June 2021 — Wrap Up

Well June is over, let’s see how my reading went!

This is the first wrap up since I changed my rating system and I gotta say, I really like the changes I’ve made. I now post full dedicated reviews for each book I read, which is basically my main goal with this blog. I’m looking into adding other content type but I’m not sure about what that’s going to look like yet.

So this month I read 6 books:

  • Eternals by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by John Romita Jr: In anticipation of the Eternals movie coming out in November, I read the comics written by Neil Gaiman. If you’re a fan of the MCU and/or Neil Gaiman I highly recommend it.
  • Disability Visibility by Alice Wong: This book came in my Feminist Book Club box and it was a wonderful collection of stories from people with disabilities, including activists, lawyers, scientists, and more. This is opens a lot of windows to different ways of life and has inspired me to learn more about how to make spaces accessible for everyone. Check it out!
  • It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland: This was such a fun read about a famous queer band. There was queer romance, friendships, chosen family, and the power of fandom that brings people together. If you want a fun read full of friendship and music, read this!
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander: If you are interested in learning about mass incarceration and how it has become what it is today, I highly recommend this book. Alexander does a great job explaining how the criminal justice system is what it is today. It’s only one book but it opened my eyes to many issues that I didn’t realize were related. If you’re an ally definitely check this out.
  • A Year Without a Name by Cyrus Dunham: A unique memoir by Cyrus Dunham while he explores his gender identity. This memoir gives us a peek into his mind as he remembers how it was to be a child not identifying with his body, all the way through figuring out what to do with his life. If you want to learn about what it is like to explore gender identity I recommend this one, just be warned that there are multiple topics discussed that might be triggering (eating disorders, depression, body shaming, etc) so do read carefully.
  • Supernova by Marissa Meyer: The last installment of the Renegades series was so so good! I had so much fun with the twists and surprises. While I suspected how some things might end up happening, others I was quite pleasantly surprised about. If you like superheroes and a romance between a superhero and villain, definitely read this series.

And that’s it! I think my favorite book of the month was probably Disability Visibility because of all the different perspectives I was able to learn about. I think that’s one book that everyone should read because I think it will provide something new to learn about for just about everyone. I had the most fun with Supernova since it was the last in the series and it was just so well wrapped up.

What was your favorite book that you read in June?

Review: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

I finished The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander today and what an amazing work by the author! This book is so well researched and put together that it’s accessible for anyone.

The term mass incarceration refers not only to the criminal justice system but also to the larger web of laws, rules, policies, and customs that control those labeled criminals both in and out of prison.

Introduction p.15

The New Jim Crow details and tells the story of how the current system of mass incarceration came about in the United States, which affects black men most of all. Alexander takes us back to the beginning of slavery, the “end” of slavery, the start of the Jim Crow era, the “end” of the Jim Crow era, and our current criminal justice system at detail. To go through everything would take a long time but I want to highlight some of the things that impacted me the most, and which I hope will resonate with others as well.

Follow the money! I didn’t know that the reason why the War on Drugs is based a lot on politics and money (not a real worry about people’s health). Politicians, starting with Regan (the War on Drugs creator), made incentives for police departments to pursue the arrests of people for drug possession. If it weren’t for these incentives, the police would have no reason to go looking for people who have drugs as much as they do. All of the raids on homes with no-knock warrants, sending SWAT teams to find drugs and shooting first all come from these incentives. It is in the best interest of the police departments to arrest people for drugs because each arrest gives their department money while other arrests don’t have those same incentives.

Each arrest, in theory, would net a given city or county about $153 in state and federal funding. Non-drug-related policing brought no federal dollars, even for violent crime. As a result, when Jackson County, Wisconsin, quadrupled its drug arrests between 1999 and 2000, the county’s federal subsidy quadrupled too.

The Lockdown p.98

Say now that someone is arrested. The sentencing for drug offenses is just illogical and it’s all based on politicians wanting to not be seen as “soft on crime” so they implement “3 strikes and you’re out” laws or minimum mandatory sentencing. For example:

Because [Edward] Clary had been caught with more than fifty grams of crack (less than two ounces), the sentencing judge believed he had no choice but to sentence him — an eighteen-year-old who had no criminal record — to a minimum of ten years in federal prison.

The Color of Justice p.141

The fact is, even after people who are arrested get out of prison, they are still under the really impossible situation that they are now labeled a “criminal”. They have to check that box saying that they have a criminal record and can’t apply for a myriad of things, including government aid for housing, food stamps, some licenses for certain jobs, and even voting is restricted.

One parent barred from voting due to his felony conviction put it this way: “I have no right to vote on the school referendum that … will affect my children. I have no right to vote on how my taxes is going to be spent or used, which I have to pay whether I’m a felon or not, you know? So basically I’ve lost all voice or control over my government … I get bad because I can’t say anything because I don’t have a voice.”

The Cruel Hand pg.201

There are so many heartbreaking stories within the pages of this book, from arrests to sentencing to life in prison, to life after prison, it’s just a lot! I just touched on a few things that Alexander dives deep into throughout the book so I highly recommend that you read it if this is of interest to you. Alexander leaves us with some thoughts on how this system could potentially be changed. The bottom line is that it’s not an easy thing to fix. It can’t be fixed with a law or a presidential signature. It will require a complete change in the thinking of a majority of our society. We can’t keep ignoring and turning off the news when black people are obviously being treated like second-hand citizens. We can all help in different ways for there are many things to do, from small acts of kindness to participating in social justice activism. The least we can do is inform ourselves of what is happening with the criminal justice system so that we can see past the political gestures of being “hard on crime” for what they are, reinforcements of the current system.

I highly recommend this book as well as the documentary 13th, which also talks about the system of mass incarceration and also features Michelle Alexander as one of the experts. I leave you with that full film (available for free on Youtube) and hope you’ll be interested in getting informed about these issues.

Full Feature film “13th” on YouTube.

June Reading Plans

June Reading Plans Banner with yellow background

June is here! We are almost half way through the year and it seems to me like yesterday was barely March? Anyways… last month I read 6 books! This coming month I am not sure how many I will actually finish but here are the ones I’m currently working on:

  • The Stand by Stephen King: This book is about a pandemic… (I know, I know). It centers a couple of different characters who live around the United States and it’s about they try to survive. As with most Stephen King books there is a supernatural aspect to it but we haven’t gotten to that part yet. I’m reading this as a buddy read with a friend from high school. It’s more than 1000 pages long (as are most of King’s books) and we are going slow, about 200 pages a month. We are currently reading to page 253 and I’m on page 150. So far I’m really enjoying the characters that King has chosen to follow although I’m left wondering ….where are all the people of color?!
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander: I’m reading this book for a book club with fellow Questbridge Alumni. This book is a non-fiction work that describes how the current mass incarceration system came about. Why are there so many black men targeted for arrests? What does the War on Drugs have to do with it? Is the system racist? Yes! So then, why can’t it just be changed? All these questions are answered throughout the book with very thorough explanations and evidence. I’m on page 137 of 329 and I’ve already learned a lot. This is one that I’m annotating left and right (so much so that I have finished one of my highlighters!). There’s a lot to learn so if anything, this is just the start of my own education. I will finish this by the end of June since that’s when we have our monthly meeting.
  • Disability Visibility by Alice Wong: I got this non-fiction book as part of the Feminist Book Club subscription box! It’s a great subscription box if you’re interested in social justice and intersectional feminism. Anyways, the book is a collection of essays by disabled people from all aspects of life. There are lawyers, artists, mothers, students, activists, etc. This book is very eye opening and has given me a lot to think about, in terms of language, accessibility, and just stereotypes and biases I have about disabled people. I’m on page 164 of 309 and I’ve been stopping and learning more about the people in the book as well as checking my own responses to each story. Again, a lot to learn here! I will also finish this book this month because the next book comes next week!
  • Reinas Malditas by Cristina Morató: I’m reading this book as part of a book club with my friends from Mexico (though we have people tuning in from Canada, Texas, and various parts of Mexico City). This book is in Spanish and it tells the stories of various royalty figures in history, including Empress Sisi, Mary Antoinette, Queen Victoria, etc. All of these women had difficult lives trying to fit into the roles that they were put into (very few chose to become Queen of X place). So far we have read about Empress Sisi and I was not impressed with the writing. It reads more like a TMZ article than a serious biography so I’m not exactly trusting of the author based on that. So far I’m on page 120, learning about Mary Antoinette’s childhood, better than Sisi’s chapters so far! Since we read about 150 pages per month, you’ll keep hearing about this one for a while yet.

So those are the books I’m currently reading slow and steady, two will be finished way past the month of June. There are more books I want to read as well, these are lighter reads that I think I can read a bit more quickly:

  • Eternals by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by John Romita Jr: In preparation for the Eternals Marvel movie I wanted to read the comic it’s based on. With most other Marvel movies it’s hard to read the comic because it could span so many and they could take inspiration from so many different comics (plus the multiverse and oh my). But with Eternals I was happy to find that it’s all compiled into one volume, it’s about 200 pages and it collects volumes 1-7 of the original comics. I don’t know much about the plot and that’s okay by me!
  • The Sandman Omnibus Vol 1 by Neil Gaiman: Another Neil Gaiman on my list! This is also in preparation for The Sandman series that is in the works by Netflix. This comic follows Morpheus, the Lord of the Dreaming and his interactions with various gods, humans, and other mythical creatures. I have had this giant book for a few years now and haven’t read it because…. well… if I’m honest, it’s intimidating! This is easily the heaviest book I own. It is 1040 pages so not the longest but because it’s high quality comic book pages all in color well, you can imagine! I am super excited to read it though and then I will need to get Vol 2… gulp.
  • Supernova by Marissa Meyer: The third and final installment of the Renegades series! The series is about a group of superheroes who are trying to enact order on a city that’s been previously victim of a lot of conflicts between superheroes and villains (to the detriment of all the powerless humans). We follow a villain and her quest to get rid of the superheroes who just try to solve everything with their powers. She’s infiltrated their ranks and gotten super close to many of the superheroes so at this point she’s super conflicted. (As are some of the superheroes!) I’ve been enjoying this series and can’t wait to see how it ends.
  • Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan: This is the third installment of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. I’ve read the other two books in the past two years or so. I kind of like to spread these out a bit, kind of like candy. Not sure what to say about this without spoilers but basically we follow a group of very wealthy people, there’s romance, there’s drama, there’s a lot of name and brand dropping. Basically a whole other world from mine XD (Talk about escape!)
  • It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland: A stand alone debut novel about friendship, rock bands, and queer romance! Need I say more? Okay okay I’ll say more. We follow Eva, Celeste, Gina, and Steph who are members of Moonlight Overthrow, a band that’s become super popular. With the rise in fame plus a romance with two of the band members the band is in trouble of falling out! A storm that ravages their town forces them to get it together and find out just how strong their friendship really is. I learned about this book because the author and I graduated from the same college (albeit different years so I don’t think we ever overlapped.)

And that’s it! HA It might be a lot but since the comics should read fairly fast so I’m hoping that I can get through all the books mentioned. With the heat starting up here in sunny San Diego I expect I’ll spend quite a bit of time reading on the porch in the evenings.

Have you read any of the books mentioned above? What are you most excited to read in June? Do you have a favorite spot where you read during the summer months?