What to Read this Month: January 2019

Welcome back! The best way to celebrate the start of 2019 is with some new books. Check out our New and Noteworthy and Current Literature collections for some good titles.


“All the Real Indians Died Off”: and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker unpacks the twenty-one most common myths and misconceptions about Native Americans. In this enlightening book, scholars and activists Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker tackle a wide range of myths about Native American culture and history that have misinformed generations. Tracing how these ideas evolved, and drawing from history, the authors disrupt long-held and enduring myths such as-“Columbus Discovered America,” “Thanksgiving Proves the Indians Welcomed Pilgrims,” “Indians Were Savage and Warlike,” “Europeans Brought Civilization to Backward Indians,” “The United States Did Not Have a Policy of Genocide,” “Sports Mascots Honor Native Americans,” “Most Indians Are on Government Welfare,” “Indian Casinos Make Them All Rich,” and “Indians Are Naturally Predisposed to Alcohol.” Each chapter deftly shows how these myths are rooted in the fears and prejudice of European settlers and in the larger political agendas of a settler state aimed at acquiring Indigenous land and tied to narratives of erasure and disappearance. Accessibly written and revelatory, All the Real Indians Died Off challenges readers to rethink what they have been taught about Native Americans and history.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz also wrote An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Dina Gilio-Whitaker is a policy director and senior researcher at the Center for World Indigenous Studies.

According to Shandiin Herrera, who wrote a moving piece on the Native American experience at Duke in the Chronicle, “I think that this book selection is very important because there are too many stereotypes that continue to be perpetuated, especially in academia. These myths continue to harm Indigenous students, tribal policies, and Native Nations across the country. There is also a substantial amount of power in gaining a new understanding of history and the construction of our society.”


A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett contains eleven unique short stories that stretch from a rural Canadian Mennonite town to a hipster gay bar in Brooklyn, featuring young trans women stumbling through loss, sex, harassment, and love. These stories, shiny with whiskey and prairie sunsets, rattling subways and neglected cats, show growing up as a trans girl can be charming, funny, frustrating, or sad, but never will it be predictable.

In addition to Perkins, you can find A Safe Girl to Love as a free PDF on the author’s website Progress Never Stops For Nostalgic Transsexuals.


The Kukotsky Enigma: A Novel by Ludmila Ulitskaya, translated from the Russian by Diane Nemec Ignashev. The central character in Ludmila Ulitskaya’s celebrated novel The Kukotsky Enigma is a gynecologist contending with Stalin’s prohibition of abortions in 1936. But, in the tradition of Russia’s great family novels, the story encompasses the history of two families and unfolds in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the ruins of ancient civilizations on the Black Sea. Their lives raise profound questions about family heritage and genetics, nurture and nature, and life and death. In his struggle to maintain his professional integrity and to keep his work from dividing his family, Kukotsky confronts the moral complexity of reproductive science. Winner of the 2001 Russian Booker Prize and the basis for a blockbuster television miniseries, The Kukotsky Enigma is an engrossing, searching novel by one of contemporary literature’s most brilliant writers.

If you’re interested, we also have the original Russian novel.


You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar. Growing up as a fat girl, Virgie Tovar believed that her body was something to be fixed. But after two decades of dieting and constant guilt, she was over it–and gave herself the freedom to trust her own body again. Ever since, she’s been helping others to do the same. Tovar is hungry for a world where bodies are valued equally, food is free from moral judgment, and you can jiggle through life with respect. In concise and candid language, she delves into unlearning fatphobia, dismantling sexist notions of fashion, and how to reject diet culture’s greatest lie: that fat people need to wait before beginning their best lives.

Check out her TEDx Talk and website.


Odd Girl Out: My Extraordinary Autistic Life by Laura James. From childhood, Laura James knew she was different. She struggled to cope in a world that often made no sense to her, as though her brain had its own operating system. It wasn’t until she reached her forties that she found out why: suddenly and surprisingly, she was diagnosed with autism.

With a touching and searing honesty, Laura challenges everything we think we know about what it means to be autistic. Married with four children and a successful journalist, Laura examines the ways in which autism has shaped her career, her approach to motherhood, and her closest relationships. Laura’s upbeat, witty writing offers new insight into the day-to-day struggles of living with autism, as her extreme attention to sensory detail–a common aspect of her autism–is fascinating to observe through her eyes.

As Laura grapples with defining her own identity, she also looks at the unique benefits neurodiversity can bring. Lyrical and lush, Odd Girl Out shows how being different doesn’t mean being less, and proves that it is never too late for any of us to find our rightful place in the world.

Amelia Hill of the Guardian interviewed Laura James about being a mother with autism.

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