“Book Husbands” Are Not the Problem

3 days ago 7

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Welcome to Today in Books, where we report on literary headlines at the intersection of politics, culture, media, and more.

Barnes & Noble Announces Winners of 2024 Children’s & YA Book Awards

Each year, Barnes & Noble selects the winners of its Children’s & YA Book Awards to honor “new voices and outstanding talent in children’s publishing.” Lisa Yee and Dan Santat have won the overall award for A Royal Conundrum (The Misfits), the first book in a new middle grade series about a crackerjack crew of underdog kids who band together to solve crimes. Sounds like a blast! Xin Li received the award for best picture for I Lived Inside a Whale, and Lauren Roberts snagged the YA prize for her romantasy, PowerlessSee all the titles that made the shortlists and check out Barnes & Noble’s exclusive editions of A Royal Conundrum and I Lived Inside a Whale.

Brotherless Night, A Bright Star

Established in 2012, The Carol Shields Prize for Fiction celebrates works by women and nonbinary authors published in the US and Canada. This year’s winner, taking home $150k in prize money, is V.V. Ganeshananthan, whose novel Brotherless Night explores the life of a young woman in 1980s Sri Lanka who wants to become a doctor and has her life thrown into chaos by a civil war. Listen to Ganeshananthan discuss the novel in this 2023 episode of NPR’s Here & Now.

Liking Books is Not a Personality, Part 2389452

I’ve read this piece about the TikTok trend of “book husbands”—which can refer to both a book you love so much that you want to marry it and a man whose spouse is super into books—several times, and you’ll have to forgive me if I can’t get my knickers in a twist over yet another social media trend that purports to celebrate women’s interests and desires while simultaneously infantilizing them and reducing them to heteronormative stereotypes. It’s a neat trick of patriarchy that pre-dates the existence of the clock app by thousands of years, and the “book husband” is just the latest variation. The writer isn’t wrong that these videos “shrink a love of books to the performance of reading,” but I have bad news for him about <waves hands at the rest of the internet>. 

All social behavior is a performance of some kind, so if there’s a problem here, it’s not that women perform aspects of their identities on social media. The problem is that social platforms require users to shape their performances to narrowly defined, often reductive and retrogressive criteria in order to gain any traction or connection at all. That the jokes are bad and “the underlying observations…mired in insecurity and exasperation” is a feature, not a bug, and we have the algorithms to thank. We’ll know we’re making progress when we are having that conversation instead of worrying about what young women’s latest form of expression ~means.

8 of the Most Polarizing Horror Novels

I’m too much of a scaredy-cat to read these polarizing horror novels, but at least I’m not afraid of conflict! 

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