February 17, 2023 | ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | By Katie Rowley
I know, I know. It’s the middle of February, a little late for a January recap. But, if you haven’t been keeping up with my articles published this block, there have been more important things going on in my life (i.e. an amazing Harry Styles concert and The Grammys.) So, this is when you are getting it.
I read four books in January. Well, technically speaking, I completed four books this January. In alignment with my resolution to read more books this year, I am counting every book, no matter when it was started.
Starting the year off strong, my first read of 2023 was “Girlhood” by Melissa Febos. In this creative-nonfiction collection of essays, Febos delves into the trauma of female adolescence and what growing up as a girl is really like.
Technically speaking, I started this book during the summer after my major advisor, Brandon Shimoda, recommended it. I seem to return to the concept of girlhood in my writing, so reading others’ perspectives and stories on the topic was a logical next step. But, when school picked back-up, I left the last of Febos’ “Girlhood” essays unread.
Winter break, and a desire to read more, led me back to “Girlhood,” and within the first two days of the year, I was able to finish up the book.
I gave “Girlhood” four out of five stars on Goodreads. Captivated by the universality of Febos’ narrative, I found myself relating to many portions of all eight essays. I felt Febos speaking to me through her writing—her command of language being both powerful and beautiful. But the missing star is due to the five-month break I took in between the reading of these essays. A five-star book should be one that fully consumes me. A book I refuse to put down.
My second read of January was “Sula” by Toni Morrison. I received a copy of this book for Christmas, and despite being a literal English major, “Sula” was the only book I was gifted (in contrast, my brother, a wildlife biology major, received 12 books.)
Despite this inequality, I was grateful to receive Morrison’s second novel, which had lived at the top of my wish list since seeing a TikTok recommendation compiling books relating to “Girlhood” – and it really does relate. “Sula” follows two women growing up in Ohio, taking us through the birth of their friendship, unspeakable acts they commit, and the eventual destruction and death that embodies their relationship.
It took me a week to finish “Sula”, and I found myself tearing up while finishing the pages in the Weld County courthouse where I awaited a dismissal from jury duty.
Morrison’s “Sula” scored a four out of five stars from me in Goodreads. It was a quick yet necessary read; I found myself relating to both main characters. A wonderful evaluation of female friendship, I was grateful to have had the opportunity to pick up this book during January.
Returning to a book I had previously left unfinished, “In The Prison of Her Skin” by Violette Leduc was next, also a book Shimoda had loaned me. I felt pressured to finally complete it.
Although an arduous read, for the most part, I found myself lost in the plot. The plot attempts to follow the memories of a young French girl after losing her grandmother, and growing up with an abusive mother. Switching between times and intertwining memories with no clear indication of when the present actually was became disorienting.
Two of five stars was the rating I decided on as I finished up the book. Maybe, it’s better in its original language: French. Or maybe it’s better read without a month-long break. Either way, I was relieved by its conclusion, meaning I could finally return the book to Shimoda.
And to conclude my January reading recap, I spent the last few days of the month completing Susan Sontag’s “Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963”. Unsurprisingly, “Reborn” was also a book I started during the fall semester and never got around to finishing.
“Reborn” is a collection of Sontag’s journal entries as a writer and activist. They span from her time in college, an unsuccessful and unsatisfying marriage, to several tortuous love affairs. Not limited to diary entries, “Reborn”includes everything Sontag wrote: philosophies, reading lists, daily schedules, and the like.
Giving Sontag’s “Reborn” four out of five stars, I found some of her ramblings incoherent and difficult to engage with. Even so, this book had a profound impact on the way I have journaled this year, making this book my favorite read of January.
Following “Reborn,” I picked up“The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath”, but by then it was February, so you’ll have to wait until my next super cool reading recap for my review of Plath’s writing.