Reading Diversely · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole (Reluctant Royals, #1)

35271238Summary from Goodreads:
From acclaimed author Alyssa Cole comes the tale of a city Cinderella and her Prince Charming in disguise . . .

Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.

Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.

The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?

About two chapters into my galley of Alyssa Cole’s A Princess in Theory I started squealing. Ledi is a grad student in epidemiology! Specifically, infectious diseases!! *heart-eyes emoji* And she talks about the research and the writing like she knows what she’s doing!! *many more heart-eyes emojis* (Turns out Cole used to work as an editor for a science journal, yaaaaaas, girl.)

So here’s the deal: if you were looking for an update-ish of Coming to America with a stronger female main character, a prince who is concerned with doing right by his people, strong and intersectional secondary characters, science, social commentary, and excellent fashion descriptions, A Princess in Theory is for you.  If you weren’t looking for a story like this, you still want this book.  You’re welcome.

I lurved it. All of it. Ledi is a smart, streetwise heroine from the school of “no one wants a foster kid no matter how much she tries to be the Perfect Kid.” You just want to smack so many adults on her behalf, both from her childhood and from her current adult life (there’s a post-doc in her lab that deserves some Draino in his coffee). Thabiso is a literal Prince who gets his life turned upside down when he determines Ledi’s his long-lost fiancé – his plan to show her what she missed out on (chiefly, His Awesomeness as a Prince) when her parents fled Thesolo is just the most delightfully wrong-headed idea ever. Once Thabiso decides to get to know Ledi (although he does that as some dude named Jamal, so also not the best plan in the long-term), Cole brings in some great commentary about colonialism, big-government jacking around with global disease prevention funding, and the foster system. There are some steamy sexytimes, too. (What? This is still a romance novel.) My only criticism – and it’s a minor one – is that I could smell the villain coming from miles away, which is probably my own fault for having read so many Agatha Christie novels.

I know Cole probably didn’t intend the juxtaposition, but when she described Thabiso’s beard as being trimmed to accentuate his sharp jaw my brain went immediately to all the pictures of Chadwick Boseman dressed in his T’challa costumes. So if this ever gets made into a movie, they’ll have to cast Boseman. Sorry not sorry? (I mean, there are worse people you can resemble, I’m just saying. I was reading this in the two weeks prior to the release of Black Panther in theatres and Instagram just kept parking ads and trailers with Boseman’s gorgeous face all over my feed. Ledi was a little harder to headcast – Letitia Wright is obviously a good choice with her recent turn as awesome scientist-princess Shuri in Black Panther.)

I would like to ask the Romancelandia Fairy-godmother for a book for Likotsi – she quickly went from Thabiso’s enigmatic assistant to an awesomesauce lady frand and she needs a story of her own. (Also, I want all her suits, even though I do not have the body type for them, because they sounded so damn gorgeous.) But next up is a book for Ledi’s bestie Portia who goes off to Scotland for an internship in swordmaking (y’all, Portia is something else) and finds a duke along the way. PS: Avon, any time you want to park that galley on Edelweiss I’ll read the crap out of it.

A Princess in Theory is out today! Whoop whoop!

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley from the publisher via Edelweiss and I had a copy pre-ordered on my nook. So hah.


#BookishBloggersUnite – It me.


#BookishBloggersUnite is a weekly hashtag that a group of bookish friends participate in to talk about books. Posts will go up on Friday (or whichever time works best for our time zone!). This first post is about introducing who we all are. Katy is hosting our first week.

Who/What got you into reading?

My parents. It’s all their fault, hahahaha. Not only did they read to me, a lot, as a small child they modeled reading and we had tons of books in the house on all sorts of subjects. I was also encouraged to entertain myself with a book or to bring a book and “read” to my mom while she was busy with my baby brother long before I could read on my own. So books have always been part of my life.

What are your favorite genres?

Well…I definitely lean more “literary” in my fiction as well as classic literature but I also really enjoy breaking up my serious reading with romance and comics.

What are your least favorite genres?

Religion, politics, business, and Westerns.

If you had to choose between bringing a mediocre book series or one great standalone book to a deserted island, which would you pick?

One great standalone I can read over and over again. This island has sticks and sand, right? If I get bored I’ll just write my own.

How do you organize your bookshelves? Do you even have any organizational system?

Mostly by imprint/publisher, because I love how the colophons line up on the shelf, and then sort of by subject. So all my Penguin Black Spines are together, my Deluxe Classics are together, my Vintage International are together, BN Classics, Best American, etc. Unless it’s a Penguin Drop Caps or New York Review of Books edition, those are by Roy G. Biv, and I keep most of my signed books together in one bookshelf.

What’s the next book on your TBR that you’re excited about?

Ummm…..All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva

Have you ever gone to any book signings? Which was your favorite?

Lots of signings. I think my favorites were Jasper Fforde, Celeste Ng, and Alexander Chee (three times, once at BRL and two with amazing interviews conducted by Garth Greenwell). And a signing for my friend Valerie, because having an actual award-winning poet friend is pretty awesome (shameless plug for Valerie’s poetry because it is really, really good, go read some).

Hardcovers or Paperbacks or eBooks or Audiobooks?

Both. But nevermind the bread please. (Pooh has a response for everything.)

I read across all formats. I do default to paper formats if it’s a book that I’m going to have a conversation with and scribble all over (like the new translation of The Odyssey from Emily Wilson).  I will say that I loathe mass markets and avoid them if at all possible – the consequence is that almost all my romance and other genre reading, if no other paper format is available that I might like, is done as ebooks. Light nonfiction is often done as audiobooks borrowed from the library Overdrive site. A lot of times I read the digital galley ahead of publication because #booksellerlyfe.

What is your favorite book to recommend that isn’t a common recommendation to new readers?

What We See When We Read by Daniel Mendelsund – an interesting meditation from a graphic designer on how our brains fill in detail while we read.

What does the ideal reading day for you look like?

Coffee. Couch. Blanket. Kitteh snuggles. My Reading playlist on the stereo. (There’s probably a nap in there somewhere.)

What makes you DNF a book?

It has to really make me feel like I’m wasting my reading time (like Tom Hanks’s book – y’all, I have some screen shots of some really eye-wateringly bad writing), since I’m usually pretty good at avoiding crap books in the first place. Otherwise, if I start a book, and it’s not really doing it for me, I’ll put it in “hibernation” – and then years later I’ll finally decide to DNF it.

What book are you most excited about in 2018?

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, The Recovering by Leslie Jamison, Celestial Bodies by Laura Jacobs, and Too Wilde to Wed by Eloisa James.

Which series/book to you revisit for self care/nostalgia?

Winnie-the-Pooh is my “can’t function, can only lay in a ball” self-care read. I also revisit Jane Austen’s novels, Little Women, and the Thursday Next series (especially on audio).

IMG_3696Do you have a bookish pet?

This is my Chaucer-kitteh. Named not quite for the actual author of The Canterbury Tales, but mostly because I read a romance novel in high school (The Wedding by Elizabeth Bevarly) in which a secondary character, who was a professor of Middle English, had a horrible, nasty, beastly tabby cat named Chaucer. I wasn’t sure about the adjectives, but I thought a tabby cat named Chaucer would be lovely. Years later, I acquired one.

Until last Saturday, I had a Dante-kitteh, too. We miss him a lot.

Do you enjoy readathons? If so, which ones can people find you participating in?

An excuse to read as much I as I want all weekend? Yes, please! I usually participate in Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon and the 24-in-48 Readathon.

What is one part of bookish life you enjoy that isn’t reading?

The swag. We are living in an era of excellent t-shirts, pins, buttons, cross-stitch, knitting patterns, stickers, jewelry, and so on for book-loving people. Bookish podcasts are a huge part of my life, too. (Woo, all the Book Riot podcasts.)

Is there a genre you wished you read more of?

Philosophy. I really wish my eyeballs wouldn’t run screaming from my head when I tried to read the actual text instead of a precis/summary.

What is your favorite book cover of all time?

This is hard, because there are SO MANY absolutely beautiful book covers roaming around on my shelves. I will say that Penguin’s graphic design department is hitting it out of the park with the Deluxe Classics, Black Spines, Drop Caps, and Clothbound series. I think the Henry Holt anniversary re-jacketing of the Lloyd Alexander Prydain Chronicles series is one of my favorite redesigns (The Book of Three).

And that’s it! Visit Katy’s site or follow the tags to see who else is participating.

IMG_3100Bonus picture of the Chaucer-kitteh, because I found it while deciding which picture to use above and I couldn’t resist. He is sound asleep here.

mini-review · stuff I read

The Adulterants by Joe Dunthorne

35276866Summary from Goodreads:
Ray Morris is a tech journalist with a forgettable face, a tiresome manner, a small but dedicated group of friends, and a wife, Garthene, who is pregnant. He is a man who has never been punched above the neck. He has never committed adultery with his actual body. He has never been caught up in a riot, nor arrested, nor tagged by the state, nor become an international hate-figure. Not until the summer of 2011, when discontent is rising on the streets and within his marriage. Ray has noticed none of this. Not yet.

The Adulterants would be a coming-of-age story if its protagonist could only forget that he is thirty-three years old. Throughout a series of escalating catastrophes, our deadpan antihero keeps up a merciless mental commentary on the foibles and failings of those around him, and the vicissitudes of modern urban life: internet trolls, buy-to-let landlords, open marriages, and the threat posed by more sensitive men. But the wonder of The Adulterants is how we feel ourselves rooting for Ray even as we acknowledge that he deserves everything he gets.

I’ve been noodling over how to review Joe Dunthorne’s The Adulterants. I didn’t love it, I also didn’t hate it, and I’m also kind of “eh?” because I think I didn’t quite get it. I think this novel is supposed to be satirical, with a kind of ironic distance, so we can laugh at the clueless white dude who is super proud of having black friends and gay friends, whose wife is a quarter Turkish (I think), and he would have been very supportive of his wife had she decided not to have the baby (her body, her choice, right?). It really just comes off as the narrative of some sad-sack idiot who isn’t even as remotely woke as he thinks he is. He kind of deserves everything that happens, particularly since he learns absolutely nothing. The book is more eye-roll inducing than funny.

Lord, grant me the self-confidence of a mediocre white dude.

The Adulterants will be available on March 6.

Dear FTC: Thanks to Tin House Galley Club for the ARC.

black cloud · cats · personal crisis · prayer · thanks

I would like to tell you about a little beige kitty named Dante

gotta check out these booksI adopted Dante and his brother Chaucer when they were about eight weeks old. On a rainy night right before Halloween 2003. From a farm, during which visit someone (not me) had to shoot a possum that got into the barn.

Dante and Chaucer were part of a litter of five boys: a big gray kitten, two orange kittens, a brown/gray striped kitten, and a kitten so light beige he was champagne-colored. When the striped kitten immediately laid belly-up on my foot I knew he was my Chaucer (I had that name picked out years ago), but it took a bit to decide which of the other kittens I would take. Then I realized the little champagne-colored kitten was being pushed away from the food by the bigger kittens. So I decided that he would be mine, too. He needed a name to match Chaucer so I named him Dante.

IMG_4267He grew up from a tiny one-pound fluff ball into a rather round-in-the-middle cat, with dainty, turned-in front paws and a slim tail. His coat darkened to a solid beige color with darker stripes on his legs, tail, and tabby “M” on his forehead. He had the softest fur to snuggle. He loved having “brain” and chin scritches. Lots of them.

He loved his toys, usually the ones his brother was playing with first, with emphasis on the cheapest things around: cardboard boxes and milk jug rings. He had special dislike for the “kitty in the mirror” who frequently talked smack and needed correcting. Dante and Chaucer frequently napped in a little kitty pile, the way that sibs often do, and they loved all the soft furnishings, especially my bed (even under the covers).

IMG_1047He was the one who would give me kisses when I held him. Even if he was also gifted with the nickname “Hissy Pants” since he would be the first to hiss when annoyed, particularly as he aged. (He also got called Baby Kitty, since he liked to be held burp-a-baby style.) He had this weird meow that sounded like “moo” so sometimes I would moo back.

Dante both equally loved and hated the “got your tail” game, which involved me touching the very tip of his tail. He would growl and pull his tail away….then start purring and lay his tail back over my hand to do it all over again. He had the best purr and was a champion snuggler. But he didn’t like my friends or family that much. He always had to let you know it was his house. Unless you were the piano tuner, electricians, plumber, or cable persons – those guys were always presented with his tummy to rub.

IMG_1971Did I mentioned he had the softest fur? He hated having it brushed, with any kind of brush. He yowled so loud I worried the neighbors would think I was murdering someone. Unless I was trying to trim his claws – then it sounded like I was being murdered.

He wasn’t very fond of cat treats or even his food (though he was usually first in line come mealtimes) but he loved people food. Especially cheese – the sharper and greasier the better. He could hear me open the deli drawer in the refrigerator – even if he were sound asleep in the basement – and come running to wind around my ankles and beg for cheese. I only ever gave him small crumbs, though. Cheese isn’t the best food item for cats. To offset his gourmet tastes Dante would drink water out of the bathtub after I finished showering.

IMG_1544He loved to sit on a chair by my desk and look out the window, chattering at the birds in the backyard. I suspect he chose this spot because it just happened to be over the furnace grate in that room because he also liked to sit with his face over the grate in the bathroom when the furnace was running. He loathed car rides, which is unsurprising being an indoor cat. Unfortunately that is where this story ends – a car ride to the vet.

Friday night I came home from work to find that Dante had started having diarrhea. Everywhere. So I took him in to the emergency vet and they started treating him for a bacterial overgrowth in the gut. But when his blood work came back in the morning the blood chemistry showed renal failure and a further workup showed that it was likely due to his age.

IMG_1580In other words, untreatable.

With this news, the fact that his diarrhea wasn’t responding to medication, and he was refusing to eat or drink, I had to decide to put him to sleep. I have never sobbed harder in my life. I had hoped for a few more years with my crotchety old geezer before saying good-bye or to be able to let go slowly. I had not anticipated such a short illness of less than a whole day. The vet’s office was wonderful. They let me sit in the exam room with Dante as long as I wanted, rocking him in my arms, crying, and watching the snow falling outside the window with him one last time. I said “I’m sorry” and “Mama loves you” too many times to count, I kissed his tabby “M” over and over. When I was ready, the vet came and gave him a sedative and the euthanasia solution through his IV while I held him. My Baby Kitty was gone in less than a minute. They let me stay in the room and hold him as long as I needed. Until I felt ready to lay him down and kiss him good-bye.

IMG_5410I have never felt so selfish. I felt so guilty, wondering if I missed something that would have had me taking him for a checkup earlier, that maybe it could have been caught and treated and I would still have my baby for a little while longer.

I came home, laid down on the floor, and sobbed. I held Chaucer until he protested I was squeezing him too tight. I watched as so many friends commented on my post containing the final picture of my Dante, taken just before the vet delivered the bad news. I have never been so grateful for my friends. Even complete strangers came across the post on Instagram or Twitter and offered their condolences. I will never be able to thank everyone enough.

IMG_7434I never had a pet before I adopted my boys. I had fish as a child, but a tank of guppies is nothing compared to a cat. I did not know it was possible to love them this much. I felt ready to break for a few hours. But I made it through the first day of missing him. I called when I got out of the shower “Where’s my Dante kitty?” before I remembered he wasn’t here. I almost cried at the grocery store when I remembered I wouldn’t need as much cat litter. I cried when I got Dante’s collar and tags out of my purse, to hang them on a frame with his picture, and Chaucer came running, crying, when he heard the tags jingle; Chaucer sniffed all around the collar and tags and let out the saddest meow that had me scooping him up to cuddle immediately. I am crying now typing this.

IMG_7955I am writing all this because I don’t want to forget my Dante-kitteh. My sweet, grumpy dude mooing his way around the house. I am so grateful for the social media era, that I took so many pictures. There are times today when I’ve done nothing but sit and stare at my last picture of him. There is no way out of this but through.

Rest In Peace, Dante. Mama loved you so much she had to let you go so you wouldn’t hurt anymore. I hope I gave you the best life a cat could possibly have, with all the love and snuggles you wanted. Chaucer has only just started to realize that you aren’t hiding somewhere in the house, that you’re gone. If you’re watching over us, please help him understand. Love you, Baby Kitty. Always.

In memoriam, Dante Ward, September 1 (?), 2003 – February 17, 2018

mini-review · Reading Diversely · Reading Women · stuff I read

This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins

35069544Summary from Goodreads:
From one of the fiercest critics writing today, Morgan Jerkins’ highly-anticipated collection of linked essays interweaves her incisive commentary on pop culture, feminism, black history, misogyny, and racism with her own experiences to confront the very real challenges of being a black woman today—perfect for fans of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists.

Morgan Jerkins is only in her twenties, but she has already established herself as an insightful, brutally honest writer who isn’t afraid of tackling tough, controversial subjects. In This Will Be My Undoing, she takes on perhaps one of the most provocative contemporary topics: What does it mean to “be”—to live as, to exist as—a black woman today? This is a book about black women, but it’s necessary reading for all Americans.

I was super excited to see that Morgan Jerkins had an essay collection coming out. I’ve really liked her writing that I’ve read in various publications.  I won’t be able to do my reading of her writing justice, but I’ll try.

This Will Be My Undoing is Required Reading for everyone. Jerkins may be writing as a black woman to other black women, but the rest of us are privileged to see her thought processes. She writes about the politics of black hair, black women’s sexuality and how that sexuality is policed, the portrayal of Michelle Obama by the media, dating, and color-blind racism. It was really interesting to be read Jerkins’s thoughts on love, dating, and sex as I was also reading The Wedding DateHaven, and A Princess in Theory (out 2/27, review to come), three pro-black women, consent-positive, romances written by black women. The juxtaposition of what black women want and deserve to have with Jerkins’s experiences as a black woman and a black girl and her reading of how black women’s and girls’ sexuality are policed was just mind-blowing. A few of the early chapters have maybe rough starts where it takes a bit for the form and the subject to gel, but by the time Jerkins hits “Who Will Write Us?” she is absolutely firing on all cylinders. I really look forward to everything else she’s going to write. So glad this got picked up by the BN Discover program.

Dear FTC: I read a paper galley of this book we received at the store.

mini-review · stuff I read · YA all the way

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

31207017Summary from Goodreads:
A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

I finished Love, Hate, and Other Filters over the weekend.  I was really interested in this title because it was chosen for the Barnes and Noble Discover program.  Not many YA books get to do that.

I really liked Maya, with her constant efforts to make a documentary about everything and her love of all things film. She has a really awesome best friend and her aunt Hina is just YES. I go back and forth on two quibbles. One, I can’t decide if Maya’s mom (and by extension her dad) are too exaggerated in her matchmaking/Good Indian Girls Do What Their Parents Say.  Some times I think yes, perhaps this is stereotypical, but then I think, no, the matchmaking thing isn’t that much more out there than the push to always be “coupled” in our society at large and her parents are also scared to let Maya so far from them when they can’t even control how people react in their own town. Two, the very ending of the book, which I don’t want to spoil, leaves me a bit “huh?” I feel like the author tried to skip a bit of resolution, to let us fill in the blanks, but it kind of defangs the end of the book.  I would have liked more on the page.

But that said, I really liked what Ahmed was going for with this examination of race and ambition in middle America.

Dear FTC: I requested, and received, a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

mini-review · Read Harder · Read My Own Damn Books · Reading Graphically · stuff I read

Ladycastle, written by Delilah S. Dawon, illustrated by Ashley A. Woods and Becca Farrow

34466854Summary from Goodreads:
When the King and all the men of the castle die, it’s time for the women to knight up.

When King Mancastle and his mighty vassals ride off on a crusade, the women left behind are not at all put out—that’s a lot less armor polishing to do. Of course, when the men get themselves eaten by a dragon and leave a curse that attracts monsters to the castle . . . well, the women take umbrage with that.

Now, Merinor, the blacksmith’s wife is King, Princess Aeve is the Captain, and the only remaining (and least capable) knight, Sir Riddick, is tasked with teaching the ladies of the castle how to fight, defend, build, and do all manner of noisy things the men had done while the women assumed they were just drunk.

Novelist Delilah S. Dawson (Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon, As Wicked as She Wants) brings her first original series to the graphic novel world, and is joined by breakthrough illustrator Ashley A. Woods (Niobe: She Is Life) for a rollicking fantasy adventure in Ladycastle.

What do all the women of Mancastle do when all the terrible dudes they are married to/related to go off and get themselves eaten by a dragon and the castle cursed by a wizard? They do all the stuff the men were doing – but better, with more cooperation and much less violence. (The only dude left is the most inept knight who looks like the Santa Claus version of King Pellinore.) They take advice from a Lady in the Pond who dispenses swords, the Well-Hag Hagatha, and a badass castle librarian in a wheelchair to fight off salamanders, werewolves, harpies, and a surprising Big Bad. And they re-name the castle Ladycastle.

I really enjoyed this funny, rompy take on Arthurian legend-ish tales. There were a lot of riffs on Disney movies, musicals, and Monty Python jokes. The writing does hit you over the head with very obvious criticisms of gender norms/stereotypes, compulsory heterosexuality (maybe?, no one seemed to be in a happy heterosexual marriage but no one was in a non-hetero relationship, either, and no one was exactly bemoaning having no dudes around for sexytimes; it wouldn’t have hurt to put an explicitly non-heterosexual partnership or actual genderqueer character on the page rather than some implied coding), and toxic masculinity (all the dudes these women were related to or married to were the actual worst). But sometimes we need the blindingly obvious, though. I very much enjoyed reading Ladycastle and the art was excellent, very straightforward. This is an all-ages comic, not a whole lot of violence, no language or sex.

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book to read for the Graphic Novel Book Group at my store. It fulfilled the “read a comic from a publisher other than DC, Marvel, or Image” task for Read Harder.

Reading Matters · stuff I read

An additional thought about By the Book by Julia Sonneborn

I was puttering around on Goodreads, reading a few other reviews about By the Book, and then read an article about DACA/DREAMers. The juxtaposition of the two items solidified an idea I’d been noodling on for a bit: that making Adam in By the Book a former undocumented child immigrant was a way to evoke the cross-class snobbery that lies beneath much of the plot in Persuasion.

Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, is so obsessed with class and bloodline that he is introduced in the first paragraph of Persuasion as a man who reads only one book: the Baronetage, specifically the entry about his own family. He aspires to move among the aristocracy (he courts the favor of an even snobbier, more ridiculous cousin, Lady Dalrymple, who is a vicountess), is deeply in debt because a baronet must live in a certain style, and looks down upon the British Navy as an institution that allows men to rise through its ranks from lower into upper classes. At the time Austen was writing, class mobility had become more common. Through trade and industry, some of the middle-classes were able to move into the landed gentry and, hence, position their children to marry “up.” This mobility obviously caused a good deal of hand-wringing among the upper classes.

In twenty-first century America, class is somewhat less of a stratified thing (even though “good” family bloodlines, or the “wrong side” of the tracks, are still a thing of sorts). But lately there’s a lot of squawking about who is “allowed” to be here, and where we all come from – which is rich coming from a nation founded out of the people that no one wanted in European countries and who took out their inferiority complex on the native populations of the Americas and enslaved people imported to prop up the economy. DREAMers and DACA recipients are at the white-hot center of this stalking. How many stories are there in the news of DREAMers brought here as children – because their parents knew that to give them any sort of chance they had to get out of whatever situation was going on in their country of origin – who are now teachers and doctors and lawyers?

In By the Book, Adam’s mother escaped from Guatemala with him when he was two. Through hard work and sheer good luck, they are eventually granted asylum with the opportunity to earn a green card and eventual citizenship. Adam earns a scholarship to Princeton and eventually earns a law degree then works his way up the collegiate administrative chain to president of a college.  It is the ultimate rags to riches story, to go from literally nothing but your life to one of the most respected positions in academia. But Adam also suffers from others’ classist, and probably racist, treatment of him as a scholarship student and person of color in what are traditionally bastions of white privilege: the students at Princeton who mistreat him at his job in food service, Rick’s very pointed attempts to discredit Adam in Anne’s eyes (Rick has some other problems as well), and Anne’s recollection of her family’s treatment of Adam when they met him. Sonneborn doesn’t lean into these issues explicitly, in the way that Austen does in the original, but they do lurk around between the lines.