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Parable of the Sower scared the hell out of me. Octavia Butler drops us into a near future in which corrupt idiots rule the United States, infrastructure is crumbling, cities are crawling with dispossessed people who devour drugs to dull their pain, and fires rage through much of California. We experience this world through the eyes of Lauren Olamina, a sixteen year old who literally experiences the pain of others. Though usually unable inflict pain, a decided disadvantage in this violent world, Olamina is determined to survive. She’s even developed a religion, Earthseed, whose key belief, “God is change,” provides her with the strength to adapt to any situation. Much of the book follows Olamina as she attempts to convert followers and develop a new community. This work of dystopian fiction really stands out because of the emotional depth of these characters and the care Butler puts into fleshing out Earthseed. This is the kind of book that works your heart and and yet leaves you with so much to chew and reflect on.
Michael Arceneaux is living his best life. He’s black, he’s gay, and he’s from Houston – birthplace of his idol, Beyoncé. But even more importantly, Michael, who grew up attending mass and narrowly avoided becoming a priest, knows that he’s worthy of love and belonging, homophobic interpretations of the Bible be damned! And it’s in that spirit that Michael has titled his debut collection of essays, “I Can’t Date Jesus,” – part memoir about unlearning shame, and part pop culture treatise on early 2000s R&B music. Michael has such a special voice. He’s tender, vulnerable and unpacks his experiences with love and sex with a refreshing blend of humor and humility. This book was such a pleasure to read – it kept me laughing from start to finish!