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Books For Beloiters: A Curated Reading List by Layna Thompson

Layna Thompson ’22 is an avid reader who has created this list of must reads with her fellow Beloiters in mind.

I am currently a junior at Beloit reading my 129th book of 2020, so I think I can claim at least a decent knowledge of both areas. I know Beloiters are busy students, often up until 1:30 in the morning studying, then waking up a few hours later for work or class. I also know reading is something that can take time to ease back into with a busy schedule, especially when there are so. Many. Books. It can be hard to know what’s worth your time! So, here is a handy-dandy list (in no particular order) of books I think you should pick up and why!

1. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

All Boys Aren't Blue

Johnson’s debut is a memoir about growing up Black and gay in America. With the ups and downs of familial support, college, and coping with trauma, Johnson illustrates their journey through emotional memories that leave an impression. It’s a deeply personal and moving story. All Boys Aren’t Blue is also being made into a TV show - hurry and read before you watch! (Sidenote: the audiobook is read by Johnson themself and it is amazing).

“You sometimes don’t know you exist until you realize someone like you existed before.” - All Boys Aren’t Blue

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2. Bunny by Mona Awad 

I just finished this novel and wow. It is my favorite type of book - a writing style that you can feel. The setting of Bunny is pretty similar to that of Beloit - a liberal arts school in a small town with some interesting students. It’s quirky, vivid, lonely, and strange - somewhat of a strange horror/satire/coming-of-age blend. I’d describe this as grad school Heathers if it were directed by David Lynch.

“September. Warren University. The Narrative Arts department’s annual welcome back Demitasse, because this school is too Ivy and New England to call a party a party.” - Bunny

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3. Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall 

Mikki Kendall is an awesome person. After listening to her speak on podcasts, I knew I had to get my hands on her book. This book provides a great view into what intersectional feminism consists of, such as food scarcity and quality education for all. Kendall also writes comic books!

“There’s nothing feminist about having so many resources at your fingertips and choosing to be ignorant. Nothing empowering or enlightening in deciding that intent trumps impact. Especially when the consequences aren’t going to be experienced by you, but will instead be experienced by someone from a marginalized community.” - Hood Feminism

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4. Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-first Century edited by Alice Wong

This collection of stories and experiences is necessary and thoughtful. I learned a lot in this read about disability activism and other’s experiences. The stories come from authors with many different identities which provides a wide array of stories and viewpoints. I also looked up a lot of the authors and now follow them on social media, which I highly recommend when you find a portion that speaks to you (this goes for any book that impacts you as well).

“These stories do not seek to explain the meaning of disability or to inspire or elicit empathy. Rather, they show disabled people simply being in our own words, by our own accounts.” - Disability Visibility

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5. There There by Tommy Orange 

There There follows twelve Native characters whose stories intertwine at the Big Oakland Powwow. Orange combines “complex and painful history with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality” in this story, which sat with me long after I read the last page. The characters are multidimensional and the prose is concise.

“When you hear stories from people like you, you feel less alone. When you feel less alone, and like you have a community of people behind you, alongside you, I believe you can live a better life.” - There There

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6. Real Life by Brandon Taylor

This book grew on me without me knowing it was happening. Taylor’s writing style is very elegant and concise, which fits the setting of a small Midwestern liberal arts biology program. Sharing similar elements with Bunny such as isolation and cliques (they are otherwise two completely different books), Real Life creates an encapsulating story about less than decent friend groups, queer romance, crappy coworkers, and, well, real life. Fun fact: Brandon Taylor graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Emma puts her head on Wallace’s shoulder but she won’t say anything either, can’t bring herself to. No one does. No one ever does. Silence is their way of getting by, because if they are silent long enough, then this moment of minor discomfort will pass for them, will fold down into the landscape of the evening as if it never happened.” - Real Life

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7. Circe by Madeline Miller

I love myths, especially those with a focus on female characters. Miller teaches Classics, so I knew this book would be awesome. Her prose is vivid and enchanting. The banished daughter of Helios, Circe, is a strong-willed and bold character who crafts her story of isolation, love, and loss with great care.

“Little by little I began to listen better: to the sap moving in the plants, to the blood in my veins. I learned to understand my own intention, to prune and to add, to feel where the power gathered and speak the right words to draw it to its height. That was the moment I lived for, when it all came clear at last and the spell could sing with its pure note, for me and me alone.” - Circe

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8. Finish The Fight! By Veronica Chambers

An absolutely enlightening book with beautiful illustrations highlighting the history of the women’s suffrage movement. Chambers discusses the queer, Black, Native, and Mexican suffragettes that history classes conveniently fail to mention. Many of the women mentioned are also poets and authors and I am a little obsessed with how awesome they are.

“We wrote this book to be part of the remembering–of the importance of this decades-long struggle for equality and the inspiring women who changed the course of history by fighting tirelessly for the rights of American citizenship.” - Finish the Fight!

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9. The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

This book is somewhat like a fever dream that sticks with you. It’s weird, dark, and surreal - Whitaker has a similar writing style and aura to Awad’s. The story revolves around two female cartoonists, their pasts, and relationships. It stayed with me long after I finished it.

“[We were] toddling with pants down into our uncertain future.” - The Animators

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10. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

My current read! In 1951, Henrietta Lacks’ cells were sampled by doctors during a radium treatment without her knowledge. Her cells, now known as HeLa cells, became an incredibly important tool in medicine (think the polio vaccine). However, the Lacks family only became aware of this twenty years later. Doctors were selling vials of Henrietta’s cells for $25 while many members of the Lacks family could not afford to see a doctor. The blend of medical information and personal history and stories from the Lacks family makes it engaging.

“Whether you think the commercialization of medical research is good or bad depends on how into capitalism you are.” - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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Layna Thompson’22
October 23, 2020
  • Layna Thompson, Junior, Environmental Studies Program
    Layna Thompson

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