Sunday, April 14, 2013

2013 Reading, Books 34-36

34) Ghost Planet, by Sharon Lynn Fisher. Part of my Rita-finalist reading project, and already blogged about here.

35) Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans, by Jennifer Spear.

Friday night I left this book on the dining room table while I was getting dinner ready, and as I brought my 9-year-old daughter's plate to the table, she looked at me in some indignation and pointed to the book. I got it from the University of Washington library, and it's in the dullest academic binding imaginable, with no cover image at all. So I asked her what was wrong, and she pointed more specifically to the word "Sex" printed on the spine. I informed her that in this case "sex" just meant gender, whether you're a man or a woman, and that the book was about how being male or female and the color of your skin impacted your life in 18th century New Orleans. At that point she looked suitably bored.

That said, the book didn't bore me. It covers how interracial relationships evolved and how they were conceptualized from New Orleans' earliest years on into the mid-19th century, an extremely relevant topic for my current work-in-progress set in 1815, whose heroine is a mixed-race fourth generation native of the city. However, it is a dryly academic work that assumes its reader has a decent grounding in the city's colonial history, so it's hardly a general-interest book.

36) Hominids, by Robert J. Sawyer.

A fascinating science fiction novel wherein, in a parallel world, Neanderthals rather than Homo sapiens are the sole surviving hominids. Neanderthal physicist Ponter Boddit accidentally passes through a portal to our Earth, leading to parallel plots as our world tries to figure out what to make of him (and he, of us) and his family and friends try to figure out what happened to him--his partner is accused of murder. I read the book in one sitting this morning, and I'll definitely get the sequel. That said, I thought the Neanderthal society was almost too ideal to be believed, in contrast to our species' warring, overpopulating, and environment-degrading ways, and I thought the use of rape as a plot device was much too heavy-handed. (One of the major Homo sapiens characters is raped by a stranger early in the book, in a scene graphic enough that I expect it would be triggering for quite a few readers.)

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