Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020: Longlist Reaction

This year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist has been announced and I am so excited! I learned about the Women’s Prize for Fiction last year, when many of the book bloggers that I follow posted their reviews of books on the 2019 longlist. Based on their reviews, I read some of the longlisted books (including ones that never would have made it onto my radar otherwise) and found some unexpected gems! In fact, my favorite book of 2019 was Lost Children Archive, which I heard about because so many of the book bloggers I follow were posting about it as part of their WP longlist review.

This year, it is my goal to read every longlisted book before the winner is announced on June 3rd. Before I announce my reaction to the books that were longlisted, I wanted to mention a few books that didn’t make the longlist:

  • Trust Exercise by Susan Choi: this book is critically acclaimed, but has a low rating on Goodreads. It has been on my TBR for almost a year now, but I can never seem to get to it. I had hoped it would make the WP longlist to give me the push I needed to read it!
  • Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid: this is another critically acclaimed book that I’ve been meaning to read for a while! This book is topically relevant in 2020, and I’ve heard great things about it from other book bloggers.
  • Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson: another topically relevant book that is really hot right now. I’m in the minority of people that didn’t like this book (it was “meh” for me). But I thought that given the novel’s takes on feminism and the future of humanity, its positive reception, and its Booker Prize nomination, that it would end up on the WP longlist.
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood: the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. I didn’t care for The Handmaid’s Tale when I read it 10 years ago, and I don’t care to read the sequel now. I’m glad this book didn’t make the longlist because it doesn’t need any extra hype.
  • Death in Her Hands by Otessa Moshfegh: I had wishfully hoped this book would make the WP longlist because 1) this book is already on my priority TBR, and 2) I love Moshfegh’s writing.

And now…the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 longlist!

  • A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes: I’m cautiously optimistic about this book. I absolutely loved Circe, which was also a feminist re-imagination of a Greek classic. And more generally, I love books that give voices to those who have previously been silenced. So this sounds like something up my alley.
  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams: I was so pleasantly surprised to see this on the WP longlist! I already read this book and really enjoyed it. It is a story about a young 20-something trying to find herself and heal from a traumatic childhood…and it is really well-executed. So happy to see this novel getting more well-deserved attention. (PS – you can read my review of Queenie here)
  • The Mirror & The Light by Hilary Mantel: I am not going to read this book. It is historical fiction that takes place in 1500’s England AND it is close to 800 pages AND it is the 3rd book in a trilogy that I haven’t read. Hard pass.
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett: this is another “cautiously optimistic” one for me. It is a WWII book, but it is more about the aftermath of the war on a family relationship, which could be really interesting. I have also heard great things about Ann Patchett’s writing, so I’m excited to read her for myself!
  • Actress by Anne Enright: I’m neutral about this book. For some reason, I usually don’t like books about actors or writers…but I did like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (a book about an actress). Could work for me, we will see.
  • Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie: another book that I feel neutral about. I don’t quite know what to expect based on the official description, so we will see.
  • Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara: I am pretty excited about this mystery/thriller novel that takes place in contemporary India. It sounds unlike anything I’ve read before, in a good way. My only potential reservation is that it is written from the perspective of a nine-year-old boy; whether or not this works will depend on the author’s execution.
  • How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee: I’m not sure how I feel about this book. It sounds like it will be a difficult read (because of the subject matter), but since the novel is written about Singapore by a Singaporean author, I think the book is more likely to be written from a compassionate perspective than an exploitative one.
  • Weather by Jenny Ofill: another book that I’m excited for. Based on what little I know about it, the characters sound compellingly complex, which is something I love in a novel.
  • The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo: a multigenerational book about family relationships and secrets, this one could go either way for me. I am intimidated by the book’s page count (532), but hopefully it will be a good read!
  • Dominicana by Angie Cruz: another “cautiously optimistic.” The novel is about a woman who enters into a loveless marriage for the opportunity to immigrate to the United States, and what comes of her life after she moves. It sounds like this book contains a lot of elements that I typically like: socially-relevant themes, complex characters, and morally difficult decisions.
  • Girl by Edna O’Brien: I am pretty hesitant about this book. It is a story about Nigerian girls who were abducted by Boko Haram…and it is written by a white author. Major red flag for me, as books about marginalized people written by non-marginalized people often end up in the realm of exploitation/trauma-porn.
  • Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell: cautiously optimistic. On the one hand, it is a 1500’s period piece, which is not at all my thing. But on the other hand, it is a re-imagination of history from the perspective of Shakespeare’s wife, which sounds like it has the potential to be amazing!
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson: lukewarm about this. It low-key sounds like the debutante ball episode of Gilmore Girls, but spun into a novel.
  • Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner: cautiously optimistic? I think I’m the only person who isn’t mad about this book making the WP longlist. I love a novel with an unlikeable main character, and books where unrealistic characters are forced to change their way of thinking. So it sounds like this book has a lot of potential to work for me.

Are you following/reading the Women’s Prize for Fiction? What are your thoughts on the longlist? Do you agree or disagree with any of my takes? What books are you most excited for? I’m so eager to discuss!

BLOG-tober #4: perspectives worth sharing.

For as long as I can remember, I have been incredibly reserved. As a kid, even when I wanted to “put myself out there” and tried to be outgoing, I was still quite reserved in what information I did share. This habit has never really faded; if anything, it has intensified to the point where it feels impossible in some situations for me to share my perspective. Even when I do have an opinion, I am so unused to speaking up that I’m not very good at articulating or expanding upon my thoughts.

This post is a baby step toward confidently sharing my thoughts with others: I am sharing five random opinions of mine. They are only opinions – I understand that others will not necessarily agree with them. If I were better at articulating my thoughts, each opinion could be its own essay/blog post. But I’m not yet at that point, so we’re going with a short paragraph for each opinion.

Millennials need to stop hating on Gen-Z

Source: medium.com

Millennials have received a lot of flak over the years from older generations, especially Baby Boomers. So much to the point that we are accused of “killing” certain industries, including golf, cereal, and diamonds (to name a few). This type of criticism is ridiculous, but we are good at defending ourselves. It is surprising to me, then, that some millennials then go and criticize the younger generation (Gen Z). Just like us millennials, Gen Z-ers experiences their own unique set of generational challenges that no previous generation had to face. Just because we do not understand their challenges, that doesn’t mean we should trash them as a generation. This is the exact same type of behavior that we detest in Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers.

There is a such thing as being too helpful

Clippy is an example of being “too helpful.” Source: office-watch.com

I have always considered myself to be a helpful person, and I still do. However, I am slowly letting go of my belief that being helpful is the most important thing a person can be. When you are overly helpful you risk burning yourself out to help other, neglecting your own basic needs, and being taken advantage of. Being helpful is important, but so is setting boundaries and making sure that your own needs are met.

The problem is rarely “everybody else”

Source: hrdailyadvisor.blr.com

Some people like to blame every other person in the world for their problems. It is human to feel annoyed at others, and it is also easier to blame other people than to look internally and try to change. But when I hear people blame everybody else for their problems, it takes all the self-restraint I can possibly muster to stop my eyes from rolling into the back of my head. The most common example of this is people who complain that everybody else they work with is incompetent. This is narcissistic and also statistically unlikely. Instead of getting mad at others for not reading their mind, these “blame-everybody-else-ers” should figure out 1) why the problem is “everybody else” and 2) what they can do to make things better. In general, when a problem you are experiencing appears to be everybody else, that is when it’s most important to look internally and examine how your own biases might be affecting your perception.

Anti-depressants help people way more than they hurt people

Source: futurity.org

Any drug that is commercially available under a brand name has undergone extensive testing and is generally safe. Corporations want to make money (whether you take this to be a good thing or not is an entirely differently subject), and this means that it’s probably not in their interest to put out a drug that is going to hurt people. There are examples of peoples’ mental health symptoms worsening under anti-depressants…but if these were the majority of cases, there is no way that these drugs would be as widely prescribed as they are. I also think that when people cherry-pick the most extreme examples of anti-depressants having adverse effects, in order to claim that anti-depressants are unsafe, this is unscientific and irresponsible. Anti-inflammatory pain medicine (like ibuprofen) can be dangerous in some cases and people can even die from drinking water. But these examples are not the majority of cases, and that is why we (as a society) generally accept pain medicine (and of course water). We have so much more work to do on stopping the stigma against taking anti-depressants.

Most people are overconfident in their “knowledge” and “expertise”

Source: wittyfeed.com

I went to graduate school to study the biology of a plant pathogenic fungus. It sounds fancy, but the truth is that I gained a lot of knowledge on a very narrow topic. I know a lot about one particular fungus, but I am absolutely NOT an expert on fungi, broadly speaking. It bothers me, then, when people with even less experience and knowledge in fungal biology try to pose as experts, or make broader claims than they should based on their experience. More generally, it bothers me when people claim to “know that GMOs are unsafe” or that “anti-depressants make people homicidal” because of ONE article that they skimmed online. There is a famous quote by Socrates: “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” If more people would set aside their ego and admit what they don’t know, I think that we could learn and potentially achieve a lot more as a society.