After close to ten years, it has become almost…
…almost rote packing for my 5 or 8-day silent retreat. The part I wrestle with each and every year is packing my books and specifically packing my “fun books.”
So, here’s how the process goes. About a month out from my retreat, I will grab 5-6 books that have been sitting on my shelves at work that lend themselves to spiritual renewal and meditations on faith, life and my relationship with the divine. Not so hard right? Then comes the much more difficult part. With my “God topic” books already lined up I start to discern my “fun reads.” I start by going around the house and pulling all my old favorites. You know, those books you just lose yourself in. With characters I love so dearly and stories I know so well. I just add them to the pile. Then. I look at my stack of fiction yet to be read glaring at me from my dresser and I second guess myself adding at least five of those books too.
So all these books pile up around my bed and I add and subtract, and then add back in and take away again for a few weeks until that last day of packing. When I have to finally whittle this stack of 20ish books down to what can fit in one Thirty-One bag, which five years ago became my designated “book bag.” This year I literally had to enlist my mom’s help and finally those books were narrowed down to a hearty 11.
And though I struggle particularly with the “fun reads” every year, it turns out that this year I came with a wide variety. I brought Japanese fiction, essays, a memoir, fiction based on real event and my favorite YA fantasy! And I have to tell you folks Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst DID NOT disappoint. It was a spot on delightful, intriguing and genuine fantasy world created and portrayed beautifully through the written word. The fact that Coulthurst’s characters lived out their young lives (16 & 18 years old) in a world where gender roles and sexual norms are vastly different than ours only heightened the awesomeness.
Yes, the two protagonist, both young women fall in love, but that’s not a big deal. I mean it’s a big deal for them and it kind of screws up the whole “plan for their lives” but the fact they are both girls isn’t even a thing. They live in world where who you are attracted to doesn’t matter in regards to gender though it does in regards to social class and family alliances. So well done, Coulthurst! You have presented young adult America (and those of us who are older but still love this stuff) with excellent representation.
Because representation matters! And it matters hugely in YA fiction. Young people (and honestly all of us) need to see themselves reflected in art. Art is how humanity helps make sense of the world and I am so grateful to be living in a time where authors, painters, poets, musicians and so many other artists are feeling free and supported (and getting money) to create broader, more inclusive and wholly representative art forms for all of our sakes.
And seriously this is a super fun YA fantasy novel that I am psyched to follow as more books come out. So be looking for those future posts ;).
Of Fire and Stars Goodreads Review