Love is a Battlefield

I’ve talked several times about not growing up with people who looked, lived, or believed differently than I did, and that lack of diversity influenced my life. When it comes to family, though, it doesn’t matter where you grow up or how you’re raised; we can all relate to having familial disputes.

If there were ever a year for family disagreements, 2020 would smoke the competition. With a heated election, a pandemic, and racial conversations heightening all of the emotions, there are bound to be intense disagreements among family. I’ve definitely experienced my fair share in recent months.

So I was interested that varying viewpoints and morals between a daughter and her family served the focal point for Amulya Malladi’s The Mango Season. Traveling to a new country and reading about a culture completely different than my own made it that much more dynamic.

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Stuck in Reverse

Let’s be frank: There’s a lot of shit in the world today. And 2020 alone is the largest dumpster fire imaginable. So with all the sadness, injustice, hypocrisy, and frustration in the world, I try to find joy wherever possible.

Let me be frank again. There isn’t an ounce of joy in A Little Life. So was this the greatest book for me to be reading or the smartest choice right now when I’ve consciously tried to avoid depressing books in this terrible year? No, no it was not.

But was it a good book? Definitely. It was beautiful and moving and insightful and heartbreaking and possessed all the qualities that make great literature so powerful. And yes, I am glad I read this book and so thankful for my coworker in Germany (yes, Germany — what a saint) who bought this book for me after our many, many discussions about how much he loved it.

Seriously, though, I could have done without 800+ pages of sadness.

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Bring Some Lovin’ Here Today

In college, I took a class on Ronald Reagan. I loved history, and because I was simultaneously taking my dreadfully exhausting capstone, I was trying to limit the amount of time I actual went to and from and sat in physical classes. So I signed up for online classes, as well as one dedicated to the former president that met every Wednesday evening for three hours. (We closed the magazine issue on Wednesday mornings, so yes, yes I slept through most of this class. Still managed to get that A though!)

My professor promised on day one that we would never be able to guess his political leanings, and he was right. Major props to him even if I slept through his lectures. I actually did learn a lot in that class and enjoyed the reading and studying for the exams (you can’t actually be surprised by that statement). He taught me one thing in particular that I’ll never forget and that I’m continuously reminded of in 2020 and with the most recent book I read, American Spy: The main difference between Republicans and Democrats is that the former believes America is the Beacon on the Hill, and the latter does not. Talk about a watershed moment for yours truly.

This moment has replayed itself many times for me in 2020, including when I recently watched an AJ+ video about American exceptionalism (thanks for the rec, Rachel Cargle). And then the next week, I started American Spy, which zeroes in on this exact topic. This is basically a longwinded way of me saying that unfortunately American exceptionalism is stronger than ever, and it’s been on my mind constantly. I’ve witnessed way too much backlash proclaiming this country doesn’t need to change and that it is the best place on Earth.

I’m sure I will lose some readers when I say that it is in fact not the best place on Earth and that there is room to improve.

That’s not to say you can’t love America while simultaneously wishing for change. If you don’t believe me, I suggest you read American Spy. The main character is the perfect character study in having doubts about your country but being an active participant to catalyze change. Thankfully, there are a plethora of authors who have chosen to use their incredible stories as teaching moments for this topic. I can only hope that one day America’s ego will somewhat deflate.

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TBF: The Lies That Bind

Since we were sprightly little teenagers, my cousin Kaitlyn Wibbenmeyer and I have bonded over our shared love of books. And in particular, we’ve been fond of (re: obsessed) with one author in particular: Emily Giffin. So I knew when Giffin’s latest novel, The Lies That Bind, was released early this year, Kaitlyn and I would have to discuss. And boy, did we have a lot to say.

In the latest episode of The Biblio Files, Kaitlyn and I chat about Giffin’s amazing and relatable characters; how she brought 9/11 into her fictional tale in such a sensitive yet powerful way; and how her writing has matured and improved over the years. (Yes, somehow it’s possible to keep getting better when you are already so good.) We even make the claim that The Lies That Bind has set a new Giffin standard. And yes, we fangirled … hard. We left our love for Emily Giffin on this recording, and we are not afraid to admit it.

(We’re currently accepting applications for the EG fan club as we speak.)

Listen to our conversation about The Lies That Bind on your preferred podcast platform. Don’t forget to share and subscribe and to also visit Anchor where you can become a supporter of The Biblio Files. Enjoy!

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You Got it Bad

Y’all should know my love for Emily Giffin by now. I’ve never tried to hide it since I first read Something Borrowed when I was 15. In a way, I’ve grown up with Giffin’s writing, and I’ve seen a change in her books just like I’ve seen a change in myself. But there are some aspects of Giffin’s work that have never altered, and for that I am grateful.

From her first book to the her 10th, she’s showcased an incredible ability to write great and relatable characters, and she excels at telling stories that thrive in that gray area that makes literature so wonderfully complex. These same attributes are ever-present in her recent novel, The Lies That Bind, which might just be her best work yet.

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TBF: An Interview with John Vercher

When I started The Biblio Files in February, I made a goal to interview one author in the first year. Thanks to the amazing book Three-Fifths and its author, John Vercher, I’ve reached that milestone.

In the first author interview of this podcast, I had the pleasure of chatting with John about everything from racism in America and the unfortunate circumstances that make his book “timeless” and to his complex characters and their heartbreaking ending. We had a fascinating and enlightening conversation, and I’m excited for his future work to hit the bookshelves.

You can listen to our conversation wherever you consume podcasts or via Anchor, the platform I use to publish every episode. While on Anchor, you can also subscribe to and support The Biblio Files. Check it out now!

John Vercher
Source: John Vercher
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TBF: Normal People TV Show

You may remember that I was not a fan of the book Normal People, but, as discussed in the an episode of The Biblio Files, my friend Layne Coffman was. Interestingly enough, I liked the show immensely more (you should check out the toe-to-toe matchup), and we both had many thoughts on it. So Layne and I decided we needed one more conversation about Normal People.

In this new episode of The Biblio Files, her husband, Nick, joins us as we regale our fierce opinions on this now-Emmy-nominated TV show. Tune in as we compare both forms of media, discuss the show’s thirstiness, and opine on a second season.

Check it out now on your preferred podcast platform or on Anchor where I publish all of my episodes. And don’t forget to subscribe, share, and support!

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Toe to Toe: Normal People

I’ll admit I felt nervous when I began the limited TV series Normal People. With the book garnering only three flames, I had little confidence that I would enjoy the show. I had to watch it though, right? I mean this is the hottest thing happening in TV at the moment — figuratively and literally. (I saw one headline that said it is the thirstiest thing we need right now.)

So I threw out my reservations about the adaptation. I tried to forget my negative thoughts toward the novel and the depressed feelings it evoked from me. I tried to not be swayed by my past experiences, which tell me that books are always better than their adapted screen versions. I took Normal People — TV versus book — toe to toe.

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Reflection

The most popular books can make me a bit weary before I read them. I don’t have the best track record, you see. Normal People, which dominated the first half of 2020 both in written word and on TV, left me depressed and confused. Last year, I dived into three critically acclaimed novels — Queenie, Tell Me Lies, and The Female Persuasion — that, while I didn’t dislike them, left me unfulfilled. Even when I read The Overstory, which I rated four flames, I didn’t see quite what the critics did. Then I have books like City of Girls, the kind that completely enrapture me but some have called boring and bland.

Why can’t I connect with literature that means so much to critics and fans alike? Is this a me problem or a them problem?

So I did wonder if Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half would live up to all the hype. This one will surely be on all of the “Best of 2020” lists and win many awards (if it hasn’t already) because it’s already received so much praise since releasing in June. Given that I’d read her debut novel, The Mothers, and completely loved it, I had confidence that this wasn’t just a book I’d obsess over. This would also be a novel that the U.S. — with its systemic racism and struggle with identity — desperately needed and needed ASAP.

Thankfully, Bennett washed away any and all doubts about it living up to the hype. And I can’t wait to see it on all those lists and with all of those nominations at the end of this year.

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TBF: Normal People

So Normal People wasn’t one of my favorite book of the past few years; really, it wasn’t even close. But it did provide a lot of great content to discuss. It only made sense, then, that I’d discuss it on The Biblio Files with one of my best friends and the woman who bought the book for me: Layne Coffman.

In this episode, Layne and I chat about a lot of topics, including the light Normal People sheds on mental health, my weird feelings about existentialism, the mark of a good book, and even our first kisses. That’s right: It gets deep on this episode. (Don’t worry; I promise it’s completely relevant to the book and associated conversation.)

Click on this link to listen to this episode or search for The Biblio Files on your go-to podcast platform. If you do the latter, make sure you still check out my Anchor profile to learn how you can support your favorite bibliophile.

PSA: This episode contains explicit language and obnoxious laughter that no amount of editing could subside. This is just who we are.

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