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In The Club

More Books to Fall for in Fall!

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

I went to a comedy show with a friend this past weekend and it was…not what I expected. The comedians were funny and everything, but they were also very conscious. Don’t get me wrong, they made jokes making fun of people, but they still felt like jokes rather than something more insidious. They were also all of color. I was honestly, low-key dreading going because I have a low tolerance for nastiness these days, but I was pleasantly surprised overall. With everything going on, I’m happy with how people still seem to be progressing.

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

Nibbles and Sips

My friend and I went to a ramen shop and the food was amazing. I tried sake for the first time (which was delicious and gave me a five minute listening comprehension delay lol), had this huge, delicious bowl of ramen that came with fried broccolini — which seemed a bit random when I ordered it, but was so good. I also had these dumplings filled with impossible “meat” that tasted just like pork dumplings. Like, for real, I legit asked the server if maybe they were meat, they were that good.

Now I know I recommended an impossible meat item recently, but bear with me, these dumplings were so good that I had to figure out how to make them myself. I’ll also include a classic veggie dumpling recipe because I love all dumplings, really (this recipe has bonus points for that extra thiccc looking, freshly made dumpling wrapper).

For the impossible dumplings, Nancy at noms.com shows us how to do them. If your cabinet is well-stocked, you probably already have a lot of the ingredients, like garlic powder, paprika, etc. What I have to get myself is: wonton wrappers, sesame seeds, Chinese pickled daikon radish, cumin seeds, and of course the impossible meat. I am so excited to try these with a sriracha + soy sauce+ apple cider vinegar mix.

Now for books!

You’ll Want to Add These to the TBR…

Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong cover

Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong (September 27th)

Four years ago, Rosalind Lang was brought back to life and essentially made immortal. Now, in the Shanghai of 1931, she hopes to make amends for her past by lending her country her skills as an assassin. When a string of murders disrupts Shanghai, her mission changes. She’s to pose as the wife of the playboy spy Orion Hong and go under cover to determine whether the Japanese Imperial Army has any involvement. Naturally, both Rosalind and Orion find that things aren’t as simple as they first thought.

The Furrows cover

The Furrows by Namwali Serpell (September 27th)

Cassandra was 12 when there was an accident and her younger brother Wayne was lost forever. His body was never found, and the loss of him tears her family apart. Her father starts a new family elsewhere and her mother starts an organization that focuses on other missing children. All her life since the accident, Cassandra has seen her brother in her everyday life — from restaurant windows to grocery aisles — but another accident brings her into contact with a mysterious man. Something about him is oddly familiar, and his name is Wayne.

Catching the Light by Joy Harjo cover

Catching the Light by Joy Harjo (October 4th)

Harjo was the 23rd United States Poet Laureate, and with this memoir, she reflects on why she writes poetry. She details her life through personal stories that go from her childhood in the ’60s to her fight to center Indigenous culture. For Harjo, poetry comes from broken and silenced histories and is a way to reclaim narratives. I love books by writers about writing, and I’m especially excited for this one since I haven’t read a book about poetry specifically yet.

DEMON COPPERHEAD  BARBARA KINGSOLVER cover

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (October 18th) 

First of all, let’s get into this title, which is a play on David Copperfield, but adapted to an Appalachian setting. I love the idea of superimposing a Victorian novel over the American South. It just seems like it works. Here, a boy is born to a teenaged mother in the mountains of Appalachia and has nothing other than his intelligence and tenacity for survival to help carry him through foster care, terrible schools, and addiction.

The experiences with abject childhood poverty Charles Dickens injected into his stories are still being experience by many in parts of the southern U.S., and are on full display in this book that was inspired by his work.

Honorable mention: Rust in the Root by Justina Ireland (I mentioned this already in the In Reading Color newsletter and didn’t want to be redundant. you should definitely add it to the TBR, though!).

Want to read books from this newsletter? You can, for free! Get three free audiobooks with a trial to Audiobooks.com. Claim your 3 free audiobooks now!

Suggestion Section

Overwhelming majority of U.S. voters don’t want book bans

Spotify adds audiobooks to its features

How Librarians Can Counter Lies from Book Banners

Books About Women Over 50

Love TikTok Darling Colleen Hoover? Here are some authors just like her…

Alex Aster talks about how TikTok changed her life as a writer


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 talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

Erica

Categories
In The Club

Fab Fall Finds!

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

Fall is amongst us (almost officially)! Which means I’m looking at my boot collection a little more critically and my TBR has e x p l o d e d. Below I’ve got some of the books I’m most excited about that are being released this fall.

Now for the club!

Nibbles and Sips

I hope y’all don’t think I’m too basic for this, but I just had some Impossible sliders this past weekend during brunch and they were really, really good. The “meat” was perfectly seasoned and the accompanying curry ketchup was amazing.

Now, I just used Impossible “meat,” egg, Lawry’s seasoning, black pepper, garlic powder, a lil paprika, and a pinch of table salt in the ones I made — and I really liked the result — but I’ve included a fancier recipe for y’all. And here’s a recipe for curry ketchup if you’re down. This is also fancier than I actually did, since I literally just mixed ketchup with garlic powder, a little black pepper, and curry powder (lol). Hey, it was still good!

Now for the books!

A Thriller, a Gothic Mystery, and a Dystopian Walk into a Bar…

jackal book cover

Jackal by Erin E. Adams (Oct. 4)

This one’s blurbs starts off:

It’s watching

It’s taking.

Phew! Liz, a young Black woman, reluctantly goes back to her small Pennsylvania hometown for her bestie’s wedding. Although she’s grown and has learned how to deal with racist passive aggressions, she’s still not looking forward to them once she’s back. On the actual day of the wedding, though, she has a new worry: the daughter of the bride, Caroline, has gone missing. And all there is to go on is a white fabric covered in blood. That, and the pattern Liz noticed of a Black girl going missing after a summer party in the woods. The last time it happened, though, the girl was found with her chest open and her heart missing. Liz needs to get to the bottom of what’s going on in the town before it’s too late.

house of hunger book cover

House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson (Sept. 27)

In Henderson’s latest gothic novel, Marion Shaw is from the poorest part of the city and desperate to get out. One day she finds an odd opportunity that may just help her: in the newspaper is a listing for a bloodmaid. She knows that bloodmaids serve wealthy houses in the north by allowing their masters to drink their blood, but she doesn’t know much else. She applies to the position and is soon the newest bloodmaid for the House of Hunger. She’s eagerly serves her new, charismatic mistress, Lisavet, but when she starts to notice other bloodmaids disappearing in the night, she’ll need to figure out some things in order to survive.

When securing the bag goes wrong, case #1,001. You hate to see it.

Our Missing Hearts Book Cover

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng (Oct. 4)

After years of economic uncertainty and violence, 12-year-old Bird has been taught to uphold what’s seen as “American culture” by his father who was once a linguist. In order to uphold this so-called culture, authorities are allowed to take away children of those who disagree. These children just so happen to often be of Asian descent. One day, Bird receives a cryptic letter that leads him to trying to find the “unpatriotic” poet mother who left him years ago. The journey brings back memories of the folktales she told to him, and may have him thinking differently about injustice.

cover image for Blackmail and Bibingka

Blackmail and Bibingka by Mia P. Manansala 

So I know this one will be fun. Lila’s life is looking pretty sweet. She’s got a great business going, the Brew-ha Cafe, and is starting a new romance with her friend Jae. But her messy cousin, who hasn’t been in contact with the family for 15 years, is back and claiming he’s on the up-and-up. Lila knows better, though, and her suspicions are soon validated when he’s accused of murder. Now, being the dedicated Macapagal family member she is, she sets out to clear her cousin of any (murderous) wrong doing. Unless…he did it?

Want to read books from this newsletter? You can, for free! Get three free audiobooks with a trial to Audiobooks.com. Claim your 3 free audiobooks now!

Suggestion Section

Here are some of the buzziest fall titles!

Nonfiction recommendations based on what fiction you like

Fall book-to-screen adaptations to look forward to!

A brief history of Ursula K. Le Gui


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 talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

Erica

Categories
In The Club

A Great Gatsby Retelling, Gothic Horror in Mexico, and Other Books by Latine Authors!

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

So DC Comics decided to be both loud and wrong for Hispanic Heritage Month, which writer Eileen Gonzalez explains beautifully. Basically, they made special covers meant to highlight a few of their Latine characters, but they’re…a mess. They’re a mess because they only seem to focus on the food aspect of Latin culture, which is exactly the kind of reductive thinking that makes heritage months necessary. The irony. I can’t.

After reading Eileen’s hilarious (and insightful!) article explaining things and rolling your eyes in fatigue, scroll down to get a few (mostly) new books by Latine authors.

Now on to the Club!

Nibbles and Sips

I love corn in the summer, and this grilled corn with charred leek and red pepper butter is a great mix of fancy, delicious, and easy. All you need is basically just the ingredients I’ve already mentioned.

Grill the corn and the other ingredients, then chop up the leek and peppers and add to the butter. Then spread your delicious new butter on the corn. *Amazing.*

Self-Discovery, Monsters, and Family Ties

Juliet Takes a Breath: The Graphic Novel cover

Juliet Takes a Breath: The Graphic Novel by Gabby Rivera

In light of DC’s tom foolery, let’s start off with a graphic novel. I finally got around to watching the second Doctor Strange movie this past weekend, and found out that Gabby Rivera writes Marvel’s America Chavez comics. America is a main character in the Doctor Strange movie, so I just wanted to include this as a cute little factoid, and not because I wanted to shade DC or anything *blinks innocently*.

This is an adaptation from the novel of the same name, which follows Juliet Palante as she tries to figure out life as a queer Puerto Rican woman. She’s just told her mom and the rest of her family that she’s a lesbian and isn’t sure how that will change their relationship in the long term. So she decides to try to see how other queer women make it by interning with her favorite feminist author. Problem is, the author is white, so there’s an aspect to Juliet’s identity that she won’t necessarily understand. Turns out no one has the answers, so Juliet will have to come up with them herself!

Book Club Bonus: Discuss how you interpret this line given the rest of the book: “Feminism. I’m new to it. The word still sounds weird and wrong. Too white, too structured, too foreign: something I can’t claim.”

Cover of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I mentioned this one a few months ago, but it’s perfect to mention again as we head into fall. It’s a retelling of The Island of Doctor Moreau that takes place in 19th century Yucatán, Mexico. Young Carlota Moreau lives with her father, Dr. Moreau, Montgomery, and the doctor’s part human, part animal creations in a sort of innocent bubble. The bubble bursts when the son of Doctor Moreau’s patron, Eduardo Lizalde, arrives. Now, Carlota has questions about her father’s obedient hybrids that he may not be willing to answer.

Book Club Bonus: What do you think this retelling added to the original story? If you haven’t read the original story, how do you think being set in Yucatán, Mexico added to the anticipation of the finale?

The Family Izquierdo by Rubén Degollado cover

The Family Izquierdo by Rubén Degollado

The Izquierdos are a family with members who really care about each other, but man are they going through it. The patriarch is dying, a son’s marriage is on the rocks, there are miscarriages, and other misfortunes, and it’s all thought to be the result of a neighbor placing a curse on them out of jealousy. As we’re taken through three generations of Izquierdos, each chapter is told by a different family member, allowing for a fully formed picture of a family as it contends with sorrow, basks in happiness and the love its members have for each other.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss what role belief systems, like brujería and Catholicism, play in the family members’ lives.

cover of Self-Made Boys: A Great Gatsby Remix (Remixed Classics, 5) by Anna-Marie McLemore; illustration of two young men, one white and blonde, one Latine with dark hair, dressed in 1920s outfits

Self-Made Boys: A Great Gatsby Remix by Anna-Marie McLemore

This is another retelling, this time of The Great Gatsby. It follows 17-year-old trans boy Nick as he travels from Minnesota to New York City to start life as a young professional. He ends up renting from his cousin Daisy, who is engaged to a wealthy white man and has decided to pass as white instead of Latina. Then, of course, there’s Jay Gatsby, with his mansion and extra parties. Like with the original, we learn that the parties are to impress Daisy, but we also learn that Jay is trans, too. There are some other wonderful surprises in McLemore’s beautifully written book that will make you want to read this sooner rather than later.

Book Club Bonus: I’m really liking seeing all these Great Gatsby retellings because there’s so much room to explore — unpack, really — the American everything. The American Dream, American ideals, beauty standards, class, everything. Which parts of American culture do you feel were called out based on what was changed from the original?

Want to read books from this newsletter? You can, for free! Get three free audiobooks with a trial to Audiobooks.com. Claim your 3 free audiobooks now!

Suggestion Section

Author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich has passed away

Killing the Black Body and God Help the Child are Noname’s book club picks

On the Rooftop is Reese’s book club pick

Jenna Bush Hager’s pick is Solito

Roxane Gay’s Audacious Book Club pick is How to Read Now 


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 talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-Erica

Categories
In The Club

Survival of the Bookish

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

I went to see the movie Beast starring Idris Elba a couple days ago with a friend. I had totally forgotten it was coming out and hadn’t even watched a trailer, but was super down to see it (see: Idris Elba). Well, it was pretty good! It’s definitely more of a movie driven by anticipation and visuals rather than dialogue, so heads up if you’re thinking of seeing it yourself.

Then, in a turn of events no one saw coming, my friend and I went to a bar that also has axe throwing. I always knew I was great at throwing shade, but now I know I’m also pretty decent at throwing hatchets. Your girl is ready for whatever.

After all the lions and axe throwing, I figured we should discuss some rough and tumble kinda books, so let’s get to the club!

Nibbles and Sips

I’m not a fan of gin, but the bar had this really nice lavender gin cocktail that toned down the less desirable aspects of gin nicely for me. I found a similar recipe here. I would just say to leave out the egg white!

Now for some books!

All My Life I Had to Fight

Side note: these books have virtually nothing to do with The Color Purple movie where I got that line from, but it just seemed to fit, you know?

Want to read books from this newsletter? You can, for free! Get three free audiobooks with a trial to Audiobooks.com. Claim your 3 free audiobooks now!

cover of Sorrowland by river solomon

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Vern is on the run. She’s seven months pregnant and hiding out in the woods after having escaped from the religious compound where she grew up. The community she escaped from doesn’t want to let her go, though—even as she fights back against them using a kind of superhuman strength. To protect the twins she gave birth to after having escaped, she’ll have to contend with her past within the compound—the existence of which is directly tied to the history of violence in the U.S.—and a new future.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss how affective the story was at making what has been sacrificed in the name of certain ideals in this country truly felt.

cover The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians has a couple major things in common with the movie Beast. I won’t list them specifically in case you want to see the movie, though. Jones’ book follows four young Indigenous men who went hunting one fateful day. Their decision to shoot into an elk herd on elder land, violating Blackfeet boundaries, is one that later comes with a great reckoning. Jones works in illuminating social commentary and subverts horror tropes as he also tells of how the young men fight to stay alive.

Book Club Bonus: In what ways can the sentiment behind Blackfeet hunting mores be applied to global warming?

the hunger alma katsu cover

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

The Donner Party descends into chaos after it gets hit with misfortune after misfortune. A little boy dies mysteriously, food is running low, and people are fighting. Looking for sense amidst tragedy, talks of Tamsen Donner being a witch start to circulate. Whatever the reason, though, the fact remains that the group has to survive the journey through a mountainous area—with its intense temperatures on both ends of the spectrum—if its members are to live. But as people start disappearing, the question of “is there something in the mountains?” takes root.

Book Club Bonus: What did you think of Katsu’s weaving of historical details with her explanation of what happened with the infamous Donner Party?

cover of force of nature

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

When five office colleagues go into a mountain range as part of a corporate retreat meant to build teamwork, one goes missing. So far, this is the only Jane Harper novel I’ve read, and one of the things I liked about it was how the setting is its own character. The Giralang Ranges—a fictional mountain range that could represent a number of Australia’s national parks—grants a sense of claustrophobia and a constant, uneasy presence as detective Falk must determine if the missing woman was a victim of foul play, the elements, or another, unknown force.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss what you would do if you were placed in a similar situation where you had to survive in abject wilderness. Do you think how the characters behaved was realistic?

Suggestion Section

Queer SFF for people not familiar with the genre

Here are the most challenged and banned comics since 2000

Some short horror stories for ya!

The results of the Genderqueer obscenity case


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 talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-Erica

Categories
In The Club

Secrets in Mexico City, a Ghost in Tokyo, and More!

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

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, there are so many really interesting books written by women that get translated into English. I’ve noticed that many of the ones I come across have very unique premises — like the aforementioned Tokyo ghost — and it makes me wonder if it’s just some kind of confirmation bias on my part (since I very much like out-there plots). Or, is it more that having a mother tongue other than English and living in a majority non English-speaking country lends itself to a different kind of imagination (which is kind of the point of Women in Translation month). It’s probably a mix of the two…

As I ponder this, lets get to the club!

Nibbles and Sips

crispy smashed potatoes with chimichurri

Sometimes you just need crispy, smashed potatoes with chimichurri, you know what I mean? Molly Yeh shows us how to get this glorious (and simple!) comfort food.

You basically just need taters (obv.), olive oil, garlic, parsley, cilantro, and salt!

Now for books!

More Women in Translation

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri, Translated by Morgan Giles cover

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri, Translated by Morgan Giles

Born in Fukushima the same year as the emperor, Kazu has always felt tied to the Japanese royal family. He’s also tied to this one place: the park near Ueno Station in Tokyo. As a ghost, his spirit haunts this one particular spot where his nebulous thoughts swirl around things like the conversations he overhears and other sensory experiences. They eventually manifest into more concrete thoughts, like the life experiences that led him to being homeless and dying in the park. His story speaks volumes on humanity’s disregard for the most vulnerable populations.

cover of Umami by Laia Jufresa, Sophie Hughes

Umami by Laia Jufresa, translated by Sophie Hughes

Reading Gods of Jade and Shadow, made me super hype to read more books set in Mexico City, where this one also takes place. In it, we find the very precocious 12-year-old Ana who likes to read Agatha Christie novels to try to forget about how her little sister died. One day she decides to plant a milpa in her backyard. The digging it requires leads to her neighbors digging up their past, sharing with her stories of lost mothers, mysterious wives, and other questions, like how a girl who knew how to swim could drown. Jufresa’s writing can be funny but also heartwarming, and the Mexico City she writes of is both modern and whimsical.

Vernon Subutex 1 cover

Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes, translated by Frank Wynne

Virginie Despentes is a writer and filmmaker who wrote this book as part of a trilogy on the owner of a music shop in Paris named Vernon. Wellll, Vernon ain’t doing too hot; though he was once a bit of a legend in music circles throughout Paris, the 2000s have him on a decline. The advent of the internet has led to considerably fewer CDs and vinyls being sold, and now his store is struggling. His savings eventually dry up and the rock star who had been paying his rent (must be nice!) has died from an overdose. A comment he made on Facebook goes viral, and once people realize he has been dragging all these rare VHS tapes around as he couch surfs, he becomes a bit of a target. Now, an eclectic cast of characters — from porn stars to screen writers — are after Vernon’s tapes that have the last recordings of the dead rock star.

When the Night Agrees to Speak to Me cover

When the Night Agrees to Speak to Me by Ananda Devi, translated by Kazim Ali

Reading translated poetry is an interesting concept to me. Since the word choice in poems is so exact and precise, I wonder how much gets lost in translation. With that in mind, it makes sense to have another poet translate poetry, as Kazim Ali has done here for Devi’s poems, which are simultaneously autobiographical and meditations on things like aging and desire. There’s also a translator’s note, an essay on reading poetry, and an interview between the author and translator.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

Gather ’round, friends, and get this shot of serotonin from cute animal stock photos

Find out more about Salman Rushdie in light and the brutal attack he suffered on August 12th

Some genre-blending graphic novels

Here’s the tea on what’s going on with Barnes & Noble


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 talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-Erica

Categories
In The Club

Musicians and All That Jazz

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

I’ve mentioned this before, but this summer I am really trying to be out and about (safely, of course), so I went to a jazz performance this past Sunday. It’s been a minute since I’ve seen live music up close, so of course it got me thinking about things. Specifically, it amazes me that people are really able to come up with songs and be that kind of creative.

I mean, I dabbled in the flute in middle school (lol), but that is the extent of my musical prowess, so actual, professional musicians amaze me. The show also got me thinking about jazz and the history of it. I think I kind of took its beginnings for granted in a way because it came into existence long before I was born. I knew its roots were in Black American traditional music (which is tied back to African music, spirituals, etc.), but I started to wonder about how European instruments got involved and just how the entire thing came to be. Because of this curiosity, I thought to make today’s books about musicians, and one of them is even about the man considered to be the Father of Jazz.

Now on to the (Jazz) Club!

Nibbles and Sips

Matcha brownies

I don’t think y’all are ready for this one, but here goes: MATCHA BROWNIES. The ingredients needed are mostly what I would suspect people who like to bake already have — like sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, etc. — plus matcha, of course. Catherine Zhang has a recipe, and there’s also one on Instagram!

Books to Get Jazzed About

*sorry for the pun*

When I started to research jazz’s origins, I found that it came from New Orleans, which I knew. What I didn’t know is that part of why New Orleans was able to become the birth place of such a huge musical movement was tied directly to freedom.

Congo Square in New Orleans was a place were enslaved people went on their day off to have fun and revel in the music they brought from home. A big part of that music was the drum, which they weren’t allowed to have in areas in America that were influenced by British colonialism. This reminds me of the newly released Bronze Drum, in which the Han outlaw the use of drums in their oppression of Vietnam. Colonization and oppression really are the enemies of progress and culture.

Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje cover

Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje

It’s said that Buddy Bolden took ragtime, mixed it with the blues, Black American spirituals, and even a little hoodoo music to make what would be known as jazz. Thing is, none of his recordings survived. What has survived is the mystery surrounding the man. Ondaatje takes that mystery and writes a novel around it, bringing to life Bolden’s world where he would birth a beautiful new art form before he succumbed to his struggle with mental illness.

Book club bonus: How do you feel the experimental elements of the author’s writing lend to the story?

The Final Revival of Opal and Nev Book Cover

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

An interracial rock duo, Opal and Nev, rise to fame in the ’70s as a result of their bold and funky sound. During a concert, another musical group waves a Confederate flag and when Opal protests, violence breaks out. Decades later, music journalist Sunny Shelton seeks the duo out to record their history, but is surprised to learn about allegations that threaten the duo’s legacy.

Book club bonus: A few of these books have a different form than the usual novel. This one is told in an oral history format. How do you think the format aids the storytelling here?

Also, how do you think Opal & Nev’s success would have been altered if Nev was Black?

Muted cover

Muted by Tami Charles

This YA novel in verse is about a 17-year-old named Denver who dreams of making it in music. First, she’ll have to get out of her small, very white hometown, though. She and her best friends Shak and Dali get on the radar of the biggest R&B star in the world, and soon he’s giving them everything they could dream of. But eventually the parties turn into something else, and Denver realizes this isn’t the singer’s life she had in mind.

Book club bonus: Discuss why you think the entertainment industry is so full of abuse. Is it something intrinsic to it, or just more obvious because the people are famous?

Half Blood Blues cover

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

Hieronymus Falk, a rising music star, is arrested and never seen again in 1940s Germany. Fifty years later and inspired by a mysterious letter that reveals secrets surrounding what happened, Hiero’s bandmate Sid travels back to Germany. Through Sid, we see not only the mystery of Hiero’s disappearance unfold, but also what it was like to be a group of Black musicians in Nazi Germany.

Book club bonus: Discuss what surprised you about what it was like living as Black jazz musicians in Germany in the ’40s.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

The bookish life of Michelle Yeoh

The best sci-fi books OF ALL TIME

Barnes & Noble is having a huge sale!

Florida school district puts warnings on 100 books, including Everywhere Babies *eyeroll incoming*

Unputdownable books to help you escape


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 talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

Erica

Categories
In The Club

Read These Women in Translation

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

A couple weeks ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to go to the African art museum. I thought it was the Smithsonian’s big African American museum, but it was actually located in a smaller building, an offshoot of a larger collection. Apparently my reaction is common, and many people don’t really know about its existence. Which is a shame, because it was fab! There was art rendered in various media and an exhibit featuring these gorgeously saturated photos of Nollywood (Nigerian Hollywood) stars.

Everything together really added depth and context to my view of the many countries and cultures of Africa. I think it’s easy for westerners to get stuck with a certain image of African art that is not very representative of the expansive continent, nor the time. But this collection featured a lot of modern artists and performers, which allowed me to see what entertainment and art my African peers grew up consuming and currently consume.

This looking at someone else’s experience is at the heart of why Women in Translation Month exists and is celebrated in August. Only 3% of books being published in the U.S. are translated, and from that measly number, the translated books by women is even lower. That means we’re missing out on an entire world of experiences and perspectives. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel some type of way. Especially since so many are so good! We can start to remedy that a bit today, though!

Now let’s get to the club…

Nibbles and Sips

dirty Shirley cocktail

Have you tried a Dirty Shirley yet? I’m all for simple (especially in this heat!), and this is super simple, but I feel the nostalgia gives it a lil sumn extra. You know what I mean? This is another trend from TikTok that I actually appreciate.

What you’ll need:

vodka, fresh lime juice, grenadine, lemon-lime soda, and Maraschino cherries and lime wheels for garnish. See? Super simple.

Now you can have a lil sip while you read these translated books by women!

Fire, Translated

The subtitle isn’t super original or clever, but it is how I feel! Seriously, these translated books by women are groundbreaking, subversive, and just all around brilliant, and I am miffed just thinking about other works that are similarly brilliant that are waiting to be translated and that will either A) be translated decades from now, or B) will never be translated. I mean, at least we have these, but also who do I ask for a refund??

Talk to My Back  cover

Talk to My Back by Yamada Murasaki, translated by Ryan Holmberg

Murasaki’s graphic novel Talk to My Back was originally published serially in the influential alternative manga magazine Garo from 1981-84. It was just published as a collection this July, and follows Chiharu as she struggles with the state of her marriage and mothering two teenage daughters. As her husband’s disregard for her — he sees her as a domestic servant and cheats on her — becomes apparent, so too does Japan’s failing of its female population. Murasaki was the first manga artist to use manga as a medium to explore the lives of Japanese women in such an honest way.

cover of Panics by Barbara Molinard

Panics by Barbara Molinard, translated by (September 2022)

Molinard (1921–1986) was a prolific writer but only published this one book in her lifetime. The reason being that she would destroy most of her stories almost as soon as she had finished them. Luckily, her close friend Marguerite Duras saved these stories that were later translated by  Emma Ramadan. They are like a fever dream of warped experiences of violence, mental illness, and autonomy — in one story, surgeons dismember their patient; in another, a man travels to a city for a meeting, becomes lost, and travels along the city wall for months. Molinard’s friend Duras describes them as an intimate look into the author’s internal struggle. The same struggle that had her creating and destroying her works in such rapid succession.

Moonbath cover

Moonbath by Yanick Lahens, translated by Emily Gogolak

In this novel, award-winning Haitian author Yanick Lahens writes a family saga of four generations of women fighting to hold their family together in Haiti. She really immerses you in the world of the Clémestals/LaFleurs/Dorivals and the voodoo, romance, and political upheaval that surrounds them.

The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft cover

The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft

Tokarczuk really won me over with Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. I haven’t finished this one yet, though (it’s super thiccc at 956 pages *cries in ADHD*). A young Jewish man arrives in Poland and adopts a new name and persona. Taking advantage of the general sense of unrest and change that has swept over the land, he soon also has an enthusiastic following. As the years go by, the man, Frank Jacob, will travel over the continent, converting just as many people into disciples as enemies, continuously reinventing himself along the way. He lives as a Muslim and then a Catholic, a heretic, as well as the Messiah. All while rumors concerning the nature of his following’s secret rituals swirl about. One thing I like about Tokarczuk is the way she deftly navigates philosophical and existential questions, and the story of Frank, a real and mysterious historical figure, is the perfect set up for her musings.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

The DOJ is suing Penguin Random House (PRH) from acquiring/merging with Simon & Schuster and it’s messssy

The worst tropes in mysteries and thrillers

The best series of all time!

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy is Jenna Bush Hager’s August pick for the Today Show book club

Root Magic is Noname’s August 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 talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

Erica

Categories
In The Club

Books like Jordan Peele’s NOPE

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

So at this point, Jordan Peele’s movie Nope has been out for about two weeks and I’ve seen it two times. Although I love movies as much as the next person, I’ve never been a really big movie buff. Nor have I been someone who likes to analyze every movie she sees within an inch of its life. I want to with the movie Nope, though.

I don’t want this newsletter to be too spoilery, but it might be, so if you want to see the movie and want to be totally surprised, you’ve been warned. By now, many people know the movie is about aliens. And it is. But, like everything with Peele, his version of aliens is totally new and interesting, taking a commonly held view and flipping it on its assumptions. What the movie is really about though — the theme that is just beneath the surface, obvious, but also somewhat obscured — is exploitation. The exploitation of people, namely Black people, as well as the exploitation of animals, especially as that exploitation applies to Hollywood. I like that Peele concerns himself with the well-being of all living beings, animals included.

Now, on to the (Nope) club!

Nibbles and Sips

hot honey peach cornbread

You ever heard of hot honey peach cornbread? Yeah, me neither. I literally hail from the land of peaches and cornbread, so I will need to have a discussion with my parents on how they’ve failed me. Thankfully, Yinka Ogunbiyi is righting that wrong. Here’s a bonus instagram video.

You’ll need:

  • 120g butter, plus extra to grease
  • 230ml milk 
  • 2 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar 
  • 150g cornmeal or polenta
  • 125g clear honey
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes 
  • 2 large peaches, or 3 small
  • 1 medium egg 
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 120g self-raising flour
  • vanilla ice cream, to serve

Unless you’re familiar with grams and the like, you’ll want to convert the measurements into U.S. customary units.

Now for some books!

“Nope, Nah” — Daniel Kaluuya’s character in NOPE

Emily Martin has written an excellent post that went up on the main site about books like Peele’s movie, which I recommend. The books I include here, though, are totally different and focus more exclusively on what I felt like were his more subterranean points, namely how the vulnerable are exploited by others just because, and the unsung influence of Black Americans in America’s culture.

cover of A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib

A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance by Hanif Abdurraqib

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this one before, but it’s worth mentioning several times. Black people’s contribution to American culture still isn’t fully acknowledged. Peele references that fact in the first few minutes of his new movie when Keke Palmer’s character explains how the first person filmed was a Black man riding a horse, but no one knows his name. One could say that this very first disregarding of Black people’s contributions as far as film was concerned set the standard for the future.

With this book, Abdurraqib similarly shouts out the many Black people who have shaped America — from entertainment to politics — with their art. He injects his own personal history as well as the pain and joy, rhythm and musicality, that got us to this point as he shows just how woven into the very fabric of America Blackness is.

Book club bonus: Were you surprised by any of the contributions Abdurraqib mentions? What would you add?

cover image of The Compton Cowboys by Walter Thompson-Hernandez

The Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America’s Urban Heartland by Walter Thompson-Hernandez

If you see the movie and immediately start looking up theories like I did, you’ll likely run across articles speaking of how Peele was influenced by Hollywood and the film-making process. What you might not see as much of is what I felt like was his ode to the Black cowboy. Despite there being so many — an estimated 25% or more — they’ve never been shown in classic Westerns, much less as the heroes. In The Compton Cowboys, the legacy of Black cowboys is continued through a ranch in Los Angeles. At the ranch, the cowboys find camaraderie, freedom, protection, and pursue dreams of winning rodeo competitions.

Book club bonus: How does the image of Black cowboys settle in your mind? Does it feel natural or very unfamiliar? Discuss how, through media’s influence, actual history can feel so foreign sometimes.

cover of tender is the flesh by agustina bazterrica

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica,  translated by Sarah Moses 

Phew, ok, now this one is not for the weak-stomached. Merely reading the premise of it low-key makes me gag, so consider that your warning.

By showing how humans start being exploited in place of animals, I feel like this book perfectly tackles how animals and humans are treated. It follows Marcos, who works at a processing plant that slaughters humans, except they’re not referred to as humans any more. Since the virus emerged that made all animal meat poisonous to humans, all animals were killed on sight, and “special meat” soon became legal to eat. Well, one day Marcos gets a live specimen of the highest quality (ugh), and he breaks the rules by starting to treat her like an actual person. Once reality sets in, he starts to think that the humanity that’s been lost may be too much to bear.

The grotesque aspect of this book’s central premise scratches at that itch that Peele’s movie gives me — a gnawing, disturbing one that makes me feel like there are those who would disembody others for entertainment.

Book club bonus: So! There is so much with this one. The taking away of humanity from people reminds me of American chattel slavery. How people are willing to sacrifice other living beings for an unnecessary luxury speaks to capitalism and the United States overindulgent meat industry. SO much to discuss!

Suggestion Section

Facts you might not have known about James Baldwin

New Books out this week!

Mika In Real Life is Good Morning America’s August pick

Wrong Place Wrong Time is Reese’s 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 talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

Erica

Categories
In The Club

Obama’s Summer Reading List and the Booker Longlist

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

I mentioned in the yesterday’s In Reading Color send how I’ve been socializing *gasp*. I’ve always been the biggest homebody, but the past couple years of really isolating has gotten to even me, so I’ve been making a concerted effort to be amongst the gworls a little more. This led me to an open mic night on Monday. And, apart from an older white guy saying the n-word in reference to himself (yes, I’m serious), the performers were actually pretty good.

There were quite a few young people that did really well. I’m talking young like 13-young. There was even this family that had several kids performing (one played guitar, one rapped, one sang). They were so cute! Then, there was this table of barely-out-of-high school spoken word artists who all took the same poetry class in high school who absolutely killed it. Gen Z is really out here, I’m telling you.

The overall vibe of the room was so chill and supportive. I hope you’re feeling a least a little of that this week as we get to the club!

Nibbles and Sips

korean fried cauliflower

I was going to share the harira soup I had at the restaurant where the open mic night was, but I thought I’d spare y’all a soup recipe with all this *waves hands frantically* going on. Instead, I’ll share the other thing I head alongside my much-needed sangria. Korean cauliflower! It was so good, y’all. I low-key want to go back today to have it again (lol!), but luckily I have Kaitlin over at The Woks of Life to not have me doing the most.

Now for some books!

A Lil Mix n Match

Former President Barack Obama released his summer reading list on the same day that the Booker Prize Longlist was announced. Although I’ll obviously read anything at any time, I also appreciate keeping up with the latest award nominees and the most buzzed about books. They generally make for great book club picks! I’ve highlighted a couple from both lists to talk about during future gatherings.

Obama’s Summer Picks:

cover of Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson; white font over multi-colored paint swishes that create the face of a Black woman in the center

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

With Eleanor Bennet”s death, she leaves her two kids, Byron and Benny, a black cake and a whole lotta questions. The questions are from the siblings, as they learn from a recording left by their mother that she wasn’t quite who they thought she was. For one, there was the suspicion of murder that hovered over her head as she left her island home. Secondly, there was another child she had unbeknownst to them. And, as shocking as the revelations are, the siblings know she still held back details. They want to try to piece together who their mother really was— and who there are by extension— but they’ve got to work on their own relationship first.

cover of The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang

The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang

This is another one dealing with deceased family members and their secrets. Here, the Chaos have lived in a pleasant town where their restaurant has been serving residents for more than 30 years. This is despite certain unsavory rumors about them spread by townspeople. When the patriarch, Leo Chao, dies, a murder case is opened and the town suspects his three sons. Apparently, the sons, Dagou, Ming, and James all had motives. As their father’s secrets come to light, they’ll have to cope with his legacy and their own shortcomings. This one is as funny as it is heartbreaking.

From the Booker Prize Longlist

nightcrawling cover

Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

At 20, Mottley is the youngest person to be nominated for the Booker Prize! I’m only second guessing my life choices a little (just a little) *ahem*.

Anyway, this amazing book is getting praised all up and down, and was chosen by Oprah for her book club. It follows Kiara as she tries to keep her and her brother Marcus afloat in East Oakland. Marcus is busy trying to be a rapper while Kiara discovers a line of work she never thought she’d be involved in. Nightcrawling opens her up to a world that eventually leads her to being a key witness in a scandal within the Oakland Police Department.

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida cover

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka 

In Sri Lanka in 1989, Maali Almeida wakes up in what appears to be a celestial visa office and finds out that not only is he dead, but his dismembered body is floating in a lake. The current state of the country makes it hard to narrow down a list of suspects, and he only has seven moons to contact the woman and man he loves most and show them shocking photographs that will change the country. This is a trippy, funny satirical novel about the state of things.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

Goodreads’ list of the best dark academia

The World Fantasy Award Finalists!

A funny list of totally original literary podcast that don’t exist yet

What it’s like being an autistic librarian

New LGBTQ+ graphic novels that you need to get into ASAP


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 talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-Erica

Categories
In The Club

The Best Books of the Year (So Far) and Disability as The Other

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

It’s hot and humid af, so I’ve been staying inside (mostly) reading, watching a little TV, and playing with my poorly behaved new kitten. One of my most recent reads has been a new horror anthology I mentioned in this week’s New Releases Tuesday post , which actually made me want to recommend some more books by disabled authors. The anthology, titled Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology, features authors from marginalized backgrounds writing around the theme of the other and what role it has played in horror. I’m still working my way through it, but I already highly recommend it (the Tananarive Due story still has me shookington).

This collection’s theme of questioning what we deem as the other goes so well with many of the books I’m mentioning today, and with that said, on to the club!

Nibbles and Sips

Keepin’ it light and simple today with this crisp and fresh cucumber salad. I love cucumbers, especially in the summer, and this recipe’s inclusion of miso paste and peanut oil give it a lil sumn extra, I think.

You’ll need:

8 mini cucumbers
salt
3 garlic cloves (minced into paste)
1 tbsp chilli flakes
2 tbsp soy sauce 
1 tsp miso paste
1 tbsp peanut oil
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp chilli oil
spring onion 

Make sure to watch the vid for a fancy cucumber slicing technique!

Now for books!

Disabled Takes on Beauty, Sex, and Belonging

cover of Disfigured by Amanda Leduc

Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability and Making Space by Amanda Leduc

I love how the this book presents fairy tales as our (the United States, that is) foundational myths, because they really are, but I never seem them presented as such. It’s an important thing to note when speaking of constructs and norms within our society. Leduc looks at how fairy tales have positioned disabled bodies as other, and influenced our views of disability in everyday life. She also reimagines these stories from a modern-day disablist perspective, tying disability activism to more modern, magical stories.

Book club bonus: It’s interesting to think of how villainy in fairy tales has often been identified by physicality. This kind of logic has helped to perpetuate the idea that people who are deemed “attractive” are inherently good. What real life implications do you think this has had?

A graphic of the cover of Easy Beauty: A Memoir by Chloé Cooper Jones

Easy Beauty by  Chloé Cooper Jones

Chloé Cooper Jones has all the things, all the flowers. She’s a Pulitzer Prize finalist, has received a Whiting Creative Nonfiction grant, and is a philosophy professor, and with this memoir, she sheds light on what it’s been like to live with a rare congenital condition. The condition, sacral agenesis, affects how she walks and stands, which has resulted in often being dismissed outright or pitied. It’s also the reason she’s had to make “pain calculations” when planning her days, and why she learned early on to retreat into the neutral area of academia. Things change when she has a child, though. The spaces, both physical and mental, that she often thought were off limits to her are ones she now wants to reclaim. And, by traveling to things like Beyonce concerts and gardens in Rome, she sets out to take up the space she’s due, questioning our views of beauty along the way.

Book club bonus: Here’s another examination of beauty being a determiner of value, and how that beauty itself is determined. It’s often not about ability or skill, but physical appearance. Meanwhile, beauty standards can literally change with the wind. We’ve seen, within just one country, how vastly different beauty standards can be. I’ve even witnessed a few beauty standard changes within my short 30 years in this country alone. Discuss why and how societies have placed so much importance on something so flimsy.

A graphic of the cover of The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus

The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus

Have to mention how Antrobus features a Ted Hughes poem titled “Deaf School” where he crosses out each line. Why? Because Hughes wrote things like “the deaf children were monkey nimble” and how they had “faces of little animals.” Antrobus actually won the 2018 Ted Hughes award (the irony) for poetry with this collection, in which he explores his identity as a d/Deaf person, a British Jamaican, and society’s failings where d/Deaf children are concerned.

Side note, but when I tried to look up the poem by Ted Hughes (Sylvia Plath’s husband for those unawares), I could only find stuff having to do with Antrobus, which was… interesting. The original poem is so gross to me, I can’t imagine how Hughes has a poetry award in his name, but here we are.

Book club bonus: I obviously feel some type of way about Hughes’ poem. Because he had the nerve to think those things, commit them to paper, and that it was accepted and he revered enough to have an award named after him. I think we should just sit and let it marinate how this view of disabled people was not only accepted, but celebrated in many ways (i.e. the award). How did this type of thinking manifest in their lives? What is its legacy?

A graphic of the cover of The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me by Keah Brown

The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me by Keah Brown

First thing’s first, sis’ title is a whole mood. It’s no surprise that Brown was the originator of the #DisabledAndCute viral hashtag, and I’m not mad. Here, she explores her experiences growing up Black with cerebral palsy. Despite her immense confidence now, she explains how that wasn’t always the case. The title, even, refers to how her identical, able-bodied twin was always referred to as “the pretty one” in relation to her. With this collection, she aims to do away with distorted, able-bodied stereotypes, and give a peek into her life by looking at things like her love of pop culture and her romantic entanglements.

Book club bonus: It blows my mind how Brown’s identical twin sister was labelled “the pretty one.” Like, how? When they’re identical?? Discuss how the mere label of things, specifically being labeled as disabled, can completely color people’s perceptions of others. How has this affected disabled people?

The Kiss Quotient Book Cover

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

You’ve probably heard about this book in recent years, but if you haven’t read it, then you may not know that the main character, like the author, has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Stella is good with algorithms but not so much with romance. She decides to fix her lack of experience by hiring a professional, escort Michael Phan, to help her, um, practice (heh). Practice, they do, but they also realize that their previously strictly dickly (lol) arrangement is starting to feel so right in other ways.

Book club bonus: Discuss society/mainstream media’s portrayal of the sexuality of disabled people. How is it handed generally?

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

The best books of the year (so far)!

A sci fi subgenre primer

Mysteries and thrillers as beach reads?

Y’all, TikTok now has a bookclub and the first book is… Persuasion by Jane Austen. I would have never guessed *insert Pikachu shocked face*


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 talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-Erica