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Joined 1 year, 1 month ago

Historian of antebellum technology and contemporary diplomacy.


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Aaron's books

2024 Reading Goal

12% complete! Aaron has read 5 of 40 books.

Ashley Hope Pérez: Out of darkness (Hardcover, 2015, Carolrhoda Lab) 4 stars

Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school …

Out of Darkness

4 stars

Perez's book takes a real event (an unbelievably tragic explosion at a Texas school in 1937) and uses it to tell a fictional account of love between a young Mexican girl and a Black boy. This opens up a wide range of topics for her to consider: race, class, love, "passing," abusive relationships, the power of religious belief, and many others. Although only the explosion itself is real, Perez has clearly immersed herself in the time period, and the language and characters strike me as true. The book is a series of very short chapters which rotate the point of view among the main characters and keep the story moving. You can't help but root for the couple, but Perez also charts the brutal reality of the lives of people of color in an America mired in racism. This was the latest in my list of banned books, and yet …

James Sanders: Apartheid's Friends (Paperback, John Murray) 3 stars

Apartheid's Friends

3 stars

Unfortunately, not as good as I hoped it would be. I needed a relatively straightforward history of the secret police in South Africa; this book’s writing is a bit too jumbled to be straightforward. Part of this may be a function of the type and volume of material that has been made publicly available in South Africa – Sanders is still clearly relying on journalistic accounts and memoirs (both of which are obviously contested by the government itself). So maybe for the moment, this is the best we can do. For what it is, the book is fine – I certainly learned a lot, and the revelations about the activities of South Africa’s apartheid-era death squads are chilling. The book demonstrates how truly warped, paranoid, and desperate white South African society was.

Stephen Chbosky: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Paperback, 1999, Pocket Books) 4 stars

A tale of adolescence whose hero is Charlie, a high school freshman in Pennsylvania. The …

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

3 stars

Continuing my journey through the land of banned books. This book is written as a series of letters, and is one-sided correspondence: we only see the letters written by Charlie, the protagonist. This format is unusual and I found it to be engaging. It also means that in addition to describing the action, Charlie is constantly reflecting on it as well, talking not just about the events themselves but also what he perceives as their meaning. Charlie seemed at times to be something of an empty vessel, constantly buffeted by the stronger personalities around him. But the author delivers on why that might be the case.

Angie Thomas: The Hate U Give (2017) 5 stars

The Hate U Give is a 2017 young adult novel by Angie Thomas. It is …

The Hate U Give

5 stars

Absolutely stunning novel that has lost none of its power or urgency this many years after publication. Thomas has crafted a tale that completely holds the reader's attention, and the characters are fully three-dimensional and still manage to surprise the reader. The main character, Starr, goes through some heart-wrenching and painful experiences, and wanting to know how she would handle all that life was throwing at her kept me turning the pages. She demonstrates incredible bravery, and is open and honest about the code-switching dictated by the different parts of her life. The book is bracing and direct about the impact of police brutality on families, witnesses, and neighborhoods like. An astonishing work; the people trying to ban this book should be ashamed of themselves.

Raina Telgemeier: Drama (Paperback, 2021, Scholastic Inc.) 4 stars

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production …


4 stars

Drama is a charming tale of the production of a middle school play, with the main character navigating the challenges of production, her friendships, and burgeoning romantic feelings. The characters are treated with empathy and respect, and if you participated in school plays growing up, you'll feel right at home with the excitement that the characters in the novel have for their work. Why is this one being banned? I suppose it is because there are some gay characters in the novel, but the book banners are really grasping at straws here; the book is delightful.

Maia Kobabe: Gender Queer (GraphicNovel, 2020, Oni-Lion Forger Publishing Group) 4 stars

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics …

Gender Queer

5 stars

Continuing my tour of banned books. Started and finished this in one day -- it was engrossing, funny, sad, and everything in between. Kobabe pulls no punches and gives a bracingly open and direct accounting of eir journey to discover eir identity. Needless to say, I learned a great deal (including about the pronouns in the previous sentence), and reading this book was a profoundly moving experience for me. It makes me incredibly sad that such a book, which I could easily imagine helping others who find themselves in Kobabae's situation, would be denied to those readers who probably need it the most.