Spring is in the air and so is the itch to read. When the warm weather rolls around, there’s nothing more comforting than lying in the grass with a good book. These two picks satisfy the intellectual craving that pleasure reading often provides.
Shock and awe fit for today’s teenage wasteland: Everything Here Is The Best Thing Ever, by Justin Taylor.
There is something oddly therapeutic about reading a collection of short stories that tackle those plaguing issues — of familial obligations, health issues and relationship struggles, to name a few — by exploring their manifestation in mundane quotidian life. Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, the debut short-story collection from Justin Taylor is a prime example of a book of this form. Because Taylor himself is so young, only 27, these stories focus on mostly teenagers and young adults and the unique way in which members of this age group handle their problems. As a result, his subjects become his target audience, as he engages his readers with warped images of themselves.
The heart and soul of this collection lies in the characters it portrays. There is the fifteen-year-old who, upon reconciling with his childhood best friend, finds himself simultaneously infatuated with him and his old friend’s older sister. Kyle is a student in junior college who has been offered a small stipend to kill his cousins’ cat, Buckles, because he has recently and inextricably become “stressed out“ and “lonesome.” The anarchists are a group of friends who have formed a band, living under aliases intended to reflect the great international anarchists of history, who burn books and steal, all while grappling with emotions and aspirations.
While these characters are riddled with intricacies that are entirely unique and oftentimes bizarre, their stories lend themselves to very real ideas and messages. Perhaps the most profound story is only four short pages in length. It is written in a form of sci-fi/fantasy barely present throughout the rest of the collection that narrates a negotiation of a contractual change to more greatly benefit angels. However, the transaction requires a sort of balancing out of affairs, which leads to the death of the protagonist’s girlfriend. After her death, the angels simply depart, leaving a confused pseudo-widower confused and with a corpse. The only person who stays behind to help is Satan himself.
This story, and others like it in Everything Here, raise provocative questions of morals and examine complexities on a level that is refreshing to find in contemporary literature. It is a quick read that demands your attention and your thought, perfect for an afternoon of light spring reading outside or a lazy Sunday read in bed. Regardless when and where you read it, Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever is a slim treasure that you won’t want to miss.
The courageous memoir of a child bride’s divorce: I Am Nujood by Nujood Ali and Delphine Minoui
Amidst the scenes of warfare and poverty in the Middle East lie the untold stories of child brides. Fathers and cousins hope to make a profit and honorable ties by marrying off girls as young as eight years old. Many submit to this cruelty, but in 2008, Nujood Ali could not.
I am Nujood is the first-person narrative of the first divorced child bride in Yemen. Nujood, age nine, recounts her story of despair, hopelessness and ultimate courage. Lost in a sea of poverty in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, her father accepts the marriage proposal of a man three times her senior and Nujood is forced to replace her childhood with countless nights of abuse.
But unlike other girls in her situation, Nujood fights back. Sneaking away to a courthouse in Sana’a, she demands a divorce. Much to her — and the media’s — delight, is awarded one.
Nujood has become an international darling. Her story has single-handedly thrown Yemeni tradition off-balance. With the help of Delphine Minoui she is able to tell her story of bravery and fear to millions.
The story is easy to read and hard to put down. Nujood writes with childhood fascination and questions Yemeni tradition and rituals. Through careful storytelling and profound musings, Nujood recants her terror during her married months. She leaves few details to the imagination and with the tinge of a girl who has seen too much, often pauses to discuss her dreams of law school.
Not the typical light read, I am Nujood is memorable and hopeful. Since her divorce, Nujood has inspired many girls to fight for their childhood. Released this month, the book is complete with discussion questions built for a book club or just a mind exercise in women’s rights around the world.
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