Local Letters

3 New Books for Your Seattle Spring Reading

A how-to on parental feminism, essays about fruit (with recipes), and essays about whales.

By Stefan Milne March 23, 2021

All three stretch the idea of memoir in very different ways. 

Image: Stefan Milne

How to Raise a Feminist Son: Motherhood, Masculinity, and the Making of my Family by Sonora Jha

Part guide, part memoir, Sonora Jha’s book is for anyone trying to raise feminist boy in a world that’s generally designed to produce the opposite. In each chapter, Jha, a Seattle University professor, sets out to tackle a question (“What If I’m Not a Good Feminist?” and “Do I Really Have to Talk to Him about Sex?”) and includes to-do bullet points at the end. But much of the text also concerns Jah’s own journey—as a writer and a mother—from her time as a reporter in India to how she's used movies as a teaching tool (Bechdel-Wallace test, male gaze) with her now-grown son.

The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly (With Recipes) by Kate Lebo

“In this book, fruit is not the smooth-skinned, bright-hued, waxed and edible ovary of the grocery store,” Spokane's Kate Lebo writes at the start her new essay collection. Here, fruit is a pain—but, as pains go, a pretty good one. The book that follows is a compendium, an alphabetical rundown of 26 mostly counterintuitive fruits, from aronia to zucchini (for W we get wheat instead of watermelon). Each fruit is also the occasion for a lyric essay and recipe. So after Lebo has described aronia berries (“taste vegetal, like a grass stem, then sour, like a crabapple, with a tannic pucker that rivals raw quince”), we get a meditation on what Lebo thinks daily aronia berry smoothies might do for her: “I would believe they are three to four times healthier than blues even if their packaging didn’t say so, because they immediately assert their potency." Then she gives you the recipe for said smoothie.

Touching This Leviathan by Peter Wayne Moe

“To cook the thing up,” wrote Herman Melville of Moby Dick, “one must needs throw in a little fancy, which from the nature of the thing, must be as ungainly as the gambols of the whales.” As a sort of rejoinder, Peter Wayne Moe’s a new book about whales, Touching This Leviathan, is thoroughly gainly, a lean 126 pages. It does, however, “throw in a little fancy.” Moe, a Seattle Pacific University professor, weaves personal essay (whale watching in the Northwest, memorizing The Book of Jonah), biology, theology, history, criticism, and more than a few Melville references into a book that “asks how we might come to know the unknowable.”

Need to pick one up? Here's a list of local bookshops

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