“Minor Mage” by T. Kingfisher

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Recommended to me by: Redbird

This novella has a similar structure to T. Kingfisher’s The Raven and the Reindeer. A young person sets off on a mission through empty countryside, encounters a solitary farmhouse whose inhabitants are dangerous, has or acquires a talking animal companion, acquires a human companion, encounters a bandit camp, and eventually succeeds in the mission.

In this book, the twelve-year-old titular minor mage Oliver sets off with his armadillo familiar to bring rain to his drought-stricken village. The underlying theme of his adventures is the ethics of power and responsibility. There is some violence, which is considered and regretted afterwards, not simply ignored or taken for granted.

It’s a quick, enjoyable read. Recommended!

Available at Powell’s Books.

“The Rabbit Listened” by Cori Doerrfeld

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Recommended to me by: Leah K. Walsh

A heart-warming children’s book with few words and spacious illustrations that perfectly convey emotion through body language. Young Taylor (gender unspecified) has a creative disaster, and all the animals have ideas about how to offer comfort. Finally, the rabbit sits nearby and listens, and Taylor begins to feel better.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Uncomfortable Labels” by Laura Kate Dale

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Subtitle: My Life as A Gay Autistic Trans Woman

Recommended to me by: a friend

Laura Kate Dale’s detailed, matter-of-fact autobiography addressing the intersection of being trans and autistic, from early childhood into adulthood. She discusses why early signs of being both autistic and trans obscured each other so that she did not receive accommodations until she was diagnosed and came out in her late teens.

She does not flinch from difficult topics like depression, addiction, and suicidal feelings and actions, both in herself and in close friends. Much of the book is dark and depressing, but she ends on a positive note about her current life at age 26, with a great living situation, stable job, and fiancée.

Recommended for anyone who might be or know someone who is autistic and trans, or anyone who wants to know more about what that’s like.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“My Grandfather’s Blessings” by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

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Subtitle: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging

Recommended to me by: Robyn Posin

Rachel Naomi Remen writes about wisdom, meaning, connection, grief, compassion, and how to live with authenticity in a series of vignettes from her life and the lives of her patients. She works with people dying of cancer, and their grieving survivors. Some stories are about her childhood conversations with her Orthodox Rabbi grandfather, a wise and gentle man. Some are about her own struggle with Crohn’s disease. She was a pioneer in medical school and in practice as a woman and someone living with chronic illness. She was a pioneer again talking about the mind/body connection and the need for healing rather than (or in addition to) curing people.

Many of the stories touched something in me and made me cry, perhaps out of longing for the kinds of connection and meaning she describes. I like that she says service is between equals, people recognizing and supporting the wholeness in each other, as opposed to helping or fixing, which requires one person to be less than another.

Recommended as a dose of wisdom and hope.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Dreyer’s English” by Benjamin Dreyer

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Subtitle: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style

Recommended to me by: Jesse-the-K’s rave review

This book is both a useful guide to writing well in English, and an entertaining quick read that includes the occasional jab at the current occupant of the White House. Benjamin Dreyer is persnickety and opinionated, as befits the Copy Chief at Random House. He holds forth on grammar rules that can be safely ignored and ones that can’t, easily misspelled words, easily misspelled names, and words that tend to be confused with each other.

One can see his process of becoming more educated on social justice issues. There is one inexplicable balk at using work-hours instead of man-hours (seriously?!) but otherwise his language in the book is inclusive of women. He admits that he also balked at using singular they until he had a colleague who uses they pronouns.

Recommended for writers and others interested in the vagaries of the English language.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“To Become the Sun” by Ani Rose Whaleswan

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Subtitle: Natural, Living Metaphors for Truama, Healing and Spirit

Recommended to me by: Ani Rose Whaleswan. I’ve known the author for a long time online, and I contributed an essay to her collection We Have Come Far.

A lyrical, grounded, wise, hopeful book that shares Ani Rose Whaleswan’s connection to nature and positive metaphors for healing.

Each chapter explores a metaphor in depth and ends with questions to think about and a note about non-violence. The metaphors are: Mountain, Pearl, Unfolding Flowers, Stones, Compost, Hummingbird, Wave, Embers, and Shadow. The book is about healing rather than trauma, and while it discusses some of the effects of trauma, it does not have explicit traumatic material.

There are also a lot of quotes and references to other wise people’s work, including one of my favorites from Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” (see below). Unfortunately the quote is (presumably accidentally) misattributed to a white man. The book is double spaced and has not been professionally edited.

Highly recommended for new ways to think about the process of healing from profound trauma.

I first encountered this quote on the English AP exam and loved it so much I made sure to remember the author and title to find it later, even in the middle of taking the exam.

When god had made (the man) he made him all out of stuff that sung all the time and glittered all over. Some angels got jealous and chopped him into a million pieces, but still he glittered and hummed. So they beat him down to nothing but sparks but each little spark had a shine and a song. So they covered each one with mud. And the lonesomeness in the sparks made them hunt for one another.—Zora Neale Hurston, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

Available at Amazon.

“A Pathway to Health” by Alison Harvey

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Subtitle: How Visceral Manipulation Can Help You

Recommended to me by: Bundled with the Visceral Manipulation textbook

An engagingly written introduction to Visceral Manipulation bodywork. Alison Harvey describes the techniques and shares vignettes from her practice. There are drawings and descriptions of the anatomy of each organ.

Recommended for bodyworkers who are interested in learning more about the body and about Visceral Manipulation.

Available at IAHE.

“Turn This World Inside Out” by Nora Samaran

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Subtitle: The Emergence of Nurturance Culture

Recommended to me by: Nora Samaran’s online essay The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture

This book contains three of Nora Samaran’s powerful essays (also available on her blog) and dialogues with other writers that expand on the themes of nurturance, attachment, shame, gaslighting, gendered violence, and repairing harm.

It is a short book that can be read quickly, and at the same time there are a lot of chewy ideas to take in over time. There are also references to more reading on these topics by people who are one or more of trans, Indigenous, and Black who have developed skills of sustainable, relational living. The book holds the question: how do we best move forward from and heal from white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy.

What would it be like to live in a culture where we all could be socially embraced in this way, where we could speak up about harm, could say not to it, without fear, because we know without question that no one in our community will dehumanize another?

I admire Nora Samaran’s insights, and I long for the kinds of communities and relationships she describes. This book brings in more voices to deepen and expand the conversation. Highly recommended.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Visceral Manipulation” by Jean-Pierre Barral & Pierre Mercier

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Recommended to me by: Required for the Visceral Manipulation class

A highly technical textbook for the Visceral Manipulation class. Some anatomical terms are defined, and some aren’t. Some are illustrated, and some aren’t. The book seems directed at medical doctors (“order radiographs when indicated”) and at the same time seems slightly defensive when describes experiments demonstrating results from these techniques.

For each internal organ, anatomy and relationships to other organs are precisely described, along with possible variations and disorders. The mobility (motion with breathing) and motility (intrinsic motion) of each organ is also described, along with manual techniques to improve these motions. I’m assuming the class will make all this clearer – these are not techniques to learn from a book, even with the included photographs.

Available at IAHE.

“The Raven and the Reindeer” by T. Kingfisher

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Recommended to me by: Redbird

A slant-wise retelling of the Snow Queen story originally by Hans Christian Anderson. It’s been a long time since I read the original, but I remember a sense of heavy oppressiveness. The beginning of this book has the same feeling to it, but fortunately veers away from that after the first few (short) chapters.

Young Gerta thinks of Kay as her best friend, and Kay barely notices her. That’s a big part of the oppressiveness. It’s a great depiction of the shame that arises from associating with a narcissist. The book does not use the word narcissist (“frost in his eyes and frost in his heart”), but Gerta does name the shame she feels, and she breathes through it until it passes.

As in the fairy tale, Kay gets taken by the Snow Queen and Gerta goes after him. First thing, she gets caught by a milder kind of narcissist who is kind, but delays Gerta for her own purposes. “Gerta’s desire to be useful was an open road down which nearly any magic could walk.”

After she gets away, she still has difficulties and there is some violence, but she has more agency and less shame and the book is more comfortable to read. Her relationships with the allies she finds are delightful and kind.

Overall the book is engaging and beautifully written and surprising and inclusive. Highly recommended.

Available at Powell’s Books.