I probably wrote at least 500,000 words in my WIP this year, Journey Through a Dark Forest: Lyuba and Ivan in the Age of Anxiety. It was begun last November, and hopefully might take another six months for the first draft to be done. In between, I also did some more editing on my first Russian historical and some of my Max’s House books. In August, I skipped ahead in the hiatused Justine Grown Up to write the chapter “Irene and Amelia Redecorate Their Room.”
I downloaded a bunch of new typefaces, some of them for the A to Z Challenge in April. Others are calligraphy fonts for title pages, and others are typewriter fonts. I think my favourites are Janson (a gorgeous, venerable serif typeface), Cassandre Graphika (from a 1956 typewriter), and Tangerine (a not-overly-fancy calligraphy font).
Most of the books I read were for my Children’s Lit class, both required and chosen. I didn’t really dig most of the required books, in spite of their positive reputations, but it’s no surprise I tend not to like books with tons of hype. I prefer older books, and modern books which are more under the radar.
Some of the books I loved:
Bunny and the Beast, written by Molly Coxe and illustrated by Pamela Silin-Palmer. At first I was annoyed that Beast was an unfairly-maligned Pit Bull, but then I realised it was meant positively, not yet another excuse to stereotype and demonise Pits. The illustrations are gorgeous.
The Dragon Prince, written by Lawrence Yep and illustrated by Kam Mak. This is the Southern Chinese version of Beauty and the Beast, and beautifully-illustrated. I haven’t read a whole lot of Chinese fiction, either historical or contemporary, which is something I need to correct. (If I ever decide to write a Chinese historical, my characters will be Hakka or Manchu, not Han, so my women and girls won’t have to bind their feet!)
A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen, by Kathryn Lasky. Too many people these days forget how relatively recently women got the right to vote, and what a painful, long struggle it was to get that basic right men took for granted. It was seen as indecent, immoral, unnatural for women to want to vote and do more with their lives than make social calls, run a household, and have children.
The Fences Between Us, by Kirby Larson. Like the above, this is also a Dear America book, and set during WWII. It’s based on the true story of Rev. Emory Andrews, the pastor of a Japanese Baptist church who chose to accompany his Seattle flock to an internment camp in Idaho. Though I kind of wish the book had been narrated by Betty Sato, not the pastor’s made-up daughter Piper. (And come on, who would’ve named a girl Piper in 1929?!)
The Skull of Truth, by Bruce Coville. We had to read two fantasy books, and I ended up loving the MG book I found. I’m more liable to get into fantasy if it’s real-world-based, not epic high fantasy. This book was so funny and fast-paced, with some very important lessons about when to tell the truth and when not to share an opinion.
Kaleidoscope Eyes, by Jen Bryant. This upper MG novel in verse is set during 1968, and involves three friends searching for treasure believed to have been buried by Captain Kidd in 1699. It’s refreshing to find a Sixties historical that doesn’t revolve around Vietnam, and I loved how it wasn’t immediately revealed how Malcolm happens to be African-American. It’s so cringe-worthy how each and every Babysitters’ Club book introduces Jessi with a really awkward, self-conscious mention of her race.
Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer, written by Trina Robbins and illustrated by Mo Oh. This graphic novel tells the little-known story of a girl who left Austria for England on a Kindertransport as a teen, suffered with an abusive foster mother, found a variety of jobs after running away, and ultimately made her way to America while the ports were still open. She struggled in New York for awhile, but ultimately her artistic talents made her a respected comic book artist.
Breaking Stalin’s Nose, written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. This book rightfully won a Newbery. The entire time, my hair was standing on end at how chillingly accurately the climate of fear and paranoia of the Great Terror was depicted. This was also one of the increasingly rare times I felt first-person present tense worked with the story, instead of immediately making me tune out.
So Far from the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Kawashima Watkins. I love Japanese historicals, and don’t get a chance to read enough of them. This book is challenged and attacked by many people because Yoko was from a well-off Japanese family living in Korea during WWII. They had to flee for their lives back to Japan in the Summer of 1945, to avoid capture by the vengeful Koreans and invading Russians. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, My Brother, My Sister, and I.
Once again, it was a slow year for adding to my vinyl collection. I only got five vinyl LPs this year—Big Thing (1988); So Red the Rose (1985), one of my last presents from my walking DSM ex; The Who by Numbers (1975), which I’ve already owned on CD since 15 March 2001; The Power Station (1985); and Genesis (1983). I also got the most important of my records out of storage from my ex’s vile parents’ cellar.
I now have 39 albums made in my lifetime, 13 from people or bands who actually got famous in my lifetime instead of long before I was born. I’m well aware that over half of that number comes from the same band plus two spin-offs, but give me some credit for slowly moving into the modern era!