An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is worth reading even if you aren’t a history buff, because it shows how very pervasive the genocide of America’s indigenous peoples is in our history and our present and our future, through things like our national myth of The Frontier, and the organization and tactics of our military, and how our country honors or subverts treaties in its own interest. It was difficult reading sometimes, as you might expect, but important. The “suggested reading” section is an excellent resource.

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks was a long-ago recommendation from a friend that turned out to be not really for me. If you like complex political situations and moral ambiguity in your fantasy, this might be for you. I was not in the mood for fiction that came perilously close to fetishizing poverty and offered little hope of escape even after physical escape.

[rant] By “fetishizing poverty” I mean the sort of book in which the whole goal is for the hero to escape poverty, but before he or she does, the author lingeringly dwells on the horrible things that happen on the Bad Side of Town amid the middens and gutters and rampant syphilitic prostitution. You know the kind of book I mean? The ones in which poor people never seem to have families who love and support them whether by birth or otherwise (except maybe ambiguous families of child thieves or brothels), and never have the comfort of religion or spirituality, and never just, you know, work long hours in a factory that’s exhausting but actually pretty okay in order to feed their families. There’s endless hopelessness in fetishized poverty, which of course can be true of real poverty, but in this type of fiction it feels almost gloating, and the idea seems to be you can only get out if you’re Chosen, or Special, or willing to kill/steal from/con people. And even if that’s a realistic view, I don’t want to read about it. [/rant]

I accidentally skipped the third Penric novella and read Penric’s Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold, which ends on a semi-cliffhanger that’s continued in volumes five and six, it looks like. I am enjoying this series because Bujold and fascinating worldbuilding; I really love all the implications and explorations of a human sharing a body with an incorporeal being. It’s like Star Trek’s Trill, except with magic powers and no slug!

I also read Counterpunch by Aleksandr Voinov, m/m romance that I’d received as a galley some time ago. I think I’d requested it because it was about a boxer, but it turned out it was set mostly in an alternate England, roughly contemporary with ours, that is hampered by legal slavery for criminals and apparently also by inheritance. I don’t like that sort of thing in fiction, but I skimmed through anyway out of curiosity. There was not enough detail to convince me that world would really have developed as it did, but the slavery was clearly meant as backdrop, so probably those who like this flavor of d/s are reading for other reasons. I was amused to note that there’s an in-story news article about how the economics of slavery are terrible, so I guess the author shared my disbelief to some extent. I did like reading about the boxing matches, though, since I didn’t know much about that sport beyond seeing Creed.

A Secret History of Salt by Teaotter crosses over Leverage with the Winter Soldier, and I would happily read many more stories like it.

The Name in the Mouth by Rave is a really interesting story tying together the idea of golems with a Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier who is Jewish, and it’s so excellent and beautifully written. It made me think.

His mother told him the story about the golem. He thought. One of the stories. There were different versions.

He wrote down the parts he could remember, the way he was writing down everything else.

The story went: a holy man shaped the golem from river clay. Or from wooden hinges bent together. Or hammered metal. Or a doctor sewed it from parts of corpses.

It was shaped like a man. But it was stronger. You could not mistake it for flesh and blood.

It was a tool with hands. It was a box with nothing inside.

It was to protect them. Or to work for them. Or because the doctor wanted to know if it could be done.

It could not speak. It did what it was told.