January is a perfect time to check in with you reading goals for the year and to see what you wanted to be sure to put on your TBR lists. As we hunkered down for some more pandemic and weather-related closures, our editors and staff delved into some books we’ve been wanting to read for awhile, or found some fresh stories to start the new year.
Senior Editor Christina Consolino writes, “I’ve been looking forward to reading former Literary Mama editor Suzanne Kamata’s The Baseball Widow for a long time, partially because of the beautiful cover art. Told from multiple perspectives, the book involves two storylines. The first involves Christine (a former teacher) and her husband Hideki (a high school teacher and baseball coach), and the other features one of Hideki’s players, Daisuke, and his mother Nahoko. Being American, Christine often feels like an outcast, and that feeling is only compounded by her experience as parent to a differently abled daughter. Throw some bullying of her son into the mix and a husband who works all the time (baseball is huge in Japan), and sympathies for her character abound. Those sympathies also extend to Daisuke, who, after living three years in Atlanta, must reacclimate to life in Japan. Much like Kamata’s other published works, the book has a strong sense of place and multiculturalism. The quandaries the characters find themselves in are relatable and emotional, and the choices they must make are heart wrenching. Well-written and informative—I had no idea just how important baseball was to Japanese culture—Kamata certainly knocked this one out of the ballpark!”
Publisher Cindy DiTiberio writes, “The Natural Mother of the Child: A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood by Krys Malcolm Belc was the first book I read this year and I was floored by its under-represented perspective of motherhood. Written by a non-binary writer who, through the act of giving birth, is able to come to terms with their true identity, it is both a nuanced reflection on gender but also what it means to be called ‘mother,’ what makes a mother, and the privilege of nurturing life within your own body, no matter how ambivalent about your body you may feel. It is inundated with simple phrases that capture the essence of motherhood such as: ‘The border between his body and mine was porous for years: nine months of pregnancy, two years of breastfeeding.’ It sheds light on the convoluted path to parenthood for parents who do not have a biological connection with their child and the many legal paths they must pursue to claim a right to a being they have loved from the start. In the end, it is a beautiful story of the writer claiming a path of their own: ‘Creating Samson, given such a strong name because I felt I had done something strong, made me ready to be me.'”
Newsletter Editor Rhonda Havig found Making Midlife Magic by Heloise Hull to be “probably the most fun book I read this past year. It is the story of Ava, a forty-something woman who finds her husband cheating on her. Okay, that part wasn’t fun, but how this scene plays out has some humor to it. Ava then gets away by taking a vacation on a mysterious island in Italy where she encounters strange beings, like a talking chipmunk. Something I love about this book is it is a paranormal adventure and the main character isn’t a twenty-something clad in leather who knows all forms of fighting and can use anything as a weapon. Instead, Ava is a relatively typical middle-aged woman with young adult twin sons struggling to find her place in a world that was just turned upside down for her. Her journey of finding out who—and what—she is makes for a great read.”
I’d been wanting to read Mexican Gothic for awhile and bumped it to the top of my list when my book group selected it. In the tradition of Jane Eyre and Rebecca, Mexican Gothic features many of the tropes of the gothic novel — a haunted manor house, brooding weather, even a sinister household domestic helper. Mexican Gothic also serves up a spunky heroine by the name of Noemí, who travels to a isolated town to see what’s happened to her recently married cousin, who has become ill. The novel takes the gothic tropes. plunks them in a mysterious home and village that bear a resemblance to the gothic English novel, and wraps the story in a horror package more reminiscent of Stephen King than the Brontës or du Maurier. The novel is written in an energetic style that belies its dark themes which reach beyond ghosts and the supernatural to include the real life horrors of history, colonialism and oppression. — Stephanie Buesinger, Photo and Blog Editor