Reading for Distraction.

(by Sarah)

I'd been talking to Grace about how my reading was lagging, and then I went to visit my mother-in-law. We intended to stay for a couple of days, see other family, and then come home. We got there, my MIL adopted a senior dog who immediately got very ill and had to be euthanized. So, while we were taking care of that, I dug into my TBR pile to help forget about my dead dog blues. Here's what I read: 

The Star Side of Bird Hill - Naomi Jackson

From the very beginning, you know that you're in the hands of a talented storyteller. Naomi Jackson's engaging debut isn't just lyrical, it's magical. At the center of this gorgeous novel are Phaedra and Dionne, who are adjusting to Barbados after having lived in Brooklyn for most of their lives. Beyond that, it's the story of the women in their family, their cultural heritage and their rites of passage. The setting is as much of a character in this book as anyone you'll read about, and if you haven't fallen in love with Jackson by the end of the novel, you'll certainly be in love with one or more of her characters

I'm Not Her - Cara Sue Achterberg

Carin and Leeann have vastly different lives. Carin is middle class and shallow. Leeann is poor and overweight. When a random accident leaves them trapped in one another's body, their perceptions of one another change drastically. Leeann is, at first, happy at what she sees as an upgrade in appearance and station. Carin is horrified to return to a run down home stocked with snack cakes and soda. Both women are confronted with the complicated family situations of the body they inhabit - Carin's adoring and persistent long term boyfriend and nagging mother won't leave Leeann alone. Carin, on the other hand, finds herself saddled with a precocious son and an abusive, often absent husband. Both characters are sympathetic, but I think we're meant to care a bit more about Carin. There's a fair amount of body shaming that happens in this book, but Achterberg does a great job with the specific economics of poverty. While I had my reservations, it's worth noting that I read this book cover-to-cover in less than a day.

Tonight the Streets Are Ours - Leila Sales

Arden's life isn't going the way she expected. Her mother just left and her father isn't around. She spends a lot of time taking care of her younger brother and her best friend who is a trouble magnet. Her boyfriend is cute, but somewhat inattentive. Something is building in Arden.I initially disliked Arden - she martyrs herself for the people she loves and blames them for it. She decides to take a trip to New York to meet Peter, the author of a blog she loves along with her best friend. The trip and the night following it turn out to be transformative for her. I won't spoil anything, but I will say this: Tonight the Streets Are Ours isn't a love story in the way you're expecting it to be. It's not about falling in love with another person. It's about learning to feel competent and independent. I want to walk down the street and hand a copy of this book to every teenager I see.