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The Book Beat - March 28, 2021

🌺🌸🌼 🌱 Happy Sunday, book friends!

We've had a week of mostly gorgeous weather, so I hope you were able to get some reading done outdoors. I you can see in this pic! I don't include pics of myself here often, but my little lady was super-patient as she took a snap of me for a contest being held by a group called Freadom. They're a lifestyle brand that donates 100% of their profits to fight for #literacyforall (sounds GREAT!) They're also having a photo contest of the 100 best places to read in America and I suggested, yes, my back deck. I can't really pick my fave, but as far as home goes, it's my deck, my front porch, and the chair in my office. My pic is most likely NOT going to win--and that's not to say anything bad about Lucy's photog skills, she's fab!--but pics so far include some pretty amazing spots all around the country (one is in a span of snow...with nothing but a man in a chair reading!). Still, it was fun to share where I like to read. My other two spots are below, plus a gorgeous shot of the sunset I got to look at last night while reading out on the porch.

❓Now, my question for you...where do YOU most love to sit and read? 📚❓

RIP, Beverly Cleary

❤️ 104 years is quite the life. And for beloved children's author, Beverly Cleary, it's quite a legacy as well.

A librarian when she first was published, Ms. Cleary felt that there weren't many books for girls or boys that spoke to the real issues they faced and the everyday experiences they had. So, she wrote and published her first book, Henry Huggins. Her funny but never condescending and endearing, relatable narratives entranced kids the world being one of them.

I also shared her books with my kids (Timmy's working on The Mouse and the Motorcycle right now). And, I adored Ramona! What a relatable character. A child--in all her funny, annoying, uninhibited, complex glory. Thank you, Beverly, for your books, your heart, your humor, and a way for readers like me to share our love of your books with our own children.

(🎨🖼 P.S. If your kids are as obsessed with Bob Ross as my little guy, there is a Bob Ross bookmark! "Isn't that fantastic! I knew you could do it!" is a great sentiment for any young reader.) ❤️

Tongo Eisen-Martin: A Poetic Revolution

✒️ This amazingly perceptive and extremely well-written feature interview for BookLife, the independent-publishing arm of Publishers Weekly, finds a supremely intelligent book lover and writer (the Lois Lane of book commentary, perhaps?) questioning the Poet Laureate of San Francisco, Tongo Eisen-Martin, about his new small press, Black Freighter Press. The writer of this stellar article? ME! Can you hear me screaming with joy from where you are?

I've spoken a bit on here about the book critiques I do for The BookLife Prize, an annual contest (fiction and nonfiction) featuring submissions from independently published authors. In 2020, I read 44 books and wrote critiques for each. The critiques serve as the blueprint for BookLife editors to decide which writers continue on in the contest, until it's winnowed down to the finalists. My work on these led to this opportunity, which I was thrilled to pursue.

The world of publishing is massive and for every best seller, there are tons of non-traditionally published books that float under the radar. I've read some GREAT books in the last year. The new prize year for fiction is starting, so if you have a book that you've self-published and are looking for some honest feedback AND a chance to possibly win the grand prize, go sign up. You never know who will be reading it!

Also, if you haven't heard of Tongo, check out his powerful work and Black Freighter Press's site. As he speaks about so eloquently in this interview and other articles, he's very passionate about social-justice issues, particularly his "revolutionary" vision for using poetry and his indie press to change cultural reality. He believes that a collective of Black and Brown poets (and artists in general), who use their talents to speak, educate, and illuminate the very real experiences they face in American society will help drive actual change in the culture. Yes, individuals have power, but as a group they have an even stronger ability to change cultural ideologies for the better. For even more info about his background and his books, check out his entry on the Poetry Foundation's website. ✒️

Hey! Listen! The Allure of Audiobooks

🎧 Yes, I'm again bringing up my eternal loathing for filling and emptying the dishwasher, but it's so much less annoying when I'm listening to an audiobook. There are a ton of audiobook listening apps. I used to have a monthly subscription to Audible (when I listened to three or so a month as I drove to work) and I'm still making my way through my backlog, so I listen through Alexa. BUT, there are a ton of ways to access audiobooks--some free!

Overdrive/Libby (you can sign up with your library card to borrow them from your library for free). Hoopla (again, through your library, all free). (you buy them but it's through your local independent bookstore, so you're supporting them). Plus, pay-for-the-service sites, including Audiobooks, Serial Box, Nook Books, iBooks, Google Play Books, and many (many!) more.

I gravitate toward memoirs (pictured above are some I've listened to or plan to listen to and that I had to buy as well because they are SO GOOD). Still, a riveting nonfiction book and even fiction books--especially those with entire casts reading them or a famous celebrity (The Dutch House is read by Tom Hanks) doing the narrating can be fun, too. Here's an article that gives some suggestions for top-notch audiobooks. And, trust me, it makes hated chores go much faster. 🎧

Next (Virtual) Stop, The Cincy Book Bus

🚐 📚 What's your dream job or what do you hope to do when you retire? I can honestly say that in the past I've thought about driving around and selling books out a cool bus. Melanie Moore has taken that idea and drove with it, so to speak, and made it a philanthropic endeavor to boot. Plus, she has a TEAL bus, people! 😍

This article shares how this awesome thing came to be, but here are the main details: After 25 years of teaching in inner-city schools around the country, Melanie decided she wanted to pursue her passion for sharing and talking books with people, especially kids. Now, she travels around the Cincinnati area and sells books out of the bed of her vintage 1962 Volkswagon pickup truck. She also uses her profits to purchase books to share with schools in inner-city areas, so they can build classroom libraries and enjoy the pleasure of reading. How cool!

You can follow @cincybookbus on Facebook and Instagram to see where she might pop up next. Also, head to her site and purchase some swag to help contribute to the cause. I'm, at turns, jealous, thrilled, and impressed. 🚐 📚

📸 Book Snaps of the Week! 📸

Women's History Month Spotlight Finale:

Nawal El Saadawi

This past week, Egyptian feminist, author, humanitarian, activist, physician, and psychologist Nawal El Saadawi died at the age of 89.

While lauded with honorary degrees and prizes throughout her life, Saadawi was a rather controversial woman in both her home country and her religion, Islam. After enduring female circumcision at age six, she was still able to receive a relatively progressive eduction in her traditionally male-dominated culture. Even as a young child, she spoke her mind about being made to feel less-than men, speaking out when her grandmother called girls "blights." When her father tried to marry her off at the age of 10, she ate raw aubergine to color her teeth black so her intended wouldn't want to marry her. Her father relented, but she was thrashed for going against his wishes. Her mother actually supported her feelings.

In 1955, Saadawi graduated from Cairo University with a medical degree. While working as a doctor and psychologist, she saw many women who had endured long-time psychological pain from the oppressions of their culture and religion, particularly imperialism, patriarchy, and class. Her fierce independence of thought and her blatant secularism led to the writing of over 50 books and, due to their controversial subjects, loss of jobs, bans on her writing, imprisonment, exile, and death threats.

Of her work, three nonfiction books stand out: Women and Sex (1972), The Hidden Face of Eve (1977), and Memoirs from a Women's Prison (1994). Women and Sex speaks about aggressions perpetrated against women's bodies, particularly the practice of female circumcision. The Hidden Face of Eve makes the claim that patriarchy and poverty--not Islam--suppress Arab women. Her fiction work also features the feminist subjects and thoughts she was passionate about.

"Danger has been a part of my life ever since I picked up a pen and wrote. Nothing is more perilous than truth in a world that lies."

Her memoirs from prison were written--using a smuggled-in eyebrow pencil and a roll of toiler paper--after a string of punishments from Egyptian President Anwar Sadat ended up with her in jail. After he claimed Egypt was a democracy where citizens could critique the government, Saadawi did just that. After she decried female circumcision in her writings, she lost her position as director general of public health and assistant general secretary to the Egyptian Medical Association and had her writings banned. She was eventually jailed by Sadat for the alleged crime of "conspiring with Bulgaria to overthrow the regime," which she claimed was untrue, particularly considering she knew nothing about Bulgaria and couldn't even find it on a map. She was only released after Sadat was assassinated.

For the rest of her life, Saadawi continued to speak her mind--and suffer the consequences for it. She taught in America for a time and, even as recent as 2018, claimed in a BBC interview that she was in no hurry to tone down her strong-willed feminism. “I should be more aggressive, because the world is becoming more aggressive and we need people to speak loudly against injustices.”

What bravery, passion, and talent. There's much more to Saadawi's life that I don't have room for here, so check out this article and read about this extraordinary woman. RIP.

What I Read This Week...

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The first part of this book is wonderful. It perfectly mixes the 18th-century London storyline--a female apothecary named Nella and her protege Eliza help women poison the men who hurt them--with the modern storyline of an aspiring historian named Caroline who's reassessing her life in modern-day London after she discovers her husband's infidelity.


The historical narrative and characters are stronger than the present ones. The book lags in the middle as Caroline's story reveals parts of the Nella/Eliza storyline that we already know. This reinforces the imbalance of the narratives. Still, it's a moody, interesting read...especially because of the dynamic between Eliza and Nella.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don't want to say I enjoyed this book, because I don't think "enjoy" is the right word for a book that tackles some very serious and often harrowing subjects. Yet, I was engrossed. The writing is phenomenal. I am stunned that Cherie Jones--while working full-time as a lawyer--wrote a debut book with so much perfectly honed talent.


This book paints a vivid and searing portrait of the dual personality of 1980s Barbados--on the one hand it's a lavish Caribbean vacation spot for white people and, on the other, a poverty-stricken, crime-infested home to a Black domestic class, including women who've been beaten, harmed, disrespected, and treated horribly by the men in their lives (FYI: trigger warning). I was engrossed by the stellar writing, even when describing the atrocities Lala, Tone, Mira, and the other characters face. Lala is a character you care about and want to see rise above her struggles to find a new life where she's not hurt by so many. In Cherie's deft writing hands, Lala is a complex protagonist you won't forget anytime soon.

Guest Post! What Lucy Dean Read This Week...

The Night Diary by Veela Hiranandani - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I know posting about books is my mom's thing but I read this book in school & I wanted to share!

The past two months, my English class has been reading The Night Diary. I really enjoyed it! Also this year I met the author Veera Hiranandani, which was super cool and every week she would answer some questions!

I rate this book five stars! As everyone knows, I'm not a reader but this book was interesting! This girl Nisha & her family had to move to a new house due to Hindus & Muslims fighting. This book is about her journey to freedom. Also check out the writer's other books!

What I'm Reading Now...

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiney

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Cover of the Week:

By the Book by Amanda Sellet

I mean, come on. This cover is adorable! And, to be honest, I totally judged this book (and bought it) because of its cover. The beautiful illustration is by artist Monique Aimee (follow her on IG @moniqueaimee). A description of this book is below. But, seriously. This gorgeous cover tells me it's about a heroine who likes to read and has her eye on a cute boy. What's not to love?


I adore how YA and contemporary romance books have gone though a gorgeous revamp as far as covers go in the last decade or so. Awash in bright colors, these cheery-looking books promise storylines that can be serious, but can also fun, romantic, entertaining, and will always give us a happy ending--the perfect cure for challenges in real life. I might read this one next just for a pick-me-up.


In this clever YA rom-com debut perfect for fans of Kasie West and Ashley Poston, a teen obsessed with nineteenth-century literature tries to cull advice on life and love from her favorite classic heroines to disastrous results—especially when she falls for the school’s resident Lothario.

Mary Porter-Malcolm has prepared for high school in the one way she knows how: an extensive review of classic literature to help navigate the friendships, romantic liaisons, and overall drama she has come to expect from such an “esteemed” institution. When some new friends seem in danger of falling for the same tricks employed since the days of Austen and Tolstoy, Mary swoops in to create the Scoundrel Survival Guide, using archetypes of literature’s debonair bad boys to signal red flags. But despite her best efforts, she soon finds herself unable to listen to her own good advice and falling for a supposed cad—the same one she warned her friends away from. Without a convenient rain-swept moor to flee to, Mary is forced to admit that real life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction and that if she wants a happy ending, she’s going to have to write it herself.

Have a GREAT week! Happy reading!

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