Welcome to PROJECT: BOOKSHELF, a continuing series in which Mackenzi Lee tries to read every book on her bookshelf in the course of a summer while friends, writers, and readers drop in to tell us about their respective shelves. This week, we are joined by Anna-Marie McLemore, whose magical debut novel, THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, comes out next year (and guys, you’re going to want to put this one on your “buy the moment it comes out” list. Or maybe your “will sell my soul for an ARC” list. It’s infuriatingly beautiful.)
But first, let’s take a look at my reading wrap-up.
This week, from my collection of unread books on my shelf, I read…
The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde
- Genre: YA urban fantasy
- Where I got it: Let’s just say through creative connections.
- What I thought: My love affair with the Kazam Chronicles has been no secret, and this one, the third, might actually be my favorite out of the bunch. My only complaint was that there was not nearly enough quarkbeast.
The Broken Lands by Kate Milford
- Genre: YA historical fantasy
- Where I got it: Free bookshelf at work. Man I love that free bookshelf
- What I thought: I liked this one a lot. It’s very vivid, and the history and magic are both very alive and well drawn. But I just never felt it. None of the emotional connection I really wanted. I will, however, be picking up its sequel, The Boneshaker.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
- Genre: Middle grade historical fiction
- Where I got it: So I bought myself a copy of this with the intention of having Lois sign it at the Susan Bloom Awards. But me, being a forgetful moron who was totally caught up in everything else going on, totally forgot to have her sign it. F.
- What I thought: I had read this book before, many years when I was in elementary school, and it was one of the first books I remember really loving. Reading it as an adult, I’m even more impressed with how tight and powerful this book is. What a great story about empathy, love, and courage. Bravo, bravo Miss Lois!
And now, meet Anna-Marie and her bookshelf!
I have a dresser that I keep a few books in. A freestanding counter in my kitchen that I store some books under. But I don’t actually have a bookshelf.
Two years ago, I was working part-time, the Boy had just gotten out of school and was looking for a job, and our apartment search was getting a little desperate. For many of the places we saw, we did not meet the income requirements. For a few, we were told in thinly veiled terms that we could apply, but they would never rent to us. I don’t think there’s anybody else like you around here. Or, You’d probably be happier somewhere else. Or, what do you mean, you’re married?
We knew what they meant. The Boy is transgender, and did not pass as a biological male.
Then we found a tiny but adorable studio apartment, and with it, a property manager who didn’t seem to the mind the look of us the way so many others had. A week later, we were moved in, and it was just as well that we had no bookshelf since we didn’t have the wall space for it.
So I only unpacked a few of my books, slipped some into a free space in the cube storage unit we used as a dresser, found a place for a few in the kitchen, and tried to settle into the feeling of not knowing where our lives were going next.
A few months later, the Boy, thankfully, got a job. We might have been able to move somewhere a little bigger, somewhere with enough space that the Boy and I did not have something just short of a romantic interlude every time we wanted to get by each other at the dresser or the kitchen sink. But we’d gotten attached to our tiny but adorable apartment, our neighborhood, the sound of the chickens that lived down the block.
Half my books are still in boxes. I rotate them in and out by mood, by season. Every March, I pack up my old set of The Chronicles of Narnia, like folding away a favorite winter coat. My Allende and my Saint-Exupéry come out right around the time the first crocuses are breaking up through the cold ground.
At first I saw it as an annoyance to dig through boxes every time I wanted to reread Sophie’s World or pull out the book of poetry I’d bought in Bloomsbury. But then I grew to like it, this minimalism of only having on hand the books I needed and wanted. It made it easier to take in all the power and beauty of all those words, just a few at a time.
One day, the Boy and I will have a bookshelf, a whole one. We’ll display all our books at once. But for now we’ll enjoy our little apartment, and the rhythm of putting books away and taking them out, rediscovering their pages like meeting up with old friends.
Anna-Marie McLemore writes from her Mexican-American heritage and the love for stories she learned from her family. She lives in California’s Central Valley with a boy from the other side of the Rockies. Her debut novel THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a YA contemporary love story with a magical twist, will be released in 2015 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. You can find her on Facebook or Twitter @laannamarie.
Thanks for tuning in! Join us next Friday for more Project: Bookshelf. Can’t wait that long? Visit the Project: Bookshelf archive.