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Book Review: Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (Series, #2)

Cover of the book Take a Hint Dani Brown.

Summary:
Danika Brown, PhD student, might have a workaholic problem with her all hours of the day research, writing, and teaching. But she certainly doesn’t have a romance problem, because she keeps her sexual relationships devoid of romance. Zafir, once pro rugby player, now security guard at the university and founder of a sports charity for kids that’s still getting off the ground, knows he has feelings for Dani. When there’s a fire alarm in the building and Dani doesn’t evacuate, he can’t help going back in for her and carrying her outside. Then the video goes viral as #DrRugbae, and his niece realizes this could be the solution for his charity. Dani is game to pretending to be a couple until the viral attention goes away. But somehow slowly the pretending feels less and less like pretend.

Review:
Listen, if you are looking for a romance novel with a bisexual leading lady who actually uses the word “bisexual” to describe herself AND says it to the hero AND it’s no big deal to him AND there’s no cheating betwixt them AND the happy ever after is monogamous then stop what you are doing and pick up this book. Right now. Because honey, that perfectly describes this book. I also want to note that, Dani isn’t an aromantic convinced into romance – she’s a romantic whose heart was shattered who’s pretending she’s not into romance to keep her heart safe.

Ok, so if you’re not a bisexual reader desperate for that type of representation in a romance novel, why might you be into this book? Well, it’s hilarious. Laugh out loud funny. Dani and Zaf are equally funny and complicated. Their misunderstandings make sense. They both apologize when necessary. The set-up as to why they are fake dating is for a good cause (his charity) not something inane like tricking extended family at a wedding. They’re an inter-racial (Black and Pakistani) and inter-faith (witch and Muslim) couple. But the problems they encounter don’t really have to do with any of that. It has entirely to do with learning how to speak with and open up to one another.

I also really liked the growing opportunities for both Dani and Zaf beyond their relationship. Dani needs to learn better work/life balance. No one judges her for wanting to be successful, but she starts to learn she needs to have some downtime too. Zaf needs to learn not to entirely ditch his past and be more honest about his own grief and mental health issues that led to him starting the charity to begin with.

Sex scenes exist in this romance novel, but they are not constant (ie, don’t expect one every chapter!) The ones that do exist are explicit without turning corny. Consent is always clear but not in a natural way, not an awkward way. The sex scenes are also, dare I say it, entertaining and sweet?

While I note this is a series, you don’t have to read all three Brown sister books or necessarily read them in order. Although I will note that if you read the second book, you’ll see who Chloe ends up with (the sister from the first book). While I think all three books are well-worth the read, I admit to Dani’s story being my favorite.

5 out of 5 stars

Length: 320 pages – average but on the longer side

Source: Library

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Book Review: The Conductors by Nicole Glover

Cover of the book The Conductors.

Summary:
Hetty Rhodes was once enslaved, but she ran away with her sister, only her sister was caught while she escaped. She began returning south to try to free her sister, but with her repeated trips became a Conductor on the Underground Railroad, alongside a man named Benjy, using their magic to help others escape. Now the Civil War is over and she and Benjy, who is now her husband, have built a life for themselves in Philadelphia. He’s a blacksmith, she’s a seamstress, and they both solve crimes in their spare time that the white authorities can’t be bothered with. When one of their friends turns up dead in an alley, their investigation takes them throughout Black Philadelphia on a hunt for answers.

Review:
The premise of the worldbuilding for this book reminded me of Thieftaker (review), the first in the Thieftaker Chronicles, which I really enjoyed, only set in the 1800s rather than the 1700s and with a Black woman lead rather than a white man. I say this as I was excited and thought this was a good thing. I remember thinking at the time that I wished there were more alternate history fantasy books and I was excited when the next one I saw brought such diversity to the genre.

I liked the magic in this book. I thought it was a great analogy for colonizing culture versus Black and Indigenous culture. The colonizing culture (Sorcery) requires the use of tools (wands) but the wands make that magic very powerful. The Black and Indigenous cultures use Celestial magic, which doesn’t require tools (they draw sigils instead). It can become very powerful but takes more study and time to become so. Anyone with magic being able to pick up a wand and wreak some havoc with very little knowledge as an analogy for weapons like guns I thought was great.

The book also demonstrates the community the Black folks of Philadelphia built up, which included those who freed themselves by running away, those who were freed by the Civil War, and those who were born free. There is a male/male relationship included among Hetty’s friend group, as well as a woman who experienced infertility and adopted a baby.

What didn’t work for me was the order in which the plot was told. The book starts in post-Civil War Philadelphia with Hetty and Benjy (her husband) working together to solve cases, in much the same way they used to work together as Conductors on the Underground Railroad. How Hetty escaped, met Benjy, and how they worked together as Conductors was told through a series of broken up flashbacks throughout the book. For me, this didn’t work. I was much more heavily invested in the stories being told in the flashbacks than in the present mystery, largely because a lot of the present storytelling relied upon the relationship between Hetty and Benjy and, without the full flashbacks, I had no understanding of the relationship between Hetty and Benjy. I needed to know why they were, for example, married but just for propriety’s sake. I needed to know why they decided to work together as Conductors in the first place. What finally pushed them to get married? I was so confused and felt so much like I was dropped into the middle of a pre-existing world that I went and double-checked to make sure I hadn’t accidentally started with the second book in a series. Characters, even beyond Benjy and Hetty, kept talking about things that had recently happened in a way that felt like they had happened in a previous book. For example, the character who adopted a baby, the line about that felt like how the second book in a series will remind you of what happened in the first with that having been a key plot point in the first. I would say, in general, that for me, everything would have worked better if the first book in the series had been how Hetty and Benjy met and became Conductors together, maybe ending with them solving their first case as investigators after the War. Then this could have been the second book, perhaps with some additional flashbacks to inform us of some things from during the War.

I am sure that there are others that will read that paragraph and think “oh I like that vibe,” and that’s great. I hope this review helps this book find its audience. For me, though, I simply don’t like being dropped into the middle of the story.

3 out of 5 stars

Length: 384 pages – average but on the longer side

Source: NetGalley

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Product Review: Allay Lamp

February 23, 2021 Leave a comment
A glowing green lamp.

The Allay lamp is a narrow band green light therapy lamp that I purchased in early November 2020. Why did I do such a thing?

Emerging research suggests that green light therapy may be beneficial for migraines. I have episodic (non-chronic) migraines with aura. This means that I have fewer than 15 migraines a month. Fifteen or more would make it chronic. When I do have migraines, I experience aura. For me, my aura presents as seeing sound (synesthesia). What I read initially was that using a green light during a migraine as your light source might mean needing to try to function through a migraine could be less painful (akin to putting on sunglasses during a migraine). While my migraines have improved significantly since I began working remotely due to the pandemic last March, I was still having them. What really pushed it over the edge for me was that I was struggling to do yoga at home. Basically, the lighting in our home is primarily overhead. If I was in even the beginning stages of a migraine, I found it painful to do yoga. It was important to me for stress management to be able to continue to practice, so I started investigating in alternative lighting sources. But all of them just seemed like they would still cause me pain if I was symptomatic. The Allay lamp seemed like it at least stood a shot of giving me enough light to practice yoga while not causing me pain.

What’s special about green light? Different colors of light are also different wavelengths. The Allay lamp uses a very specific narrow range of green light that is small enough that it isn’t painful to look at for people with light sensitivity due to migraine. (Their website does a far better job of giving a detailed explanation than I just did.) Interestingly, new research is emerging that shows that use of green light therapy by those with migraines had a significant reduction in number of migraine days, as well as even more significant reduction how bad the migraine was when it did come, as well as improvement in quality of life. (Martin et al, 2021)

So the science is, arguably, limited, but promising, and this is a non-invasive treatment. Essentially – it’s a light. If I didn’t like it, I could just…not use it. So I figured I would go ahead and try it. Plus, I really liked that it’s charged by usb and fully portable. If I was going to use it regularly, it needed to be able to easily move around the house with me.

I’ve used it since the middle of November. This is just a description of my own experience as a person with episodic migraines with aura.

A woman in a flannel shirt looks directly into a glowing green light
  • If I am feeling at all light sensitive, I can use the Allay lamp without pain from light. This allows me to continue doing some activities.
  • Usually when I am feeling light sensitive, I am also actually in some low-level pain without realizing it. About an hour or so into using the light, I will notice that pain suddenly easing.
  • If I am experiencing prodrome (pre-migraine symptoms that tell me a migraine is oncoming), sometimes I can actually arrest the migraine by putting myself in a dark room with my Allay lamp for an hour. This is true regardless of what I am doing while I am using Allay (ie I’m not always doing yoga when I use Allay, so it’s not the yoga.) This is so much the case that if I am exhibiting any prodrome symptoms my spouse, who used to suggest I take some ibuprofen and have some caffeine (which can sometimes arrest migraines), has now started saying, “Maybe you should go spend some quality time with your lamp.”
  • My migraines are not entirely gone, but they are less frequent, less severe, and I can arrest them when they start at night without messing up my sleep by drinking caffeine. I’m also able to take ibuprofen less often, something I prefer. (I prefer not to take any medication unless I must). If I am in an active migraine, the pain is eased by spending time with Allay.
  • I usually feel less anxious after using Allay. It’s possible that my anxiety is exacerbated by pain, so this is just a symptom of the pain easing. I suppose I could try using it on a day when I am not in pain but am feeling anxious to test this. If I do, I will update this review further.

A note that when you first come out of the green light, regular light looks a little wonky. I think it looks kind of like a pinkish-purple. This was noted on the paperwork that came with my lamp and that it would pass. It’s just from seeing one wavelength of light for a time. It passes very rapidly for me (under 2 minutes), and frankly I enjoy seeing the purple light anyway (cue Purple Rain). It comes with a shade to “direct” the light. Personally, I felt like it just blocked one side of the light and didn’t make the other side stronger, so I don’t use it. The directions say you can lay your palm on the top to turn it on, but I find I have to purposefully put my finger at the particular on location on the top of the lamp.

So, bottom line? If you have migraines and the money to spare, I recommend trying it for the reasons I explained above. If you don’t have migraines but do think you’d like to try a different type of relaxation light, I don’t see any reason not to try it. The light is soothing to me, and it’s portable and easy to set up.

Currently, Allay is $149. Get $25 off the cost of the lamp by using my referral link here (the referral link generates a coupon code).
Full disclosure: I receive $25 for every purchase made with my link. However, all of my opinions in this review are an honest reflection of my experience with Allay. I tried it for three months prior to posting to ensure I had a solid amount of use of Allay prior to reviewing. I use it at least once a week, sometimes more often.

Disclaimer: The information given in this review is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. Seek advice from a qualified health care provider before starting a new treatment or discontinuing a current treatment. Speak with your health care provider about any questions you may have.

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Book Review: Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

February 16, 2021 Leave a comment

Summary:
Set in New York City during the tumultuous year of 1977, this focuses on Nora, a Cuban-American 17-year-old in her final months of high school and the summer immediately after. Son of Sam is terrorizing the city, shooting young people at what seems to be random, there’s a heat wave, and a black-out. Nora needs to figure out what she’s going to do with her life after high school, but her younger brother, Hector, is becoming more uncontrollable, and she needs to help her mother with the rent. All she wants to do is go to the disco with the cute guy from work, but is that even safe with Son of Sam around?

Review:
I really enjoyed this one. The setting was great – all the fun of the 1970s with none of the exploitation or sexual violence often seen in the movies and books that came out of that era. That is not to say that there is no violence (domestic violence, drug abuse, drug paraphernalia, arson, homes threatened by fires, brief and not very descriptive animal abuse) are all present. But still, compared to the movies from that time period, the violence is minimal.

I also enjoyed that, while the events of 1977 definitely are present, there is no unrealistic connections between the main character and them. You know how sometimes a main character in a historic piece is written in as having done something pivotal or having some connection to a historic person. None of that here.

While I appreciated the presence of Stiller (a Black woman progressive downstairs neighbor), I would have liked any indication of the queer culture that was present in NYC, especially with some particularly interesting moments also occurring in the 1970s (like the start of Gaysweek or the NY ruling on trans* rights). Given how many characters are heavily involved in the women’s movement, it seems like it would have been fairly simple to have a bit of crossover or touchstone between these.

Another thing that I think could have taken this book up a notch for those less familiar with disco would be a song suggestion for each chapter or a Spotify playlist to go along with it. Whenever music features heavily in a historic book, I think this is a good idea.

If you’re looking to dive into a quick-paced YA featuring disco and the reassurance that bananas years do pass, I recommend picking this one up.

4 out of 5 stars

Length: 310 pages – average but on the longer side

Source: Library

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Book Review: Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

February 9, 2021 Leave a comment
Cover of the book "Ceremony," features a blue feather on a blue background.

Summary:
Tayo, an Indigenous Laguna man, returns from being a prisoner of war of the Japanese in WWII without his cousin. Cousin is the technically accurate word, but since Tayo grew up in his cousin’s household after his mother left him there brother felt more accurate. Tayo is half-white and has always felt estranged, but this feeling is only heightened after the war. He is suffering from shell-shock and feels emptiness in the alcohol and violence the other veterans take solace in. When his grandmother sets him up with a ceremony with a shaman with unusual ways, things start to change.

Review:

He wanted to walk until he recognized himself again.

61% location

After years of reading many books about alcoholism – both its ravages and quitting it – I’ve started having to actively seek out the stories that are a bit less well-known. Now, this book is well-known in Indigenous lit circles, but I’ve only rarely heard it mentioned in quit lit circles. I was immediately intrigued both due to its Indigenous perspective (this is own voices by an Indigenous female author) and due to its age (first published in 1986). Told non-linearly and without chapters, this book was a challenge to me, but by the end I was swept into its storytelling methods and unquestionably moved.

He was not crazy; he had never been crazy. He had only seen and heard the world as it always was: no boundaries, only transitions through all distances and time.

95% location

This book is so beautiful in ways that are difficult to describe. Its perspective on why things are broken and how one man can potentially be healed (and maybe all of us can be healed if we just listen) was so meaningful to me. I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to read it.

We all have been waiting for help a long time. But it never has been easy. The people must do it. You must do it.

51% location

I really enjoyed how clear this book makes it that any care for addiction delivered needs to be culturally competent to truly serve the person who needs help. It also does not shy away from the very specific pain of being an Indigenous person in the US, and how addiction both seeks to quell that pain and rebel against the oppressive society.

It’s rare for me to re-read a book, but I anticipate this being a book I re-read over the course of time. I expect each reading will reveal new things. For those who already know they enjoy this type of storytelling, I encourage you to pick this up. Its perspective on WWII’s impact on Indigenous peoples and alcoholism is wonderful. For those who don’t usually read this type of story, I encourage you to try out something new. Make the decision to just embrace this way of telling a story and dive right into it. Especially if you usually read quit lit or post-WWII fiction.

4 out of 5 stars

Length: 270 pages – average but on the shorter side

Source: Library

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Book Review: Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters by Aimee Ogden

February 2, 2021 2 comments
Cover of the book

Summary:
A scifi, queer version of The Little Mermaid that wonders what happens after Ariel leaves the ocean?

In this version, Ariel is Atuale. Eric is Saareval. The sea witch is Yanja. The land folk find themselves the victim of a deadly disease that Atuale is immune to thanks to Yanja’s genetic engineering that let her switch from sea dwelling to land dwelling. She seeks out Yanja who takes her on an interplanetary trip to find help from other humanoids with more advanced technology than their own.

Coming February 23, 2021.

Review:
When I heard a queer scifi version of The Little Mermaid, I couldn’t hit the request button on NetGalley fast enough, which I point out to say, perhaps my expectations may have been a little too high.

This is a novella and so the world-building is tight not deep. In spite of this, I did feel I was able to quickly catch on to the world, but I suppose I might not feel that way if I wasn’t already a big reader of scifi. Its world isn’t that unique for scifi. Gene-edited humanoids live on various planets. There are some more fully alien species. Each planet has its own culture and problems, etc… I like that the gene-editing explains why the “sea witch” was able to move Atuale from the ocean dwelling to land dwelling. Yanja is less a sea witch and more a rogue sea scientist, which is neat.

The queer representation in this book is that Yanja was in a female body when Atuale lived in the ocean, and they were lovers. When Atuale seeks Yanja out again, Yanja is now in a male body. Saareval is male. So Atuale is bisexual and Yanja is trans. I appreciated how rapidly Atuale accepted Yanja’s new gender. There were no deadnaming issues as Yanja kept the same name throughout. I was disappointed in the representation of Atuale, though, mainly because I think one particular plot point falls into stereotypes of bisexual people. I wish a more creative approach to the plot was taken. It felt like a stereotypical and easy way through the story rather than a thoughtful one.

Personally, I struggled a bit to want to read this because I wasn’t expecting the future pandemic plot and that was just a bit too real for me right now. Perhaps other readers will find it comforting to see a pandemic being addressed in scifi, though. You know your own potential reaction the best.

I also want to offer the trigger warning that there is miscarriage in a flashback.

Overall, this novella has fun world building with a plot that looks at what happens after the happily ever after in The Little Mermaid. There is trans and bisexual representation, although the latter falls into stereotypes. Readers looking for a merger of The Little Mermaid with scifi and a scifi interplanetary approach to a pandemic are likely to enjoy this quick read.

3 out of 5 stars

Length: 112 pages – novella/short nonfiction

Source: NetGalley

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Book Review: These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling (Series, #1)

January 26, 2021 Leave a comment

Summary:
Hannah loves her life in Salem, Massachusetts – working at the Fly By Night Cauldron store selling witchy items while secretly being the real deal herself – an Elemental witch. She’s about to enter her senior year of high school and things are a bit complicated of course – there’s her ex-girlfriend, Veronica, and fellow Elemental to deal with and the fact that her best friend is a Reg (non-witch) and can’t know. But when an end of year party ends with a blood ritual, Hannah becomes convinced there’s a dangerous Blood Witch in town, and she wants to find her before it’s too late. Plus there’s the cute ballerina, Morgan, she’s trying to date.

Review:
If you’re looking for queer representation in your YA fantasy, this book is here for you. Hannah is a lesbian, her coworker at the Cauldron is a gay trans man (in his first year of college), and Morgan is bisexual. The queer characters aren’t perfect, and they do gently educate each other with people apologizing to each other and strengthening friendships. I love how realistic that is. It’s not a fantasy land of everyone just perfectly knowing exactly what the right thing is to say, but it is a world of mutual respect and trying to be there for each other and correct mistakes. Speaking as a bisexual woman, I found the representation of Morgan accurate and kind, which is more than I can say about a lot of bisexual representation in literature.

The plot is less gentle and feel-good than you might expect. There is more violence and even death than I was expecting based on the plot summary and the fact that it’s the first book in a series. If you’re thinking about this one, know that you will be getting a mixture of feel-good and real danger. This is also definitely a book that’s setting up the next book in the series. I immediately put the next book on hold in the library, and kind of wished I’d done it sooner so I could have read them one right after the other.

While there are witches who are Black and People of Color in the book, they all seem to come from outside of Salem. While it is true that Salem is 70.8% white and non-Hispanic (Data USA), I think even if one was using the argument that Salem is very white in real life, the lack of People of Color inside of Salem in the book isn’t accurate. I also think, personally, that we have a responsibility in literature but especially in YA where we’re trying to help youth feel seen and heard, to depict all types of diversity, not just diversity of the queer spectrum.

If you or someone you’re giving book recommendations to is looking for a YA book rich in fantasy and queer characters, this may be the right read. I would recommend being prepared to have a conversation about why greater diversity matters and ensure the reader is ok with some violence (not just of the magic kind). I’d also be prepared to just pick up both books right away as this one really leads right to the next one.

4 out of 5 stars

Length: 336 pages – average but on the longer side

Source: Library

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Book Review: An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

January 19, 2021 Leave a comment

Summary:
From the Revisioning History series, this explores United States history with a focus on the Indigenous peoples. History is explored in 11 short to medium length chapters in chronological order.

Review:
I majored in US History and took a full-length course on the Indigenous peoples of the US. I also previously was interested in the American Indian Movement of the 1970s, so read a few books about and by the people of that movement. I was kind of expecting, since this is a short book targeted to a mainstream audience, that I would not encounter too much that was new, but I was pleased to discover my expectations were incorrect.

This book was published in 2014 and thus took a more modern perspective than even my course late in the first decade of the 2000s took. It ensures a perspective not of we’re studying these ancient lost peoples but rather we’re studying the history of people who exist now in modern society and how genocide was enacted against them. The exploration of colonization and how it impacted Indigenous peoples is much more nuanced than the simple guns, germs, and steel history I’d studied in college. What I learned through this book is that colonization was strategic. It wasn’t just a happenstance of how germs worked out when the nations met and greater firepower. Of course, my coursework did acknowledge colonization, but not to the extent it was delineated in this book.

Through economic penetration of Indigenous societies, the European and Euro-American colonial powers created economic dependency and imbalance of trade, then incorporated the Indigenous nations into spheres of influence and controlled them indirectly or as protectorates, with indispensable use of Christian missionaries and alcohol….a colonizing regime institutionalizes violence.

4%-5%

To me an interesting aspect of this book was its discussion of Indigenous peoples and alcohol. Growing up, I definitely heard the myth that Indigenous peoples are more genetically prone to alcoholism. In recent years, I heard the theory that rates of addiction are higher in oppressed peoples, which makes sense as alcohol and other addictive substances can provide temporary relief from trauma. This book pushed my understanding two steps further. First, alcohol being used as an intentional weapon of colonization, calling it a “weapon of war” (21%), and noting that it wasn’t just introduced, it was also promoted (13%). This book also drew my attention to the idea that, for at least some Indigenous peoples, acting the part of the “drunk Indian” can be a form of protest. I read the article the author cites as the origin of this theory, and reading fiction work by Indigenous peoples seems to support this theory as well, for at least some instances. (See the book Ceremony, I’ll be reviewing it soon).

After covering the American Indian Movement, the book wraps up with a discussion of the expanding US imperialism and modern day colonization by historic colonizers (the US and the UK are specifically discussed). Through this, I learned of a potential connection between the Monroe Doctrine and overpowered policing forces. I also learned about the modern forced removal of the Chagossian people from Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean, which is now used by the US for a military based (rented from the UK). This is just one example of many given in the chapter, but it’s the one that stuck out the most to me, partially because I didn’t know the US even had a military base in the Indian Ocean but also because the book describes the forced removal including murdering every single pet dog on the island. While of course the forced removal alone is terrible there was just something about the added insult of murdering beloved pets that ground the whole event into my brain.

I have covered just a small snippet of what I learned in this book. It is well-written. The chapters are short to medium length and filled with information. There’s nothing extraneous here. It gets right to the point, which I appreciate. The chronological order is helpful as well for leaving the book and coming back to it as you have time. Highly recommended. I’ve already added several of the other books in this series to my wishlist.

4 out of 5 stars

Length: 218 pages – average but on the shorter side

Source: Amazon

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Book Review: The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun (translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell)

January 12, 2021 Leave a comment
The cover of the book The Law of Lines.

Summary:
Two young women’s lives are told in parallel beginning with a moment of intense misfortune. Se-oh, who normally avoids leaving the home she shares with her father at all, comes home from an outing he encouraged her to go on to pick up a coat he bought for her birthday to find their home up in flames with her father inside. The detective tells her that her father set off the explosion himself due to debt, setting wheels turning in Se-oh’s life. Ki-jeong, a high school teacher, has a situation with a difficult student come to a head at the same time as she finds out that her younger half-sister’s body was found in a river. How will these two women’s lies come to entwine?

Review:
When I heard about this, it was in the context of it being a thriller. I’m not sure I’d personally call it a thriller, more of a quiet, subtle, literary mystery.

I was deeply moved by Se-oh’s story. Although I did not previously know how debt works in South Korea, once I understood I felt so much empathy for the horribly tight spot Se-oh and her father found themselves in. The more of Se-oh’s story was revealed, the more saddened I was for her. It was like if you saw the aftermath of a car crash and then watched a slow-motion replay of how it came to be. That’s what reading Se-oh’s story was like. It was through Se-oh’s story that I learned the most things that were new to me about South Korean culture, and her story was also what led to me looking up some aspects of it and learning even more.

I was less engaged by Ki-jeong’s story. While I did feel empathy for her being stuck in a job she didn’t like and the apparently difficult situation with her half-sister, I didn’t feel that enough was revealed about her that was positive for me to really be on her side. I suspect I may have gotten more out of Ki-jeong’s story if I was more familiar with South Korean culture, but this is a shortcoming of my own and not the book.

If you are looking to travel to South Korea via subtle yet engaging mystery, I would recommend picking this one up.

3 out of 5 stars

Length: 288 pages – average but on the shorter side

Source: Library

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Book Review: Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God by Kaitlin B. Curtice

January 5, 2021 4 comments

Summary:
This is simultaneously a memoir about her faith journey and an opinion piece from her perspective as both a Christian and a member of the Potawatomi nation (a nation Indigenous to both the US and Canada). Kaitlin fearlessly grapples with the historical and current weaponization of Christianity, how she interprets Christianity in her own life, and how her Potawatomi knowing comes into her faith.

Review:
This book, to me, is first and foremost beautiful. I read it on my kindle fire just so I could enjoy its beauty in full-color and larger size than my paperwhite. There are five parts, and each part begins with an illustrated poem from Potawotami tradition that ties into the designated part.

A lot about this book is difficult to categorize, and that is part of its strength and beauty. It is partially a memoir, although not necessarily told in a linear fashion. In fact, it reminded me quite a bit of Braiding Sweetgrass (review). It is both about a topic the author has a lot of knowledge on (the experience of Christianity as an Indigenous person), but also is a memoir because her knowledge and herself cannot be separated as they inform each other.

Although I am not biracial myself, I imagine this book would be meaningful to readers who are. Kaitlin, while a full member of the Potawatomi nation, is half white and half Potawatomi. In addition to this, her parents split up when she was young, so she also experienced both living on the reservation and living off the reservation in a white town in a white church with folks essentially considering her to be white and ignoring her Potawatomi self. She discusses what it means to her to be able to pass for white and why she generally as an adult chooses not to. (She even flies with her tribal membership card, which while officially accepted, is usually not recognized by the first TSA agent she sees).

Her insights into how to improve what is broken or ostracizing in the church in the US were simultaneously interesting and challenging. I can imagine a reader very deeply enveloped in the church may feel challenged by her willingness to question what is often accepted as the word of God and also by her desire to draw in aspects of Potawatomi ways. Similarly, I can imagine a reader who has already cast aside the church might wonder why she bothers staying with something that may seem to them to be so obviously broken. This is the beauty of the book. Kaitlin refuses to do what might seem to either side to be the easiest and rather forges her own way, encouraging others to do the same.

The problem isn’t that we search for truth; the problem is that we become obsessed with our belief that we hold the truth, and we destroy entire cultures in the process.

52%

I know I am not the only person who has been wondering lately about other white women who support the patriarchy, and Kaitlin directly addresses this with her insight that comes from being a white passing Indigenous woman in white conservative spaces. I found what she had to say helped me both establish some understanding for something I previously could not understand at all and consider new ways to potentially reach these women.

Unless your lived experience is very similar to the author’s, I expect this will be a book that challenges you. It certainly challenged me. But to be challenged is to grow, and I thank the author for sharing her understanding of the world and her experiences. Being challenged helped me to grow in my understanding. Recommended for all but especially for those who are seeking a greater understanding of the church in the US.

4 out of 5 stars

Length: 208 pages – average but on the shorter side

Source: Purchased

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