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The Book Beat - April 3, 2020

First, most importantly...from me to all of you: Those who know someone with this virus or someone who has died. Those terrified of getting it and stressed about even going to the grocery store. Those stressed from homeschooling and working and cleaning and cooking and budgeting and worrying. Those who are essential workers, healthcare workers (aka heroes/heroines), or just trying to stop from catching your breath every time you're overwhelmed. Please know, I hear you, I see you, and I offer my condolences, my love, and my hope for your safety and health. It's a tough time, and we are all in this together.

So, book friends, here's the thing: It's a tough time to be happy, particularly about something you need to concentrate to do, like reading, right? I have four books going at the moment and although I'm enjoying them, I can't seem to devote my usual concentration. But I'm trying and will keep trying. I share what I'm reading below.

I also did find some good book-related articles this week, which I'll share now, too. Please try and find some solace in fiction. I hope you can, even if it's for a few minutes. Every little bit helps, right? Stay healthy, stay safe, and keep reading.

All Hail the Queen of Romancelandia

An author getting into "By The Book" in The New York Times is a pretty big deal. It's even more exciting when a romance writer gets the honor. Even better? This week it's Beverly Jenkins aka Ms. Bev aka the Queen of Romancelandia (the network of romance writers and readers on Twitter).

Long before RWA was called out for their leadership ignoring ethics complaints regarding writers making racist comments and not being accepting of authors of color or authors from the LGBTQ community, Beverly Jenkins was upending the romance world by writing historical romance books featuring African-American heroines and heroes and shining the light on important historical events, namely black history that was often neglected at school. Most of her books are based on actual historical events. I recommend Indigo, which features a hero and heroine who are conductors on the Underground Railroad. Ms. Bev has always been a force to be reckoned with, and her legacy in the romance writing world confirms it. I'm thrilled to see her getting this spotlight.

Help Wanted: Keeping Independent Bookstores in Business

Patron saints of books, James Patterson and Reese Witherspoon, are working hard to help independent bookstores stay afloat during the pandemic. Read about it here. And, if you're able to help out by buying books or gift cards, feel free to do that, too!

Stories in Homeschooling: When Adults (Me) Don't Understand 2nd Grade Work

This week, during "Homeschooling & Cooking & Cleaning & Working & Reading While Mommying," I helped my son read a poem and respond to questions about it. And when I say "helped" I mean I didn't help because I was too confused. Me, an English major with both a Bachelor's degree and Master's degree in writing; me, a professional writer; me, a voracious reader...I didn't understand this lovely rhyming poem about a rainbow.

After reading the below article about a Pulitzer-prize-winning author not understanding the work his kindergartener brought home, I felt better. I also like how the article speaks to the difference between reading instruction for children that focuses on "strategies" versus "skills." My son's work was exactly what this author speaks about: What was the main theme of the poem? As I spoke about natural things like rainbows and trees being more beautiful than bridges and man-made structures, my son looked at my like I had two heads. This abstract concept and me voicing it didn't make a lick of sense to him. The poem's cute rhyming couplets about these things didn't either. So, as this article suggests, I took him outside to look at the things he likes. Our pond, the fish, flowers, trees, a busy woodpecker. Showing him these things, talking about them in relation to cars, driveways, patio furniture, etc., seemed to help drive the "theme" of the poem home when we went back in and re-read it. I like the idea of teaching kids about the subjects they're going to read about before they actually read the text. It definitely gives them more of a base for understanding. Check this article out. It's good food-for-thought, especially for us moms who are now teaching our kids from home.

Book Ends...

Reading with Dolly & LeVar Burton!

Both Dolly Parton and Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton are holding live reading sessions. Dolly's is on her YouTube Imagination Library channel for kids and LeVar's is live-streaming on Twitter for a range of ages. Check out their channels/pages below.



Free Book-Related Coloring Pages from The New York Public Library

Run don't walk to The New York Public Library Shop to download for free one or all four of their neat book-related coloring pages! Do them with your kids or do them on your own. Go ahead, I won't tell (since I did the exact same thing!).

My Reading Rundown...

What I'm Reading:

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (good so far!)

Untamed by Glennon Doyle (really good so far!)

The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (good!)

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West (an oldie but goodie)

What I Read:

Saint X by Alexis Shaitkin

I enjoyed this, but it wasn't as good as I was hoping it'd be. Claire's journey didn't feel complete to me, maybe because I never really felt her connection to Clive was as strong as it needed to be for her to truly heal. I was hoping the true-crime-story-within-a-story would go in a different direction than it did, too, so that probably contributed to my dissatisfaction. 3/5 stars.

Short Stories:

"Speech Sounds" by Octavia Butler. Wow, what a story. At first, when I realized that this was about a virus/disease that kills a large swath of humanity, I was leery to keep reading. But I’m glad I did. Although scary, sad, and devastating, it offers a ray of hope. Even through this illness and devastation, the main character Rye has a chance to rebuild. And really that’s a lesson for us all. Have hope and when the chance comes, try and make the world a better place than it was before. I definitely think you should read this...maybe not right now, though.

"Girls, At Play" by Celeste Ng. This story is unflinching in its subject, but you still can’t look away. I won't go into detail here, but it's provocative, compelling, terrifying, and, in the end, a testament to innocence, how appealing it is, and how sad it is when it's lost.

What I Want to Read:

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Cover of the Week:

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

I love this cover! Bright colors, glitter, splotches of paint meshing together. It shouts freedom, creativity, art, and bright and shiny joy. I LOVE this book so far. I’ve been a Glennon fan for years now, and am really enjoying her take on how she finally broke free from the confines that society and family place on women and is finally living her life on her terms. And, most importantly, how her terms have made her happier and more fulfilled. Def check this one out!

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