Welcome back to Shelf Care, Mounties! I hope everyone is staying safe and well.
This week’s first book recommendation is Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed. It’s a middle grade novel, but it deals with topics that will spark discussion amongst readers of all ages. Amal is a 12-year-old girl from a village in Pakistan. She dreams of becoming a teacher, but after a disastrous encounter at the marketplace with her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal is punished for being disrespectful, taken from her home and her school career, and forced into a life of indentured servitude for the landlord’s family. Amal is certain that her hopes and dreams have been ruined–until she starts finding small ways to resist her oppression. Those small acts of resistance snowball into something bigger and more impactful than Amal could have ever imagined. It is such an inspiring story. Though the first person narration sometimes sounds more like an adult’s voice than a 12-year-old’s, this book will nevertheless pull you right into Amal’s world, a world full of unforgettable characters and lessons about education, sexism, classism, and the importance of family.
The second book is… well, not a book. It’s a short story. I don’t know about you, but there have been many moments during these past few weeks where I’ve found it difficult to focus. Sitting down to read anything over 200 pages can be an overwhelming commitment in times like this, which is why I find myself turning more and more to short fiction that can be read in one sitting. Oddly enough, this week I found myself returning to a short horror story that I read in college: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Now, horror may seem like a strange genre to turn to at this point in history, but for me, rereading this story has been strangely cathartic. Many of us are probably starting to feel claustrophobic, being cooped up in our own homes for such a long period of time. The Yellow Wallpaper, written in the 19th century, is the story of a woman whose husband (a physician) does not take her health concerns seriously because he is the professional and she is his silly little wife. Instead of giving her proper medical treatment, he tells her she needs to stay locked in her bedroom until she feels better. Of course this only makes matters far, far worse, not just for his wife, but for himself as well. It’s a delightfully creepy story for those who like the thrill of subtle psychological thrillers, and it’s also an interesting critique of a society in which women have to fight to be heard, much like Amal Unbound. Though The Yellow Wallpaper is only a short story, there is so much to unpack and discuss with other readers. It’s also an ode to the importance of fresh air. In fact, I encourage you to sit outside while you read it if you have a porch or a backyard, or take a walk when you’ve finished the story; just be sure to practice social distancing even outdoors, and keep at least six feet between yourself and any neighbors.
Unfortunately I don’t own copies of either of these recommendations, so I have no picture of Butterscotch posing with the books this week. Here are the covers though, just in case you like to judge books by those (we all do, it’s okay):
As always, happy reading!
Ms. Lee Ann Kostempski, Library Media Specialist