10 min read

Stone Soup Digest 07.01.22

Reading List Extravaganza

Welcome to the Stone Soup Weekly Digest! This is where I share what I'm up to and some of my favorite things from around the internet. Subscribe to Stone Soup to get this in your inbox every week.

I haven’t sent one of these out for a couple of weeks. I would apologize but honestly I don’t think any of you were tapping your feet going “where the hell is the Stone Soup Digest?” If you were, I’m honored that this newsletter occupies an important place in your week! Health issues and the rise of what increasingly seems to be a judicial coup in my country kept me from being able to get much work done. So it goes.

Speaking of which. When news arises that calls for action, I tend to take a couple of days to sort signal from noise, to find out what we can do to be actually helpful, to listen to people who know their way around issues and communities. Then, I usually send out an email with information about how to start helping. You can find a couple of those resource round-ups here and here.

The recent flurry of Supreme Court decisions in the United States call for action, but things are happening so quickly that it’s easy to accidentally sow confusion and misinformation, and even easier to spread disinformation and panic. I’m not interested in doing any of those things. Everything seems to be happening all at once right now, and it’s scary. That fear can make it easy to rush into ill-thought-out reactions that will deplete us now and leave us running on fumes for the fight to come.

So, I’m not rushing. I’ll have specific resources soon as the shape of things becomes more clear. There’s lots of work ahead, and time for us to do it.

In the meantime, just for now:

And here, in the Stone Soup Digest, is just… a shitton of stuff you can read, if you feel like reading.

Visit the Neighbors

Gimme Schalter by Ty Schalter

Ty Schalter has an incredibly clear and insightful perspective on pop culture, media, and the world. Gimme Schalter is easily one of my favorite newsletters. Schalter’s recent insights on Substack, Hamish McKenzie is Right About Everything But Substack, is essential reading and includes this devastating introduction:

I know Hamish McKenzie is a writer, because writers process their most difficult feelings by pouring them all out onto the page and hitting “publish,” with no regard for their self-interest.

Sign up here!

Claire Willett

Claire Willett’s newsletter goes out weekly and includes her reflections on media and the world. Willett cuts to the heart of every conversation with refreshing directness and tangible wit. Reading these dispatches always feels like getting a peek into a brilliant mind.

Sign up at her website!

Unsettling Futures by Matthew Claxton

Matthew Claxton has an understanding of genre media that I both admire and fear. Subscribe to this one for in-depth reading on things like the rise and fall of snark, the difference between fame and influence, and original fiction to boot.

Sign up here!

The City Inside by Samit Basu

Joey is a Reality Controller in near-future Delhi. Her job is to supervise the multimedia multi-reality livestreams of Indi, one of South Asia's fastest rising online celebrities--who also happens to be her college ex. Joey's job gives her considerable culture power, but she's too caught up in day-to-day crisis handling to see this, or to figure out what she wants from her life.

Rudra is a recluse estranged from his wealthy and powerful family, now living in an impoverished immigrant neighborhood. When his father's death pulls him back into his family's orbit, an impulsive job offer from Joey becomes his only escape from the life he never wanted.

But as Joey and Rudra become enmeshed in multiple conspiracies, their lives start to spin out of control--complicated by dysfunctional relationships, corporate loyalty, and the never-ending pressures of surveillance capitalism. When a bigger picture begins to unfold, they must each decide how to do the right thing in a world where simply maintaining the status quo feels like an accomplishment. Ultimately, resistance will not--cannot--take the same shape for these two very different people.

Add The City Inside to your tbr here. Order it from your local independent bookseller, or order it via Bookshop.org to support independent booksellers throughout the US and the UK. For international shipping, you can try Barnes & Noble. If you prefer audiobooks, here’s a Libro.fm link. You can also request The City Inside from your local library — here’s how to get in touch with them. And if you need to order from the Bad River Website, here’s a link that will leverage your order for good. If you’d like to read an excerpt first, you can find one here.

Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley

Jada Townsend-Matthews is the most reviled woman in America after turning down a proposal on a reality dating show. When she comes home to lick her wounds, Jada finds herself working at San Diego's newest cupcake bakery, Sugar Blitz, alongside the uptight owner and professional football player Donovan Dell.

When a reporter mistakenly believes Jada and Donovan are an item, they realize they can use the misunderstanding to their advantage to help the struggling bakery and rehabilitate Jada's image. Faking a relationship should be simple, but sometimes love is the most unexpected ingredient.

Add Fake It Till You Bake It to your tbr here. Order it from your local independent bookseller, or order it via Bookshop.org to support independent booksellers throughout the US and the UK. For international shipping, you can try Barnes & Noble. You can also request Fake It Till You Bake It from your local library — here’s how to get in touch with them. And if you need to order from the Bad River Website, here’s a link that will leverage your order for good.

Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert

The suburbs, right now . . .

Seventeen-year-old Ivy's summer break kicks off with an accident, a punishment, and a mystery: a stranger whose appearance in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night, heralds a string of increasingly unsettling events. As the days pass, Ivy grapples with eerie offerings, corroded memories, and a secret she's always known--that there's more to her mother than meets the eye.

The city, back then . . .

Dana has always been perceptive. And the summer she turns sixteen, with the help of her best friend and an ambitious older girl, her gifts bloom into a heady fling with the supernatural. As the trio's aspirations darken, they find themselves speeding toward a violent breaking point.

Years after it began, Ivy and Dana's shared story will come down to a reckoning among a daughter, a mother, and the dark forces they never should've messed with.

Add Our Crooked Hearts to your tbr here. Order it from your local independent bookseller, or order it via Bookshop.org to support independent booksellers throughout the US and the UK. For international shipping, you can try Barnes & Noble. If you prefer audiobooks, here’s a Libro.fm link. You can also request Our Crooked Hearts from your local library — here’s how to get in touch with them. And if you need to order from the Bad River Website, here’s a link that will leverage your order for good.

The Vampire Slayer #3 by Me!

Xander is fed up with Giles and Willow for being such a drag! But while they sort their mistakes out, Xander soon finds himself alone and under attack by a creature that proves too much for him. That is, until an unexpected would-be foe comes to his rescue, leading to a deal that could work out very well for the both of them...

The Vampire Slayer #3 is written by me, with art by Michael Shelfer, colors by Valentina Pinto, and letters by Ed Dukeshire. Issue #3 features main cover art by Goñi Montes. Find it at your local comic shop! Or if you prefer digital, The Vampire Slayer #3 is available for Comixology/Kindle and Nook.

I’m Reading

Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen

Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home--she's built the perfect life. But beneath this façade, Ava's world is crumbling: her marriage is falling apart, her expensive law degree hasn't been used in years, and her toddler's tantrums are pushing her to the breaking point.

Enter Winnie Fang, Ava's enigmatic college roommate from Mainland China, who abruptly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, Winnie is looking to reconnect with her old friend. But the shy, awkward girl Ava once knew has been replaced with a confident woman of the world, dripping in luxury goods, including a coveted Birkin in classic orange. The secret to her success? Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit scheme that involves importing near-exact replicas of luxury handbags and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business--someone who'd never be suspected of wrongdoing, someone like Ava. But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes once again, Ava is left to face the consequences.

Who Is Wellness For? by Fariha Roisin

Growing up in Australia, Fariha Róisín, a Bangladeshi Muslim, struggled to fit in. In attempts to assimilate, she distanced herself from her South Asian heritage and identity. Years later, living in the United States, she realized that the customs, practices, and even food of her native culture that had once made her different--everything from ashwagandha to prayer--were now being homogenized and marketed for good health, often at a premium by white people to white people.

In this thought-provoking book, part memoir, part journalistic investigation, the acclaimed writer and poet explores the way in which the progressive health industry has appropriated and commodified global healing traditions. She reveals how wellness culture has become a luxury good built on the wisdom of Black, brown, and Indigenous people--while ignoring and excluding them.

My Favorite Reads of June

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow

Summer 1995: Ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father's explosive temper and seek refuge at her mother's ancestral home in Memphis. This is not the first time violence has altered the course of the family's trajectory. Half a century earlier, Joan's grandfather built this majestic house in the historic Black neighborhood of Douglass--only to be lynched days after becoming the first Black detective in the city. Joan tries to settle into her new life, but family secrets cast a longer shadow than any of them expected.

As she grows up, Joan finds relief in her artwork, painting portraits of the community in Memphis. One of her subjects is their enigmatic neighbor Miss Dawn, who claims to know something about curses, and whose stories about the past help Joan see how her passion, imagination, and relentless hope are, in fact, the continuation of a long matrilineal tradition. Joan begins to understand that her mother, her mother's mother, and the mothers before them persevered, made impossible choices, and put their dreams on hold so that her life would not have to be defined by loss and anger--that the sole instrument she needs for healing is her paintbrush.

Unfolding over seventy years through a chorus of unforgettable voices that move back and forth in time, Memphis paints an indelible portrait of inheritance, celebrating the full complexity of what we pass down, in a family and as a country: brutality and justice, faith and forgiveness, sacrifice and love.

A Lady For A Duke by Alexis Hall

When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.

Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.

As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.

Hide by Kiersten White

The challenge: Spend a week hiding in an abandoned amusement park and don't get caught.

The prize: enough money to change everything.

Even though everyone is desperate to win--to seize a dream future or escape a haunting past--Mack is sure she can beat her competitors. All she has to do is hide, and she's an expert at that.

It's the reason she's alive and her family isn't.

But as the people around her begin disappearing one by one, Mack realizes that this competition is even more sinister than she imagined, and that together might be the only way to survive.

Fourteen competitors. Seven days. Everywhere to hide but nowhere to run.

That’s it for this week! If you’re reading this: I’m thankful for your presence. I’m proud of you for keeping your head above water. I’m certain, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that you’re part of the future we’re building together. Care for yourself and the people around you. Believe that the world can be better than it is now. Never give up.

If you’re a paying subscriber, keep an eye out for July’s Stone Soup Supper Club for our weekly chat! I’ll see you there.