Books and Looks: October 2019

It’s not a common partnership, but the infusion of fashion and literature has always melded two worlds in an unlikely but illuminating manner. While fashion visually projects a concept and transcends ideas aesthetically, literature positions itself as a visceral experience with words and stories, reflecting the landscape of our inner worlds.

The poet Tomas Tranströmer said it best: “Two truths approach each other. One comes from the inside, the other from outside, and where they meet we have a chance to catch sight of ourselves.”

This illumination, this light that Tranströmer speaks of manifests as I make my way through my own two truths. Cultivating an appreciation for fashion stems from childhood where it was treated as a performative aspect, a version of myself who was forced to “dress up” no matter the occasion. Literature was my escape, the salve to the pressures of my small world riddled with endless expectations. Books were portals, the characters in them friends who led me to worlds I loved being swallowed up in.

At some point, imagination took over. Dressing up was inevitable and with a goal of tempering my mother’s inclinations, I embraced it and made it my own. Fits of sartorial rage ensued at first, but we both emerged victoriously. Since then, it’s been a process where both interests nurtured my creativity.

Books inspire my visual expressions through my clothing, and the stories of brands, fashion icons and the industry propelled me to find books at the intersection of craft, identity and art. Books inspire most of my looks and vice versa, whether it’s a fabric or print on the former or a quote from the latter.

Here are a few of books and looks I am currently loving:

Motherland: A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing by Elissa Altman

Motherland is the story of Elissa as she navigates a tumultuous relationship with her mother Rita. When Elissa has to care for her mother, the two are thrown back into each others’ lives for better or for worse. This memoir is filled with the kinds of experiences and insight we are all too familiar with, the highs and lows of motherhood and the choices we make around it.


Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

Call it the Don Quixote of the modern age, Rushdie reimagines Miguel de Cervantes’s classic with Sam DuChamp, a writer who creates Don Quichotte. Filled with the ambitions driven by this age’s idiosyncracies about spiritual, physical and emotional quests, Rushdie’s latest novel reminds us of the blurry lines between fact and fiction.


A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington

Science writer Harriet A. Washington writes with aplomb in A Terrible Thing to Waste, connecting the different ways environmental racism has disproportionately affected people of color in the United States. With extensive scientific research and Washington’s style of reporting, she bridges the effects of environmental racism with how society measures intelligence (specifically IQ), calling into question the ways these factors continuously keep people of color at a disadvantage.


Coronation: Poetry & Writings by Ruby Veridiano

Coronation is Ruby Veridiano’s remake of her first book Miss Universe, a collection of poems and short writings that were written to crown her fellow sisters with the grandest prize of all: self-love. Written from the perspective of an immigrant daughter, the book inspires a journey toward finding self-worth, confidence, strength, acceptance and love mirroring Veridiano’s.


Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake

In the last of Three Dark Crowns series, Five Dark Fates depicts the finale to the fate of sisters Mirabella, Katharine and Arsinoe following a failed rebellion against the reigning queen. Kendare Blake pulls no stops as the fate of the island Ferbin rests on the dueling forces of power, as the characters have to choose where their allegiances lie.


There There by Tommy Orange

There There is the award-winning novel by Tommy Orange, a multigenerational story that centers around the Big Oakland Powwow. Woven around the stories of 12 characters, Orange brings communion, beauty, the history of loss and tragedy to the forefront with the collective and individual struggles of Native people.


Excuse Me: Cartoons, Complaints, and Notes to Self by Liana Finck

The New Yorker cartoonist and Instagram sensation Liana Finck’s work shines in this collection, with more than 500 of her cartoons in this volume. With chapters like Love & Dating; Gender & Other Politics; Humanity; Time, Space, and How to Navigate Them, her illustrations provide the canvas of how we can navigate our lives with more playfulness and humor.


Dominicana by Angie Cruz

Dominicana by Angie Cruz is the story of 15-year-old Ana Rodriguez who grew up in the Dominican countryside. When a man twice her age proposes to whisk her away to New York City, she knows the opportunity will provide a better life for her family. But far from the American dream she’s promised, Ana soon comes to terms with the reality of immigration, of possibilities and a different kind of future she envisioned for herself.


A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker

This science fiction novel from award-winning author Sarah Pinsker explores a dystopian world with music at the core. In the Before world, musician Luce Cannon is rising to fame and her concerts are drawing big crowds. When the After world sets in following terror attacks and deadly viruses, public gatherings become illegal. Luce’s passion is music and even though concerts are banned, she breaks the law and performs when she can for small secret groups. She crosses paths with Rosemary Laws, a person coming into her own self and purpose, as they find ways to bring music beyond the limited world they inhabit.


Night and Day by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day, celebrating its 100th anniversary, is probably the most overlooked novel of the literary great. Katharine Hilbery, beautiful and privileged, has to choose between two men, an odd poet or a man she is dangerously attracted to. While she struggles to make her decision, her mother Margaret and activist Mary Datchet get in the way of Katharine’s life, causing intriguing consequences.

*Disclosure: The links above are affiliate links. These picks are editorially selected, but if you purchase, She Reads may get something in return. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 

Pia Cortez

Contributing Editor

Pia Cortez is a writer and a book blogger based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the creator and curator of the book blog Libromance, where she publishes book reviews and other literary features with a queer, Filipino immigrant perspective. She is currently a contributor for Lambda Literary, New Life Quarterly, Positively Filipino and Hella Pinay. When she’s not writing, reading or reviewing books, she’s working on Booklook, a project on the intersection of literature and fashion. You can also find Pia surfing in Pacifica, or somewhere in the Bay on the hunt for the next best Filipino fusion food.

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