Jennifer's Summer Picks
Shape-shifter Nimona convinces Lord Ballister Blackheart that he needs her assistance with his evil plans to defeat Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. The latter is with the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. And despite its grand name, both Nimona and Blackheart think it’s not as great as everyone says it is. Hilarity and destruction ensue as nothing goes according to their wacky plans in this witty and inventive graphic novel. Nimona is a smart and endearing character, and I dare you not to fall in love with her (in all of her many forms).
In this comic novel, Seattle artist Eleanor Flood is frustrated with her personal life and procrastinating on a long-ago promised job. She has an elaborate list of ways to start her day with a smile and make her day different. But her family and friends interrupt her attempts at improvement and soon her whole life begins to unravel. I loved Eleanor’s sarcastic and deadpan voice and I felt enormous sympathy for her as I learned about her family’s history and the story of the Flood girls.
I’ll admit I’m kind of obsessed with viruses. And if you’re like me, then you probably follow a zillion scientists on Twitter and stay up to date on Sars-Cov-2 and COVID-19. And maybe you even heard about it long before others did, and maybe you even tried to warn people about the coming pandemic and tell them to stock up on food and prepare to stay at home for a long period of time? If this is you, then you’ll want this book. It’s the story of the Ebola virus and how in 1989 a version of the virus was discovered in the suburbs of Washington DC in Reston VA. There was a mad rush to contain it, and the US Army was even called in. The whole thing was kept from the public until Preston wrote an article about it called “Crisis in the Hot Zone,” and portions of that article became this book.
This timely book painstakingly documents the discovery of HIV and AIDS, and how incompetence and/or indifference in several organizations allowed it to become an epidemic. It still newly infects 1.7 million people each year. Like the famous AIDS memorial quilt, the book is a patchwork of people and the roles they played in the story of AIDS. Scientists, activists, the gay community, the blood banks, and the government all made progress and missteps in the fight against AIDS. And some in particular (looking at you, President Reagan), could have done more in their positions of power and sadly didn’t.
With her previous books, “Meaty” and “We Are Never Meeting In Real Life,” Irby quickly became one of my favorite humorous writers. In this, her fourth collection of essays, she hilariously opines among other things, iphones and the internet, the perfect mixtape and what the chosen songs mean to her, the pain of homeownership, and whether or not her dead cat Helen is haunting her. She is beyond honest so you’ll feel like your new best friend is spilling her guts while simultaneously making you spray drink out of your nose from laughing.
Brace yourself for this big fat monster of an apocalyptic world. Where people suddenly start sleepwalking toward who knows what? And their family and friends, called “shepherds,” follow them to keep them safe, while society falls apart bit by bit, and a plague starts to infect people. I read this last summer in the Before Times and by late February, people were calling Wendig that prescient pandemic writer. But he’s also given us fantastic characters to root for or despise and riveting and harrowing action scenes.
This gorgeous coming-of-age tale fades in and out of August’s thoughts as she remembers pieces of her past. She is a Black woman who has traveled around the world, documenting the dead of other cultures and countries. As a child, she and her brother lived with their father in an apartment in Brooklyn after leaving the home they shared with their mother in Tennessee. Other adults come and go in August’s life and leave impressions on her, but her thoughts flow mostly back to her mother and her three best friends—Sylvia, Angela, and Gigi—as we learn their hopes, dreams, loves, heartaches, and fates.
In this uplifting graphic novel, which I absolutely adored, “matter” is what Mona calls the uncomfortable, depressing, and at times, painful feeling that engulfs her at various times during her day. It’s depicted as a dark blob that mocks her and insults her, making her feel less then. Mona documents her “matter” in her drawings and poems, but hides them from the world, because she’s afraid of how others will react to both her and her art. But with help from old and new friends, Mona finds the courage to put herself out there and connect with the world and discovers what was really bothering her. You can document your own journey after reading this with both prompts and pages at the end of the book.