Celebrate Banned Books Week: September 18 – 24

The banner image depicts a rainbow-colored series of birds launching into flight against a backdrop of open books.

by Sahana C.

Banned Books Week is a party. We celebrate our unfettered access to whichever books we choose.

The national theme of Banned Books Week stands firm in its message against censorship. When it began in 1982, Banned Books Week was not a protest, but a reaction to an increasing number of book challenges. Banned Books Week is a space away from the intensity of media speculation and divisive press coverage.

The picture depicts the places where book challenges take place: school libraries, public libraries, schools, and academic/other. In the upper right hand corner is a graphic of rainbow-colored birds launching into flight, and the entire background is a faint depiction of open books.

The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom tracked almost 1,600 books that were challenged in 2021 alone, but Banned Books Week is not when those challenges are contested. It is, in the words of the official website, a time for, “shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”

The ALA is one of the loudest proponents of this effort as it supports the declaration from libraries to wholly commit to combat disinformation, promote the perspectives of historically excluded groups, and increase access to information. This is the mandate of public libraries, written into the mission statement of Howard County Library System: “We deliver high-quality public education for all.”

It is our responsibility to provide access to materials that encourage conversation and provoke thought; every addition to our collection is a choice, and decisions are never neutral. HCLS continues this practice with its Brave Voices, Brave Choices initiative. We have committed to not hiding hard conversations from our community. Discussions about appropriateness usually center the idea of balance, meaning we amplify the voices of people from historically excluded, marginalized, and unheard communities. Libraries cannot be neutral in this effort toward radical inclusion.

The picture is a rainbow-colored infographic of words and phrases cited in 2021 censorship reports as reasons for book challenges. In the upper right corner is a graphic of rainbow-colored birds launching into flight, and the entire background is a faint depiction of open books.

Kelvin Watson, director of libraries in Broward County, Florida, put it well: “Claiming neutrality endangers us as an institution by resulting in an unconscious adoption of the values of the dominant political model and framework… (w)e cannot be neutral on social and political issues that impact our customers because…these social and political issues impact us as well.” While a policy of neutrality appears to be equal, it is not equitable – it does not allow for different facets of our community to see themselves represented meaningfully, without stereotype, by people who share their life experiences.

We, as a library, stand to protect the brave voices who write, publish, and lead us into a more equitable future. We, in turn, make the brave choice to stand against the idea that we can be neutral in the battle against misinformation. The library is a steward of knowledge, led for and by the community it serves.

So, join the party! Everyone’s invited.

Sahana is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She enjoys adding books to her “want to read” list despite having a mountain of books waiting for her already.

The Actual Star by Monica Byrne

A black and gold swirl centers on a pinpoint of a star. Two blue bands stripe the book vertically, while the text appears in orange horizontal bars.

By Sahana C.

It’s hard to find a good place to start with this book, so I’ll start at the end, in the year 3012. Society is different, and so are the people as the result of hundreds of years of war and compromise and cultural evolution. As a species, we are a genderless and raceless band of nomads, with a blatant disdain for those who settle down in nuclear family units.  

So yeah, there’s a lot going on. The above phrasing makes it seems starkly unnatural, but somehow, Monica Byrne’s weaving together of three different stories across time makes the future version of us feel tangible. Despite all of the modifications and the general foreignness of the shape of this future society, the basics of humanity remain the same. We are emotional and community oriented, no matter when we are in history. We follow patterns that remain, no matter how far we try to stray outside the bounds of history.  

The ripple effects from past to present to future were incredible. Seeing names and places that were mentioned briefly in the past become more important in the future was almost an exciting reward for paying close attention through the timelines. And this book does reward close attention. It is obvious that Byrne put immense time and research into all aspects of the novel, going from the Maya, to modern Belize, to what made sense for the future based on the results of the events she described in the first two timelines. Most importantly, the story of the Hero Twins, some of the most important figures in the Maya mythos, is described and adapted in such a faithful light that Byrne has room to play with the elements of the mythology.  

The story of the Hero Twins is one that Byrne explains in the novel, but, like the rest of Maya mythology, it is complex and bears repeating. The Hero Twins were the central characters of one of the oldest preserved Maya works, the Maya equivalent of the Epic of Gilgamesh, with just as much adventure. They were often portrayed as complementary forces, the sky and the earth, the sun and the moon, the masculine and feminine, life and death. All in all, the Hero Twins were born to represent the two sides of a single entity. The shortest way to explain their greatest triumph is that they defeated the lords of Xibalba, the Maya equivalent of the realm of the dead, in a ball game, essentially representing that together, they had conquered death and diminished the power of all Xibalba. 

In the first of the three timelines in the novel, the year 1012, we are introduced to Ixul and Ajul through the point of view of their little sister, Ket. They are royalty and are said to be the reincarnation of the Hero Twins, with all the strength, power, and greatness that entails. The second timeline in 2012 follows Leah, a nineteen-year-old half Maya girl from Minnesota who goes to Belize to reconnect with her heritage. While she is there, she explores sacred caves and meets Javier and Xander, another set of twins, who work as tour guides. Business is booming, because in 2012, at the end of one Maya calendar, the Western world had decided the world was going to end. And then, in 3012, we follow Niloux, someone who is speaking out about the way society has evolved. She is embroiled in debate about the very nature and purpose of humanity, a thousand years after the change in the Maya cycle.  

Each of these timelines finds the characters on the precipice of a great and life altering change. The story is a blend of mythology, history, and sci-fi, and speaks, ultimately, to the way we use history to justify the present, and the way that our understanding of the past informs our future, no matter what we do.  

The Tor.com review called the novel, “one of the most effective examples of worldbuilding you’re likely to see on a page this year,” and I have to agree. Despite being longer than 600 pages, it’s somehow still a fast read. It’s a hefty book that tries to cover a lot, and sometimes just doesn’t have the space to explore all of the various threads it brings up, but when Byrne is allowed to go into detail on a subject, she does not miss.   

The Actual Star is available in print.  

Sahana is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She enjoys adding books to her “want to read” list despite having a mountain of books waiting for her already.

Under The Whispering Door by TJ Klune

The illustrated cover shoes a topsy-turvel house in the clearing of a large wood. The shadow of a large stag appears behind the house.

by Sahana C.

Loss is not an easy subject matter. The nuances of grief and grieving, mixed with the general sense of well-what-comes-next is hard to grapple with. And yet somehow, in Under the Whispering Door, TJ Klune has delivered another gentle reminder to readers that the best way to endure, survive, and eventually thrive through hardship is by finding your people, letting them help you and love you, and helping and loving them in return.  

An illustration shows a raggedy spit of land above a blue sea, with a red house with lots of windows at its very edge. Windswept trees and a blue and pink sunset sky frame the house.

Folks who know the author’s work after reading The House in the Cerulean Sea might be surprised, at first, by the level of angst present at the outset of this book. After all, if Cerulean Sea could tout the Antichrist as one of its main characters and still feel light, fluffy, and comforting, surely this novel about dead people can’t be that deep.  

Apparently, it can though.  

Most of that is due to the fact that Wallace Price, the main character, is simply obnoxious and unpleasant at the beginning. He is so unlikable in the very first chapter, so out of touch, that I wasn’t sure I wanted redemption for him. He got what he deserved, dying at the end of the first chapter. This is not a spoiler, the man is dead throughout the book. The main character is, in fact, a ghost-or-something the whole time. A fun time is had by all, except Wallace, when he dies.  

Seeing the other characters humor him and tease him was a relief because he was just so darn unpleasant that I didn’t much care how he’s feeling about being dead. Until, suddenly, I did. Without my knowledge or consent, I suddenly cared about Wallace, and that is precisely the magic that TJ Klune makes. He sneaks these strange characters on readers, makes it very clear that the characters are mostly a menace to society and not very good at being people, and then gently, steadily, these characters are shown how to be good people, how to care about others, how to crave belonging like they never have before.  

There is a tenderness with which Wallace is treated by Hugo, a man who is very important in Wallace’s undeath. Equally important are Mei, the Reaper who comes to collect Wallace’s soul-or-equivalent, Nelson, Hugo’s boisterous and larger than life grandfather, and Apollo, the dog.  

Difficult scenes force readers to confront loss in a very real way, and they are masterfully interspersed with incredible levity. Things like Wallace suddenly remembering he’s dead and sinking through the floor as the rest of the group does nothing to help but laugh are both incredibly funny and also the moments that Wallace is learning the most. The sad parts are to be expected, but as Wallace himself begins to use as a mantra: the real lesson is in unexpecting

This is a character driven novel, of course, because when considering something as deeply personal as loss, one must return to the people that are experiencing the emotion. The way that Klune uses all of the characters to fill in any gaps in Wallace’s story, but also allows them to have their own back stories, personalities, and flaws without detracting from Wallace’s growth, is a delicate balancing act that Klune has down to a science.  

Ryka Aoki, author of Light from Uncommon Stars , described the book beautifully, saying, “There is so much to enjoy in Under the Whispering Door, but what I cherish the most is its compassion for the little things―a touch, a glance, a precious piece of dialogue―healing me, telling me that for all the strangenesses I hold, I am valued, valid―and maybe even worthy of love.” 

This book is about healing and holding yourself accountable. It’s about always having more to learn, but having to be willing to learn it. It does not force, but gently asks a reader to consider, Am I happy? Am I doing what I want, surrounded by the people I love? What do I have to do to get there?  

And most of all, whatever you expect to happen here, wherever you think the story is going to go, unexpect it. Wallace was right. It’ll get you there faster.  

Under the Whispering Door is available in print, eBook, and eAudiobook.  

Sahana is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She enjoys adding books to her “want to read” list despite having a mountain of books waiting for her already.

Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco

A young woman with long wavy dark hair, dressed in a denim jacket, looks backward over her shoulder. A bright yellow and orange phoenix is rising behind her against the night sky, and its tail wraps around her.

By Sahana C.

Consider this: every fairy tale you’ve ever heard is at least a little bit true. The Kingdom of Avalon is full of castles and magic, Alice really did travel all through Wonderland, and most of all – magic? Definitely real.  

But at the exact same time, Rin Chupeco manages to surprise readers with twists on each story. Avalon is frozen (literally and metaphorically!) outside of time, Alice was a warrior, and all that magic has rules and regulations in ways that seem to make sense when you look around at the modern world.  

The book opens in the Royal States, a monarchical version of the U.S., where everything is almost exactly the same as reality with the exceptions of a king and quite a bit more magic. The story even involves governmental agencies, with ICE taking on a prominent (and punny!) role throughout the course of the plot. 

The hero here is a young girl named Tala. She comes from an incredibly powerful legacy, with her family hailing from both the Philippines and Avalon. Her entire lineage is made up of magic, despite being convinced that she lives in the most boring town in the entire Royal States, and she’s been told that she’s fairly powerful, too. She’s hesitant to believe it, though, considering her powers are exclusively centered on disrupting magic.  

Her life changes in a big way when her family is called to protect the Crown Prince of Avalon, Alexei, who is the sole survivor of the royal family and has been in hiding for his whole life. Alexei’s dream is to revive his home country and take back his homeland by breaking the curse of the Ice Queen. In the meantime, though, he and Tala become fast friends, and he manages to enjoy a little bit of a normal high school, being sheltered by the Makiling clan, Tala’s super powerful family.  

When the Firebird, the symbol of Avalonian royalty, finally arrives, Tala and Alexei are thrown into a whirlwind adventure, accompanied by the children of Avalon’s best and brightest heroes. All of them have something to prove and they don’t always get along, but they do come together to save a country they’ve all loved and longed for from afar.  

You see, this whole book is a thinly veiled analogy for the immigrant experience and various facets therein. Tala’s whole family is Filipino, and she’s never been to the Philippines but longs to know more about her culture. Alexei had to leave Avalon as a child, forced out by war. The rest of the group that accompanies Tala and Alexei on their adventure also have varying levels of connection to Avalon: some have fond memories of childhood there, others have most of their family members stuck behind the border.  

Chupeco makes it clear, through Tala, that regardless of how connected to country she is, she can still fully claim her heritage. Tala is told by trusted adults time and time again that she belongs, and Chupeco makes it even more explicit when she writes, “Just because you’ve never been to the Philippines doesn’t mean that their rivers don’t course through your blood. It doesn’t mean you don’t have their mountains in your eyes. It’s not where we are, it’s who we are. You’ll always be both a Makiling and a Warnock, and always a Filipina. Never forget that.” 

I will say that some of the worldbuilding was a touch heavy-handed, and I had to go back and forth on the rules of magic and power in this universe Chupeco creates. Those moments could have benefited from a bit less, but they did not take away from the heart present in every chapter. First and foremost, this is a story about family, ones that are forged by blood and those that are found through friendship. For readers who are interested in YA fantasy, with an incredibly diverse and vibrant cast of characters who talk about the immigrant experience and recognize just how important food is as a bonding tool, this is the book for you.  

Wicked As You Wish is available in print and as an eBook from Libby/OverDrive.

Sahana is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She enjoys adding books to her “want to read” list despite having a mountain of books waiting for her already.

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin

A pale yellow cover features bunnies in many poses and many colors, with the title in a quirky script.

By Sahana C.

This book is cathartic. It feels like therapy, except things get way worse, more cringey, and infinitely harder to handle before the payoff hits, and all of the suffering of the previous two-thirds of the book ease into something manageable and even likable.  

I will not lie – I judged this book by its cover. There was something about the whimsical nature of the rabbits juxtaposed with the bold cursive proclaiming “everyone in this room will someday be dead” that struck me. What room? The very room I was in? I looked around the adult fiction section of the Savage Branch surreptitiously to see who was nearby. I went back up to the front desk, still holding onto the book, and thinking, “Yeah, actually, that’s true.”  

Dear Reader, obviously. This is not a new concept, that everyone, one day, dies. But sometimes, a book like this will bring this into perspective, throw a new light on something you know deep down but don’t consider very often. Emily Austin’s debut novel has moments I’m sure she would categorize as semi-autobiographical (I threw the “semi” in there for her sake, as the main character, Gilda, is truly a disaster), especially since there are moments in the book that I felt were semi-autobiographical and was alarmed at how close Gilda had gotten to my reality.  

Emily Austin was not referring to the Savage Branch when she was referencing her room. She was talking about every room Gilda, a noted hypochondriac, ever walked into. Gilda is a twenty-something lesbian and atheist, well known in the emergency room at her local hospital to the point that the janitorial staff know her by name. When we first meet her, she has just been in a car accident and broken her arm, a more physically obvious issue than the anxiety that normally brought her in for a check-up. In an attempt to get her anxiety under control, Gilda follows a flyer for free therapy to a Catholic church, where she meets Father Jeff and accidentally gets a job instead of therapy.  

From there, Gilda searches for a missing cat, deals with her younger sibling’s deteriorating mental health, tries to keep her old friends, tries to pretend like she’s Catholic, well-meaningly catfishes an old woman, and tries to solve a murder mystery that might not have involved murder, actually, all while trying to stay afloat.  

I read this on a long plane ride, which perhaps compounded the feeling of claustrophobia as Gilda kept tangling herself further and further in her web of lies. It meant that as I was reading an especially cringey section and closed the book for a moment, I couldn’t get up and go for a long walk, like I normally do. I was confined to the middle seat, stuck between two people who were fast asleep and were completely unaware of my distress, and, much like Gilda, all I could do in that moment was keep going. Keep reading and hope that somehow, something was going to get better.

Thank goodness it did, because otherwise, also like Gilda, I probably would have had a nervous breakdown. This book is wholly about the existential dread that comes with being an adult and looking around to realize your general existence is not exactly what you thought it’d be, then figuring out how to cope with that anyway. 

I would like to make it very clear that I do, indeed, like this book. I want everyone to read it, despite how difficult it can be. I’ve been recommending it to everyone, describing it as “anxious queer fiction” and asking friends, “Have you ever felt completely directionless and stuck? Well. Gilda will make you feel better. Because she had it worse.” I think if we all take a moment to reflect, the way Gilda does, on the way things are going, we might not always like what we see, but at least we know that we’re not alone in our discontent.

(And if you really want to feel like you’ve got a community, look at the Goodreads reviews for this book here.)

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is available in print and eBook

Sahana is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She enjoys adding books to her “want to read” list despite having a mountain of books waiting for her already.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

A fairly plain cover with a red edge and the title in script and the author's name hand lettered. A small wolf stands between author and title lines.

by Sahana C.

I read the introduction on Goodreads: “Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves, a female cop with her first big case, a brutal murder. Welcome to…The Thursday Murder Club” and immediately placed a request for this book. Then I waited for a few weeks and was thrilled when I finally got the notification that the novel was ready for me. I finished it the day I started, because, first things first, the book is hilarious. I paged through, intent on the mystery and trying to pick up the clues scattered through the pages and thinking about the details of the case, then suddenly remembered that the characters are using and abusing the privileges of their old age. One of the main characters pretends to have her handbag stolen to talk to a police officer, while another pretends that his memory is going in order to get a detective to give him what he needs. All of them are ever-so-charming when they’re trying to get their way, and you suddenly remember that the point-of-view character is a seventy-something year old who is casually discussing (and excited about investigating!) murder.  

The novel happens in a retirement village, Cooper’s Chase, and centers on four friends who genuinely seem to have absolutely nothing in common and no real reason to like each other. (Except Joyce: “I think we all like Joyce,” says Ibrahim. Ron and Elizabeth nod their agreement again. “Thank you, I’m sure,” says Joyce, chasing peas around her plate. “Don’t you think someone should invent flat peas?” (p 13)). The four meet weekly (on Thursdays, to no one’s surprise) in the Jigsaw Room to solve cold cases, especially murders. There’s Ron, a loudmouthed, passionate rabblerouser whose biggest role in the group comes from his unwavering suspicion of any sort of authority. Ibrahim, a retired psychiatrist, serves as the group’s resident tech expert, who is wildly proud of his technological prowess while also organizing and keeping the data on all of the crimes the club discusses. Joyce, the first point of view readers are introduced to, is a former nurse and the newest member of the group, who is steadfast and practical, keeps her head down, and bakes a mean cake in almost every other scene. Finally, rounding out the four and one of the founding members of the Thursday Murder Club is Elizabeth, who remains infinitely mysterious, with a checkered past, who always manages, somehow, to get her way.  

Through trickery and subtle coercion, they involve themselves in the investigation of a murder that occurs adjacent to their retirement village, bringing two detectives into the fold: Donna, a young woman looking to prove herself, and Chris, a detective who feels a bit past his prime. The detectives quickly realize the importance of our Murder Club, never take them for granted, and come to realize that the Thursday Murder Club’s influence and investigative effort is absolutely necessary to solving the crime. Through it all, we get an actual well-constructed mystery, one that leaves bread crumbs and truly utilizes each of the ensemble cast of characters to the full extent of their humor and intelligence. It keeps the plot moving from beat to beat.  

No real moral judgements are made in the story. The retirement village is full of rich and accomplished people who are ready for some time out of the spotlight, but who have their own secrets and problems, which in turn allows them to confront the criminals without any real superiority. The only judgements are for the truly obnoxious characters (one in particular, who simply has no manners), and even comes across as more of a grandparent’s headshake of disapproval than any real condemnation. 

The Thursday Murder Club is a cozy mystery full of humor, vitality, and life, more than I anticipated for a book about murder and retirement villages. It is available in print, eBook, and eAudiobook

Sahana is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She enjoys adding books to her “want to read” list despite having a mountain of books waiting for her already.

Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola

Two figures poised to kiss are color blocked in bold color of turquoise, red, and yellow.

by Sahana C.

Some really popular retellings of myths are going around now: The Song of Achilles, Circe, and The Women of Troy, to name a few. But all three have one thing in common: they center Greek and Roman mythology. The world of myth is much more vast than Greek and Roman mythology, and Bolu Babalola weaves her magic around folktales from West Africa, the Middle East, and even China, alongside Greek and Roman myths that she writes through a more diverse slant. She brings these often untold tales to the forefront with her compilation of short stories, Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold.  

More than just retellings of these myths, however, Babalola brings each story fully into the modern world. Instead of Scheherazade being a trapped princess, she’s a journalist managing some dangerous new sources. Psyche works for Eros’s mother in a fiercely corporate world that she wants to break free from. This, too, is a break from tradition among popular retellings today, and it adds to the timeless nature of the stories by showing just how universal each love story really is.  

The stories are not too long, with just enough context and world building in each to make readers fall firmly in love with the world, to build a new universe around these characters, and make them fall in love with each other. These stories don’t necessarily keep all the magic and mythic details consistent, but the essence of the myth, what it would mean in the modern context, remains the same. Instead of magic crocodile skins that cause them strife in their personal lives, for example, characters have vitiligo, a skin condition that they have to learn to love about themselves.  

Personally, Nefertiti’s story, Zhinu’s, and Thisbe’s have been at the forefront of my mind since reading, each taking the original myth and twisting it into something lovely and appropriate for a modern age, while retaining a timeless quality. The stories revolve around love; love and POC joy are centered with every character. In the ordinarily Eurocentric realm of mythology, Love in Color is the best of romance: poignant, beautiful, complex in plot but simple enough to convey its message. 

I would lean towards reading up about each myth before reading the stories, however. The myths that I had context for, I enjoyed more upon a first read than the others, but after doing some research on the other stories, I went back and enjoyed the less familiar stories just as much on a reread.  

The publisher review for the anthology notes the diversity of the source material, saying, “Focusing on the magical folktales of West Africa, Babalola also reimagines Greek myths, ancient legends from the Middle East, and stories from long-erased places. With an eye towards decolonizing tropes inherent in our favorite tales of love, Babalola has created captivating stories that traverse across perspectives, continents, and genres.” 

Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola is available in print

Sahana is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She enjoys adding books to her “want to read” list despite having a mountain of books waiting for her already.

I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories by Kim Bo-Young

The book cover depicts a deep blue night sky with swirls of distant stars. The title is superimposed in orange and white lettering against strips of black, alternating the words in left and right alignment.

By Sahana C.

As a medium, science fiction has been a way to ask larger questions about what it means to live since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Questions that are a bit too uncomfortable to ask in the context of real life without the buffer of aliens or mind-bending time travel, such as: who are we if we’re taken off of Earth? What does humanity look like broken down to our bare essentials and out of context?  

I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories by Kim Bo-Young follows the precedent set centuries ago, asking readers to consider what love looks like outside the bonds of time, where we can learn about free will, and how hope can manage to exist in the most devastating of circumstances.  

Originally published as three separate novellas, there is still so much overlap as the stories ask you to consider your own humanity. The first story, the eponymous “I’m Waiting for You,” is epistolary, told through letters from the point of view of a man writing to his fiancée as he tries to time his interstellar journey just right so that he will meet her at the church they decided upon in time for their wedding day. The unnamed main characters, through a comedy of errors and well-meaning but decidedly bad decisions, are left trying to catch up with one another as they fast-forward through time. He is increasingly isolated as he travels through time and space, but all the while it is his love of his fiancée that keeps him human.  

The second and third story are connected, “The Prophet of Corruption” with a soft multiverse-centric epilogue in “That One Life.”  The two stories follow god-like beings who experience a sort of reincarnation in order to learn more about their nature and the nature of the world, and who think of corruption as what happens when they are disconnected from the whole. The story reminded me at times of the short story “The Egg” by Andy Weir (who also wrote The Martian) with the ideas of reincarnation but made wholly new for the universe Kim Bo-Young manages to create. There were moments where I felt like I was floating outside of the narrative, but I was never far enough away to escape orbit – existential but not just for the sake of an “I’m-smarter-than-you, let’s see an audience try to puzzle this out” existentialism. It’s hard but worth it, thinking about our place in the world and what we mean to one another. 

The final story, “On My Way,” brings us full circle back to the couple from “I’m Waiting for You” and returns to the epistolary format established in the first story. We see the letters that the woman sent her fiancé this time around, and her interstellar travels have been completely different from his. The two are juxtaposed, not only by being from the perspective of a man versus a woman, but by the circumstances surrounding each protagonist. The former deals with the impact of isolation in times of despair while the latter considers group dynamics in times of disaster.  

The first and last story are about love beyond the bounds of time; what is it about us that makes us human? How far can we go before we lose our humanity? They consider the everlasting nature of hope, but manage to stay honest while avoiding any sort of cheesiness. They discuss what love looks like, with both protagonists making promises they aren’t sure the other person will ever get to hear, promising I will love you if we are the last people on Earth and out of all the people in the world, I chose you, over and over again.  

The first story, as Kim Bo-Young explains in the author’s notes at the end, was written as part of a proposal. It took me a while to understand how something that appeared so tragic would be the best way to propose marriage to a loved one; it feels so unanchored and dire at moments, but it is the fact that through it all, the protagonist is still there, persevering, forcing himself to survive, that shows the romance.  

It’s a translated work, which reinforces the idea that translation is an art form and a version of composition in and of itself – there are no stuttering moments that remind you that it is not originally written in English. In fact, I forgot until I read the end notes, emails between the author and the translator, context for the short stories, and the author’s motivations and original audiences. I might even recommend reading the notes before the stories themselves; I wish I had. 

I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories by Bo-Young Kim is available in print.

Sahana is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She enjoys adding books to her “want to read” list despite having a mountain of books waiting for her already.