bookish

By the numbers: I read 156 books this year, of which 105 were by women, 73 by queer folk, 54 by writers of color, and 8 by trans people. I reviewed 30 of the books by POC as part of this Dreamwidth community, and they included some of the best books I have ever read: notably Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and The Color Purple.

My discovery of the year is Alexis Hall, who is essentially Georgette Heyer reborn as a fannish, kinky queer, and thus very much to my taste. In a similar vein I also read everything by KJ Charles and Roan Parrish. A book I keep coming back to and reading a page or two at a time is Marion Milner’s meditative, lovely A Life of One’s Own. A book I picked up again after a long hiatus is Gisela Kaplan’s fascinating Bird Minds: Cognition and Behaviour of Australian Native Birds. But if I could persuade you to read a single book I read this year, I would ask that it be The New Jim Crow.

galahs

We walked out of the airport terminal into a wall of humidity and cicada song. I had forgotten how good Australian summer smells. I see it now in a way I never could before I left. The ferry ride to Cockatoo Island through a working harbour surrounded by old-money waterfront property. (My family’s steadfast refusal to laugh as I called it Cockapoo Island and claimed that it was made entirely of cockapoos.) Inner western suburbs with their beautiful brick terrace houses and bullnose verandahs and tall and spreading trees. Oyster leases on the Hawkesbury. I can feel my own settler-colonial culture as a shallow, temporary film over this weirdly ancient place. My family has been here for nearly 250 years. The Aboriginal people have been here for 250 times as long.

In Barraba now, I am haunted by my parents. Here’s my mother’s craft studio. There’s where Dad had his market stall. In front of the doctor’s office is where I broke down when Dad said he was sure Mum’s cancer was cured. Last night I sat on their front porch while galahs and lorikeets threw a sunset dance party. Petrichor, all around. Behind me a sun shower and in front of me, rainbow’s end. Today, my brother and I took two cars and a whole expedition party out to Horton Falls. We surprised mobs of kangaroos. We had both forgotten to check if we had full tanks. It’s alarming to drive on a single-width bush track with the fuel light on. We glided back into town as smoothly as we could, running on fumes. But here we are.

ms 14

“You can’t shush the truth!”

what a weird day

Our mayor Ed Lee died very early this morning. He was shopping at the Safeway on Monterey last night when he had a heart attack. The doctors at SF General were unable to save him. He was a complicated, good man.

We rode out at the Horse Park, bright green after the winter rains. “Where’d all the geese come from?” asked Kristen. “Canada,” I said. A coyote swaggered across our path. The sun shone pinkly through its ears. It had a wise and pointed face.

I’d steeled myself for a loss in the Alabama special election. More fool me. The NAACP robo-called Black voters, and Black pastors set up voter registration booths at church events. America is so deeply in their debt, I even can’t speak of it.

lab girl, by hope jahren

She was always angry and I could never piece together why. With the self-focus peculiar to children, I convinced myself that it must be because of something that I had said or done. In the future, I vowed to myself, I would guard my words better.

the lie tree, by frances hardinge

Faith had always told herself that she was not like other ladies. But neither, it seemed, were other ladies.

a walk on the beach

“How can it not be fun? It’s Fort Funs-town!” “I hate you.”

fall out boys

Not many people know this but Fall Out Boy is actually four boys: Sing Boy, Drummer Boy, Not Bad Boy, and My Boyfriend.

a life of one’s own, by marion milner

Why had no one told me that the function of will might be to stand back, to wait, not to push?

chione at twin rivers

I love her a perhaps-unreasonable amount. (We came fourth in our division.)

sing, unburied, sing, by jesmyn ward

we don’t walk no straight lines. It’s all happening at once. All of it. We all here at once. My mama and daddy and they mamas and daddies.

the red threads of fortune, by jy yang

“I’m sorry,” Mokoya said. “I know I shouldn’t be like this. It’s been four years. I should be better. But . . .” She pushed at blades of oasis grass with her toes. “It hasn’t gotten better. I thought it would get better.”

the black tides of heaven, by jy yang

…here she stood, radiant and triumphant, oblivious to the suffering that collected in the long shadow of her Protectorate.

the murders of molly southbourne, by tade thompson

Slowly, she gets her strength back, but her parents are still dead.

a closed and common orbit, by becky chambers

She didn’t know how a person could sleep so much and be so tired.

an unsuitable heir, by kj charles

I don’t want to be a freakish eccentric. I never did. I just wanted to be myself.

war mare

I ride Chione, the bright golden Haflinger dressage pony of my heart. I’m holding my arms in a round O now, like first position in ballet, an innovation from the great New Zealand coach Greg Best, apparently. It stops me bracing with my hands and gives me a whole other dimension of range of motion in my arms.

Chione flows forward into my softer contact. I sit to her trot, with my lower leg relaxed and my inner thigh engaged. I shift my inside hipbone forward. She steps forward with her outside hind leg into a perfect canter depart.

Everything is warm and light and nothing hurts.

and then a month passed

Alain went home. I was sad. Cait and her family visited! It was fun! We didn’t travel for the eclipse because the kids started school that day. So far school seems to be going okay. It turns out that being a full-time working-out-of-the-home mother of school age children? Is very difficult. Working a few hours a week is much more compatible with actually, you know. Showing up for your own kids.

Julia and I did a wheel class at Pinckney Clay. We’d already done hand building, which I liked fine, but the wheel is magical. It was like riding, or doing yoga. When the clay centered itself, I could feel the rightness of it. You lean into the vortex of the numinous.

I suppose for the sake of completeness I should add that a newish horse at McIntosh launched me into orbit and I landed on my head and neck hard enough to see stars. I went straight from the barn to the doctor: no concussion, no spinal injury. It did a number on my confidence, though. I’m doing lots of yoga and eating healthy and going for lots of calm, positive rides, all of which I should’ve been doing all along. I also had a glorious massage with a dude whose hands were so big he could hold my entire head in his palm. (The offending horse, by the way, turns out to be an utter sweetheart. I can only assume I jabbed him awkwardly with a spur. Just one of those things.)

I’ve been doing another 50 Books by POC challenge. Best discoveries: Deborah A. Miranda, Hilton Als, Sherman Alexie (I know, I know), Frederick Douglass, and Alice Walker (I KNOW.) Right now, I am listening to Walker read her own The Color Purple on audiobook and it’s so good, so funny and wise and wrenching, I look forward to traffic jams. Best rediscoveries: Samantha Irby, Aziz Ansari, Nnedi Okorafor.

The big world continues to burn. I donate, I yell at my representatives, I march in the streets. It’s been filthy hot and today got more and more humid until the sky went black and the light went strange and a thunderstorm broke over the city like the atmosphere bursting into tears.

arizona road trip

Meteor Crater. Exactly what it says on the tin. Super impressive.

Grand Canyon. The Coconino sandstone at the very bottom of the crater? Is the pale band right at the top of these cliffs. Nigh-unfathomable.

perspective

Alain’s going home next week and this distresses me, so we climbed Mount Tam about it.

I love that mountain. It’s a magical island above a sea of Karl the Fog. From up there you can see San Francisco as it really is: a city made of dreams.

We also took in the usual suspects: the Japanese Tea Gardens, Cal Academy, De Young, Japantown Mall and SF MOMA. Al had seen most (all?) of these before but it’s always nice to look at things from a different point of view.

The city is a spaceship, and a time machine.