Summer reading..

Been awhile since I commented on what’s on the bedside table.. I was reminded of this by a very good review/discussion of Ghost Map on Making Light today, which I read a little over a year ago but apparently didn’t write much about.

So.. in the order I remember them, this is what I’ve been reading lately (with the admission that “lately” is somewhat relative).

One Thousand White Women, by Jim Fergus. This is a fictional alternative-history account of the push to move the Native American tribes of the American West to reservations when gold was first discovered in the Black Hills of the Dakotas. It’s an extraordinary account of Native American living and a gripping story that neither shys away from nor glorifies the violence of either the Native American tribes or the American soldiers charged with “taming” them. I’m not well-versed enough in Native American history to speak to the accuracy of the events depicted, but it is a very well written and engaging book and really prompts the reader to think about perspectives. From situation at the beginning with the novels narrator – May Dodd – being committed to an asylum for promiscuity because she dared to have children with a man beneath her station and out of wedlock, to the stories of the other women (a freed African slave, an eccentric English artist, a pair of diamond-in-the-rough Irish twins, and many more), to the views of the Army Captain forced to enact the decrees of politicians in a world they’ve never been to much less understood, and finally to the glimpses – even though they are always “outside looking in” – of Native American society, I’m reminded (oddly) of when Obi-Wan (yes, yes.. I know) tells Luke that what he told him about his father was true.. “from a certain point of view.”

Prior to that, I read Forty Signs of Rain, by Kim Stanley Robinson. I am rather fond of KSR, though I don’t always understand him. I loved the Mars Trilogy, but struggled with The Years of Rice and Salt (which I keep thinking I should try to read again..). And in truth, I wanted there to be more depth to Forty Signs, the way I remember there being in the Mars Trilogy. This is the first in a series, and I suspect he’ll get into more depth in the later books, but I can’t help but feeling that he’s dumbed down the science in this one to make the message more accessible and.. that makes it less enjoyable – even though I might not have understood all the science had he included it. Twisted, yes, but true. In this one, he’s taking on (again) the message that we as a species are pushing our planet toward global environmental destruction. He deals with this more indirectly, but very powerfully, in the Mars Trilogy, too, so it’s a familiar theme, but.. *shrug* something just felt off in this one. I haven’t picked up the next one yet, but pr’bly will at some point.

I just started The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by Maggie O’Farrell, but am not very far into it. At some point, though, I’m sure I will finally give in and read the next of the Kushiel series – Kushiel’s Justice – by Jacqueline Carey, especially as the one after that (Kushiel’s Mercy) is now available in hard cover. I love Carey’s style and the Kushiel universe is eminently enchanting for me, so I tend to reserve them for times when I can truly savor them.

And finally (though not the only other book on the bedside table, just the last I remember off the top of my head), I’ll read Funny in Farsi (link to Amazon), by Firoozeh Dumas, at some point as it’s the common reader on campus for the fall.

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