31 Dec

2017: The Year in Books

I made it throught 62 books in 2017, which feels like a success considering the madness this year wrought. In comparison, I read 41 last year, 71 in 2015 and 90 in 2014.

  • Page Count: 20,522 pages, based on LibraryThing page numbers
  • Library Use: This year I had an even split. I read 31 books from the library and 31 books that I own.
  • Female and Male Authors: I read a lot more books by women this year. Fifteen books were written by men, I read two anthologies with a mix of men and women, and the remaining forty-four books were by women.  I read books from 50 distinct authors.
  • Digital and Analog: Another even split! I read 31 digital and 31 (dead-tree) books this year. I would like to note that I borrow a lot of ebooks from the library so analog and library books are not a total overlap.
  • Fiction and Non-Fiction: This year I read 27 non-fiction books. This is more than I usually read. I have been very curious about the world this year and committed to understanding what is happening in the world, plus what has happened to bring the world to this point.
  • Books in Other Languages: I read 4 books in Spanish this year, which was less than my goal but still respectable. I finished up the last Harry Potter book, read two memoirs, and a fantasy novel. Not bad.
  • Favorites: I read so many good books this year (do I say that every year?), but some favorites include everything by Rebecca Solnit, Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein, The Cooking Gene by Michael Tiwtty, and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado.

Here’s the list of what I read:

Date Finished Title Author
01/02/17 Shattered Pillars Elizabeth Bear
01/19/17 Lies Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics Arti Rabin-Havt
01/27/17 Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship Anjan Sundaram
02/03/17 Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right Arlie Russell Hochschild
02/09/17 The Stars Are Legion Kameron Huley
02/13/17 Harry Potter y las reliquias de la muerte J. K. Rowling
02/16/17 Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities Rebecca Solnit
02/27/17 Crossroads of Canopy Thoraiya Dyer
03/12/17 La distancia entre nosotros Reyna Grande
03/15/17 Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin
03/27/17 Ascension Jacqueline Koyanagi
04/11/17 White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide Carol Anderson
04/14/17 Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives Gary Younge
04/17/17 The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories Jared Shurin, Mahvesh Murad
04/20/17 Dark Orbit Carolyn Ives Gilman
04/21/17 Men Explain Things to Me Rebecca Solnit
04/27/17 Halfway Human Carolyn Ives Gilman
04/29/17 Arkfall Carolyn Ives Gilman
05/01/17 The Ice Owl Carolyn Ives Gilman
05/14/17 Too Like the Lightning Ada Palmer
05/20/17 Seven Surrenders Ada Palmer
05/22/17 The Geek Feminist Revolution Kameron Huley
05/24/17 Shipley Proposal Guide Larry Newman
05/28/17 El Mañana: Memorias de un éxodo cubano Mirta Ojito
05/31/17 Ammonite Nicola Griffith
06/09/17 Leviathan Wakes James S. A. Corey
06/20/17 The End of Men and the Rise of Women Hanna Rosin
06/30/17 A Field Guide to Getting Lost Rebecca Solnit
07/02/17 Double Bind: Women on Ambition Robin Romm
07/10/17 Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong — and the New Research that’s Rewriting the Story Angela Saini
07/15/17 Todas las hadas del reino Laura Gallego
07/18/17 A Conjuring of Light V. E. Schwab
07/19/17 The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America Richard Rothstein
07/31/17 The Refrigerator Monologues Catherynne Valente
08/02/17 History of Wolves: A Novel Emily Fridlund
08/07/17 Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World Clara Parkes
08/17/17 The Bear and the Nightingale Katherine Arden
08/18/17 Things We Lost in the Fire Mariana Enriquez
08/22/17 The Stone Sky N. K, Jemisin
09/10/17 The Radium Girls Kate Moore
09/11/17 Ninefox Gambit Yoon Ha Lee
09/15/17 Passing Strange Ellen Klages
09/19/17 Trainwreck: The women we love to hate, mock, and fear … and why Sady Doyle
09/21/17 Hunger Roxane Gay
09/27/17 Last First Snow Max Gladstone
10/01/17 We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to Cover Girl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement Andi Zeisler
10/06/17 Two Serpents Rise Max Gladstone
10/13/17 Iraq + 100: The First Anthology of Science Fiction to Have Emerged from Iraq Hassan Blasim
10/17/17 The Mothers Brit Bennett
10/24/17 Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America Samhita Mukhopadhyay
10/31/17 Three Parts Dead Max Gladstone
11/03/17 What Happened Hillary Clinton
11/08/17 Deep Survival Laurence Gonzales
11/13/17 Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights Katha Pollitt
11/19/17 Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People Danny Katch
11/22/17 Four Roads Cross Max Gladstone
11/25/17 An Excess Male Maggie Shen King
12/03/17 How Emotions Are Made Lisa Feldman Barrett
12/15 The Cooking Gene Michael Twitty
12/18 Sing, Unburied, Sing Jesamyn Ward
12/27 Full Fathom Five Max Gladstone
12/27 Her Body and Other Parties Carmen Maria Machado
27 Dec

Being an Athlete

I am an athlete.

That feels hard to say, but I’ve realized that whether I recognize it or not, it is a fact. Athletes train their bodies. Athletes compete. Athletes adjust their lives to accommodate their athletic goals. I am an athlete.

People have been offering this message to me all year: “You are an athlete.” I’ve shrugged it off, unwilling to reconsider my sense of identity and to carry the responsibility of being An Athlete. I got a massage last month and. The massage therapist reminded me that I am an athelte and should behave accodingly finally got through.

Why resist something so obvious to everyone but me?

I have long thought of myself as a “life of the mind” person. I never liked sports or going outside and being hot and gross. I like reading. I like thinking about stuff. Are these sets of activities mutually exclusive? No. But for me, life has largely been mind over body. Of course, that line of thinking is ruled by the particularly Western notion of dualism. The mind and body aren’t separate entities—the brain is a part of the body, one of the many bits of viscera required to pilot this meat bag through life.

I like lifting weigts and I like playing roller derby, but I still don’t think of myself as someone who likes exercise. I realized it’s because I see myself as a fat person first and an athlete second. Athletes aren’t fat. They aren’t overweight. At least, that’s what years of cultural messages tell me. But it’s not true. Anyone can be an athlete at any size. One of my favorite instagram accounts is that of Olympic weightlifter Sarah Robles. She is a “full-figured” human being, but she got a bronze medal in weightlifting at the last Olympic games. What more proof do I need? What permission am I waiting for to be a chubby badass?

a collage of photos of the author lifting weights and playing roller derby

Portrait of the artist as a fucking athlete

I am starting to treat myself like the athlete I am. Step one was recognizing this for myself, without judgment. I have been living the athlete life in a way already, but mostly focusing on the work and not the care and keeping thereof. My plans in 2018 include eating for my physical needs (that is, eating a lot of healthy protein and vegetables, followed by whatever other food my misguided mind thinks it needs), regular stretching, and more epsom salt baths. I need to rest appropriately and not overtax myself. I’m getting better at listening to my body and learning how to prevent injury (and recently, how to recover from injury). That is what athleticism looks like to me.

03 Dec

Empathy for My Teenaged Self

Memory is a mysterious force. Today I was cooking some cheese-stuffed pasta shells for dinner. It’s a dish I haven’t made as an adult, but one I did eat now and again growing up. I was always glad to get a dinner entree that I genuinely enjoyed, but I was routinely dismayed by the judgment that my dad and step-mom passed on my eating habits. I always wanted to eat more. Sometimes they told me no, others they would say, “Do you really need to have another one?”

Teenage boys are assumed to be constantly hungry. This incessant drive for caloric intake is not frowned upon, as it is in girls, but encouraged. Growing bodies need nutrition, of course. Teenage girls receive another message. The female adolescent body is ever at risk of being fat. As we all know, fat is the worst thing a young woman can be. If you’re fat, men won’t like you and that’s the worst thing of all.

I was always hungry when I was young. Actually, I am always hungry as an adult, but I am learning how better to manage my nutritional needs. A little knowledge and experience can make a huge difference. I’ve been reflecting a lot on diet, eating habits, and how to best eat for my body and level of activity. With these thoughts in mind when this memory of dinners past surfaced, I discovered a new perspective on myself.

I was always hungry because I never had the right food. I never went hungry. We weren’t impoverished and there was always food in the house. However, I lacked the practical knowledge of how to feed myself effectively. Left to my own devices, I’d cook a grilled cheese sandwich or get a pizza. I ate crackers as an after-school snack. Granola bars were a large part of my diet. This might sound obvious, but to me it feels like a revelation to discover that I was always hungry because I didn’t get enough protein or enough of the food I needed to recover from my daily life.

I wasn’t fat. Well, I was overweight but I wasn’t fat in the way we think of fat people, in the loaded sense of the word. But I wasn’t getting what I needed. If you’re told that nearly every food is “bad” for you, then everything becomes equal. Like when every email you get is “urgent,” then there are no urgent issues—it’s all equally important. My step-mom, for example, would see me eating cashews and say “Nuts are fattening.” Well, if nuts are bad and cake is bad, then, why not eat a cake? It all has the same conclusion: food is bad and you’re fat.

There was a year that my step-mom, her daughter, my sister and I lived in the UK. We regularly bought packages of cookies (gotta sample the local cuisine) and we’d all have a cookie or two after dinner. That was great except for when I started to sneak cookies after school when I was the only one yet home. Eventually this escalated to eating multiple cookies. The evidence of my crimes would be unveiled and my step-mom would ask “Who ate all these cookies?” while looking pointedly at me. I was too frozen with shame to respond.

I gained a lot of weight that year (whether it was a lot objectively or not is a question that I cannot answer, but I think I would have fared better if someone had told me it was normal for teenage girls to gain some weight). When we moved back home, my dad made us tacos for dinner. I had keenly missed eating Mexican food so I was excited to eat some homemade tacos. Of course, after eating two tacos and angling for a third I was met with “Are you sure you need another taco?” from my dad. I said I was and then he decided this was the right time to tell me I had gained weight and should stop. Thanks for the support.

From an adult perspective, I question why no one saw this weight gain, saw my eating habits, my emotions, and asked how I felt or if I was hungry or what I needed. Why the fuck would you tell a teenage girl she is fat. Why would you tell your step-daughter that, when returning home from a year abroad, all her friends will see how much she “ballooned out.” I can’t imagine ever saying something like that to anyone, let alone a child. I wish someone had seen what was happening and realized that I needed emotional support instead of judgment and shame.

When you’re fat, you assume it’s because you lack the self-control that thin people have. Or you’re lazy. Maybe you are too stupid to know that you’re supposed to eat right. These are the stories our culture tells us. If you’re fat, it’s your fault. Of course, this narrative ignores the billions that corporations spend to market nutritionally useless foods like breakfast cereal, sugary beverages, and snack cakes. It ignores the hundreds of conflicting diets (low-fat, low-carb, only juice, the tears of one’s enemies) that are backed by little more than the testimony of a thin white woman.

I am fat. I say that without judgment; it’s just a fact of my body. Recognizing some of the factors that have influenced a lifetime’s eating habits is helping me accept myself and accept that it’s possible to live healthfully in my own terms. I know I will never be thin, which is something I am fine with. However, I can be strong, active and confident all while being fat. I can choose what I need to fuel my life. I don’t have to be forever hungry or forever guilty. I can just be myself.