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  • Writer's pictureKara C White

The TBR Stack: February 2021

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

With a great start to my reading year already, I'm excited to jump into my February TBR stack! This month may be a bit shorter on the calendar, but I'm determined to fit in as many quality and thought-provoking titles as possible!

Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing was one of my favorite books of 2019. This month I'm reaching back to her 2011 novel Salvage the Bones. This National Book Award winner chronicles a Black family in Mississippi just before and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Four siblings do what they can with the little they have. The main action of the book plays out over just 12 days, but the story promises to stay with the reader for much longer.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is a 2018 YA novel written in verse. X is 15-year-old Xiomara who uses slam poetry to understand, explore, and work through the tension in her life and finds her voice in the process. This award-winning book made the news late last year when a North Carolina couple sued in an attempt to have this novel removed from their son's public school curriculum, calling it overtly anti-Christian. Nothing piques my interest in a book faster than an attempt to remove or restrict it (find out why in my previous post about why I read banned books).

Inspired by a collection of short stories I enjoyed last month, this February I'm focusing on some shorter works by a single writer, Zora Neale Hurston. Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance is a compilation of the celebrated writer's shorter works about African American life. I'm especially interested in the eight so-called "lost" Harlem stories, said to have been rediscovered in forgotten archives and periodicals.

For non-fiction, I'm reading the biography Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. Baldwin was a writer and activist who asked difficult questions about race and the nation during and after the Civil Rights movement. Since I know little else about him, I'm hoping this book will better acquaint me with Baldwin's life and legacy.

You may have noticed that all of the books listed as part of my TBR stack this month are written by Black authors. This is no coincidence! It's one way in which I'm recognizing Black History Month with my family. Also, reading the words, stories, and work of writers who don't look like me is part of my year-long 2021 Reading Goals which I outlined on the blog last month. These books meet my reading goal criteria in other ways too. Find out how by checking out last month's post.


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And now a few thoughts on my January reads.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett came highly recommended and did not disappoint. This novel examines the links and limits of family as twin sisters take very different paths in life-- one living in the small Black community in which they grew up and the other living hundreds of miles away and passing for white. Their estrangement has consequences for themselves and for their children. I liked how the idea of losing half of yourself played out in different ways for different characters throughout the book.

Already a strong contender for my favorite read of the year, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is pure magic! I now understand why I've heard readers raving over this fantasy novel about a mysterious circus and two magicians pitted against each other, but also falling in love. This is a beautiful, spellbinding book. I loved the characters, the world-building, the imagery & symbolism, the attention to detail-- all of it.

Before the Ever After is the third book I've read by Jacqueline Woodson. Considered a middle grade novel, this book written in verse explores the effects of CTE on a professional football player and his family as seen through the eyes of his preteen son. It's heartbreaking to see the emotional and physical impact on these characters, and the book forces the reader to consider the true cost of professional sports on its players. I'll be passing this book to my middle school aged child next.

My non-fiction read for January was For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World by Sasha Sagan, daughter of astronomer Carl Sagan and the writer/producer Ann Druyan. It's an interesting look at how the natural world shapes our worldviews (whatever they may be) and shapes humanity's rituals surrounding everything from communal holidays to family milestones to birth and death. It's part memoir, part history, part social study, part science lesson-- and all fascinating.

I also finished up a book I've been reading a bit at a time for weeks now, In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs by Grace Bonney. This book features profiles of more than 100 successful, creative women. Their stories and mindsets are inspiring!

What's inspiring you right now? Best wishes for further reading!

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