197: Darcie Little Badger's ELATSOE - September 2021 Book Club
In this Unabridged Book Club episode, Sara, Jen, and Ashley discuss Darcie Little Badger's young adult lit book Elatsoe (Amazon | Bookshop.org). This fascinating book combines several genres including fantasy and paranormal fiction. We also share our pairings, including Angeline Boulley’s Firekeeper’s Daughter, Aiden Thomas’s Cemetery Boys, and Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles. We had a great discussion about this outstanding book and hope that you enjoy it!
Mentioned in Episode
Stitch Fix - @stitchfix
ThredUP - @threadup_thriftstore
Charlee Rose - @shopcharleerose
The Buttercup - @thebuttercup2020
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Jen shared, "So, I am reading a memoir. I'm actually listening to it on audio and it is read by the author. This is Nadia Owusu's Aftershocks. And wow, it is really, really brilliant. So Nadia is narrating this as an adult. A lot of it takes place in her childhood. But it is not chronological. It's sort of weaving through these different things that she's been through in her life. It is beautifully written. I'm loving the audio because it is read by the author, but I'm wanting the book because there are so many quotations I have wanted to highlight. She has these sections throughout that examine the different parts of earthquakes and very poetically describes them and then show things that relate like the aftershocks or the fault line to things in her life.
"It's this beautiful extended metaphor that runs through the book. The key part of it for me is her relationship with her parents and the way that has affected her. So her father was from Ghana, and her mother was Armenian. She was raised in the United States, but her Armenian heritage was a very big part of her life. They were divorced when Nadia was quite young, and Nadia and Jasmine for a while lived with her father's sister in London. She has also lived in Rome—she lives in an innumerable number of places. She talks about the way that moving between all of these places. She's very adept at languages and the way that that has affected her as well and how she was trying to figure out what her true voice was and the way she sort of sees. each new language is reflecting a new side of her personality. So when she was 13, she lived with her father, her stepmother, Annabel and then her younger siblings, her sister Jasmine, and then she has a half brother as well. And her father dies of cancer. Her mother basically just doesn't want to take her, and she just abandons her. Her relationship with Annabel has been tempestuous, and there's one part where Annabel locks her out of her apartment or where she'll ban her from eating food from the refrigerator or the cabinet as a punishment for something that Nadia has done. I don't think it's too harsh to call it abuse. I see it as an abusive relationship, but also as the only stable person that Nadia has in her life. You definitely see . . . I mean, the title of the book is Aftershocks. You see the aftershocks of this loss of her father, the loss of her mother, and then this really difficult relationship with her stepmother that that has had on her all through her teenage years and into her adulthood. It is really powerful. It is really sad. There have been parts that have been really difficult to listen to you. There are other things that she goes through. She talks about the history of each of her cultures that she came from and the way that has impacted her parents and then her as well. That's a part of her story. It is beautiful. I'm doing this as a buddy read with @readwithtoni. I'm really looking forward to the conversation because there's a lot to dig into but, yeah, just go in knowing that it is a difficult read even though it is a powerful and beautiful one."
Ashley said, "So one of the ones I'm reading right now is Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne. I have seen a lot of really great things about this book. really had wanted to dive into it. What really caught my attention about it is that it's compared to Madeline Miller's work. So, she wrote the Song of Achilles and also Circe, and those are two of my most favorite books. So I was eager to try this one particularly for that. It also fit in nicely. It takes place on an island, and one of my Uncorked Reading Challenge book challenge categories is for an island. I am woefully behind, but still determined to read a book for each month, and so that was a good fit for that. So, it was another reason I started. It has been great. I am listening to this one on audio, and I am captivated by the story.
"So, it's something that I only know a little bit about the mythology of it. It's hard for me to know how much the story's deviating from the original mythology and how much it parallels. I will definitely be interested to compare that once I've finished the story, but I'd rather you know, not dive too deeply and hit spoilers. So what I have seen so far is that Ariadne and her sister Phaedra are, in a lot of ways, really alone on the island of Crete. They're both princesses. They are the daughters of King Midas, and he is a calculating cruel, generally completely self absorbed King. All the mythology leads to the minotaur, which a lot of people are somewhat familiar with. So, Midas had gotten cursed by the gods basically. Then because of that, his wife was driven to lust after a beast, and that led to her birthing the Minotaur. So the Minotaur is her half brother. She remembers him when he was like tiny and, you know, sees him in somewhat of a human way. But he is a beast, and they build the labyrinth to contain him, and he is terrifying.
"So a lot of the story in the beginning is just the sense that you have already a nice place in Crete and how powerless she is and how she's, in a lot of ways, is just a pawn for her father. She's kind of waiting to see what is going to be determined as far as marriage and things like that. Her mom who birthed them never recovered from a lot of the trauma that led to her having him. So in a lot of ways Phaedra and Ariadne are really alone in their experiences. Their mom is not mentally present for a lot of what's going on, and they feel very isolated. Then you find out that once a year, there is a mass sacrifice that takes place as a ritual, and there's a whole ceremony around it, and they bring in captives from other communities, and then they lead them to slaughter basically. As the story is opening, you're seeing that day coming, and the ways that both Ariadne and Phaedra deal with this reality of where they live. And along comes Theseus, who is a prince of a neighboring place, and he is unexpectedly one of the captives and so the story unfurls from there. So, he has purposely gone with the other captains from his community, and has a plan, you know, that he wants to enact. Meanwhile, King Midas has to navigate that and figure out how to deal with the power play there. I love the mythology. I love seeing everything through Ariadne's eyes, and I am really captivated by the story. I think it's beautifully woven. Again, I'd be interested to know how much of it is a retelling of exactly how the myth originally was and how much of it is the creation of Jennifer Saint. But I'm absolutely loving it. It's been great so far. So again, that's Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne."
Sara shared, "I am reading a book for my in real-life book club. I'm reading Good Company. It's by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, and I am loving it. It is an examination of marriage and relationships and being a parent. The book centers around these two couples who have been friends for a really long time. They had been involved in this theater company called Good Company for part of their lives. Most of them are either actors or acting adjacent. One is a surgeon, one of the men is a surgeon, but it really explores how we love each other, but we can hurt each other. I just am finding it really interesting examination of relationships. It is not super plot driven. I feel like it's more of a character study. But I mean, there is plot, and there are things that you're working toward. But it's really funny, because in my book club, the past couple books that we've read, I have thought they were okay, and this one, I am just loving. But I'm finding that I'm opposite of most members of the book club: they are not liking this one as much. But I just think it's great. I think at where I am right now in my life, I really appreciate the examination of how hard life can be sometimes and how much even though we love each other, we sometimes hurt each other. Even though we might love being parents and and partners and all of that, that sometimes it's just hard and that you have to figure out how you make it through those things, and, I mean, it might be the right book at the right time. But I just am really enjoying the complex relationships and the love that is the underlying the relationship between these two couples. I just really think it's great. So, I'm excited to see how it ends. But like, I think the ride—I think this is one where the journey is going to be as fulfilling as the destination, so I'm just really liking it. I think it's great on audio. I actually was able to get it from my library on audio. I have the hard copy book but I got it on audio, and it's just it's really great. So, that is Good Company by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney."
Main Discussion on Darcie Little Badger's Elatsoe
Here is a snippet from Ashley, Jen, and Sara's main discussion on Elatsoe. Check out the episode to hear the full discussion.
Ashley said, "So, I really enjoyed this one. It wasn't what I expected. I did know that there would be some magical elements: I kind of remember Jen saying a long time ago about her pet dog, Kirby, and that he is this ghost dog, so I remembered a little bit about that and was interested in that part. But I didn't expect it to be as much in the realm of the paranormal as it is, I think this is . . . if you haven't read it yet, and you're listening, this is a great mood read for October and a lot of fun and atmospheric. I thought that what worked really well for me was the connection that Elatsoe has to her heritage and to her past."
Sara shared, "I mean, I think I have to reiterate what you said. I think the respect that Ellie had for her, like you said, her heritage, but also just the overall respect for the live in Apache history and the way in which she wanted to explore that. She felt so connected to her roots. I found all that really fascinating. And I really liked the connection to the dead. I really like that when someone is gone, they still feel this connection and the beautiful way they commemorate people that they've lost, and the whole burial ritual and all that stuff. I just found it all very comforting in the way that her family came together and how they respected each other. They respected their elders, and they respected their history. And I just thought that was really beautiful."ok, and then connects them with the past and her heritage and that sense of story and that stories are important and that regardless of how true to life they are, there's truth in them. I think that's really interesting when you throw in the vampires,S and then I won't do the spoiler yet, but what we ultimately find out is behind her cousin's death, and I think all of that is really woven together in such an interesting way. "
Sara shared, "I mean, I think I have to reiterate what you said. I think the respect that Ellie had for her, like you said, her heritage, but also just the overall respect for the live in Apache history and the way in which she wanted to explore that. And she felt so connected to her roots. I found all that really fascinating. I really liked the connection to the dead. I really like that when someone is gone, they still feel this connection and the beautiful way they commemorate people that they've lost, and the whole burial ritual and all that stuff. I just found it all very comforting in the way that her family came together and how they respected each other. They respected their elders, and they respected their history. And I just thought that was really beautiful."
Jen stated, "So, I had a few options, and I'm hesitating to go with this one, because I've talked about it on the podcast so much, but I really think it's a good pairing. And that is Aiden Thomas's Cemetery Boys. I think the connections I see are that they are both YA books, both deal with characters who, every day, are seeing the evidence of the importance of their family and their history and their culture, and there are supernatural elements to both they are quite different. So Cemetery Boys doesn't have the vampires and the fairies and that whole component, but they both have this sense of a world where the dead can always be with us were their spirits can always be with us, but they are definitely changed. I think Yadriel, like Ellie, is such a strong character. But they are both very much still in the process of figuring out all of the facets of their identity. So I just think if you liked Elatsoe, I think that Cemetery Boys would be a great next read, because there are so many commonalities, even though ultimately, I think the styles and the tones are quite different. I think there are a lot of things that make them a great pairing."
Ashley shared, "I want to recommend Angeline Boulley's Firekeeper's Daughter: we've talked about this one a little bit. This came out not so long ago and was just a really phenomenal release when it came out. This one is also young adult, and there are a lot of things that connected, but the main thing that really stood out to me is that in both cases, there's a bit of a central mystery that is being uncovered. There's a lot of nefarious forces at work that are helping to keep that mystery hidden, and so I feel like that part really, is what brought this to mind. Daunis Fontaine is the main character, and she is of the Ojibwe tribe. So, it is a different Native heritage, but she is similarly deeply rooted in her Native heritage and in her connection to the Ojibwe community. So, she is actually an unenrolled tribal member, and she is part native. A lot of that is explored like what it means to be an unenrolled member, why it's important to be enrolled in a tribe, and what impact that has on her life. And like Jen said before, I think that Angeline Boulley also explores that idea of what it means to be a Native teen in today's world. So we really see that exploration in this book as well, of just what does that mean for Daunis Fontaine? How does it impact her daily life? What experiences does she have? How is she treated sometimes differently? Or how does she experienced racism? I think we see a lot of those points explored. "
Sara shared, "Well, like you, Jen, I hesitated to talk about this one because I feel like I've talked about it several times on the podcast, but when I was thinking about Elatsoe, I thought about Dhonielle Clayton's The Belles. For one thing, this story centers on Camilla Beauregard, who is the strong female character who is really fighting for her family, which are the other Belles, and what she believes is right, and I feel like she has that connection Elle. Then the other thing that really stood out to me was--so, this is a fantasy book. It had a lot of social commentary on racism and class, and I think Dhonielle Clayton does a really good job, just as as Darcie Little Badger does in Elatsoe. I thought Dhonielle Clayton did a really good job of making this book very accessible, but also making some strong statements about racism and class within the fantasy world of the Belles, which I think was also present in Elatsoe. So, I thought when I was reading Elatsoe--I thought about The Belles, and I felt like that's why I had to speak on that. As you all know, I love this book. I love The Belles. And so I wanted to talk about it one more time."
Give Me One - A Clothing Store Where You Like to Shop
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