A recap of all March book reviews from @overeducatedwomenwithcats.
➡️ Scroll through to see all the photos ➡️
1. The Last Carolina Girl by Meagan Church
✨Advanced Readers Copy✨
The Last Carolina Girl by Meagan Church
Publication Date: March 28, 2023
The Last Carolina Girl follows Leah, a wild spirit in the 1930s that dreams of owning her own house on the beach some day. She lives with her father in a small cabin that resides on his boss’s property and spends her time running through the trees and looking at the stars. Her wildness separates her from the other children in her small coastal town and she never quite fits in. When tragedy strikes and her father dies, she is sent away to an unknown family to be their “helpmate.” The lady of the household, Mrs. Griffin, treats Leah with disdain and trepidation. There is a sinister feeling to the narrative and while Leah fruitlessly tries to be the best helpmate, there is always trouble afoot. The oscillating tug and pull between Mrs. Griffin and Leah culminates in an unspeakable trauma and leaves the reader gut wrenched. When the author's note reveals that this historical fiction is based on the true story of her great aunt, the full magnitude of the story sinks in. The Last Carolina girl is a deeply heartbreaking novel, one that explores the troubling history of this country and at times leaves little room for joy. However, the strength of Leah and the solace she finds in the beauty around her, makes the journey worthwhile.
Thank you @sourcebooks for this advanced copy of The Last Carolina Girl. We were blown away by this debut and highly recommend it. We will be giving away a copy tomorrow, so stay tuned for your chance to win.
2. Forget the Alamo by Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford
“I’m from Texas, what country are you from?”
Texas pride is a well known phenomenon, but not many know the truth of its shameful origin story. Tomorrow marks the 187th anniversary of the conclusion of the Battle of the Alamo. In Forget the Alamo, we investigate the facts behind the myth of Davy Crockett and his brave freedom loving rebels fighting for state independence from the “tyrannous” Mexicans. Spoiler alert: the fight for Texan independence was mostly motivated by the Texans’ resistance to abolish slavery, which the Mexican government was enforcing.
Forget the Alamo is narrated in a conversational story telling approach by authors Burrough, Tomlinson, and Stanford, so if nonfiction/history isn’t usually your genre, this is a great choice to expand your horizons. We especially appreciated the reflection on how, armed with the truth of our history, Texans can work towards creating a new pride founded in our progressiveness and the diverse tapestry of our state.
Fittingly, we loaned a copy of this book to a friend who lives in San Antonio, so today’s post stars guest cat, Quito!
3. Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez is a rare non-fiction recommendation from #OWC, a perfect read during #WomensHistoryMonth. Criado Perez gives voice to a pervasive and persistent issue: data bias that is detrimental to women, or in some cases, a complete lack of data on women. Criado Perez covers the various sectors in which this is occurring, from medicine to community and transport design. This data bias in favor of men/lack of data on women has created and continues to create all manner of problems for women, including medicines that don't work as well, public transportation options that don't make sense for women's needs, safety measures from cars to police gear designed with only men in mind, and the list goes on. One caveat: the author wholly ignores the issues facing trans and nonbinary people, so don’t expect to find that within these pages. Despite this limitation, we still think this should be required reading for every human.
4. Galatea by Madeline Miller
Madeline Miller is the master of Greek mythology retellings and Galatea is no different. At only 20 pages, Galatea is the shortest OWC recommendation to date. However, don’t let the length fool you, this little one packs a punch. For those unfamiliar with the original, it's the story of Pygmalion, a man disgusted by women who ironically creates a statue of the “ideal woman.” As he obsesses over her inanimate form, clothing her and draping her in jewelry; his deep “love” for this statue alerts Aphrodite. The goddess brings the statue to life for him and names her Galatea. Pygmalion and Galatea get married and passionately love each other for the rest of their lives. While this story has mesmerized people throughout civilization as an exceptional love story, Madeline Miller was like - nah. She turns the story on its head and Galatea is not the passionate lover the original made her out to be, but a woman trapped by a man’s obsession for her. It’s incredible. The powerful metaphor for female oppression is crafted so perfectly, we wish this story went on for hundreds of pages. We highly recommend this satisfying novella.
5. Mankiller: A Chief and Her People by Wilma Mankiller and Michael Wallis
Another featured pick this #WomensHistoryMonth is the autobiography of Wilma Mankiller, first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. In Mankiller: A Chief And Her People, you get two books in one as she recounts not only her life’s story, but also the history of the Cherokee Nation and insights into Cherokee culture. The chapters go back and forth between Mankiller’s journey from Oklahoma, to California, and back again, and the Cherokee Nation’s removal from its ancestral homelands and its many broken treaties with the federal government. At certain points in her story she draws parallels between her life and Cherokee history, but we would have liked to see the two brought together a bit more; they sometimes felt like two separate books between one cover. Mankiller’s style is forthright and head-on; the writing style is very straightforward and you will not find any florid narrative non-fiction here. We did enjoy the many quotes she incorporated from different sources that help liven up the text and bring in other voices. Recommended for those interested in Native history; there’s a lot to learn here!
6. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
What better way to continue celebrating Women’s History Month than by diving into Carmen Maria Machado’s darkly feminist debut short story collection? The stories resist genre, traversing from folklore to queer theory and from body horror to experimental absurdism. Though Machado’s writing often veers into surreal territory, the issues addressed are soberingly real. Why does existing as a woman sometimes feel like existing in a horror film? Why do so many other parties feel entitled to female bodies? Overall, the collection is imaginative, evocative, and deeeeply unsettling.
As a bookclub, we had a wide range of opinions, with some of the stories striking more resonance with us than others. But still, we give it a solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
Comment below if you’ve read it and what you thought!
Note: If you need MORE MACHADO (because of course you do), we also reviewed her memoir “In The Dream House” and it is one of our rare 5 star raves! Check it out in our OWC Faves highlight.
7. Trespasses by Louise Kennedy
Happy Saint Patricks Day! In recognition of the holiday, we are reviewing Trespasses by Louise Kennedy, recently longlisted for the 2023 Women's Prize for Fiction. Trespasses is an Irish historical fiction set in the small garrison town just outside of 1970s Belfast and follows Cushla, a Catholic school teacher and part-time bartender living and working in a mixed community. One fateful evening behind the bar, a Protestant barrister and old family friend, Michael, comes in to have a drink. This chance encounter leads to an illicit affair between them and irrevocable damage in the violent, divisive community around them. Louise Kennedy creates a haunting story of bombs, barricades, and heartbreaking bigotry through a cast of compelling characters. For those seeking a deeper understanding of the conflict in Ireland or those just looking for a unique debut novel for the #OWCReadingChallenge2023 we recommend this fantastic novel.
8. A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers
Dorothy, the protagonist in Chelsea Summer’s debut novel A Certain Hunger, is insufferable. You may know the type: egotistical, pretentious, elitist. She is a food critic and it shows; the entire novel drips satirically with unnecessary metaphors and SAT vocabulary words, so self indulgent it’s cringe worthy. We love to hate her, and this love only grows as we learn more about her deranged proclivity towards cannibalizing prior lovers - and of course consuming them in signature foodie style. While this book may not be for everyone (it does not shy away from body horror or salacious sex), we recommend it to lovers of American Psycho and anyone interested in turning the psychopath narrative on its head with a feminist twist. Not to mention, the ending is truly a delight.
9. Nevada by Imogen Binnie
#TransRightsReadathon is happening now, from March 20 - 27, to celebrate and amplify trans, non-binary and genderqueer authors in the wake of harmful legislative attacks on their lives across the U.S. You can head to our story and see the full post from @unsuccessfulbookclub and @sim_bookstagrams_badly on the efforts being made to support this movement.
Today we are excited to review Nevada, a novel published in 2013 by Imogen Binnie and considered (in many circles) to be the first book-length realist novel about trans women by a trans author. The novel is split into two parts - the first is Maria, many years post-transition, and the second is James, who has yet to begin his. Maria is grappling with disassociation from her life after years of building up a wall to protect herself while growing up in a small town and an unkind world. After she loses her girlfriend and her job, she “borrow steals” her ex’s car and heads west. It’s here she meets James, equally lost in his life but yet to understand why he feels so disconnected in his own body. Maria sees James in a Walmart in Star City, Nevada and recognizes herself in him. Maria somewhat naively believes that she posses knowledge that will help him, without recognizing that her experience is not his experience. There are no Big Moments in this novel and no existential epiphanies; just a fast-paced, manic stream of conscious. We loved the shattering honesty of these characters and highly recommend this novel.
10. These Precious Days by Ann Patchett
These Precious Days by the queen herself, Ann Patchett, is a collection of essays on various topics. She touches on her upbringing- and her "three dads", her bookshop @parnassusbooks , her unlikely friendship with Tom Hanks' personal assistant, choosing to not be a mother and the push back from society she has received, efforts to clean out her house, among other topics that may seem on the surface to be mundane- but turn out to be anything but. Her clean, crisp writing is always a delight- even if none of these topics call to you at first.
11. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
Samantha Irby’s wildly hilarious (and often too relatable) collection of essays We Are Never Meeting in Real Life is the perfect addition for #WomensHistoryMonth and for the #OWCReadingChallenge prompt - a book with a cat on the cover. With titles like “F*ck it, b*tch. Stay fat” and “You don’t have to be grateful for sex” Samantha Irby is not only sharing vulnerable personal experiences with wit and candor, she is creating a safe space for reflection and empowerment. To those looking for their next audio book, this one is for you. Irby narrates this collection and it’s as if you’re sitting at a bar with her, drinking your skinny girl margaritas and having the time of your life. A rare OWC comedy recommendation, we definitely encourage this one if you want a laugh-out-loud experience.
12. Maame by Jessica George
Maame (ma-meh) is a coming-of-age story of a young woman, Maddie, trying to find a foothold in this world while simultaneously being the caretaker of her father with severe Parkinson’s. Maddie’s mother is home in Ghana where she runs a hotel and expects her daughter to take care of her husband; until one day Maddie receives a phone call informing her that her mother will come back to London and Maddie can move out and start living her life. This new found freedom is exciting for Maddie, but also terrifying. She finds herself socially stunted after years of staying away from the social crowds of London. As she navigates these interactions of her new life, a tragedy strikes that opens her up and leaves her empty. With Maddie’s hilariously relatable google searches, familial struggles, and yearning to find her way in the world, Maame is a stunning debut novel that we highly recommend.
13. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Happy Friday! We are flashing back with this review of Beautiful World, Where Are You in preparation for a giveaway tomorrow. We are big fans of Sally Rooney and this novel exemplifies her quiet prose, thought provoking existentialism, and trademark awkward romances. Alice is a novelist, exhausted by her fame, seeking refuge in a sleepy town on the Ireland coast. Her best friend, Eileen, resides in Dublin and is similarly worn out from her overworked, underpaid job as an editor. Each of them are in questionable states of romantic realtionships. Alice is trying to hide her fame while going on dates with Felix, a warehouse worker she met on a dating app. Eileen is recovering from a breakup by pursing a man she’s known since childhood. These stories run parallel to each other, often intersecting through phone calls and an ill advised trip Eileen takes to visit Alice with her beau. The writing is clear eyed, thoughtful, occasionally meandering, but wholly intoxicating. Sally Rooney’s style seems to be polarizing, we know where we find ourselves on the spectrum - where do you fall?