Hello Hub readers; it’s time for another Hub Reading Challenge Check-In!
According to my Goodreads shelf where I’m tracking my progress, I’ve got 15 books done for the Challenge so far. My now-standard approach to the Challenge is to load up on Graphic Novels in the first couple of months; getting my numbers up early helps keep me motivated. I love the format anyway, and I work in a high school, and have had a lot of success book-talking graphic novels to students who otherwise feel like they just don’t have time to read for fun when school’s in session. I’ve definitely enjoyed the ones I’ve managed to read so far (especially, to echo Anna’s check-in post, Paper Girls. That palette!! The eco-dystopian horror-show of Brian K. Vaughn’s We Stand On Guard felt terrifyingly plausible, and John Allison’s warm, wry Giant Days has been a perfect match for some of my seniors anxious to imagine themselves into college).
But the most delightfully *surprising* thing so far about my Challenge reading this year has been all the history! I adore historical fiction, so imagine my delight when I realized that Kiersten White’s And I Darken is only tagged so frequently as “fantasy” because of the “alternative” history component (it reimagines Vlad the Impaler as a girl). I love historical fantasy too, but I frequently crave more specificity of place and time than YA historical fantasy delivers, focused as it often is on action. I loved the imagined explanation for how one of history’s most notoriously ruthless figures could have become that way, and I learned a ton about the expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th c. from the perspective of Sultan Mehmed II, aka Mehmed the Conqueror, who we meet as a young teen before he has conquered much of anything (well, maybe some hearts). This is the kind of historical fiction I wish I could find more of: stories that help to address the erasure of marginalized and non-Christian people from our (Western) understanding of historical events, and serve to enrich our awareness of just how diverse humanity has always been.
Right now I’m halfway through Julie Berry’s The Passion of Dolssa, and it is (so far) a deeply engrossing look at a (different) moment of religious fervor in 13th century western Europe. Like And I Darken, The Passion of Dolssa challenges the reader to set aside contemporary national borders and delve into what came before. This sense of the malleability of borders, and the complicated national, cultural, and religious identities they foster, is hitting hard for me right now.
Both of these books speak very clearly to the enormous influence and power of religion, to individuals and to power structures, throughout human history and that, too, feels apt for our current cultural moment.
One of the nonfiction titles I read, Sady Doyle’s compulsively readable Trainwreck, had way more history than I was anticipating, and I loved all of it. Each chapter contained a case study of a key feminist figure (from Mary Wollstonecraft to Billie Holiday), and all of it left me wanting to know even more about every one of the featured women.
For my next reads, I’m moving up to some 20th c. history: Meg Medina’s story of the Summer of Sam in NYC, Burn Baby Burn, and the audio version of Ruta Sepetys’ heartbreaking WWII refugee story, Salt to the Sea, which I’ve read but want to experience in audio.
Let us know how you are doing with the Challenge in the comments below, and don’t forget about the sortable spreadsheet! Here are the guidelines in case you don’t remember:
- Format matters: a title that has been recognized for both the print version and the audiobook version can be both read and listened to and count as two books, but a book that has won multiple awards or appears on multiple lists in the same format only counts as one title.
- Books must be read/listened to (both begun and finished) since the award winners and selected lists have been released and 11:59pm EST on June 22. If you’ve already read/listened to a title, you must re-read/listen to it for it to count.
- Anyone can participate, and just about everyone who doesn’t work for ALA is eligible to win our prize for Challenge finishers. Non-ALA/YALSA members are eligible. Teens are eligible. Non-US residents/citizens are eligible. (More eligibility questions? Leave a comment or email us.)
- Once you finish the challenge, we’ll contact you with details about creating and publishing your response.
- If you have finished the challenge, let us know here! The grand prize winner will be selected by 11:59pm EST on June 23. The winner will be notified via email.
Happy reading, all!
— Carly Pansulla, currently reading Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving