Silvia Rodriguez’s Best Reads of 2016

My name is Silvia Rodriguez, and I’m a Venezuelan globetrotter.  I arrived in Evanston around four years ago with my family, and since then have expanded with the birth of our second son, a true Evanstonian.  We too have become Evanstonians by adoption, as this town has welcomed us with open arms.  We love our community, which I think can always become stronger with contributions from all of us.  I feel connected by being involved in volunteerism for causes I feel strongly about (race inequality, social justice).  As a former book editor, I am glad we have such an amazing local library.  I have always used library services extensively everywhere I have lived, but EPL has by far been my favorite.  We are loyal, die-hard users!

1)  Neuro Tribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman (2015)

This book is a great reminder that so much about what happens throughout history is deeply influenced by chance, by luck, by circumstance. Silberman’s meticulous research shows how a series of events led to one line of research prevailing over another resulting in the concept and imagery of autism we sadly share nowadays: that in which autistics are portrayed as less able, less valuable humans to society, as expendables. I am hopeful that with the work of disability self-advocates (Silberman does right in mentioning some in his book) and revisionist titles such as this, society will shift toward a more just and ethical idea of autism and the many contributions autistic citizens can bring to us all.

2)  Becoming Unbecoming by Una (2015)

This unsettling graphic novel is one of the most powerful autobiographies I’ve read. Its imagery stayed with me long after finishing the book. It takes a special kind of courage to share personal stories on sustained sexual violence against girls and women when using illustration. Una achieves a perfect balance between simple, evocative drawings, and data driven information on rape culture. I learned many things I didn’t know on the subject, which surprised me. This important read is a must for everyone: for older girls and women, as much as for older boys and men.

3)  La Rumeur de Venise by Albertine (2009)

This wordless, illustrated book tells the story of a fish who ultimately turns into a mermaid, thanks to the slight distortions that occur every time villagers recount the fish’s story to one another.  I am not sure if this book is out of print, but it was published by a small Swiss children’s book editor, and I had given away my personal copy years ago and had lost all hope in finding it again.  But then it found me, in our beloved indie bookshop Bookends and Beginnings.  Elated is the best word I can come up with in English to describe what I felt that day.

4)  Filomeno, a mi pesar by Gonzalo Torrente Ballester (1988)

One of my favorite novels of all time.  The biography of Filomeno, a man who does not account for much in life, but makes a fascinating read because of Torrente Ballester’s writing.  Sadly, I do not think it has been translated to English.  This was handed to me, ages ago, by my dear friend Fernando when I had no idea what to read during a summer vacation.  Since then, I make it a point to reread it every year because it makes me so happy.  This is writing at its finest: a reminder that what makes great stories is not necessarily plot, but a mastery of language.  I always end up taking longer to read when I reach the last pages because I do not want it to end.

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