Last weekend was Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, one of my favorite book nerd activities. I was only able to participate casually, but I still managed to finish two print books from Mount TBR and squeeze in almost six hours of reading. I also didn’t post much, other than some highlights from the day in my Instagram stories, which felt right for the amount of time I was able to put in.
This year I read for almost six hours, a mix of actually reading and listening to audiobooks while I baked these delicious savory ham and cheese scones. In that time I managed to start and finish two print books — Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli and My Own Devices by Dessa. I also finished the audiobook I was in the middle of, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (a re-read via audio, inspired by my recent dive through the Harry Potter books). Both print books were great — here are some thoughts!
Tell Me How it Ends by Valeria Luiselli
After working through her own challenges to get a Green Card, writer Valeria Lusielli volunteered to work as a translator for undocumented children from Latin America being processed in immigration court. She shares that experience in Tell Me How It Ends, which is structured around the 40 question intake questionnaire given to each child that is used to determine whether they can stay in the United States.
This book is slim, really more of an extended essay, but it packs a lot into those pages. While Lusielli does give some broader context for the immigration crisis, the strength of this book is in the stories she shares from the children she’s interviewed. I appreciated how Lusielli was able to efficiently show how broad the problem is while also making it specific to the lived experiences of these children. Using the survey as a backbone is also brilliant because it shows how limiting bureaucracy is and how impossible it is to capture the full story of violence and neglect that has led us to this place. It was a sobering read that left me knowing there’s so much more for us to do.
My Own Devices by Dessa
I’ve been trying to come up with a way to explain Dessa and her first book, My Own Devices, but I can’t really do better than the summary from the book jacket:
Dessa defies category — she is an intellectual with an international rap career and an inhaler in her backpack; a creative writer fascinated by philosophy and behavioral science; and a funny, charismatic performer dogged by blue moods and heartache. She’s ferocious on stage and endearingly neurotic in the tour van. Her stunning literary debut memoir stitches together poignant insights on love, science, and language — a demonstration of just how far the mind can travel while the body is on a six-hour ride to the next gig.
I loved this collection of essays so very much. Dessa is a songwriter with a background in academics and technical writing, and it feels like you can see all of that on every page of this book. The sections about science and medicine are clear and interesting and show her natural curiosity about the world that I loved. Then she’d throw in a paragraph or sentence that feels almost lyrical in the way it’s constructed, something so perfectly-written I just needed to stop and admire it for a second. I loved that experience while reading this book and definitely recommend this one.