#44 Human Acts by Han Kang

30091914Poignant and gut-wrenching, Han Kang’s Human Acts excavates the moments leading up to and during, and the devastating aftermath of, the 1980 Gwangju (where Kang grew up) Uprising of students in South Korea from various narrative perspectives.

Human Acts opens with “The Boy, 1980,” told from the vantage of Dong-ho, a young boy looking for the body of his best friend whom he saw get shot in the street. “The Boy’s Friend, 1980” (my favorite perspective in the book) voices the experience of that friend, now dead, one soul among a jumbled heap of bodies left to rot for days in the forest. As in The Vegetarian, Kang doesn’t shy away from graphic depictions of the body, she pushes characters to the physical limits of life and beyond; in Human Acts, bodies endure torture, carry the scars of mutilation, are mercilessly shot and killed, bodies bloat and blacken with decomposition.  In “The Boy’s Mother, 2010” Dong-ho’s mother speaks tenderly to her dead son, addressing “you” as she wonders if her inaction played a role in his death. Dong-ho, both alive and dead, makes appearances in all of the narratives, which, as a whole, create a breathtaking and acutely brutal portrait of human cruelty, frailty, and endurance.

#12 Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

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“It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.” -Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark.

A necessary read for engagement, action, perseverance, and, yes, hope in the current political state.

#9 We Should All Be Feminists Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

22738563We Should All Be Feminists is the book/essay that grew out of Adichie’s TEDx talk of the same name.

The premise? We should all be feminists. It’s really that simple. Adichie argues a case for feminism with personal stories, using her own experiences as a lens to examine gender inequalities and sexual politics. It’s a breezy 30-minute read.

Oh, and have you read Adichie’s Americanah? Go read it. It’s GREAT.