What Am I Reading – Chapter Forty

Hi Everyone!

I hope you all had a great Halloween! I sure did with seeing all the kids trick-or-treating in my neighborhood! I still have plenty of candy leftover.

I can’t believe that I’ve been doing this for 40 chapters! Before you know it, it’s going to be 50! I’ll have something planned for the latter!

In the meantime, I’ve been finishing plenty of books. I’m still reading The Number Ones by Tom Breihan, and I started two new books recently that I’d love to show you. You’ll see that these have something fascinating in common.

Let’s begin with our first title!

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson is about 19-year-old Cussy Carter – the last living female of the Blue People ancestry – who lives in Kentucky. In 1936, the lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian. She rides across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains with her faithful mule Junia to deliver books and other reading material to those most in need in Eastern Kentucky. To the mountain folk, Cussy becomes known as “Bluet.” She confronts those suspicious of her blue skin and of the unique government program as well as befriends a cast of colorful (no pun intended) characters. Cussy is determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give those who have nothing something that will take them to faraway lands.

This book is loosely based on the Blue Fugates – a family who were known to carry a genetic trait that led to the blood disorder methemoglobinemia, causing skin to appear blue. I never knew about this family nor about the aforementioned condition. So far, the novel itself doesn’t divulge into the medical history, for it’s more focused on how Cussy deals with prejudice and how she proves she’s a worthy member of society despite the unusual skin color.

At the same time, I knew about the Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky that the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration set up prior to reading this book. Not only did they allowed the less fortunate to obtain books and other reading materials, but they also provided jobs for women in the area. The back of the novel explains more of the history of this highly unique program, which is always necessary whenever an obscure event or organization is discussed in historical fiction.

I will automatically like any main character that’s a librarian, but Cussy is more than that. She’s willing to do anything for her patrons even if that means traveling through the toughest terrain that Eastern Kentucky has to offer. And yet, she’s a gentle and empathetic soul. The book can be a little too melodramatic in showing her struggles (ie her getting rapped by her now-dead husband and latter attacked by his perverted priest cousin), but it retains the emphasis on her survival as opposed to her suffering.

I’m curious to how the rest of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek unfolds!

And now, here’s the second and final book in this chapter!

The Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid is a title that challenges readers to reimagine who they think they are in the future, and how they can come together. One day, Anders – a white man – wakes up to find that his skin has turned dark. At first, he tells only Oona – a friend turned lover. But soon, similar occurrences are reported across the country. Some find this to be the long-dreaded overturning of the established order, to be resisted until the end. To others like Ander’s father and Oona’s mother, it’s a sense of profound loss with profound love. As the bond between Anders and Oona deepens, it brings out a chance to see others, face to face anew.

Now, one may be wondering, “Emily, why are you reading this?”

Well, part of it is to get revenge on the television host who’s been espousing the Great Replacement Theory recently. I knew more of the plot after hearing that person talk about on their show one day. The other reason is that Lit Hub promoted the novel a lot when it initially came out, and I really liked the cover. It’s eye-catching (no pun intended).

I’ve only read about 50 pages so far, and I find the concept wholly unique. I don’t think I’ve read a book that involves white people having their skins turn dark. I’m sure there are horror and science fiction novels that deal with that scenario, yet I’ve never seen it play out in contemporary literature. Yes, there’s also the musical Finian’s Rainbow, in which one character – a U.S. Senator – turns black in order to learn the lesson of becoming a better person by not being a bigot (spoilers: he gets turned back to white at the end of the show). But in the case of The Last White Man, it’s not interested in telling people that prejudice is bad. In fact, Anders’s skin turns dark right on the first page prior to the readers knowing anything about him except being white.

Instead, it seems to be more fascinated with how this change will affect society as a whole, specifically how one navigates having dark skin and the perceptions associated with it. So far, no explanation has been given to why white people like Anders are developing brown and black skin, and it doesn’t seem like there will be nor does it imply will they return to their original “color.” This is a more reinvigorating take than “discrimination = bad.”

So far, I have one complaint about the novel: the run-on sentences. This is the first book that I’ve read from Mohsin Hamid, so I don’t know if this is a common thing in his work. With that being said, one sentence makes up one paragraph, and it can be very long. I wanted to see a period somewhere instead a bunch of commas. We’ll see how long I tolerate that aspect.

I look forward to reading the rest of this novel to see where this unique concept goes!

We have now come to the end of the fortieth chapter of “What Am I Reading?”

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Published by emilymalek

I work at a public library southeast Michigan, and I facilitate two book clubs there. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, play trivia and crossword puzzles, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

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