Do you know when I tend to get the most reading done? When I am completely overwhelmed by everything else in my life. The holiday season is a time that, while frequently joyful and memorable, is also inevitably full of frenetic activity, deadlines, obligations, and expectations piled higher than the Whos’ presents on the Grinch’s sleigh. In times like these, there is nothing so soothing as hiding under my covers and escaping between the covers of a novel. I’m currently in the middle of Stephen Graham Jones’s homage to adolescence and slashers, My Heart is a Chainsaw, and however unlikely the juxtaposition of horror and holidays might seem, it is exactly what the doctor ordered. I can channel all of my lapsed-room-mother anxiety into whether the protagonist will succeed in warning the Final Girl of the killer’s plan in time to prevent the impending attack, and I emerge a little better equipped to handle the next round of class parties and office potlucks.
My sincere hope is that you and those you love have a magical end of the year, full of literary and other delights. And if it all gets to be too much at any point, you’re welcome to join me in my blanket fort. I’ve got extra pillows, a plate of cookies I swiped from the kitchen, and plenty to read. You might give one of the following titles our Literary Mama staff have enjoyed a try!
From Literary Reflections Editor, Kimberly Lee: “Tim Fielder’s latest graphic novel, Infinitum, begins at, well, the beginning. Literally. The opening pages cover the ‘birth of the Universe.’ From there, the book proceeds on a captivating odyssey that spans centuries, or more accurately, millennia, from ancient African kingdoms to civilizations on other worlds and beyond. Although I’d purchased many graphic novels for my youngest son, I hadn’t really engaged with the genre until Infinitum became the book discussion pick for my extended family’s upcoming visit. Infinitum didn’t disappoint—more than a good read, it offers a riveting experience. The title isn’t an exaggeration in the least; the novel is expansive in space and time, placing Fielder solidly in the company of Afrofuturism titans such as Octavia Butler and Samuel Delaney. Of the book, Publisher’s Weekly said ‘Fielder digs deep into his. . . toolbox to fuse genre influences in this daring epic, which bristles with action and verve.’ The main character, Aja Oba, lives an unusual existence as a result of a curse, and through his journey, Infinitum unapologetically tackles the global issues that plague humanity—war, poverty, injustice, climate change—as well as more personal matters via Aja’s love interests and relationships throughout each era. The novel also zeroes in on existential issues as Aja contemplates his purpose and works to find meaning. Fielder deftly weaves in historical events and landmarks, similar to his earlier work, Matty’s Rocket, in which he combined elements of Harriet Tubman’s and Bessie Coleman’s accomplishments. Notably, Infinitum’s design and heft make it a fitting coffee table book (which is where my copy resides). Each glossy page is a gorgeous work of art, so that casually flipping through it, simply taking in the stunning visuals, is satisfying in and of itself.”
Fiction Editor, Colleen Kearney Rich, recently finished Kelli Jo Ford’s debut novel, Crooked Hallelujah. “It was one of those books that launched during the pandemic and one of my favorite reads of 2021. A novel in stories, it follows four generations of Cherokee women over five decades, starting in the 1970s and moving into a not-to-distant future. Ford is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and she writes lovingly about these smart, complicated, and head-strong women and the mother-daughter relationship in its many variations. Oprah Magazine named Ford to its list of Native American Authors to Read Right Now, and I would have to agree. Single mother Justine and her daughter, Reney, are the heart of the book, and I would happily read a sequel that filled in some of the moments between these stories.”
Senior Editor, Christina Consolino, shares: “I recently read Lindsay Merbaum’s debut novel, The Gold Persimmon, a story told in parallel realities: one of Cly, who is ‘cloistered in her own reality’ and works at The Gold Persimmon, an unusual hotel in which patrons can grieve in peace, and one of Jaime, a ‘young, nonbinary writer’ who becomes trapped in a sex hotel. From the opening line—’The lobby is cool and quiet as a tomb, the only sound the soft burble of the fountain behind the desk: a hunk of stone with a ripple of shimmer coursing through it like a silver strand of hair, a spring pouring forth form the head, washing over the persimmon tree carved into the rockface’—I knew I was in for something different. And different it is! Merbaum calls the book ‘experimental’ for its structure and ‘feminist horror’ because it explores a feminist story through the trope of horror. Readers are pulled into this atmospheric and surreal story that focuses on longing and loss while bringing to the surface many other themes, including shame, pain, authenticity, love, sexuality, trauma, and more. The complex personalities of every character in this novel haunted me long after I finished the book. Merbaum does a fabulous job of creating a unique, captivating story, and I look forward to whatever comes next!”
Although my own reading leans heavily toward fiction, I am so thankful to have recently finished my dear friend, Dr Felicia Song’s, newest work, Restless Devices: Recovering Personhood, Presence, and Peace in the Digital Age. Dr. Song tackles the problem every GenX parent agonizes over—how do we raise children to be digitally literate but not ensnared or controlled by omnipresent screens and social media. Heck, how do we raise ourselves? She combines rigorous research, thoughtful analysis, and practical suggestions for identifying the ways technology can enrich our lives as well as how to set and practice healthy boundaries with our electronic devices. Dr. Song writes from the perspective of a Christian, but the book is not preachy or didactic, and accessible to people on any spiritual path. I will undoubtedly revisit this thoughtfully written book while I navigate the constantly shifting terrain of parenthood in the digital age. I hope you find it as edifying and encouraging as I have.
by Felicia Song
IVP Academic (2021)Buy Book