Join the #unpresidentedreads club

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Trigger warning: suicide, transmisogyny, assault

This book was a bit of a runaway hit in my reading circles this year and when I picked it up I hadn't even read the description yet. As a weird bonus for me, it takes place around where I went to high school, where I was struggling with feeling like the only queer kid in my class.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl is about Amanda, a teenaged trans girl who moves in with her estranged father to escape bullying and assault, and to start over after a suicide attempt and then transitioning. The story jumps back and forth between a few different time lines, slowly revealing the corners of Amanda's life.

Amanda begins school, unsure of what to expect. She's happy that she quickly gets adopted by a group of girls: an arty queer girl, a Born Again Baptist with a party side, a fashionista, and a secretly bisexual girl. At lunch, a boy approaches her on behalf of his friend asking for her number, which begins a sweet, nerdy romantic relationship.

I thought about how every person could hold two truths inside of them, how impossible it felt sometimes to have your insides and outsides aligned.

Through the regular torture that is high school, Amanda finds herself truly happy for the first time in her life. Her relationship with her new boyfriend is going well, but she's having anxiety feeling like she needs to disclose her past to him. Her father is always in the background - a little overprotective and trying to come to terms with his own ignorance on behalf of his daughter. As always, Amanda's mom and Virginia, her trans mentor, are there for her, even far away in Atlanta.

If I Was Your Girl is marked as a YA novel, but honestly it's written so sweetly that it'd be perfect for anyone at a middle-grade reading level or higher. I couldn't put it down and was bawling happy tears mid-way through. There are a few tropes used, but the author is a trans woman herself, so I trust her judgement.

 
Dec
21
2016
5
Young Adult

An "Unpresidented" Reading Challenge for 2017

While I read a pretty wide array of things from all genres, there are still quite a few gaps I'd like to fill. I know a lot of people do reading challenges every year to push themselves to get outside their comfort zone - reading books from around the world or by people with different experiences. For the past few years I've focused on reading books mostly written by marginalized people, but haven't had much more direction that that.

In 2017 I'll be reading books that combat the current American political climate and general ignorance around cultures different than what is accepted as "American". I'm going to read at least twelve books from the following categories and I've included some suggestions to get you started.

We'll be reading a book from each of the following categories over the next year, a new category starting the first of each month. Join in the discussion at the Goodreads group or with the hashtag #unpresidentedreads on twitter/litsy!

 

January: A story about immigration or refugees to the United States

In The Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrerohttp://amzn.to/2hKrIPuNever Look an American in the Eye: A Memoir of Flying Turtles, Colonial Ghosts, and the Making of a Nigerian American by Okey Ndibe

  1. In The Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero
  2. The Wangs vs the World by Jade Chang
  3. Never Look an American in the Eye: A Memoir of Flying Turtles, Colonial Ghosts, and the Making of a Nigerian American by Okey Ndibe

     

February: A book about Judaism or Jewish people

From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L FriedmanThe Tin Horse by Janice SteinbergThe Two Family House: A Novel by Lynda Cohen Loigman

  1. From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L Friedman
  2. The Tin Horse by Janice Steinberg
  3. The Two Family House: A Novel by Lynda Cohen Loigman

 

March: Speculative Fiction by a writer of color

http://amzn.to/2hKaXUkBinti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

  1. The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez
  2. Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
  3. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

     

April: A book by a trans author

Coffee Boy by Austin ChantGender Failture by Ivan Coyote & Rae SpoonA Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein

  1. Coffee Boy by Austin Chant
  2. Gender Failture by Ivan Coyote & Rae Spoon
  3. A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein
     

May: A book translated to English

Love in The Time of Cholera by Gabriel García MárquezThe Three Body Problem by Cixin LiuThings Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

  1. Love in The Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
  2. The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
  3. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe 
     

June: A feminist or womanist book by women of color

When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks it Down by Joan MorganHeadscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona EltahawyNo Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of US Feminism by Nancy Hewitt

  1. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks it Down by Joan Morgan
  2. Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy
  3. No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of US Feminism by Nancy Hewitt
     

July: A narrative around #BlackLivesMatter by a Black author

They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America's Racial Justice Movement by Wesley LoweryThe Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn WardFreedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Davis

  1. They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America's Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery
  2. The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn Ward
  3. Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Davis
     

August: A book about Islam or Muslim people

She Wore Red Trainers by Na'ima B. RobertDoes My Hair Look Good In This by Randa Abdel-FattahLove, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women by Nura Maznavi & Ayeshi Mattu

  1. She Wore Red Trainers by Na'ima B. Robert
  2. Does My Hair Look Good In This by Randa Abdel-Fattah
  3. Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women by Nura Maznavi & Ayeshi Mattu
     

September: A book set in Central or South America or about Latinx people

Oye What I'm Gonna Tell You by Cecilia Rodríguez MilanésThe House on Mango Street by Sandra CisnerosThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

  1. Oye What I'm Gonna Tell You by Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés
  2. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
     

October: American history from the perspective of a marginalized group

Homegoing: A Novel by Yaa GyasiThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexiehttp://amzn.to/2gWIj4g

  1. Homegoing: A Novel by Yaa Gyasi
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  3. A Disability History of the United States by Kim Nielsen
     

November: Policing and Incarceration

Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the WorldWomen Doing Life: Gender, Punishment and the Struggle for IdentityPulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship

  1. Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the Worls by Baz Dreisinger
  2. Women Doing Life: Gender, Punishment, and The Struggle for Identity by Lora Bex Lempert
  3. Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship by Charles R. Epp, Steven Maynard-Mooney, Donald P. Haider-Markel 
     

December: A book set in the Middle East

Three Daughters by Consuelo Saah BaehrAn Unnecessary Woman by Rabih AlameddineAlif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson

  1. Three Daughters by Consuelo Saah Baehr
  2. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
  3. Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson
     

Bonus: Hope and Escapism

The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-Seven Visions of a Wildly Better FuturePacking for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary RoachBitch Planet Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly DeConnick

  1. The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-Seven Visions of a Wildly Better Future
  2. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
  3. Bitch Planet Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly DeConnick
Dec
17
2016
0

Favorite Books of 2016

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

fiction · faith trigger warning: abuse

I’m dead to them, I think. My mom and dad, I mean. I’m dead to them and I don’t exist. I’m dead to everyone else that I knew before. All of them. It’s like I don’t exist to them. My salvation, if ever I really earned it, I’ve given up through my bad behavior. I’m a nothing. A mistake. But it’s taken me six years to know that if salvation means giving up every human thing about myself and becoming some robot with no real emotions, then I don’t want it anymore.

Rachel, who learns that a girl who'd left her church community years ago (Lauren) is back in town after having run away. The idea of being trapped in the life that has been prescribed for her - married at an early age and spending much of her next 15-20 years pregnant. One night she sneaks on to the family computer and finds Lauren's blog, which opens the door for her escape. 

This book wrenched out all of my feelings. I started and finished this entire book in one sitting (probably bad to have read this until 5:30am?). While I didn't grow up in a fundamentalist church, I very much identified with the main character, having run away from home as a teenager, forced to leave my sister behind.

 

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

science fiction

“I’m so sorry to put you through all this trouble.”

“Oh, no, this isn’t trouble. It’s gonna be work, yeah, but it’s not trouble. The galaxy is trouble. You’re not.”

Lovelace looked closely at Pepper. She was tired, and they’d only just left the Wayfarer. There were still enforcement patrols to worry about, and backstories, and — “Why are you doing this? Why do this for me?”

Pepper chewed her lip. “It was the right thing to do. And I guess — I dunno. It’s just one of those weird times when things balance out.” She shrugged and turned back to the console, gesturing commands.

“What do you mean?” Lovelace asked.

There was a pause, three seconds. Pepper’s eyes were on her hands, but she didn’t seem to be looking at them. “You’re an AI,” she said.

“And?”

“And I was raised by one.”

This book is the second in the Wayfarer series, but there's very little that ties them together that you couldn't read them out of order. I liked this one more than the first.

The book follows a woman (Pepper) and an AI (Sidra) that has been uploaded into a human bodykit. Chapters alternate between the point of view of Pepper as she is being raised by two different sets of AI and Sidra as she deals with the loss of her old life as a ship's AI and her new life as a human. Both characters struggle with what it means to fit in and how they define humanity.

 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

speculative fiction

It was like when you make a move in chess and just as you take your finger off the piece, you see the mistake you've made, and there's this panic because you don't know yet the scale of disaster you've left yourself open to.

Kathy and her friends Ruth and Tommy are raised in a special school in the English countryside where much of their world revolves around their creativity and how they express themselves through the production and collection of art. As they get older, the teachers slowly reveal how these parentless children are different from other children - none of them will ever have children of their own, amongst other things. The true trajectory of their planned lives isn't revealed until just before graduation where they're forced to come to grips with the collision between their dreams and their realities.

 

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

historical fiction trigger warning: death, war

Why can't a girl be smart without it being explained away as a rare supernatural phenomenon?

16 year old Mary Shelley Black has the unfortunate timing of being alive during both the Spanish Flu epidemic and World War I. When her father is sent to prison, she takes a train to live with her grieving aunt, who believes that a neighborhood man captured a photo of her departed son's ghostly spirit. Mary Shelley, meanwhile, has fallen in love with the younger brother of the photographer, who soon leaves for war for good.

 

 

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

history · forensics trigger warning: poison

That same January the city government had released a report declaring that thanks to ill-informed, corrupt, and occasionally drunken coroners, murderers in New York were escaping justice in record numbers.

I learned so much from this incredibly entertaining book. Each chapter covers a specific poision - whether that be radon or wood grain alcohol or carbon monoxide - as a chief medical examiner and toxicologist pioneer forensics in New York City. The history around medical examination itself was interesting - the position didn't require any kind of medical knowledge until the 1920s. In addition, many murders, accidental deaths, and industrial poisonings went unresolved because the science just wasn't there.

 

 

An Indigenous People's History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

history trigger warning: genocide, murder, assault

To say that the United States is a colonialist settler-state is not to make an accusation but rather to face historical reality, without which consideration not much in US history makes sense, unless Indigenous peoples are erased. But Indigenous nations, through resistance, have survived and bear witness to this history.

I didn't realize exactly how much I didn't know about Native American history until I read this. Native American peoples had sophisticated trading routes stretching from Southern Canada to South America. I was glad to see that this book covered far more than just the Andrew Jackson years of the US, which I know the most about. I learned about the differences between cultures, why certain foods were relied so heavily upon, and how geography changed the every day lives of Native peoples.

 

 

Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis

criminal law · social justice · historical law

The prison therefore functions ideologically as an abstract site into which undesirables are deposited, relieving us of the responsibility of thinking about the real issues afflicting those communities from which prisoners are drawn in such disproportionate numbers. This is the ideological work that the prison performs—it relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.

I read this a few weeks before Ava DuVernay's The 13th came out, and it filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge around the fight against prison reform and toward prison abolition. This book also covers the history of prisons in the US. Among the enlightening facts from this book: pre-Civil War the super majority of people in prisons were white men; post-Civil War Black men became the super majority when laws were created to criminalize Black people. These prisoners would then be "leased" to companies - and even the plantations that had recently seen the loss of their enslaved work force; this wasn't exclusive to the South. Prisons and the states made quite a lot of money via the leasing program and were disincentivized to properly feeding, clothing, and providing medical care, and if/when leased prisons were killed on their lease programs, they may not even be reported as such.

 

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

speculative fiction

How much sweeter life would be if it all happened in reverse, if, after decades of disappointments, you finally arrived at an age when you had conceded nothing, when everything was possible.

This one requires a bit of suspension of disbelief, for all of you science purists out there. One day the world wakes up to find that the Earth's rotation has slowed. Their understanding of time slips with days and nights getting longer and longer. Literal tides have changed, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are more frequent, and weather becomes unpredictable. I loved the prose in this and the thought experiment about how we might adapt if everything we understood was suddenly different.

 

Dietland by Sarai Walker

feminist (?) fiction trigger warning: body image, some anti-sex work language

We can’t hide it or fake it. We’ll never fit society’s idea for how women should look and behave, but why is that a tragedy? We’re free to live how we want. It’s liberating, if you choose to see it that way.

I read this one when I was going through a fat politics phase earlier this year. I didn't realize when I picked it up that it was fiction, but I really loved it. Dietland imagines a world where a feminist group takes revenge on a society that objectifies women, marginalizes women who don't conform to the needs and wants of men, while our main character comes to terms with what it means to be fat and how she's punished herself for it.

 

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

speculative fiction · post-apocalyptic fiction trigger warning: assault

Survival is insufficient.

Station Eleven is a near-future look at a world ravaged by a quick-moving virus, but with a twist. There's less of a focus on the virus and it's effects themselves, but in how society gets on afterwards. We follow a travelling troupe made up of Shakespearian actors and symphony players who go from town to town doing performances. A character asks how Shakespeare could possibly be relevant in this new world, to which the response is that it's incredibly relevant - Shakespeare lived in a time of plagues and death.

 

A Burglar's Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh

criminology · architecture

In one sense, burglars seem to understand architecture better than the rest of us. They misuse it, pass through it, and ignore any limitations a building tries to impose. Burglars don’t need doors; they’ll punch holes through walls or slice down through ceilings instead. Burglars unpeel a building from the inside out to hide inside the drywall (or underneath the floorboards, or up in the trusses of an unlit crawl space). They are masters of architectural origami, demonstrating skills the rest of us only wish we had, dark wizards of cities and buildings, unlimited by laws that hold the rest of us in.

This book is written by the author of the Building Blog, who covers a lot of interesting things about the history of buildings and architecture. This book diverges a little to cover the other side of buildings - the way that society defines architecture and how burglar's subvert those ideas. If you're a fan of heist movies like me, you'll love this book.

 

The Summer We Got Free by Mia McKenzie

fiction trigger warning: mention of lynching, murder

He was tired and he wanted to sleep. Every time he tried, the past pushed in. He didn't like it. It wasn't the real past, anyway, it was a sweeter, happier version, a half-lie, with all the pleasures and none of the pains. It was a trick, a falsehood that omitted its own ugliest parts and pretended to be something it wasn't, the way the past liked to do.

This is the second book I've read by Mia McKenzie, the creator and writer behind Black Girl Dangerous. Chapters alternate between twenty years ago, providing back story for current events, and the current timeline. A family has become outcasts to their church (and because of that, their block) because of a traumatic event that happened in the past. Our main character lost her twin at a relatively young age and she thinks her creative energy died with him. When her husband's long lost sister shows up on the family's doorstep, she drudges up the past in more ways than one.

Dec
06
2016
0

The Ghostbusters and the Ghost Ship Ourang Medan

Last night I re-watched Ghostbusters (2016), this time the extended cut. There was a scene where one of the government agents mentions a couple mysterious incidents and I was curious if they were real.

Agent Rorke: Sheriff in New Mexico reports a UFO encounter, the crew of the S.S. Ourang Medan dies mysteriously, the entire town of Langville, Montana goes missing.
Jillian Holtzmann: It does?
Abby Yates: Okay, but we're talking about relocating. No one's being killed here. Right?
Mayor Bradley: They were turned inside out.
Erin Gilbert: Their skin is on the inside of their body?
Mayor Bradley: Their skin is on the inside of their body because their organs are on the outside.
Abby Yates: But, they're okay, right?
Mayor Bradley: Sure.
Jillian Holtzmann: I think they're dead.

Disappearing towns

If Langville, Montana disappeared, it must've also vanished from the internet. I couldn't seem to find anything about it disappearing in articles or even on Google Maps.

That said, many towns have seemingly disappeared, but more often are the result of dying industries, natural disasters, or dried up resources. The West is littered with towns set up during the late 1880s transcontinental railroad race. Some were boom towns set up quickly overnight to support an influx of gold or silver prospectors, only to be abandoned when a bigger vein was discovered elsewhere or the opportunities disappeared.

The Ghost Ship SS Ourang Medan

Of the three mysterious episodes mentioned by Agent Rourke, the Ourang Medan seems to be the only one possibly rooted in some truth. And who doesn't love a good ghost ship story?

The SS Ourang Medan falls somewhere between conspiracy theory, ghost story, and ill-documented history.

In June 1947 a ship either off the Marshall Islands or the Solomon Islands (a difference of ~1,500mi/2,500km) sent out a distress call picked up by two American ships:

"S.O.S. from Ourang Medan * * * we float. All officers including the Captain, dead in chartroom and on the bridge. Probably whole of crew dead * * *."

A few confused dots and dashes later, two words came through clearly. They were "I die." Then, nothing more. (Ourang Medan, Wikipedia

When one of the ships was able to locate the ship in distress, they found the entire crew and a dog dead. Shortly after, a fire broke out causing an explosion that sank the Ourang Medan.

There are a number of theories circulating about what may have happened to the crew and the ship - from its potential cargo containing poorly stored sulphuric acid, to carbon monoxide poisoning to, of course, aliens.

Nov
15
2016
4
History
Movie/TV

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

I've had Ken Liu's "The Paper Menagerie" on my list for a while, but had a hard time finding a copy of it until he published it and fourteen other stories together in this collection. The stories were hit and miss for me. Some, like "The Perfect Match", about a a Google-esque company employing a personal AI a la "Her" motivated by it's highly lucrative recommendation engine for your life, was a bit over the top and obvious. "Simulacrum", too, about software used to simulate real individuals (with or without their consent) left me more uncomfortable than happy to've read it. Alternatively, stories like "The Waves" and "Mono No Aware" left me wanting to read more from a future that saw a major exodus of humans from Earth and the impact of immortality on humanity.

Three stories in particular stuck with me.

The Literomancer

(Trigger warnings for torture.)

"The Literomancer" follows Lilly Dyer, a recently uprooted Texas girl (where she had been the third-most popular girl in fourth grade) to Taiwan where her dad works on an American military base. Lilly has found herself the target of a group of racist American girls at school and finds solace with some neighbors - an old man, Mr. Kan, and his grandson, Teddy.

As Lilly spends more time with Mr. Kan and Teddy, she learns that Mr. Kan does magic - literomancer. Mr. Kan explains that the Chinese invented writing as a form of divination. From a word, he's able to break it down into its characters to show the root of their meaning and thereby an individuals past and future, worries and hopes. Mr. Kan teaches Lilly that words have power, she learns that an ugly slur used by her bullies gets its root from the Korean word for America.

Their visits carry on, Mr. Kan performing literomancy for her and telling the story of how he came to Taiwan and ended up caring for Teddy.

My favorite scene of literomancy is when Lilly asks Mr. Kan to write the character for China.

"This is the character hua, and it is the only word for China and for the Chinese that has nothing to do with any Emperor, any Dynasty, anything that demands slaughter and sacrifice. [...] Hua originally meant ‘flowery’ and ‘magnificent,’ and it is the shape of a bunch of wildflowers coming out of the ground. [...] The Chinese are like wildflowers, and they will survive and make joy wherever they go. A fire may burn away every living thing in a field, but after the rain the wildflowers will reappear as though by magic. Winter may come and kill everything with frost and snow, but when spring comes the wildflowers will blossom again, and they will be magnificent. For now, the red flames of revolution may be burning on the mainland, and the white frost of terror may have covered this island. But I know that a day will come when the steel wall of the Seventh Fleet will melt away, and the penshengjen and the waishengjen and all the other huajen back in my home will blossom together in magnificence."

"And I will be a huajen in America,” Teddy added.

Mr. Kan nodded. “Wildflowers can bloom anywhere."

The story leaves the reader with a sense of guilt for seeing Lilly ask seemingly innocent questions of her father about "228", something she heard in a story of how Mr. Kan came to be in Taiwan with Teddy. From there, we learn that Lilly's father is involved with an intelligence agency, who acts quickly on the scant information Lilly has mentioned at the dinner table.

The Literomancer plays a lot with the tug between Lilly's identity as a Chinese American - feeling abandoned by her American friends back in Texas, missing her life as a would-be cowgirl, feeling isolated in Taiwan by her American classmates, and wanting to not feel ashamed of her the Chinese aspects of her culture (mainly shown through the food she eats and her interactions with her mother).

Behind the Story

With the ending of World War II Japan lost its 50 year rule over Taiwan, who had viewed the Japanese rule favorable thanks to economic and social policies they'd put in place. The US on behalf of Allied Forces turned temporary control of Taiwan over to the Republic of China, who quickly lost trust from the population due to mismanagement, corruption, runaway inflation, and food shortages, due in part to China exporting major commodities like rice back to its civil war-torn mainland.

"228" in the story refers to the February 28 Incident, the anti-government uprising in Taiwan that began on February 27, 1947 when 10,000-30,000 people were killed. The White Terror period followed, the setting for our story, when communist infiltrators from mainland China were discovered. Thousands of dissenters in both Taiwan and mainland China were disappeared, imprisoned, tortured, and executed. It was taboo to mark or mention 228 for decades.

Today, Taiwan holds up the 228 Incident as a major motivator for independence. Treaties signed after World War II were meant to give China temporary control over Taiwan with Taiwan eventually gaining sovereignty. People's Republic of China instead is aiming for unification and has threatened military action over the push for Taiwan independence, which would possibly lead to military action from the US and Japan.

The Regular

(Trigger warnings for violence against female sex workers, mutilation, murder, blood, gore, privacy violation.)

One of the longer stories in the book, "The Regular", takes us to a not-so-distant cyber punk future. Body medications are routine and include advanced cyborg-like limb prostheses, Regulator pumps which manage the chemical responses in the brain, and the not-FDA-approved retinal camera. The Regulator is required for law enforcement as a means of removing the lizard brain aspects of discriminatory reactions, like managing adrenaline in life or death situations. Ruth, the former police officer turned private detective still has her Regulator, which helps manage the PTSD effects of a traumatic event in her recent past. 

Ruth is hired by a grieving mother in Chinatown to find the killer of her daughter, a 28 year old high-end, independent escort. The police have written off the murder as the work of local gangs upset at the competition.

The Watcher is a recently released felon who preys on female sex workers that fit a narrow profile - educated women of color who are independent escorts with retinal camera implants. He makes his living posing as a man who seems like a safe Regular - an unassuming married man who'll be a source of regular income for the women he ends up murdering. 

Ruth is able to manipulate data collected by an Internet of Things device to help put together the puzzle, narrow down a list of potential targets for The Watcher, and set a trap for him.

The Paper Menagerie

TCover of Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie and Other Storieshe titular story in the collection and the first work of fiction to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, it reminded me of Charlie Holmberg's series "The Paper Magician".

Jack was born in the Year of the Tiger. He's the son of a Connecticut man and woman his father ordered from a catalog and his mother has a special gift - she's able to fold origami and breathe life into it.

A little paper tiger named Laohu, folded from recycled Christmas wrapping paper is his favorite - it paws at him, pounces, and roars. The rest of his menagerie includes sharks, water buffalo, a goat, and a deer - all full of life from his mother's breath.

As Jack grows older, the bullying of his classmates drives a wedge between him and his mother and he finds himself forgetting the magic she created for him.

This was a sweet, sad story. As someone who has a difficult relationship with both of her parents, I felt the pangs of guilt and anger that Jack felt, put myself in his mother's shoes and felt the isolation and sorrow. 

Nov
14
2016
4
General FictionHistorical FictionIdentityScience Fiction
Research

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