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#HunkerDown Reading

Resistant by Rachael Sparks
Spark Press 2018
Sci-fi surrealism

Is this author clairvoyant? Or as a scientist has she extrapolated a possible future based on current facts? In Resistant, it's 2041 and fifteen percent of the human population is dead from being infected by an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Sound eerily relevant? Sure, COVID-19 is a virus, but the template for this imaginary manmade catastrophe bears striking similarities to the world's present-day reality.

Die-off survivor and microbiology student Aurora “Rory" Stevigson lives with her climatologist father Byron Stevigson on an apple farm in Massachusetts. Their grief over the loss of Dr. Persephone Tyler-Stevigson shadows their playful father-daughter rapport as they struggle to heal themselves while also helping others in their isolated community. When a mysterious man who introduces himself as Navy appears, everything Rory believed about her life becomes questionable, which puts her in danger. Her survival and the safety of everyone she loves send her on the run. Dodging assorted unscrupulous authorities, unethical scientists, and Mother Nature forces Rory and Navy to rely on each other. The push and pull of their suspicions and attraction combined with their humorous, often combative, exchanges create a multifaceted courtship that's believable even within its accelerated timeline.

Each character—primary and secondary—projects an authentic, distinctive complexity. Resistant is a Sci-fi mystery, thriller, romance, and more. Narrative pacing that gains momentum with each added puzzle piece makes this engaging story a one-sitting read.

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
One World/Penguin Random House 2019
Non-fiction memoir

This unflinching, self-revelatory memoir challenges readers to declare themselves as racist or antiracist. There is no middle ground. The emotional intimacy and confessional tone of the author's revelations about his personal journey through racist ideology effectively provokes deep, uncomfortable thoughts, making it a more viscerally grueling read than Stamped From the Beginning because the consequences of dynamic versus passive action feel more immediate. Dismantling entrenched systemic, institutionalized, policy-driven inequity requires deliberate, intentional assertive strategy and execution. Success demands stamina combined with hope. 

Some passages convey the fervent zeal of a recent religious convert, where passionate discourse occasionally threatens to cross the border into haranguing territory. There are a few statements that seem dismissive of people's well-intentioned motives combined with definitions at the start of each chapter that include the words being described in the explanations that present minor distractions from the overall compelling intensity of this call to action. .

How To Be An Antiracist merits multiple readings. With an introduction, eighteen chapters, acknowledgments, notes, and index that individually and collectively challenge readers to dig deeper into the source and context of their personal biases, this material offers an ideological roadmap. The path is summarized on page 226 where the author encapsulates his experience in researching and writing his earlier book, Stamped From the Beginning:
A mission to uncover and critique America's life of racist ideas turned into a mission to uncover and critique my life of racist ideas, which turned into a lifelong mission to be antiracist.

Becoming An Antiracist would have been an equally accurate title.

The Polyamorists Next Door by Elisabeth Sheff
Rodman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2014

First comes love/Then comes marriage/Then comes the baby in the baby carriage. The words to this ancient chant reflect numerous cultural assumptions and expectations. The Polyamorists Next Door deconstructs them, expands, reassembles, and debunks them. Respectful examination of polyfidelity, polysexuality, radical honesty, and other concepts push beyond the rigid boundaries of conventional monogamy to provide insights into the benefits, vulnerabilities, and risks of relationship configurations that don't conform to a cis-gendered template.

Dr. Sheff discreetly shares relevant details of her private life in measured proportion to the specifics of the lives of her study participants and the history of earlier fundamental scientific research on polyamory. The author’s writing style is very accessible for readers who aren't academics. The introduction and part one explain core principles, basic terms and ideas in addition to three major waves of polyamory in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Some terms that seem pejorative such as “polluter" were coined by researchers who conducted earlier studies and are used by this author as referential context, not judgement.

Part two focuses on polyamorous families with children, which provides anecdotal and statistical data about the application of the theories discussed in part one. Bedrock tenets of self-growth and rejection of jealousy, and persistence and the ability to tolerate (as in successfully negotiate through) conflict are recurring themes. Also, expanding ideas in defining authentic intimacy as found on page 279:
A cultural component of polyaffectivity is removing sexuality as the hallmark of “real" intimacy… then nonsexual relationships can take on the degree of importance usually reserved for sexual or mated relationships… friends and chosen family members can be as or more important than a spouse or sexual mate. 

Acknowledgements, an introduction, two parts—“Understanding Polyamorous Relationships" and “Polyamorous Families with Children"—a conclusion, two appendices, notes, a bibliography, and an index provide multiple references and resources for further study. “Loving More" magazine, A Bouquet of Lovers by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart, numerous websites, and mention of a national poly conference are named throughout this provocative text that advocates for healthy relationships for all, no matter how they’re configured.


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