Hello! I’m Joy, and I love to read. I consider it my greatest talent and favorite hobby. Another one of my preferred pastimes is recommending reads to anyone who is the least bit curious. Seriously. I am always volunteering book recs to people near me, whether they ask or not. I thought it would be fun to bring this passion to Baton Rouge Parents Magazine. I will share with you every book I read month by month and what I think about them. You can also follow me on Instagram at @joyfulreadswithjoy!
The Family by Naomi Krupitsky
I feel like this book was written for me! Brooklyn. 1930s-1940s. The Mafia. Women friendships. I have been fascinated with the Mafia since middle school. The Godfather is my all-time favorite movie. What’s so unique about this novel is that it is almost all from the daughters/wives’ perspectives. Imagine if Connie Corleone was able to tell her side of the story.
Summary: Sofia Colicchio and Antonia Russo grow up next door to one another in 1930s Brooklyn. Their fathers are young soldiers of a Mafia family, but both are not satisfied with their occupations and demands. When Sofia and Antonia are seven, the unspeakable occurs that changes everyone’s lives. As the girls grow up, Sofia is bold and fearless; Antonia is reserved and studious. Their paths diverge in high school, but they reunite when they fall in love with two young men who also work for The Family. These two girls blossom into young women, wives, and mothers but stay dedicated to one another despite the trauma that befalls them.
What I Loved: The setting! Time, location, historical context, cultural context, all of it! I also really appreciated the focus on women as wives, daughters, and mothers. Krupitsky does a quality job portraying the difficulty of Italian and Jewish immigrants during the early 20th century. I found this novel to have a new domestic perspective on World War II and an acknowledgement of loss for the Jewish refugees who escaped to America. Krupitsky also reveals the beautiful descriptions of girlhood, womanhood, and motherhood while discussing difficult issues like postpartum depression and grief. I love the desire for independence and the courage of Sofia and Antonia. So much!
I carried this with me everywhere. I thought about the characters often. I had to adjust to the style and verb tense of the beginning, but once I was really involved, I was hooked. Entertaining read!
The Overstory by Richard Powers
What a masterpiece. I am frankly overwhelmed by the majestic genius of this novel. As a tree lover, this sweeping epic has resonated deeply with me.
Summary? A summary is a bit of a challenge for this multiple perspective, interlocking narrative. Richard Powers creates the backstories of several characters throughout the first quarter of the novel, and then all of their stories begin to converge. Individuals from the East Coast, Midwest, West Coast, and Pacific Northwest all have a story to tell and they all connect to trees. The trees are the real protagonists. They speak through and to the humans in diverse ways. Powers weaves a potent and unforgettable story as an allegory of environmentalism and love for the earth, but it is also so touching and personal. Patricia, Olivia, Nicholas, and Douglas are my favorite characters.
Full disclosure: I began this novel in June, but I put her down in the summer. It’s a slow build.I picked her back up again this month, and it was the right time. This epic truly stirred something in my soul. I have cultivated a love for plants, trees, and flowers the last few years, and this opus magnified it. I basically want to go hug all the trees and plant more trees. Dear Mr. Powers, thank you, thank you. This is a must read. I want to learn so much more about the trees native to my area and the longest living around me. Warning: this book will also break your heart over and over again. It’s bleak, but there is hope.
Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
I had heard so much about this book, so when it was a Book of the Month choice, I knew I had to get it. Ashley C. Ford writes with a clear and direct point of view. She is vulnerable and honest about the complexities, the pain, and the joy of life. This memoir explores her experiences of Black girlhood, the conflicts between a single mother and her daughter, the discomfort of growing up into a young woman, the trauma of sexual assault and abuse, the joy of writing, and the persistent ache of having a father in prison for a horrible crime. I really appreciate her candid yet powerful prose, understated at times but also lyrical and poetic at others.
Summary: Somebody’s Daughter is a memoir that begins with adult Ford learning of her father’s release from prison and then returns to her childhood. Ford chronicles her childhood in Indiana with her mother and grandmother. She reflects on her life with great detail. Throughout the book, she describes intentionally “making a memory” and for that the reader is grateful. Her reflections continue all the way through college and into her adult writing life.
On a personal note, as a high school teacher in an economically depressed area, I could see Ford in so many of my female students. I hope they find themselves and their passions like her. Family and struggle are consistent themes in this memoir, but pushing through to realize one’s true potential and happiness shines through as well. This is the first memoir I’ve read that really deconstructs in a personal way the harmful ripples that incarceration can have on a family. What I did love was the powerful bond Ford shared with her father despite the painful separation. I also really appreciated the strength of the women of her family. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I connected with her descriptions of panic attacks, fear, and anxiety.
Overall, I’m really glad I finally read this. Well-written memoir by a beautiful soul.