Who is ready for more book pairings? I’m back to tell you about three books that have been published since we last met, and I’m giving you two book recommendations to go along with each of these new books. Lucky you.
Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke
This book is hands down incredible. It is a mix of graphic memoir and graphic nonfiction, and before you roll your eyes, trust me: this book is worth your time. Seek You is an examination of American loneliness and the ways we talk about, understand, and live in our loneliness. Radtke does an exceptional job of melding together the many facets of American culture (think film, TV, art, science, etc.) with her own experiences. The writing is top notch, and the art is moody perfection. I don’t want to hype this book up too much, but I feel confident you’ll be moved by Seek You.
If you enjoy Seek You check out
Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
Good Talk is another graphic memoir, and I think pairing these books seems fairly obvious. The books both use art and language to get at the emotional centers of their respective stories. What I think is (slightly) less obvious is how both of these books are connecting their personal stories to a greater experience of America. In Good Talk Jacob uses her young son’s questioning of what it means to be American on the precipice of the 2016 election as a catalyst for her own questioning of her childhood as the daughter to Indian immigrants. The book is full of nuanced and evocative conversations that drive toward answering some of the most challenging questions America is facing today. Good Talk, it should be said, is also very funny, it’s full of wit and reflection in perfect balance. Oh, and the artwork just enhances everything Jacob has written. I also must give credit to Mira Jacob for recommending Seek You to me when she was a guest on The Stacks.
In Alone Together Turkle explores the ways technology is changing how we connect and how we relate to our own loneliness. This book came out in 2011, and a lot has changed since then, especially when we think about social media and the ways we use technology to connect. But the book itself still holds a lot of keys to modern loneliness. Alone Together asks questions about what we’re gaining and what we’re giving up by being so connected through technology, algorithms and artificial intelligence.
Adam Serwer is a staff writer at The Atlantic who has spent the last 6 years writing about Donald Trump, his campaign, presidency, and legacy. In The Cruelty is the Point Serwer takes some of the essays he wrote throughout the Trump years and republishes them all in one place with introductions from 2021 that help us to contextualize this modern history. Serwer repeatedly reminds us that none of this is new, and that there are historic precedents of all we’re living through. He reminds us that most of the cruelty we know from Trump’s America is by design.
For readers of The Cruelty is the Point you should read
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
As soon as I started The Cruelty is the Point I was instantly reminded of We Were Eight Years in Power, mostly because the structure is very similar. Essays from the author’s past that were featured in The Atlantic are paired with the writer’s insights on the essays from current day. Both of the books also are framed around the administrations of our last two presidents, Donald Trump and Barack Obama. While Serwer’s book is focused on Donald Trump’s presidency for the content of the essays, Coates picks essays from the eight years of Obama’s presidency, but the essays themselves cover a range of topics like Bill Cosby, reparations and Donald Trump. When read back-to-back, a reader can understand the last 13 years of American history in a whole new way.
One of the parts of Adam Serwer’s book that I appreciated most was how he consistently weaved the history of America throughout his essays, reminding his readers that what we were experiencing in 2018 was tied to what happened in 1863. Stamped from the Beginning is a perfect pairing, because it gives the reader so much more of the history of America. It breaks down the ways race was created and how that creation has shaped the laws and practices in America since the start. If you’re nervous to take on this massive (National Book Award Winning) piece of nonfiction, check out Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds, which is the YA adaptation of the original. And be doubly sure to listen to both Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds on The Stacks.
Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen: The Emotional Lives of Black Women by Inger Burnett-Ziegler
So often when I read nonfiction my biggest critique is that the author (often white) writes about a topic and insinuates that their writing is universal or all encompassing, however more often than not the writing doesn’t even begin to touch on the experiences of people who are not straight, white, able bodied and/or cisgendered. Enter, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen. While not a perfect book, it is a deep dive into the emotional lives of Black women and their lived experiences. Burnett-Zeigler examines things like the myth of “the strong Black woman,” maternal health, sexual abuse, trauma, religion and more. The book centers and recenters Black women in a way that is relentless and refreshing, and frankly, much needed. She offers suggestions along with elements from her own life as a Black woman, a psychologist, and a professor.
For more books similar to Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen check out
We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood by Dani McClain
I read this book in the early days of my pregnancy with The Mini Stacks, and it had a profound effect on the ways I thought and continue to think about the act of mothering and the ways I am perceived and empowered as a Black mother. McClain uses We Live for the We as a way to explore how to raise children, as a Black person mothering, in a world that is challenging and often hostile to our Black children. How do we raise our children to live in the joy and power of Blackness while parenting through our fear of white supremacy and the systems that cage us? Just like in Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, McClain centers and recenters Black women, carving out a parenting book that is intersectional and specific. When I spoke with Dani McCain on The Stacks, I was even more moved by her words on mothering.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
I love the idea of pairing this collection from icon Audre Lorde, with Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, because Lorde is living and talking about so much of what Burnett-Zeigler outlines in her book. Lorde chronicles her experiences with trauma, health care, racism, self care and sexism, and in so doing, she shares a personal account of the unique experiences of many Black women. These two books together are in conversation and validate so many Black women who are dismissed by mainstream (read: white American) culture. And yes, there is an episode of The Stacks dedicated to this classic collection, and my guest is Asha Grant, the brilliant Black woman behind the soon to be opening bookstore The Salt Eaters Bookshop in Inglewood,CA. Check them out!