Reading Roundup: April 2021

Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land, grew especially strong in the spring

Vladimir Nobokov, Mary

Perhaps it is because it is springtime, or because this latest lockdown truly does feel as if it may be one of the last, but I found that Nobokov’s concept of nostalgia in reverse greatly influenced what kinds of articles and blogs resonated with me this month.

Whether it was a longing for a lifestyle I have never perfected (fitting writing into my daily routine); an urge to continue traveling the world…heck, even browse a bookshop at my leisure; or the deep desire to use my inherent privilege to help make a positive and notable difference in this world for those who have been marginalized for too long.

There truly is a theme here.

So, without further ado, enjoy!

articles

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com
Elliot Page, Leyna Bloom and the trans artists forcing a shift in media representation, by Jackson Weaver

First transgender man on TIME magazine’s cover, first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover featuring a trans woman of colour. There is hope for this world yet. That’s all.

During [M.J. Day’s] run [as editor-in-chief], the magazine introduced its first plus-sized model and its first Muslim model to wear a hijab and burkini. Meanwhile, this year, 57-year-old Kathy Jacobs became the oldest model to make her debut in their pages.

Jackson Weaver on M.J. Day’s run as editor-in-chief of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition

The hottest literary travel destinations (to visit when lockdown ends), by Henry Eliot

I have a very visual imagination – I tend to see a film playing in my head when I read a book. Despite this, I don’t actually mind when books I have already read are turned into films, I don’t find these interpretations of the written word ruin my image of these literary worlds at all. If anything, they enhance it! Even better, going to the real-world locations that inspire authors to write our favourite books, poems and plays. Henry Eliot explains this much better than I can so I’ll just go ahead and include my favourite quote…

Sharing the same airspace as another human from another time, standing on the same patch of the planet, is a profound feeling. It is similar to the effect of reading a novel: your imagination bridges the gulf between someone else’s experience and your own, and expands your understanding in the process.

Henry James

So you want to be a writer? Essential tips for aspiring novelists, by Colum McCann

I am not exaggerating when I say I devoured this article. It was informative, funny and charming all at once. Of course, being written by an acclaimed novelist and writing teacher helps but it was more than that. It managed to approach the topic of writing a novel – no easy feat – in such a way as to leave the reader feeling like they had just had a pleasant chat about their hopes and dreams with an old friend. This article gave me hope that I can get back to my novel, so many years later, and indeed finish it. It may not be my magnum opus, but it will be a novel that I wrote, from beginning to end. And that is good enough.

Your characters deserve your respect. Some reverence. Some life of their own. You must thank them for surprising you, and for ringing the doorbell of your imagination.

Colum McCann

Musa Okwonga: ‘Boys don’t learn shamelessness at Eton, it is where they perfect it’. By David Shariatmadari

This article includes an excerpt from Okwonga’s new book One of Them: An Eton College Memoir, which (surprise, surprise) is now on my “To Read” list but even before you get to this searing reflection, Shariatmadari does an excellent job of conveying Okwonga’s feelings on the subject. As someone who grew up with a highly-romanticized view of school like Eton (and boarding schools in general, largely thanks to Harry Potter) this was a very important article for me to read and digest…which I did over several days. It is crucially important that we speak honestly about the institutions that play such vital roles in our society (British society in this case) and encourage people to come forward with their true experiences of them. How else can we ever hope to improve them? Read it, and then buy and read Okwonga’s book. I bet it’s well worth the 20 bucks.

I look at the most confident people in my year and I realise that the greatest gift that has been bestowed upon them is that of shamelessness. Shamelessness is the superpower of a certain section of the English upper classes.

Musa Okwonga, One of Them: An Eton College Memoir

Out of thin air: the mystery of the man who fell from the sky, by Sirin Kale

Trigger Warning: this story may be disturbing for some as it involves the gruesome death of a stowaway seeking to gain refuge in the United Kingdom.

This story had me riveted from beginning to end. I think I spent half of the time with my mouth hanging open at the sheer horror of what people are willing to endure in the hopes of attaining a better life. The man in this story, who fell thousands of feet from a moving airplane where he had stowed away in the landing gear compartment, is unidentified to this day and is most likely to remain so. The writer in me thinks this would make excellent fodder for a suspense or crime novel. The human in me, however just wants to know more about this man and what drove him to take such an enormous risk. He must have people who mourn his loss…if indeed they even know he is lost. No human deserves this kind of ignoble infamy and yet anonymity in death. He will forever be known as the man who fell from the sky…but he had a name. And a life. Cut far too short in search of another one.

I looked at the grave. A nameless man lay before me in a little plot of south-west London, in an unmarked grave, identifiable only by a simple wooden cross and a numeric code. There are so many people like him. They keep quiet counsel in unvisited graves, and their stories vanish with them.

Sirin Kale

Readers on the bookshops they miss most: ‘I can’t wait to take my lockdown baby!’ by The Guardian

This one honestly just made me happy and hopeful all at once. As a long-time supporter of independent bookstores (we even seek them out when visiting other towns), reading about why others love them so much was like a balm to my bookish soul. LONG LIVE THE INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES.

I miss wandering in aimlessly and leaving with the feeling that I’ve spent decades in another world. When I’m there, I get a special feeling as I’m surrounded by books that I could only dream of owning and knowing that I have been able to engage with them in a beautiful building that somehow feels like home.

Marianna Michael, Enfield speaking about Maison Assouline in London, UK

The invention of whiteness: the long history of a dangerous idea by Robert P Baird

This is a long read. I warn you. But it is well worth it. So many things to chew on and think about. Being a white person in 2021 is complicated. As it should be. We need to think about what our “race” means, how our history of privilege and colonization still plays a role in our positions in Western, and global, society now. I’m still thinking about this and trying to figure out how I can use my privilege to help amplify voices other than my own, voices which deserve to be listened to and understood…It’s complicated, as I said, and I’m still finding my way. If you have any other similar readings to recommend, please let me know!

In many ways, whiteness resembles time as seen by Saint Augustine: we presume we understand it as long as we’re not asked to explain it, but it becomes inexplicable as soon as we’re put to the test.

Robert P. Baird

blogs

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com
Work in Progress by Cristian Mihai

This blog was such a delightful read. A reminder that no effort is wasted if you are working on pursuing something that interests you or which improves your life in some way. An especially important blog for me to read right now. No, I haven’t finished my novel or grown my blog significantly, but I’m learning to be a Mom and to take better care of myself physically and mentally. And these…these are not wasted efforts. I’m a work in progress, and there is no shame in that!

It seems to me that the truly successful among us have an innate desire to constantly reinvent themselves, because they are well aware of the fact that the future belongs to those who never, ever consider themselves as a complete work of art.

Christian Mihai

Writing With a Full Time Job by Lindsey Richardson for A Writer’s Path

It’s amazing when you come across something someone else has written, without even knowing you or your life experience, and it is exactly what you need to read in that moment. This happens to me fairly often and I am so grateful that the universe sees fit to throw these bits of inspiration my way so regularly to keep me motivated and excited about my chosen form of creativity: writing. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about getting back to working on my novel now that I’ve figured out a blogging schedule that works for me in this time of full-time-mom and freelance worker business. This article came to me just at the right time to remind me that it is possible to do it all, it just takes organization and a whole lot of grace and understanding.

Sometimes you won’t be able to write when you planned to. Accept that you’re going to need to be flexible with yourself.

Lindsey Richardson

books

Photo: Erin of the Hills

I admit, on this front I have once again not done great. However, I am committing to reading for at least an hour before bed from now on in order to give myself a break from screens before sleep. I imagine this will help my progress! I am also hoping to get back into listening to audiobooks again. Hopefully this will help to put a dent in my 300+ title-long To Read list.

The photo above shows the reading goals I made for March…I have not yet finished either magazine but I am close to finishing the Ramses book and have read all but The Fiery Cross for the English novels. Here’s to hoping I can get back to reading multiple novels in a month.

And that’s my reading roundup for the month! If you give any of these a read, tell me what you think. Also, if you have any recommendations that didn’t make the list, especially newsletters with more reading material for me to get lost in, please send them my way.

Thanks, as always, for reading. And remember…Life is beautiful.

xo Erin

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