they were meant to be funny, but I laughed out loud.

Book Club Bonus: This quote by the muse Calliope talking about a whiny Odysseus made me put the book down to clap: “ If he complains to me again, I will ask him this: is Oenone less of a hero than Menelaus? He loses his wife so he stirs up an army to bring her back to him, costing countless lives and creating countless widows, orphans and slaves. Oenone loses her husband and she raises their son. Which of those is the most heroic act?” Put the tea on the kettle and get into that.

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs

I recommended this just last month but it just fits so well with this theme. So much has been written about (as it should be) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin, but very little has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them. Scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood and the power of community by telling these women’s stories with the depth and care that they deserve.

Book Club Bonus: Imagine what it must feel like to watch a person you love be taken from you in an act of violence while they advocated for racial equality and social justice, and to now, if you’ve lived to see this moment, take in how seemingly little progress we’ve made as a society AND watch that loved ones’ image and message used in bad faith by the very people who hold up those systems of oppression. I thought so much about this last summer and think about it every day as I walk through the world and wonder if we learned anything collectively, or done anything meaningful about it, since then. So discuss: what have we learned? What have we done?

Suggestion Section

The Mary Sue Book Club, March 2021: Spring Fever, Magic Wars, and Feminist Fantasies

The FamilyTime Crisis and Counseling Center in Houston has created a virtual book club to discuss difficult topics that can affect any community.

If you’re looking to diversify your little one’s bookshelf, here’s a review of The Little Feminist Book Club subscription service

This isn’t a book list or specific to book clubs, but I think an important thing to discuss at large, so maybe tackle it with your book club buddies: A Media Studies Perspective on Canceling Books (TLDR: canceling a book is not censorship, and focusing on that perceived cancellation ignores a lot of inconvenient truths)


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 
Vanessa 


cover image of What's Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

Thanks again to our sponsors What’s Mine and Yours, the new novel from Naima Coster! A North Carolina community rises in outrage as a county initiative draws students from the largely Black east side of town into predominantly white high schools on the west. For two students, Gee and Noelle, the integration sets off a chain of events that will tie their two families together in unexpected ways over the next twenty years.

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In The Club

In the Club 03/03/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. Today I’m giving you all a list of books by Latinx authors that are both great for book club talk and would make, in my opinion, fabulous on-screen adaptations. I had a lot of fun coming up with this list and could have added 20 more titles! We’ll start with these four.


To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

This week I have a cocktail for you that I thew together because Trader Joe’s insists on selling you an entire crop of basil instead of the usual handful of leaves you really need. I’d made all the pasta sauces and still had a crap ton of the stuff, so I boiled it down with equal parts sugar and water to make a basil simple syrup. From that, I made this tasty lemon basil treat which you can make with or sans booze. I eyeballed this one so the ratios aren’t precise measurements–go by taste!

Ingredients: lemon juice, basil simple syrup, gin, tonic water (or other sparkly beverage)

In a shaker, pour in (more or less) two parts lemon juice, one part gin, and one part basil simple syrup. Shake it up with ice and pour into your glass, topping off with the tonic water or bubble of choices. For a little extra fancy, first rim your class with a citrus sugar (sugar mixed with the zest of your favorite citrus fruits). Voila!

Yo Quiero Adaptations

My two reactions to this post about Netflix admitting they need more Latinx content: 1)Pero like duh, Netfleex. 2)Ooooh let me make a list of some books I want to see adapted! I was already noodling on this idea with the announcement that America Ferrara will be adapting Erika L. Sánchez’ I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. So let’s do this! Here are some picks that double as excellent book club selections. For each of these, have a little fun and come up with a dream cast!

For a Creepy Gothic Horror Flick:

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Is anyone surprised that this is the first book on my list? It’s almost cheating to include it since there is, in fact, a Hulu series in the works. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to see those opening scenes in 1950s Mexico City, that creepy ass house in the countryside, the entire <insert spoilers and swear words here> situation, and the fashion!! My brain immediately pictured Nazanin Mandi as Noemi from the first time I saw the cover, but I’ll be happy as long as they cast a Latina with beautiful brown skin.

Book Club Bonus: Gothic horror tropes! Which ones did you pick up on and how does this book both employ them and flip the script?

For a Historical Romance Series with a Bookish Twist:

A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Andres

The success of Bridgerton has reminded me how much I enjoy a historical romance with lots of drama, and what I wouldn’t give to see it done with Latinx flair. Enter the books from Lydia San Andres’ Arroyo Blanco series, which are set in a fictional island in the Spanish Caribbean. Emilia Cruz is a romance author in secret; she puts out some seriously steamy content under an assumed name because judgy society folk gon’ judge. Ruben Torres, the darling of the literary world, is moonlighting as the literary critic of a gossip paper, but he’s also doing that in secret because, ya know, all of that is beneath him. Emilia and Ruben are thrown together in a hilarious meet-not-so-cute (a boating party + a capsized boat), and it’s not long before they feel an undeniable attraction to one another. The problem is, Ruben has been absolutely eviscerating Emilia’s serial in that gossip mag, and neither one of them knows about the other’s secret identity.

Book Club Bonus: One might argue that telenovelas already exist, and trust: I got my life from those growing up (where my Amor Real fans at?!). But Adult Me wants a version of those with less sexism and colorism, more sex positivity, and less problematic themes overall. If you’re familiar with the telenovela scene, discuss how an adaptation like this one could be part of a larger course correction (which we’re already seeing hints of, praise be). Otherwise, go for the obvious meta theme: the belittling of romance and erotica in literature.

For an Epic Adventure Fantasy Series Full of Righteous Rebellion:

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova

My kingdom for this adaptation! Renata is a memory thief who was kidnapped as a child and brought to the palace of Andalucia where she was forced to use her powers to kill thousands and thousands of people. Years later, she’s been rescued by the Whispers, a group of rebel spies working against the crown who don’t entirely trust Renata given her dark past. When Dez—the commander of her unit and the object of Renata’s affection—is taken captive by the (truly hateful, awful, no good, very bad) evil prince, Renata must return to the palace to complete Dez’ top secret mission. But doing so stirs up a lot of old stuff and reveals a secret from her past that could change everything. The whole thing is set in a lush, magical world inspired by Inquisition Spain and had me yelling, “Oh no she did not!” real early on.

Book Club Bonus: Inquisition-era Spain was a scary place for so many people, leading to the cruel and senseless deaths and forced conversion of Jewish and Muslim people. Discuss the parallels you see here and how this sort of oppression is one that rears its head both constantly and cyclically throughout history. Then discuss the role of present day youth in activism, from climate change to social justice. The last few years have made me acutely aware of the hypocrisy of a society that devours stories of rebellion against oppressive forces like this one while also discrediting these kinds of movements in real life. There’s a lot to get into there.

For a Super Fun and Sweary Space Romp:

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

Who doesn’t want a thrilling space opera with a super prickly spaceship captain of Cuban descent who swears a ton PLUS CATS? Who, I ask you!? This book follows Eva Innocente, captain of La Sirena Negra, a cargo ship that ferries goods across the universe. When a shady corporation kidnaps her sister and demands the mother of all ransoms, Eva spirals into a web of lies and deception, alienating her beloved crew as she tries to raise the funds. This book is so damn hilarious and would be super fun to see on screen; move over Baby Yodita, here come the space gatos!

Book Club Bonus: Talk about the importance of found family in this book and as it applies in real life. Also take turns assessing what you would do in Eva’s shoes. It’s not an easy answer for most!

Suggestion Section

Speaking of dream adaptations and casts, I totally forgot this was the entire theme of last week’s SFF Yeah podcast episode!

March book club picks from Jenna Bush Hager, PBS NewsHour, BuzzFeed, and Vox. Also of note is Boston.com‘s selection of Fat Chance, Charlie Vega which sounds soooo good.

Is your book club looking for more short fiction, perhaps of a speculative nature? Check out these speculative short story collections for inspiration.

The Bloody Scotland Crime Festival has launched a virtual book club and those are words I like the sound of.


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 
Vanessa 

Categories
In The Club

In the Club 02/24/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. How is everyone this week? In Portland we’re getting some actual sunshine and slightly warmer temps, and I know I’ve changed as a person when I see 45 degrees in the forecast and go, “Oh word? I don’t even need a scarf!” For those of you still recovering from the hell of winter storms, I’m thinking of you and hoping relief finds its way to you soon.

To the club!!

Nibbles and Sips

I’ve mentioned before that I love me some Food Tik Tok, right? Well one of my favorites right now is a creator by the name of Hajar Larbah (Tik Tok username @moribyan). She makes all sort of delicious foodstuffs, including a lot of recreations of popular restaurant foods. I die. My recent favorite recipes (there are… so many) are chicken shawarma, which I’ve always been needlessly intimidated to make??, and yellow rice like you’d get at a Halal cart. My mouth is so happy! Make and share with the club.

Just Because We Can Doesn’t Mean We Should

When planning out this week’s newsletter, I already knew what books I wanted to recommend but couldn’t really put my finger on… why?! I knew I wanted you to read and discuss them because they’re all really great books, but what was the theme that was lumping together in my brain? After lots of consideration, I’ve landed on this: just because we can do a thing, does that mean we should? Let’s get into it.

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

I made a face and went “eeew!” out loud a few times in the first few chapters of this book. Why? Because “eew” is how I feel about a husband stealing his brilliant scientist wife’s research and then using that information to not only clone her (seriously, bro?) and but then cheat on her with! that! clone! The squick factor gets turned all the way up when we find out the clone is pregnant. It all gets just a little more complicated when the wife, Evelyn, gets a panicked call from Martine: she’s just killed the husband Nathan and needs help… err… cleaning up the mess. It does not go how you’re thinking it will. Whew.

Book Club Bonus: Well then! There’s so much to talk about here: bodily autonomy, consent, a woman’s right to choose, and of course: the ethics of scientific research. There’s a lot of grey area in this kind of innovation, and this book dives straight into the murky bits.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

I thought a lot about this book when I heard it was being adapted for film (yiiiiiikes, if you know, you know), and again last week when the Perseverance rover landed on Mars. It’s about a Jesuit priest and linguist who leads a scientific mission to make first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. I was told to prepare for a catastrophic end, but I was so not prepared! Space exploration is super cool and all, pero this book is all, “what if it went horribly wrong?” Like rull wrong. So wrong. Theeee most wrong. I can’t get the wrong out of my brain and it’s been literal years since I read it. (TW: violence, sexual assault)

Book Club Bonus: I don’t want to tell you too much here because you need to experience it for yourself. Once you’ve taken a day or two to process this one, write down and discuss the ways in which this book is an indictment of colonization, an examination of faith, and what it says about the way we define humanity.

catherine house

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

Catherine House isn’t your run-of-the-mill educational institution; admission is highly competitive and its demands super intense: once students arrive, they must disconnect from the outside world and remain on campus for their full three-year tenure with no outside contact. No phones, no internet: they must dedicate themselves wholly to the Catherine House way. This sort of immersive education maybe sounds like a cool, edgy and immersive idea, but like… I sense problems! This has been described to me as weird and labyrinthine with major gothic vibes all set in a creepy old house, so what I’m saying is I bought it immediately.

Book Club Bonus: You may have sensed, as I did, that there are some sinister secrets in this story, and you’d be right. The school is determined to keep a history of shady experiments hidden at all costs, and if only THAT were a thing that only happened in fiction. Discuss! You know what to do here.

Suggestion Section

Need some swoonworthy picks perfect for your romance book clubs? Say no more!

How about some queer picks? These audiobooks are great for LGBTQ+ book clubs.


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 
Vanessa 

Thanks again to our sponsor Read Bliss, a community created by romance fans at Harlequin Books! If you’re looking for a way to connect with fellow romance readers and authors, Read Bliss may just be the bookish community you’re looking for. Stay up to date on the latest in romance book news, genre discussions, book-tuber videos, reading challenges and more with fellow lovers of swoons!

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In The Club

In the Club 02/17/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed—and greetings from my first real snow experience! The Pacific Northwest is one of the regions of the US that got slammed by a snow storm that aren’t used to getting slammed by snow storms (Texas, I see you!), so we effectively shut down as a city. I spent the better part of four days inside a blanket fort with tea and books on hand, and it was kind of glorious? There’s something about the snow and the cold that made doing so less depressing and more fun, at least for me. I embraced the cozy, though I’m aware we had it easy compared to a lot of other places. I hope you too have found some way to be cozy and safe wherever you are.

To the club!!


Nibbles and Sips

image belongs to Vanessa Diaz

I perhaps over-prepared for Snowpocolypse PDX with flashlights and matches (or perhaps not, because a ton of people lost power!), but I’m the most glad I stocked up on groceries. My car remains buried under a mountain of snow and I probs wouldn’t drive it even if it weren’t, and all it took was the sensation of my boot slipping when I placed one toe on an icy sidewalk for me to say “nope!” to an extra grocery run. I made a snow angel instead.

So today’s recipe is one I threw together from the odds and ends of other meals, and it is delicious! I mixed some orecchiette pasta (use whatever you have) with some sautéed mushrooms and spinach that I’d seasoned with salt and red pepper flakes, then tossed all of that with a healthy portion of sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, a little bit of pasta water, and some crumbled goat cheese. Easy, quick, delicious. If I hadn’t scarfed down the leftover spicy Italian sausage bits I had as a “snack” earlier that day, I’d have tossed that in too.

Faithful Schmaithful

You may have heard that Zack Snyder is working on a “faithful” retelling of Arthurian legend—you know, the dude who directed 300. That guy. I…read that and immediately wanted to make the subject of this newsletter “LOL Wut?” because, dear readers: que!? What in the rooty tooty fresh and fruity f*ck is a “faithful” retelling of a legend that is, in and of itself, a mish-mash of British lore, Welsh and Celtic mythology, and a whole bunch of other influence that’s been told and retold for centuries? (I really enjoyed that Twitter thread).

I am not actually dissing 300; in fact, I’ve never seen it. I’m just saying that a guy who made a movie like 300 about the Battle of Thermopylae and the Persian Wars should be intimately familiar with the way legends and mythology work and is clearly okay with some creative license. And you know what, it’s still fine to want to make a film that doesn’t veer so much from you perceive to be the “canon.” But the explosion of people on the internet being like, “Finally! All these retellings have bastardized the original!” are what made me scratch my head.

So today we’re going to revel in Arthurian retellings, versions that are creative and subversive and would certainly ruffle the feathers of Arthurian purists. Two of these are YA, but don’t let that deter any of you who don’t normally read young adult fiction. There is such good potential for book club talk with all three of these interpretations of this age-old legend.

By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar

Lavie Tidhar said “$@^& your Arthurian feelings” with this book. He took the legend, chopped it into pieces, poured on some gasoline, and lit. that. match. To call this work subversive is not enough. It nocks an arrow with a white-hot tip right at the whole idea of Arthurian legend as a noble, virtuous tale of English conquest (can conquer be noble?) and his aim is true. No one, and I do mean not one single soul, is likable in this version: the Knights of the Round Table are a band of selfish misanthropes, Merlin is a lying jerk and an instigator who feeds off conflict, and even the Lady of the Lake is a shady arms dealer. No one is safe! Woven into lots of violence and some dark & twisty humor is a searing critique of Brexit and British nationalism in general. That is where this book hooked me. Make sure to read the afterword: it explains how and why Tidhar twisted this beloved story to point out the hypocrisy of zealous nationalism.

Book Club Bonus: It’s uncomfortable conversation time! Let this book be a jumping board for a chat about how many classic stories aren’t all that virtuous and actually glorify some pretty trash behavior. Maybe that behavior is imperialism, or ableism, or white supremacy; maybe it’s the vilifying of women as evil temptresses and monsters at every turn. Don’t limit the conversation to literature either (American history taught in schools, I’m looking at you); cast that net wide and talk about it!

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (Legendborn #1)

My months-long hold on this book came and went for a second time because I was reading too many other books! I will get my hands on it soon though, especially in light of this whole kerfuffle. Tracy Deonn combines Southern Black Girl Magic with a modern-day twist on Arthurian legend. After her mother dies in an accident, 16-year-old Bree Matthews needs an escape from family memories and her childhood home. She enrolls at a residential program for bright high school students at UNC Chapel Hill thinking it’ll be just the thing to bring her back to life, but then…. she witnesses a magical attack on her very first night on campus, as one does. She’s hit with an avalanche of revelations: Bree possesses a unique magic of her own that she never knew about, a magical war is coming, and there exists a secret demon-fighting society known as the Legendborn whose members are descendants of King Arthur’s knights. This is just the sort of adventure I need and crave!

Book Club Bonus: We need more retellings that make space for people that don’t fit the white, cis-het, able-bodied norm. “But Vanessa, you’ve already told us that representation matters!” And I’m gonna tell you again, because it does! How does the southern setting and inclusion of Black characters deepen a legend that was previously super not inclusive? Discuss.

cover of Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White (Camelot Rising #1)

**taps mic** The women are the most interesting parts of Arthurian legend. I said what I said. **drops mic**

Now that we have that out of the way, I can tell you about a YA series I have gleaned so much joy from in the last couple of years. Guinevere is front and center in this series, as you may have imagined, but get this: Guinevere isn’t really Guinevere. She’s a changeling! Not-Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed King Arthur in a plot devised by Merlin (spoilery! things! I can’t! tell! you!) to protect him from dark magical forces. Maybe? Gah. I love when a story you think you know still manages to make you go, “Oh word?!” There’s queerness and gender-flipping and all kinds of fun stuff in both this book and it’s sequel, The Camelot Betrayal. I haven’t seen a release date announced for the third book in the trilogy yet and that second book ends on SUCH a cliffhanger. You’ve been warned!

Book Club Bonus: I can’t suggest too much without going into spoiler territory, but I think you’ll come to that part on your own. So here’s this: talk about the symbolism of Guinevere as a changeling and the reframing of villainous women’s arcs in this story. Go!

Suggestion Section

Read all about the Moms Demand Action Book Club, a discussion group open to the organization’s six million (!!) supporters who advocate against gun violence via their state chapters. Love to see that!

More news from Reese’s Book Club: it’s set to launch a digital cooking series hosted by Christina Milian. If you were born in the 2000s or after, this next bit ain’t for you: I desperately need this series to be called Cook It Low, Mix It Up Slow. (insert body roll with spatula here)


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 
Vanessa 

You could win a 1-year subscription to Scribd! Book Riot is teaming up with Early Bird Books for this awesome giveaway. Enter here!

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In The Club

In the Club 2/10/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. This week’s newsletter was inspired by a moment of intense frustration when I could not twist and bend the way my yoga app was telling me to, and the feeling that this inability engendered. Luckily I have collected several tools to help me with this frustration, but that journey was a long and hard one. It got me thinking about how so many of the conversations we see on health and fitness leave a huge portion of our population behind, or just exclude them altogether. Let’s dive into that. All three of my picks are by Black women (one in collaboration with a white woman), and that fact alone has been so refreshing in redefining what yoga and body acceptance means for me.

Also: I am not ashamed to admit that in my frustration, I forgot I have vertigo and fell flat on my face trying to get into position. I am nothing if not graceful.

To the club!!


Nibbles and Sips

There is this place here in Portland that rocks my socks off with their juicy, smoky, tasty wood-fired chicken and “guns,” these perfectly crispy potatoes dressed with lemon and sea salt, then topped with pickled red onions and either Peruvian aji sauce or chimichurri. I will almost never turn down a good chimichurri, but that aji sauce is the business. It’s a bright and citrusy concoction of jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, and lime.

So today’s nibble is a recipe for Peruvian-style aji sauce. I had the hardest time finding a recipe by a Peruvian chef or blogger, but did find what sounds like the sauce under a different name by Ecuadoran food blogger Laylita. I also found a YouTube video in Spanish, and a version at Food and Wine. I am not familiar enough with Peruvian cuisine to confidently say whether this sauce is “authentic,” but I do know that it tastes amazing. Serve with some crispy potatoes, put it on on eggs, pour it on tater tots, or use it as a salad dressing. Enjoy!

Move Your Body, F*ck the Shame

Two of these books are about yoga, but you don’t have to be a yogi for their message of self love and acceptance to be relevant. Even if there isn’t a yogi among your book club, I could encourage you all to get into those books and try! One of the many, many lessons you’ll learn is that yoga is not just those intense 90 minute flows in a hot room you may be thinking of; even a quick 15-30 minute stretch in the morning (in a chair! on the floor! with blocks! there are options!) can do wonders for your mood and muscles —I am SO much less sore in my day to day life. The third book is quite literally about the radical power of self love, and all three stare down our society’s lack of acceptance for bodies that don’t fit a narrow definition of “normal.”

cover image of Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley

Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get On the Mat, Love Your Body by Jessamyn Stanley

Jessamyn Stanley is a huge part of the reason I came back to yoga after years of fits and starts. I was disillusioned by all the yoga classes where everyone but me was a thin white person, and where the instructors did little to nothing to offer modifications when poses weren’t accessible to me. I thought there was something wrong with my body and that maybe yoga just wasn’t for me. This book (and Jessamyn’s online presence in general) changed the game. It challenges stereotypes and offers tips and inspiration for finding yoga and self love, whether you’re at the beginning of your yoga practice or have already begun but find yourself hitting a wall. I go back and search for her tutorials at least once a week (I need to repurchase this book, see below to understand why) when I need a little help or encouragement to make a pose work for my body and my ability. It’s also just a really funny book—there’s a section called “The Chick-fil-A Bandit Walks Into Weight Watchers” and I cackle every time I think about that.

A story that sounds made up but is not: I bought this and took it with me to read at a park last summer with a little picnic in tow. A dog beelined it for my sandwich, but I managed to snatch the sammy away just in time. In what I can only call an act of savage vengeance, he/she grabbed my book instead and then hauled ass away in a matter of seconds. And that, children, is how I came to own Every Body Yoga for less than 48 hours.

Book Club Bonus: When you think of yoga, you probably think of a thin, flexible white woman who can effortlessly flow into a perfect chaturanga pushup while dressed in a cute, coordinated sports bra and legging combo that costs what I spend on two weeks of groceries. That’s because yoga is marketed that way pretty aggressively! Discuss that messaging and how completely at odds it is with the core principles of yoga.

cover image of Yoga Where You Are by Dianne Bondy and Kat Heagberg

Yoga Where You Are: Customize Your Practice for Your Body and Your Life by Dianne Bondy and Kat Heagberg

I first heard of Dianne Bondy on an episode of the Food Heaven podcast about joyful movement. When I found out her book was blurbed by Jessamyn Stanley, I had to cop it. This book and Jessamyn’s go hand in hand for me. They both offer a ton of insight as to the origins of yoga and its modern iterations, break down poses in a glossary format with modifications, and provide sample sequences. While Every Body Yoga speaks more to the individual and their own practice, Yoga Where You Are takes the messaging of accessible yoga further by tying it into activism. Dianne Bondy and Kat Heagberg discuss the whitewashing of modern yoga and its failure to make space for larger and disabled bodies, offering suggestions and solutions for creating truly safe spaces aimed at yoga teachers, while also speaking to individuals looking to find a place in the yoga world that’s accepting of them. I found the chapters on breath work super helpful and love the emphasis that there isn’t, contrary to what we’ve been told, a “right” way to do yoga.

Book Club Bonus: A lot of the same talking points for Every Body Yoga apply here. It goes beyond yoga though: discuss how fitness spaces in general leave a lot of people out of the conversation.

cover image of The Body is Not an Apology, 2nd Edition by Sonya Renee Taylor

The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor (2nd edition)

The cover of the first edition of the book was stunning and they someone managed to up the ante with the second! My nickname for this one is “f*ck your body shame!” Activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor calls readers to embrace radical self love and shed the indoctrinated body shame that’s so engrained in many of our thoughts. I cried a lot while reading this one when I realized quite how many times a day I think negative thoughts about my body and have spent a lot of time thinking about how and when I learned this behavior.

Book Club Bonus: As prep for book club, spend a day or even a couple of hours paying attention to every negative thought that pops into your brain about yourself. Write down your thoughts on that, then have the group share whatever they’re comfortable sharing, even if it’s just “I shamed my body 12 times in an hour” (you don’t have to share the specifics if you don’t want to). Where do these thoughts come from? At what age or stage in life do you remember absorbing that negative messaging? It’s eye-opening and heartbreaking to have these discussions, but empowering to name and reject the shame once you identify it.

Suggestion Section

Reese Witherspoon’s book club is now an app. Anyone try it yet? Rebecca and Jeff talked about it on this well’s Book Riot podcast and I too am a little surprised by what is and isn’t on the app.


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 

Vanessa 

Categories
In The Club

In the Club 02/03/21

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. I am writing this to you with my face numbed to high heaven on account of some aggressive dental work and I am so. freaking. hungry!!! I keep trying to chew and drink something—anything!!—but I either bite the hell out of my cheek or the food just ends up on my shirt. But enough about me being a mess as per usual! Let’s kick off Black History Month with just that: Black history.

To the club!!


Nibbles and Sips

I was in the mood for an adult beverage last week but couldn’t decide what the $@^#! to make with the ingredients on hand. That’s when I remembered that one of my favorite podcast personalities, Jade Verette, has a legit (and hilarious) IGTV cocktail series called Cocktails en la Casa (read up on her in this spotlight on Black mixologists by Food and Wine). I whipped up this frozen cucumber mint situation to pretend it was much sunnier outside my casa. It’s such a fresh, delicious blend of cucumber, mint, elderflower liqueur, fresh lime, and gin. Enjoy!

New Black History

Let’s get this part out of the way: around here, we read Black authors year round and not just in February. We do still set aside some designated time to celebrate Black voices during Black History month though, so that’s what we’re going to do today. These history books are all new and recent works by Black authors.

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

I was originally going to suggest Ibram X Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning, a book I’ve been slowly making my way through for months now. Then I remembered Four Hundred Souls and had to go with this. It’s a one-volume community history by 90 brilliant writers, each of whom tackles a five-year period from 1619 to the present. Each writer’s approach is different: some wrote historical essays, others short stories, some shared personal vignettes. The result is an important body of work that “fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith—instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness.”

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs

I’m actually surprised the concept for this book wasn’t explored sooner, because it feels long overdue. So much has been written and read about Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin (not that everyone has digested their message accurately, pero that’s some side eye for a different day). But very little has been said about the extraordinary women who raised these American icons. In one stunner of a debut, scholar Anna Malaika Tubbs celebrates Black motherhood by telling these women’s stories.

Caste

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

When Isabel Wilkerson gets out bed in the morning, do you think she has her toast and coffee before or after she sits down to craft masterpieces of thought? Whew! It landed on all of the best-of lists and won all of the things in 2020, and it’s no wonder. This time she’s taken on America’s hidden caste system with a “deeply researched narrative and stories about real people.” She pulls back the veil to reveal the hierarchy of human rankings that dominates our society and the systemic racism that allows it to thrive.

Suggestion Section

Barack Obama apparently surprised a Zoom book club by dropping in on their discussion of his book, A Promised Land. I can’t even pretend that I wouldn’t have blurted out, “HOW HAVE YOU BEEN, DAD, AND DO YOU THINK MICHELLE WOULD LET ME BORROW THAT COAT?”

Good Morning America’s February book club pick is Cherie Jones’ How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House.

The Today Show’s Jenna Bush Hager selects not one, but two books for February’s book club.

PBS’s February book club pick is Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown.

American Airlines’ new Apple Books partnership includes access to Oprah’s Book Club picks,


Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at vanessa@riotnewmedia.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends. 

Vanessa