Monthly Wrap-Up | August 2020

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Well, this was a hello from my newly-adopted cat, Ofelya.

She wishes everyone a happy September and is way too excited that I’m back at my writing desk.


If you’ve ever had a kitten, you know how challenging it can be to type around one. Everything that moves is an invitation for some play–because why not?

Rescuing Ofelya was not planned. There are so, so many strays cats wandering around Istanbul that it’s impossible not to take one home, especially if they choose you.

Of course, since I brought Ofelya home, a lot of time has been spent on ensuring my other cat Venus that she’s still the queen of the household (and on avoiding a flea infestation, which was close, too close…). In the midst of chaos, I wasn’t able to write as much as I wanted in August, but we are coming back full force.

But let’s do the monthly wrap-up first.

Books & Reviews

I started August re-reading two of my favorite texts, Unveiled: The Autobiography of a Turkish Girl (1931) by Turkish American writer Selma Ekrem (you can read my reflection on the book here) and 10 Minutes 28 Seconds in This Strange World (2019) by Elif Shafak.

It could be the comparatist in me; I quite enjoyed reading together these two texts penned by women writers of Turkish origin. Published decades apart, both stories explore what it means to be a woman, an immigrant, and an outsider.

I then chose Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg as my non-fiction text for the month. In Lean In, Sandberg discusses her experiences as a successful businesswoman who has hold COO positions in various million-dollar companies. Although I’m not sure why I couldn’t get into the book, Sandberg’s story is certainly inspiring and empowering.

To Be Read in September

September can be a busy month if you’re a teacher. Whenever I take a break from my syllabus planning and faculty meetings, I’m planning to read the following books:

Published in May 2020, Koya’s novel follows an Indian American evolutionary biologist and her relationship with her young nephew who is struggling with his identity as an Indian American Muslim. I’ve read two chapters of the novel so far, and I can see that this is not just another novel about anti-Muslim sentiments. I’ll discuss why and how further in my reflection this month.

Arab American writer Hala Alyan’s second novel The Arsonists’ City has been on my list for such a long time. It seems like September is the month I finally read it.

Like her debut Salt Houses, The Arsonists’ City is a family saga about immigration and what it means to be home.The novel will be released next year on March 9, 2021.

The last book on my reading list this month is Jerusalem as a Second Language by a short story writer from Chicago, Rochelle Distemheim. This is her second novel and will be published on September 29th. I haven’t read any of Distemheim’s works before, but the title of the novel has certainly caught my attention. My goal is to read and review it before its publication date.

August Selected Readings

This month, too, I read interesting posts/articles written by many talented writers–often when I was drinking my morning coffee, and here are some of my favorites:

“Not Pregnant” by the Cuban poet and writer Elaine Vilar Madruga on World Literature Today

Madruga’s piece reflects on her days during the lockdown in Cuba. It is real and raw. Here’s a delightful paragraph from the piece:

“The day crawls forth. It’s hot. Quarantine is unbearable, but this wet, steamy air in my lungs makes it all worse. This heat makes me want to make love and dance, but outside, in the outside world and at other times.

I write. I have to. I force myself to write. It’s not a matter of discipline or rigor necessary for the trade. That, too. But now I carry out this task like any other, a part of routine to some extent, which diffusely ties me to sanity. I lose myself in words. It’s not creation; rather, it’s survival. I write a version of Oedipus Rex. Tragic myths right now? Yeah, why not. Oedipus wears a mask. Jocasta desperately seeks a ventilator. Plague is something common we share with those who lived in Thebes.”

A review of Sex and Lies by Leïla Slimani by Claire on Word by Word: Thoughts on Literature, Expressing Creativity, Being Authentic

Claire discusses Slimani’s collection of essays as part of WIT (Women in Translation) month and offers a curious reflection on the ways in which Slimani empowers Moroccon women. She writes:

“Women are stepping out of isolation and sharing their stories everywhere, finding solidarity in that first step, sharing in a safe space, being heard, realising they are not alone.

May it be a stepping stone to change.”

“Road Scholarship: Literary Travel in the Age of Coronavirus” by Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, a Hemingway scholar, on Literary Traveller

“What travel does, if it is any good, is to push people to think about their world, to abandon hardened ideas,” Herlihy-Mera explains in his article, “To expose fantasies and legends. It is an experience that evokes questions that askew answers and fixed ideas. In that way, travel cures certainty.” But what about during the pandemic? He delves deeper into the importance of literary travel and what shape it may take during this strange time.

“Hope is the Thing with Feathers in ‘Migrations'” by Amy Brady on Chicago Review of Books, an Interview with Charlotte McConaghy

Brady’s interview with the author of Migrations: A Novel is illuminating. She and McConaghy discuss climate change and hope as a crucial theme in the novel. When Brady asks McConaghy what she hopes readers take away from the novel, McConaghy responds:

“I hope they take a sense of responsibility for the health of this earth and a sense of our individual power to make a difference. There are so many small daily choices we can be making that all add up to help in a big way. Instead of thinking about the enormity of the problem or thinking how can anything I do possibly make a difference to whether or not sea turtles go extinct?, think about what you can do in your day to day life. If we all do this, it will have an impact. I hope they see this in Migrations and take heart from it.”


And this brings me to the end of the past month’s wrap-up.

I hope everyone had a lovely August; feel free to post your links to your monthly wrap-ups down below. I’d love to read them.

Have you read any of the books mentioned here? What did you think? What are you reading right now? I’d love to hear about your recommendations.

6 replies

  1. Awww your kitten is so cute!!! I have just got two they are called soxs and lucky and only 8 weeks , I agree it’s hard to type with two kittens but that’s the fun of them 😂 hope you have a great reading month!

    Like

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