March was my most successful reading month of 2018 thus far, having read 14 books. I don’t think I’ve ever read this many books during a school month -spring break is amazing for a reason, people- and I have to say that credit is due to some of the reading I’ve done for my two English classes. I’m currently taking Contemporary American Lit: The Short Story Cycle and Graphic Novels, and for the first time in forever, I’ve actually enjoyed many of the books that I’ve been required to read?!
If you’ve been here for a while, you’ll know that I am not the biggest classics fan and a lot of my classics reading comes from the classroom. However, most of the books on both syllabuses were published within the past 5-10 years and are actually comprehendible! Today I’m going to be discussing three of those books, as well as one book that I’ve read on my own time.
Irmina by Barbara Yelin
My Rating: 4/5
Barbara Yelin’s Irmina is a graphic novel set in 1930s England, as German foreign student, Irmina, befriends Howard, a young Caribbean man attending Oxford University. The novel follows Irmina and Howard’s relationship and some of the harassment the two face in England, Howard being discriminated as a black man and Irmina being associated with the National Socialist part simply because she’s from Germany.
I enjoyed Irmina for its unique take on the World War II period and how it tracks Howard and Irmina’s relationship and lives as college students through adulthood. I loved how Barbara Yelin’s inspiration came from her grandmother’s own experiences during WWII, and I enjoyed talking about her use of color and full page spreads in class.
A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl
My Rating:2.5/5 Stars
A Psalm for Lost Girls was one of my most anticipated releases of spring 2017. I even treated myself by buying a copy as a “treat yo self” moment at the end of my freshman year (its deckled pages/edges were too tempting). The book surrounds the death of Tess da Costa, a seventeen year old girl who was considered to be a saint by her small town Massachusetts community. Her sister Tess is left to investigate Tess’s sainthood, a kidnapping that Tess may or may not have been connected to, and more importantly, prove to her town that her sister was more than just a saint; she was Callie’s best friend.
A Psalm for Lost Girls intrigued me for its saint and religious plot, but unfortunately I found myself disappointed by plot direction. Most of the time, I didn’t really understand exactly what Tess’s boyfriend, Danny, and Callie were investigating. I had trouble connecting to the writing style, and I couldn’t connect to Callie, who also acts as the main narrator.I didn’t understand her sympathy for the antagonist and I still don’t fully understand the big connection between him and Tess.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Olive Kitteridge is my absolute favorite short story collection that I’ve read in my contemporary American literature class. The novel is a linked short story collection surrounding the title character’s small town in Maine. I loved how the characters were connected to each other, and it was fun to see Olive pop up in every story in a different fashion. My favorite stories include “The Piano Player,” “Security,” and “Winter Concert”. I’m looking forward to watching its mini series adaptation when my semester is over.
The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
The most recent graphic novel I’ve read for class, The Silence of Our Friends takes place in 1960s Texas, surrounding the civil rights movement. The book primarily follows two families, one white and one black, who connect through a protest at Texas State University. I think the book is a great tool to teach in a history class covering civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s and it felt so current. The edition I read from was just published this year, and its introduction connected the book to many events and discussions surrounding racism today.
One of the few things I didn’t enjoy about the graphic novel was its use of small text at times. However, I think these moments where the text within the speech bubbles was too small to read was done so on purpose and had no real significance to the plot.
What books have you enjoyed reading for school? Have you read any of the books above? Share in the comments!