Social Justice Book Club: The New Jim Crow Wrap-Up and Review

This marks the wrap-up of our August group read of The New Jim Crow for the Social Justice Book Club. If you're just joining us, catch up on the intro post and mid-way discussions, or feel free to dive right in with the wrap-up discussions here. And stay tuned for a poll on the next club book later this week!

I don't know about the rest of you, but The New Jim Crow was somehow exactly what I expected it to be (an analytic dissection of all of the many ways that the current US criminal justice system is racist) and not at all what I expected it to be (a takedown of affirmative action, for one). I'm very much still parsing what I think about the book overall, and unfortunately I don't think the Dayquil-induced haze I've been living in for the last three days has really leant itself to intelligent analysis, but here goes...

Week in Reading: August 29th (A Day Late...)

Like so many things in my life right now, this post is going up a day late. I'm stretched a bit too thin and fell further behind this weekend when a nasty cold took me down for two days; after a very, very terrible eight-mile run on Saturday morning, I basically did nothing but sleep and whine all weekend.

Unfortunately, all of this is seeping over into my reading life, as I've barely picked up a book at all in the last week. Though I'd hoped to start some new shiny fiction to jump-start my fall reading plans, I didn't pick up a single one of these pretty titles. So consider my reading wishlist unchanged from last Monday:

The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place

Review originally published in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission.

joy of leaving your shit all over the place jennifer mccartney parody comedy book

In response to the anti-clutter movement, Jennifer McCartney encourages us all to embrace our messy lives and make peace with our stuff.

Jennifer McCartney's The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place is a satirical response to the minimalist movement--most notably, the "KonMari" method touted in 2014's bestselling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. "Break free from the bonds of tidiness," writes McCartney (Cocktails for Drinkers), "and triumph over the boring faces of uniformity and predictability. Every tidy home looks the same... but a messy home, now that's a better way to live." 

Week in Reading: August 22nd

This week I'm reading... not much. Last week was no different. (I did finish Give Smart for work, which was insightful if not exactly riveting beach reading, and Trainwreck for review, about which I could say pretty much the same.) Since this I-don't-feel-like-reading mood keeps taking me, I've been trying to go with the flow and read as I feel like it; unfortunately, that desire to leave things be is in direct conflict with my desire to read all the books. So this week, I'm hopeful one of these new novels will pull me out of my pseudo-slump:

Marrow Island: On the Power of the Environment to Shape Our Lives

Review originally published in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission.

marrow island alexis smith novel

In Marrow Island, Smith offers a complex story of one woman's life while quietly reflecting on the power of the environment to shape our lives.

Marrow Island begins at the end: the opening pages introduce Lucie as she is being rescued from Marrow Island by a park ranger and her best friend--who may have tried to kill her. Reflecting on the story she later tells FBI agents, state police, the park ranger and her family, Lucie considers Marrow Island and the small eco-colony she encountered there: "Marrow Colony as cult. Marrow Colony as failed utopia. Build, destroy, repeat."

Social Justice Book Club: The New Jim Crow Mid-way Discussion

This midway post is part of the Social Justice Book Club, and may contain spoilers--in so far as there can be "spoilers" for a non-narrative non-fiction book like The New Jim Crow. All are encouraged to participate in discussion here or on their own blogs, whether you're reading along with us this month or not! And it's not too late to sign up if you want to "formally" join in.

Well, friends, we made it this far: three chapters into The New Jim Crow. I don't know about the rest of you, but I didn't know it was possible to write "They can do that!?" in the margins of one book so many times, over and over and over again. I definitely expected this book to turn many of my assumptions and pre-conceived notions on its head--even going into it believing, fully, how racist our current criminal justice system is--but this is above and beyond.

Things I found astounding, round 1 of many (discussion prompts follow my ramblings):

  • In 1964 (!), West Virginia senator Byrd is quoted as saying, "If [blacks] conduct themselves in an orderly way, they will not have to worry about police brutality." That was a full fifty years ago, folks. And we're still having the same discussion today.

"All the Leftovers" Bone Broth + Bare Bones Broth Cookbook

Bone broth has slowly become one of my very favorite kitchen routines: it's an efficient use of food leftovers and scraps for those of us who don't live in a place that lends itself to compost; it's cheap; it makes the house smell divine; and it leaves me with a near-constant supply of hearty, homemade, smooth, velvety stock for any sauce, soup, stew, or other liquid recipe. My recipe (such as it is) is included below).

It sounds silly, perhaps, but the difference between store-bought broth, store-bought stock and homemade is simply astounding; as for the difference between this and Bouillon, well... they might as well be considered different food groups. 

But now I'm generating broth at a rate that far exceeds my current consumption of broth-based dishes... and so I was delighted to stumble upon The Bare Bones Broth Cookbook: 125 Gut-Friendly Recipes to Heal, Strengthen and Nourish the Body at the library recently. Though the book includes recipes for variations on the broth itself, I'm choosing to skip over those in favor of my own freezer-bag version (it seems silly to plan and purchase specific ingredients to make stock, though I suppose the how-tos here could be useful to someone who prefers more specifics than outlined below). With recipes for everything from breakfast to dinner, I'm excited to experiment with some new variations on traditional plates, learn how to incorporate broths into dishes I might otherwise not have, and try new things altogether (Coconut and Lime Sipping Broth? Rosemary and Garlic sipping broth?).

Bonus: Katherine and Ryan Harvey, authors of The Bare Bones Broth Cookbook, sell Bare Bones Broth (though really, please, make your own--it's so easy!) and have a blog featuring many recipes from their cookbook.


Cheap, Easy, Effective Bone Broth: No Special Grocery Lists Necessary

The concept is simple, really. I start with a brown paper shopping bag and a spot in the freezer (that latter part is often the hardest for me...). As I cook other meals, I keep any and all vegetable ends and meat bones and add them to the bag. This might include:

  • the bones from any bone-in steak or pork meal
  • the carcass from a roast chicken (or leftover leg bones if you're just having bone-in legs)
  • garlic and onion peels
  • the ends of vegetables you don't chop up into your main dish (tops of carrots, roots of celery, ends of zucchini, ends & skins of onions)
  • the inevitable leftover herb stems you have after you buy thyme, rosemary or other aromatics for just one recipe and find that the bunch at the grocery store is definitely too large and is going to go bad before you remember to use it all up
  • any vegetable you've got hanging around that is at the end of its life but you know you won't use or eat before it goes bad
I do recommend avoiding:

  • potato skins, unless they are really, really well scrubbed in advance (you don't want dirt in your food, do you?)
  • similarly, any sandy or possibly dirty vegetable that hasn't been properly and thoroughly scrubbed down
  • leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, chard, Brussels sprouts, etc.), as these will just turn the stock bitter as they cook and add little to no appetizing flavor
  • fish parts, unless you have enough to make an entire batch of fish stock (bones, shrimp shells, etc.)
Assuming you're using a standard paper shopping bag, when the bag's about 1/4 way full, toss all of the contents into a slow cooker, fill with cold water, and add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. (I personally do not add salt to mine, because I prefer an unsalted stock in case I choose to use it for reductions or long-simmering sauces. But you could salt it at this step if you prefer.)

Cook for 12-24 hours (this is the part where your house smells amazing). Remove the liner from the slow cooker and let cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into storage containers of your choosing.* Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, just long enough that the fat cap floats the top and solidifies, so it can easily be removed with a spoon and tossed. After tossing the excess fat, the stock will store 4-5 days in the fridge or a few months in the freezer. [Stocks made with fattier meats/bones, like steak or pork, will have a thicker fat cap than stocks made with lean meats, like chicken breasts, or just veggies, which may not need this step at all.]

*We order from the local Vietnamese restaurant entirely too often, so I use leftover pho containers for this task (they hold exactly 3.5 cups of liquid). When storing in the fridge, I also use leftover pasta sauce jars (I try not to freeze the glass jars though, as they make break as the liquid expands). Every few batches of broth, I fill ice cube trays with the liquid to freeze for instances when I want just a splash or two of stock instead of an entire container.

Under the Harrow: Flynn Berry's Debut Offers Psychological Suspense

Originally published in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission.

under the harrow flynn berry debut novel

Debut novelist Flynn Berry delivers a tightly paced and impressive story of psychological suspense.

Under the Harrow begins as a straightforward murder mystery: in the English countryside, Nora enters her sister Rachel's house for a Friday night dinner and finds both Rachel and her dog brutally murdered. But as the search for the killer unfolds, Under the Harrow becomes spectacularly complex. Flynn Berry carefully builds the story around Rachel's and Nora's lives with intricate details that connect perfectly, and often in surprising ways. Nora and Rachel are puzzle pieces that don't fit together: Rachel was brutally assaulted as a teenager and has been obsessed with finding her as-yet unidentified attacker; Nora leads a purposeless, meandering life tainted by guilt over her role in her sister's attack all those years ago.

Week in Reading: Monday, August 8th

After a fabulous, sun-soaked (working) vacation, it's good to be home. Though I didn't read much while traveling, I did devour The Girls and Shelter (I read the latter on the flight home and barely looked up from the moment we took off). Now that I'm back on my own turf (read: closer to my bookshelves...), I'm back to reading more physical books for a stint, and the booking is good-looking:

Chronicle of a Last Summer: Coming of Age in Political Riptides

This review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission.

chronicle of a last summer by yasmine el rashidi

A nuanced story of one girl's coming of age set against decades of political ferment in Cairo, Egypt.

Chronicle of a Last Summer is a nuanced coming-of-age story set in politically charged Cairo. Opening in 1984, Yasmine El Rashidi's novel focuses on a young girl whose father has just left. Her Baba's disappearance sparks the first of her many questions: Why did he leave, where did he go, will he come back?

Social Justice Book Club: The New Jim Crow Intro & Kick-Off

Friends! This post is a day late, for which I am eternally sorry; I was planning to finalize some things and get this up yesterday morning, and then we lost internet in a big storm on the islands on Saturday, and here we are. Anyway, I'm home now, and so so excited to be diving into Michelle Alexander's powerful book with so many of you.

To get started, let us know in the comments below or in your own blog or social media post: