Preparing for a Cold Winter: Lauren’s Fall 2019 Reading List

By Lauren Garretson

After a successful, quite literal Hot Girl summer in the New River Valley – and multiple whiny, warm-weather-woeful Facebook posts later – we finally have arrived to the month of October. It’s been cloudy and raining for the majority of the past week, and the nights keep dropping down to the mid-50s. It’s getting more and more difficult to justify wearing Chacos and shorts, although you wouldn’t be able to tell from a stroll through downtown Blacksburg on a Friday night. Ahh, Fall. Welcome. Cheers for pumpkin-flavored everything and poorly-written horror movies can be heard faintly on the crisp breeze, if one dares to stop long enough to listen. While Fall is admittedly cute, I can’t help but think of what comes after these short, pleasant, fragrant months: Winter, i.e., Seasonal Affective Disorder (acronym SAD, in all matter of cruel irony) for some of us. For me. It’s already getting dark around 7pm, sunny days are fewer and further between, and I will soon be required to put on real shoes. How tragic.

Winters are difficult for many of us, and since the artistic community seems to be more directly affected by neurodivergence than the rest of the human population (speculation only), I thought I’d provide my personal cold-weather booklist for remaining well and making it through the upcoming months:

1. The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People by Judith Orloff, MD

Ever find yourself constantly taking on the energy, emotions, and even physical symptoms of the people around you? Do you get easily “overloaded” at parties, social events, etc., and need solid solo-time to recharge? You might be an empath. Something about the winter months makes the empath thing even worse for me, and I get the urge to isolate/hibernate through the entire season. Dr. Judith Orloff, a psychologist and empath, provides a survival guide to “support empath’s through their unique challenges.” The book includes exercises to help identify/put language to the empathy spectrum, as well as provide strategies and tips for navigating the world as a highly sensitive person. I’m looking forward to revisiting this book over the next few months.

2. Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction edited by Nalo Hopkinson

“From spectral slaving ships to women who shed their skin at night to become owls, these stories pulse with the rhythms, visions and tortured history of this spiritually rich region of the world.”

If you can’t beat winter by living someplace warm, why not read about those places? Nalo Hopkinson, renowned Caribbean speculative-fiction writer/editor, curates a magical anthology of fiction from writers across the Caribbean, all containing fabulist elements.  I can’t wait to connect to my own ancestry and magic through this anthology.

3. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin is truly a master at building fictional worlds. The first book in The Broken Earth trilogy takes place in an alternate world of racial and environmental degradation, following multiple compelling characters through their journey surviving (and catalyzing) the end of the world. The book won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2016. Rich in magic, story-telling, and social commentary, The Fifth season will engulf you and transport you to a fascinating new world.

4. Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by adrienne marie brown

“How do we make social justice the most pleasurable human experience? How can we awaken within ourselves desires that make it impossible to settle for anything less than a fulfilling life?”

Sex work. Climate Change. Radical, liberatory relationships. Wholeness in social movements. Non-Monogamy. Radical drug-use. Orgasms. Pleasure Activism covers it all in this Black feminist exploration, using artwork, poems, and essays from a variety of brilliant minds like Sonya Renee Taylor and Alexis Pauline Gumbs to explore the politics of happiness, healing, and liberation in the era of late-stage Capitalism.

5. The Truth About Awiti by CP Patrick

“There is a commonly held belief the tropical storms and hurricanes that form off the coast of West Africa are not natural disasters, but rather they are retaliation by restless spirits impacted by one of the darkest chapters of world history – the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.”

Written by anthropologist-fiction writer CP Patrick, The Truth About Awiti is a historical fantasy fiction novel that follows the main character’s journey from fifteenth-century Africa to twenty-first century New Orleans. The Truth About Awiti explores both the spiritual and physical impact of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade on African and African-Disaporic peoples. I’m especially looking forward to reading speculative-fiction from a writer who is also a trained researcher in the field of African & Africana Studies— I love when spec-fic intentionally grounds/engages with the historical record.

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