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May Staff Picks!

Check out this month’s staff picks from the Betty’s Books crew!

 

Alain’s Pick

 

Across a FIeld of StarlightAcross a Field of Starlight Book Cover by Blue Delliquanti (they/them)

When they were kids, Fassen’s spaceship crash-landed on a planet that Lu’s survey force was exploring. It was a forbidden friendship, between a kid from a war-focused resistance movement and a kid from a commune dedicated to peace and secrecy, but they stayed in contact for years anyway. As their communities are increasingly threatened by the omnipresent, ever-expanding empire, a new attack against Fassen’s people leads to the discovery of Lu’s community. The two finally have a chance to reunite again…but at what cost?

First off, we love having gender nonconforming/nonbinary main characters! Second off, we love comics that represent the diversity of the world, from race to size and mobility! If that wasn’t enough, the story is also amazing! Delliquanti’s comic goes against one of my personal pet peeves, where sci-fi stories assume everyone is still straight, conforming to gender binaries, and capitalist. So it truly just ticks all the boxes for me. This book has an amazing story, and even if I think the ending is a bit rushed/vague, I had a lovely time reading it and connecting with the characters. Highly recommend checking it out!

 

Alex’s Pick

 

Anna Book CoverAnna by Mia Oberländer

With delightful illustrations, colored according to timeline, we follow three generations of women in a family, all appropriately named Anna. You have Anna 1, the matriarch whose height, albeit a bit above average, falls comfortably in the spectrum of “normal.” Then you have her daughter, Anna 2, whose genetics conspired against her, resulting in a hyperbolically long-limbed, slouching existence. And then, of course, there’s Anna 3, just as tall as her mother, and just as cursed to feel abnormal due to her large size confined to a tiny town. 

This book surprised me. It somehow feels both modern and fantastical, the latter partially due to the German village the Anna’s reside in and their odd dialogue. Anna is less of a story and more of an obvious allegory, so if subtly is what you’re looking for, you may be disappointed. However, I find that literary lessons still have virtue when you can clock them from a mile away, and it made reading this book more interesting. Without the thread of allegorical feminism, the narrative would have felt scattered and confused. 

Of course, nothing is perfect, and a critique I have is that in an allegory about women who don’t “fit in” taking up too much space, leaving out the existence of plus-sized women feels like a fairly glaring omission. If Anna 1 is somewhat tall, and Anna 2 is very tall, then it could have been an interesting way to further the conversation by making Anna 3 very tall and perhaps a bit less slim. In this way, we could have seen more examples of the cyclical nature of internalized misogyny traumatizing each generation in turn. Anna 2 would have related to Anna 3’s tall-ness, but not her wide-ness, and inadvertently transferred her own mother’s judgment further down. Still, it’s quite an enjoyable read.

There’s a particular scene towards the end where one of our Anna’s finally unleashes her pent up rage, and it’s an illustrative treat of wordless feeling, done so well that it felt cathartic just to read–or should I say, watch. Fire breathing, town-destroying female rage is what I’m talking about! If any of that speaks to you, like it does to me, then you must check this one out.

 

Betty’s Pick

 

What It Is Book Cover

What It Is by Lynda Barry

When did you first notice you were bad at something? Lynda Barry wants to know the answer to this and many other big questions. Not just any big questions, but big questions that help us understand our ability to write, draw, and create, and why those abilities can feel inaccessible. “What is an image?” She wants you to ask yourself. 

Barry’s philosophical line of questioning and auto-biographical flashback will push you to face the fears that make us feel like our creative impulses aren’t “good” or important. Those fears lurk in the densely collaged images and pen and ink drawings. But the playful joy of creation emerges as you read on, and by the end your fears become your allies…maybe even in the form of a giant cephalopod. 

This book is one part autobiographical nonfiction, one part instructional exercises, and one part an invitation to self-reflect and heal. Besides being a great read for creative types, teachers, or people who want to be more creative, I would also recommend it for parents whose young people are art-makers (spoiler alert: they all are!) and want to support their creative journey. 

 

Katie’s Pick

 

49 Days49 Days Book Cover By Agnes Lee

This book is very beautiful  and very sad. According to Buddhist beliefs, when a person dies they must travel for 49 days before they can be reborn. In Agnes Lee’s story, we join Kit on her 49 day journey. Her isolated journey is juxtaposed by her family and friends grieving together. The story is intimate and deeply human, relatable to anyone who has lost a loved one- so all of us. Lee’s minimalist spreads, 1-4 panels per page, make for a quick read, which was good because I ran out of kleenex.  I cried from start to finish, and it was worth it.

 

Lottie’s Pick

 

Black ParadoxBlack Paradox Book Cover by Junji Ito
Black Paradox tells the story of a group of four young adults ready to end their lives. They met on a website for the suicidal, and schedule a time and place to end their lives together in a pact. Everything possible goes absurd and awry, when one of the four begins vomiting up otherworldly stones into the car interior. The previous plan to kill themselves is voided, once the potential fortune of a new precious mineral rears its head, and the plot thickens when they realize these stones are the greatest source of power humanity has ever seen– so powerful it could end it. Black Paradox is an excellent work by Junji Ito, and a newfound favorite of mine thanks to its depth. Me and my girlfriend sat for a while in a coffee shop to try and figure out the subtext for various plot points, so it’s amazing for fellow book-overthinkers.

 

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