Shannon’s Reading List: Brown Girl Dreaming, Bad Feminist, and Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Jacqueline Woodson and Me
Me and Jacqueline Woodson at the “A Word With Writers” fundraiser for the Albuquerque Public Library Foundation with Bookworks, June 13, 2017

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson


I read this book in preparation for the author’s visit to Albuquerque for a public library fundraising event. It’s a multi-award winning memoir written in verse style, which I had to get used to. But after a few pages I was devouring chunks in one sitting. If I were to ever write my memoir, which I won’t because the life outside my head is bo-ring, but if I were to write one I’d totally do it the way Jacqueline Woodson did it in Brown Girl Dreaming. Just write the poetry-worthy parts of one’s recollection and skip all the other crap.

Some quotes I had to jot down after I read them:

At night, every living thing competes

for a chance to be heard.


He hands

my mother a record, a small 45—James Brown,

who none of us

like because he screams when he sings.



But the summer I am ten, funk is in every single song

that comes on the cool black radio stations. So our

mother makes us listen

to the white ones.


Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay


It took me way too long to get around to reading this book. But then everybody was raving about her recent release, Hunger, so I was like, crap, I got to get on the ball and read Bad Feminist. And now I’m kind of mad I waited so long.

I wish I’d already read it that time my friend Vic was ranting about the movie The Help, and how she was so angry when all these white women around her were crying and all she wanted to do was throw something at the screen. Vic would have found comfort in knowing Roxane Gay had pretty much the same experience and wrote about it in “The Solace of Preparing Fried Foods and Other Quaint Remembrances from 1960s Mississippi: Thoughts on The Help”:

There are any number of times during the interminable two hours and seventeen minutes of running time when I felt like my soul would shrivel up and die. I was devastated by all of it. Everyone around me cried openly throughout most of the movie. My eyes were not dry. I am certain we were often crying for different reasons. Every transgression, injustice, and tragedy was exploited so that by the end of the movie it was like the director had ripped into my chest, torn my heart out, and jumped up and down on it until it became a flattened piece of worn-out muscle.

I wish I’d already read it during some heated debates I had with friends who are Team Gale, because I am totally Team Peeta for all the reasons Roxane is:

Peeta, on the other hand, is everything. He frosts things and bakes bread and is unconditional and unwavering in his love, and also he is very, very strong. He can throw a sack of flour, is what I am saying. Peeta is a place of solace and hope, and he is a good kisser.

Everything she just said, from “What We Hunger For.”

And I wish I’d read it in time to get my ass to the theater and see Michael B. Jordan on the big screen in Fruitvale Station, because I could have come home and commiserated with Roxane, via re-reading her essay “The Last Day of a Young Black Man”

Fruitvale Station could have been an angry movie, but Coogler has crafted an intimate, at times exuberant, portrait. . . . Still, it is hard to consider what made the movie possible without surrendering to some amount of rage.

As Coogler notes, “Grant’s murder came at a time where people in Oakland were optimistic about race.” In one night, that optimism was taken away.


But water under the bridge. I’ve read the book now.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han


I bought my first Jenny Han book as a present for my friend’s daughter’s thirteenth birthday, and then figured I’d better buy my own copy and read it, so that she and I could talk about it. That never happened, because she read all the books way before I did. I take warm comfort in knowing I played a part in her discovery of a new series she loves. And I love, too.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the conclusion to the The To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy, and it does not disappoint. It’s everything I wanted in a book, in a series conclusion, and in the conclusion to this series. I ugly cried when I finished it. It was that good.

Is this how it goes? You fall in love, and nothing seems truly scary anymore, and life is one big possibility?

What books are you reading this summer?

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