Plum Bun: A Novel without a Moral


This is my first blog post from my new house. This weekend I moved to Houghton, Michigan, and tomorrow I start my new job at Michigan Technological University. I am simultaneously excited and nervous. I spent today doing a few things around the house, reading, and thinking about how I should do this damn blog post that I have been saying I will do for weeks!

A few weeks ago I finished Plum Bun: A Novel without a Moral by Jessie Redmon Fauset. This book was originally assigned for a class I took in college, but was cut from the book list when we ran out of time. In my American Lit class in graduate school, we had the opportunity to create our own book list to study any era of American Literature that appealed to us. I chose the Harlem Renaissance and loved it. I originally picked up Plum Bun back in February because I wanted to read something for Black History Month, and this is where I landed.

This book is about Angela Murray. As a young girl, she discovers she has the ability to pass as white. She learns this from her mother, who can also pass. Angela makes the decision to move to New York as a white woman. She believes that if she can get to New York she can start her life as a white woman with a certain level of privilege, find a white husband, and be set for life. She thinks that removing her blackness from the world will also remove her problems. This story follows Angela through her time in New York and examines her relationship with her sister, Jinny, who is not able to pass. Angela desperately desires to become and artists, and the characters she meets along the way are enjoyable and provide insight into her circumstances.

I liked this book, even though it took me forever to finish! It wasn’t one that I could fly through, and I found myself reading in small chunks. I did like Nella Larsen’s Passing better in terms of a text about passing. I enjoyed how long I was with Angela and how I got to see her live her daily life, not just a snippet of her experience.


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Hello, blog world.

Life, man. I’ve been busy (If I had a dollar for every time I wrote that phrase…). But, in truth, I have not felt like reading. At all. I have liked the books I have picked up, but at the end of the day, I have no motivation to actually dive into a book. So, I’ve been forcing myself to do a little reading most nights, and feel like I may be getting back into the swing. Hopefully. I genuinely have no reason to NOT be reading, but I have been choosing to go to bed early instead. Alright, enough, let’s talk books.

I finished Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty about two weeks ago. I started it in Philadelphia while on a work trip, continued it in Ann Arbor on another work trip, and finished it in my bed at home. I first heard about this book from a student who I work with. He was taking a literature course exploring death in literature, and would regularly read outside of my office. So, we had a little routine where I (rudely) interrupted, interrogated, and added items to my reading list.

So, when a wonderful person who I work with offered to loan me this book, I jumped. I was reading another book at the time, but had no motivation, so I thought this could be a kick in the pants.

I am obsessed with this book, and was having flashbacks to reading Stiff by Mary Roach. Both approach death with a curiosity and a light humor. I had no previous knowledge about cremation, and learned a lot. I learned that living in North America makes it extremely unlikely that I will ever see a body that is actually decomposing. I learned that, in a society who focuses so much on youth, we sure do not handle the dying well. And, ultimately, I learned that after I die I do not want my body embalmed, and want a green burial. My grandfather is donating his body to Michigan State University – another option to me.

I highly recommend this book if you do not know much about cremation (warning: the baby chapter is a little tough). It certainly helped me narrow down what I want to have happen after I am gone. If you read this, let me know, I’d love to talk about it!


PSA – Doughty recently released another book. Check it out here. 


The Circle

I’m excited that I am still posting about vacation reads – it takes me right back to my quiet week on the lake!

I have been excited about the preview of The Circle for a while because I love Emma Watson (who doesn’t?), but refuse to see the movie until I have read the book. This was my second book by Dave Eggers, and I really enjoyed it. I can see how it’s great material to inspire a movie.

The Circle is about a young woman named Mae who starts working for a large tech company who is working on all kinds of projects. The company has a lot of young people working for them and has a huge social media focus. They work to connect people and make the world more transparent.

The deeper Mae becomes involved in the company, the more she changes her lifestyle and the faster she volunteers to open her life up to others in the company and around the world.

This book introduces political concerns, privacy issues, and asks if social media should have limits. It was wonderful to read while I was unplugged for the week, and made me think about the information I put out on the internet, and how companies use it.

Did you see the movie? How did it compare to the book? No spoilers, please!



Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories

I am really enjoying vacation. I have not been to work in one week, and have six days until I have to be back, which is completely and totally lovely. I have not done as much reading as I should have, but I have done plenty of relaxing and spending time with family.

My Christmas 2016 Book Haul

This afternoon I finished a collection of short stories by Alifa Rifaat, Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories. It’s relatively short, but took me a while to get through due to traveling, preparing for the holiday, and wrapping things up for 2016. Alifa Rifaat was an Eqyptian writer. The stories in this book focus on what everyday life looked like in Rifaat’s Egypt. Her writing focuses on familial relationships, and the routines of everyday life, including the five daily prayers. Rifaat describes a society that is male-dominated, but her writing reveals some flaws in such a culture.

My favorite story in this collection is Badriyya and Her Husband. This story is about a young woman who lives with her mother. Her mother does not approve of Badriyya’s husband, a man who has just been released from jail for stealing. He comes back, but their problems do not end just because he has come home. All of Rifaat’s stories have a punch in their final line, but the final line of this story broke my heart in addition to punching me in the gut. It’s really lovely writing/translation.

Remi enjoyed Rifaat, as well.

I am the only person who has ever checked this book out from the library at the university where I work! There are only 56 reviews of it on Goodreads, so I am assuming it is not a widely known book. I encourage you to pick it up!

I only read 18 books this year. Hopefully I can read one or two more before the new year, as my goal was 55 books! Oops. Did anyone else fail miserably with their reading goal this year?


The Namesake

If you follow me on Instagram (theworldishersforthereading) you know that there is a new addition to my family. Remi arrived a few days ago, and I am completely in love with her. She gets up way to early, but that means I can get some reading done.

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Remi’s First Night at Home

This morning, I was able to finish The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. When I was working on my M.A. in Literautre I took a post modern literature course that had a focus on Indian literature, but it was all focused on the partition of India. It was nice to read something current.

The Namesake is about a young man named Gogol, the son of Indian immigrants who is named after his father’s favorite author. The novel follows Gogol’s life from the time his mother was pregnant until he is an adult. Gogol struggles with the gap between his parents’ culture and the American culture that surrounds him. He grows up hating his name, not understanding its significance until he is much older. Gogol legally changes his name before college, but cannot actually escape it, as it is part of his culture to go by a nickname. Gogol has to figure out how much of his parents culture he will adapt into his own life.

The writing in this novel is incredible. Lahiri is excellent, and I will be adding more of her books to my TBR.

Never Let Me Go

Tonight I finished Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It is the third book that I have read this year. I feel as though I should have more books read, but life is busy, and I should not be beating myself up over only reading one book per week. This book is on both my books to read in your 20s list, and I am counting it as the dystopian novel in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. (Is it cheating to count one book on two lists?)

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I read this book in three sittings. The narrator, Kathy, was conversational, which really kept me engaged. She would start to bring something up, then mention how she would explain that point later. This was always done when I wanted to know what was happening, so it was a great tactic to keep the reader engaged. Kathy is a young woman who is reflecting on her time in the boarding school she attended, Hailsham, and the years after. Kathy hints that the students at her school are different, but it takes a while for you to learn what is really happening in the culture Kathy is living in, and I do not want to spoil it. Even after I learned what was happening in Kathy’s world, I did not want to believe it, and continually hoped that I was wrong. I particularly enjoyed Kathy’s reflections on her childhood, but the last 50 pages or so I could not read fast enough, nor think about putting the book down. I had to know how it was going to end, and if Kathy was going to be able to change the course that her culture had planned for her.

This book will make you think about how science impacts culture. It will also make you wonder how humans can ignore what is happening to others when they know what happening, but are not directly impacted by it.

I feel like this is such a lame post, but I do not want to spoil this book, and think that if I say much more, I will.

Tomorrow I am off to the library to get a new stack of books on the books to read in your 20s list. What are you all reading right now?