To sum everything up, here's a message I sent to Irene after finishing Transcendent Kingdom: "The main character is a neuroscience PhD at Stanford, studying restraint and reward-seeking in an effort to understand the addiction that killed her brother and the depression that has severely hampered her mom. Lots of talk about Christianity and science, where they intersect/diverge, the questions that neither of them can answer (main character is also a former Christian, raised by Ghanaian parents in Alabama). It's kind of heartbreaking, but it's written really well. I enjoyed it. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed in the least! A little bummed out by the contents (much of it hit too close to home) but not at all disappointed!" If you're interested in African immigrant experiences in the South, recovery from religious indoctrination, Black women in STEM, familial loss, diary entries, contemplations of faith and science side by side, the nuances of addiction and depression, sexual exploration for late bloomers, or you're someone who struggles asking for help, then read this book!
"We don't even know the questions we need to ask in order to find out, but when we learn one tiny little thing, a dim light comes on in a dark hallway, and suddenly a new question appears. We spend decades, centuries, millennia, trying to answer that one question so that another dim light will come on. That's science, but that's also everything else, isn't it? Try. Experiment. Ask a ton of questions" (33).
"What I'm saying is I didn't grow up with a language for, a way to explain, to parse out, my self-loathing. I grew up only with my part, my little throbbing stone of self-hate that I carried around with me to church, to school, to all those places in my life that worked, it seem to me then, to affirm the idea that I was irreparably, fatally, wrong. I was a child who liked to be right" (184)."Suddenly, I felt embarrassed by my revelation, but Katherine didn't seem even the least bit fazed... I'd lost some of my timidity around the subject of sex, but not all of it. For years I hadn't been able to reconcile wanting to feel good with wanting to be good, two thing that often seemed at odds during sex, especially sex the way I liked it" (194)."Her smile was radiant, assured, proud... holding me as my own mother so rarely did, smiling brightly as my mother rarely smiled, I knew that the woman I had spent the summer with reflected the woman my mother could have been. My mother deserved to be this happy, this at ease in her body and in the world" (235).
While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory
The Wedding Party in 2019 not only familiarized me with Jasmine Guillory's writing, but it also set me off on the "Stop Being a Snob and Seek Out All the Romance Novels You Can Find That You Think You'll Enjoy and Just Friggin' Enjoy Them!" journey that I'm still on now. That one irresistibly-delightful book opened me up to a whole new world (that world being romance), so it's kind of a big deal to me personally. Hence, when I found out that While We Were Dating would be directly connected to The Wedding Party—male lead Theo unexpectedly found the love of his life in TWP, so WWWD would be his younger brother Ben's turn—and that Ben's love interest would be a Black woman, I was already sold! I didn't need to know anything else! ("Black love" is not something I dwell on a lot in real life but for some reason it's become a priority for the romance I read, go figure.) And then more details filtered in, namely that Ben's love interest would be a plus-sized actress named Anna who is revered for her beauty and sex appeal, and then WWWD shot all the way to the top of my reading list! Back in June, it was one of four books that I ordered from Harriett's Bookshop in Philly (thanks to a Christmas gift card from my good friend Marlee!), and once I cracked it open late this month I finished it in a week and a half. Which is a record, considering how slowly I've been reading this year! I kid you not, there was one particular sitting where I read all night until 8:45am the next morning without even realizing it!
"I wanted to be an actress when I was a kid, of course... but I forgot about that dream after a while. Probably because I saw how hard it was for people who looked like me to get anywhere... I suppose I saw how hard it was for people who looked like me—women who looked like me—anywhere, not just in Hollywood. I'd been working as an agent, so I saw how shitty Hollywood was, but my friends were all over corporate America, and it wasn't any better there. So after a while, when I saw a role I wanted, I just said fuck it and decided to go for it" (39)."You are the worst fucking tease in all of California!" (102)."That never works. Get your hopes up all you want—life is more fun that way" (294)."He kept thinking one day he'd wake up and not care about Anna anymore... like she hadn't become wedged into his life. It hadn't happened yet. He thought about her every night as he fell asleep, her name was on his lips every morning as he woke up. One night he dreamt she was there with him; waking up that morning had been awful" (319).