Queenie

Author: Candice Carty-Williams

Published: March 19, 2019

Publisher: Scout Press (Simon and Schuster)

Where I picked up my book: My first Book of the Month Pick!

Key Words: Contemporary Fiction, Debut Novel, Personal Journey, Dating Life

My Rating: 4

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.

As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.

With “fresh and honest” (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today’s world.

My Thoughts:

This was my first Book of the Month pick and when I saw Queenie as one of the choices, I knew I had to sign up for BOTM. Maybe I’ll give you all my thoughts on the subscription box after a few months of participating, but I just knew this was a perfect choice for my first box and it was!

Secondly, this book is being described as, “Bridget Jone’s Diary meets Americanah” and I think that’s a stretch, to say the least. Bridget Jone’s Diary, although somewhat entertaining, has NOTHING on this novel. Queenie takes it’s readers on a much deeper journey full of frank self-discovery, relationship issues, mental health and emotional struggles, interracial dating, commentary on today’s world, family history, and so much more. I guess the comparison may come when I think of the humor in Queenie, but the difference is, Carty-Williams takes the rom-com plot and turns it into something with some major depth to it. Oh and she’s also British :/ Then to compare it to Americanah seems off to me too. This book is truly on a level of it’s own. I think if you go into it with that thinking instead, you’ll be much happier.

Third, I could relate to Queenie in so many ways. When you read this story, it’s easy to think, wow…Queenie is a wild one who makes poor life decisions. If you come at it from a different perspective though, (without judgement) I think you’ll see her in a different light-and probably see yourself in Queenie-just like I did. She is a strong, independent, honest woman who is political, set in her beliefs and paving her way in this world. Yes, just like all of us, she has some personal flaws and has to navigate some bumps along the way. She makes some questionable choices (who hasn’t?), she can be a bit self-destructive (also…who hasn’t been in their lifetime?). She is prone to anxiety (raises hand) and we catch her while in a personal spiral (again-my friends and I talk about our spiraling allll the time), but through these flaws-she is defining and taking charge of her life, finding herself and paving her own way as a Black woman in today’s society. She is a strong, independent and honest woman on a road to INTENTIONAL self-discovery and I found myself rooting hard for her (and sometimes myself if I’m being perfectly honest), the entire time. I think you will too! Give this one a read, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

bookishfolk…read instead.

 

Girls Burn Brighter

Author: Shobha Rao

Published: March 6, 2018

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Where I picked up my book: ARC from the publisher (THANK YOU)

Key Words: Indian culture, Feminism, Friendship, Domestic Abuse, Poverty

My Rating: 4 star

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Synopsis (via Macmillian):

Longlisted for the 2018 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

“Incandescent…A searing portrait of what feminism looks like in much of the world.” —Vogue

“A treat for Ferrante fans, exploring the bonds of friendship and how female ambition beats against the strictures of poverty and patriarchal societies.” —The Huffington Post

An electrifying debut novel about the extraordinary bond between two girls driven apart by circumstance but relentless in their search for one another.

Poornima and Savitha have three strikes against them: they are poor, they are ambitious, and they are girls. After her mother’s death, Poornima has very little kindness in her life. She is left to care for her siblings until her father can find her a suitable match. So when Savitha enters their household, Poornima is intrigued by the joyful, independent-minded girl. Suddenly their Indian village doesn’t feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond arranged marriage. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend.

Her journey takes her into the darkest corners of India’s underworld, on a harrowing cross-continental journey, and eventually to an apartment complex in Seattle. Alternating between the girls’ perspectives as they face ruthless obstacles, Shobha Rao’s Girls Burn Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within.

My Thoughts:

Oooof, this was a hard one to read, but so so important, heart-wrenching, relevant and hopeful at the same time. It literally had me sobbing from page 2 if that tells you anything—but as a warning, it’s not for the faint of heart.

My first thought is how there might be nothing more that I value than other females in my life. I have always had close, female friendships (hello mom and dad-you acted blindsided by the whole lesbian thing, but come on). All kidding aside, I have always valued my female friendships and have continuously chosen to surround myself with powerful, smart, supportive women from an early age. Of course, I had friends that were boys growing up and a brother, but my best friends were other girls and there was something in us that screamed…you’re not stopping us no matter what you think! I then went to an all-female high school where I think most of my feminist empowerment came to be. We were taught we could do anything, equally well (if not better :)) than men. We were valued, supported, taught that the world was ours for the taking…it was that foundation and history of women that I stand tall and proud on today. So whenever I read books about strong, female friendships-I know my feminist heart is going to love it. This book is no exception and is one of the most powerful portrayals of female friendship that I have ever read.

My second thought-holy shit this book was hard to read. So hard, that at times, I had to put it down after literally feeling sick to my stomach. I’d like to give credit to Rao’s writing for this visceral reaction to some of what happens in this book (and let this be a warning to you if you are sensitive to intense abuse) but also…I’d like to remember that these sorts of terrible, terrible things happens and just because it’s so outside my understanding, doesn’t mean that it’s not important to know about, read about and acknowledge.

Thirdly, the writing is stunning and filled with description, savoring prose and vivid landscapes that made me feel like I was right there. I didn’t question what a home looked like, what a meal tasted like, or what a neighborhood felt like-it was given to me through Rao’s writing. I was walking where these girls walked, seeing what they saw, and experiencing what they experienced and that, my friends, is why we read. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it over again for the first time. Although in hindsight, I’m not sure if that would have been healthy for my mental state.

This book is nothing less than haunting, tragic, brutal, devastating, painful and heart-wrenching, but so poignant, powerful and hopeful at the same time. I was reminded how I have some friendships that I would go to the ends of the earth for and that we, as females, need to always remember to burn bright.

bookishfolk…read instead.