Micro-Review: Hollie Overton’s BABY DOLL isn’t for the faint of heart

Hollie Overton Baby Doll Redhook US coverFrom the publisher:

Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.

This is what happens next…

…to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter…and to her captor.

While I truly enjoyed this book – it’s fast-paced, filled with action, and very engaging – the subject matter is definitely sensitive: a young woman who’s been held hostage and assaulted both physically and sexually escapes her abuser with her daughter and begins the legal process to get him put away.

There were times while reading this book that I felt physically nauseous, especially during descriptions of the abuse. Some sections are told from the perspective of Lily’s captor, and the sections feel so real and bone-shakingly horrific.

Because of that, while I thought this book was really wonderful as a thriller, I’m not sure if I would recommend to all readers because its subject matter is incredibly difficult to stomach. Readers who can, though, will find this an engaging, heart-poundingly suspenseful read.

4 out of 5 stars

Passing: On Reading FLYGIRL

When trying to pick a book to read for the GIC book club in February, I had a ridiculously difficult time finding a book about a black female protagonist.  (I ended up getting some advice from a Twitter stranger, though it ended up being awesome.) The book I settled on was FLYGIRL by Sherri L. Smith – a compromise, as it wasn’t a sci-fi or fantasy book but a historical fiction about WWII.

FLYGIRL tells the story of Ida Mae Jones denying her identity to fly military planes.

FLYGIRL tells the story of Ida Mae Jones denying her identity to fly military planes.

As I began to read the novel, I found I related incredibly well with the protagonist, Ida Mae, whose fair skin allows her to pass as a white woman in order to fly military planes. Throughout the book, Ida is struggling with her identity and with the social ramifications of pretending to be white.

Being white-passing is a very curious phenomenon. Like Ida Mae, I’m a person of mixed racial descent, and also like Ida Mae, my skin tone is significantly more fair than that of one of my parents. Because of my appearance, I’ve been told I “look white” – also very like Ida Mae. But unlike Ida Mae, who had to teach herself to speak “like a white woman,” my manner of speech is pretty typical of a person who grew up in the middle-class Midwest. Because of that, I grew up hearing comments like “You talk like you’re white” and “You don’t sound like you’re Asian.”

Close to the beginning of FLYGIRL, Ida gets on a bus and asks a black gentleman with a newspaper about what he’s reading, and she seems sad but not fully surprised when he starts to stand and apologize to her; he has assumed she was a white woman and that she wanted to sit in his seat. There’s a distinct sensation of alienation in the story, and it’s one that’s uncomfortably familiar for me.

As Ida experiences in the book, being mixed-race, racially ambiguous, or white-passing can be a strange and very depressing experience. She seems to not quite fit in with other blacks, yet while she fits in with the white girls in the WASP training program, she lives in constant fear of their rejection, and she’s privy to more than one unpleasant remark towards the people she considers her own. She marvels at how much better she’s treated as a white woman, but can hardly contain her guilt over it.

Ida’s guilt – and the uncomfortably familiar scenarios of being privy to incredible racism – hits home for me in ways that some people probably can’t quite relate to, though I’ve met plenty of people who could: friends who have been told “I don’t even see you as black,” and others whose light skin tones make them privy to racist and xenophobic remarks because “you look white.”

After struggling on an emotional level to read FLYGIRL, I find this book incredibly important – not only because of its beautiful writing and different perspective on the World War II era in the United States, but because the issues it addresses through Ida’s experiences and struggles are ones that people in the US continue to face today, and increasing compassionate understanding is important to a more peaceful and kind society.

January 2014 in Review

January’s done, and it’s time to review.

This month marked the first in the GIC Book Club and the GIC 100 Books in 2014 Challenge, and I think I’m doing pretty well with both.  GIC’s book club selection this month was I HUNT KILLERS by Barry Lyga, and I thought it was wonderful.

As for the 100 Books challenge (you can find my challenge page here), I was able to boost the start of my year with 14 titles during January.

I ended up reading a number of books in print and digital formats.  In digital, I read Sherwood Smith’s A POSSE OF PRINCESSES, a rewritten fairy tale in a non-Western setting called TOADS AND DIAMONDS by Heather Tomlinson, and MISTRESS OF THE WIND by Michelle Diener.

In print, I read ACROSS THE NIGHTINGALE FLOOR by Lian Hearn, the first book in the Tales of the Otori trilogy which was loaned to me by a friend, THE SHE-HULK DIARIES by Marta Acosta, and THE LAST POLICEMAN by Ben H. Winters.

There were also several volumes of manga this month: TSUBASA RESERVOIR CHRONICLE Vol. 14, 15, 16, 17, and 28 by CLAMP, RINNE Vol. 3 by Takahashi Rumiko, and NISEKOI Vol. 1 by Komi Naoshi.