I didn’t read as much as I’d planned to in 2021, so let’s begin 2022 with some very specifically planned reading time.
January :: The Courage Party: Helping Our Resilient Children Understand and Survive Sexual Assault by Joyce Brabner
As an educator who works with children experiencing mental health difficulties, I try to be aware of the resources available to support uncomfortable conversations.
As a personal story, this is a raw, honest, and appropriately-detailed exploration of how people can feel afraid and how telling a trusted adult is the best advice for resolving things and keeping everyone safe.
I would say that there were places in Danielle’s story where I felt the words could have been clearer. As realistic as actual words are, I did need to read a few paragraphs multiple times to make sense of the events.
My one critique is that a lot of emphasis is put on the fighting back and getting away. I appreciate that this is one person’s story, and appreciate that some other examples are given within it, however I feel that for a child who had not ‘fought back’ immediately, the emphasis could lead to feelings of guilt or not being strong enough / not doing the right thing by staying quiet.
The part about court and how to access support after was very clear and the message to keep telling until an adult believes you is a huge positive. Finding that one good grownup is a powerful message, and having been trained as a Trusted Adult Worker by my local Crime Commission myself, it’s exactly what every child should know to do.
We as a society definitely do send conflicting messages and this would be a great book for an adult or parent to read who wants to understand how to explore this topic.
We need to speak up more to reduce the stigma and support our fellow good grownups to have the right tools for these conversations.
March :: Beyond the Stars and Shadows by Kristen Martin
I’ve followed Kristen’s author journey for a few years, but this is the first fiction book of hers I’ve read. Overall, it was a good story, I loved the mix of metaphysical and astrophysical links, and aside from a couple of inconsistencies that pulled me out of the world, I enjoyed it.
For example, there is an event early on involving police attendance and it seems they don’t cordon off the area or take any evidence which baffled me – I can believe in the magical experiences and world she creates, but the police not doing a basic “we need to check for clues” just seemed so unusual. Especially when this wouldn’t have caused an issue for the plot. Aside from a few niggles like that, it was an enjoyable read with some genuinely emotional scenes making me laugh or cry.
I would definitely read another fantasy book by Kristen in future.
May :: I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World by Kai Cheng Thom
I found this book easy to get into, until the chapters focused on social justice warriors, which were new to me. Despite having a Master’s degree and experience in both social care, restorative justice from a youth offending perspective, and as a trained practitioner of therapy, I found myself struggling to understand some parts of her work, and felt that in some places, definitions and simplifications of a few concepts would have made the whole book more accessible to people who wanted to get a broader understanding of the experiences of a trans author, but are not well-read in the topics of social and transformative justice.
I liked the realism of the essay’s tone, and after a very verbose (wordy) set of introduction chapters, the author returned to the topic of love; of community, chosen family, and I found the anecdotes and experiences thought-provoking as a cis-gendered woman looking to support trans friend and family members.
I highlighted 44 passages, so would definitely recommend it as a book to question our beliefs around LGBTQIA+ issues and how we relate to each other as human beings, however there may be sections that require a dictionary to translate and further research to put into full context.
I’m trying to mix up my genres for 2022, especially between fiction, self-help, and those about other people’s experiences