Last month, I read three books, two of them about intimate acts of resistance in a world that fights against you. A quick thank you to the publishers for sending me these ARCs in exchange for my honest review.
Resisting the worst parts of yourself (or at least what you think are the worst parts of yourself)
Title: A Thousand Steps Into Night
Author: Traci Chee
Publication Date: March 1, 2022
CW: Sexual assault, abuse
Synopsis: In the realm of Awara, where gods, monsters, and humans exist side by side, Miuko is an ordinary girl resigned to a safe, if uneventful, existence as an innkeeper’s daughter. But when Miuko is cursed and begins to transform into a demon with a deadly touch, she embarks on a quest to reverse the curse and return to her normal life. Aided by a thieving magpie spirit and continuously thwarted by a demon prince, Miuko must outfox tricksters, escape demon hunters, and negotiate with feral gods if she wants to make it home again. But with her transformation comes power and freedom she never even dreamed of, and she’ll have to decide if saving her soul is worth trying to cram herself back into an ordinary life that no longer fits her… and perhaps never did.
I didn’t expect to love this as much as I did, but then I remembered reading We Are Not Free and regretted underestimating it immediately. Chee masterfully creates a character who is “too much” to be a woman; Miuko is loud, clumsy, and abrasive at times, especially for a woman who lives in such a small town. As she gets to see more of the world, she must confront just how ridiculous the norms were. But the boundaries she faces as a woman aren’t the only thing haunting her. One of the most intriguing things I found about this story was Miuko’s relationship with her mom (who left when she was little).
Although the story is mainly about Miuko’s journey to undo her curse, she mentions her mom a little too much to be coincidence. There’s a resentment and a hurt that connects them. Even more, it complicates Miuko’s feelings about becoming a Demon Lady. Overall, these connections between the characters are something Chee excels at, and something that makes this book unforgettable. She highlights the power of femininity in all its forms, and doesn’t shy away from the vilified aspects in all their glory.
Resisting the outside perspective, and your internalization of it
Title: Survive the Dome
Author: Kosoko Jackson
Publication Date: March 29, 2022
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
CW: police brutality, racism, racial slurs, gun violence
Synopsis: Jamal Lawson just wanted to be a part of something. As an aspiring journalist, he packs up his camera and heads to Baltimore to document a rally protesting police brutality after another Black man is murdered.
But before it even really begins, the city implements a new safety protocol…the Dome. The Dome surrounds the city, forcing those within to subscribe to a total militarized shutdown. No one can get in, and no one can get out.
Alone in a strange place, Jamal doesn’t know where to turn…until he meets hacker Marco, who knows more than he lets on, and Catherine, an AWOL basic-training-graduate, whose parents helped build the initial plans for the Dome.
As unrest inside of Baltimore grows throughout the days-long lockdown, Marco, Catherine, and Jamal take the fight directly to the chief of police. But the city is corrupt from the inside out, and it’s going to take everything they have to survive.
I almost wanted to label this Sci-fi, but the reality of it is too blatant to ignore. Survive the Dome illustrates some of the struggles of the BLM movement in America in an almost-dystopian-but-not-too-far-off kind of way. And it highlights one of the key factors in all movements and governments alike: optics. As a journalist, Jamal is set on learning the truth. However, he must also figure out how to navigate what happens after he learns it. Throughout his story, we watch Jamal confront both how he’s perceived by others, and his own feelings and perceptions of himself. In that sense, it was reminiscent of Dubois’ work on the double consciousness, a powerful awareness that withstands time.
As much as I like the premise of this story, there were some things that felt a little off. The pacing for one, mixed with the quick and borderline unbelievable resolution of certain events. I liked the intimate moments Jamal had with his own thoughts, and I liked the camaraderie he shared with Catherine and Marco. At the same time, I think Catherine and Marco weren’t as fleshed out as they could’ve been. It was like they had more to say, but were holding back. Overall, a gripping novel that looks at a microcosm under a microscope. The resistance comes in the form of using the governments’ fears against them: the fear of being seen as they are.
Hopefully, you’ve found little ways to resist. If you’re planning to read either of these, come back and let me know what you think.