Thursday, February 27, 2020

Ismée Williams

Ismée Williams, the author of Water in May, is a pediatric cardiologist who trained and practiced for over a dozen years at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, the daughter of a Cuban immigrant partially raised by her abuelos, and the mother of three daughters. She also has a dog, Rowan, who is commonly mistaken for a muppet.

Williams's new novel is This Train Is Being Held.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I try to read as much as I can. I belong to two different book clubs that I love as they give me the opportunity to read books I wouldn’t necessarily pick out for myself. Since I live in New York City, I usually end up reading on my iPhone on the subway and then switch to the audiobook when I get out to walk along the streets. I prefer an old-fashioned book that I can hold in my hands, but the benefit of e-books and audiobooks is that they are always with me when I’m on the go (and seeing patients in the hospital and having three children means if I’m not writing, I’m on the go!).

Over the winter break, I read The Testament by Margaret Atwood. I loved The Handmaid’s Tale–the story, the themes, the plotting. But whereas The Handmaid’s Tale was sparse and clever in its release of information, forcing the reader to piece together the world, The Testament felt like more of an encyclopedia of all the details anyone ever wanted to know about Gilead. It lacked the suspense of its predecessor. The theme of government and men controlling women still struck me, even though one of the characters is a woman of considerable power within the regime, so I would nonetheless recommend it to anyone who enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale.

One of my most recent personal picks was The Queen of Nothing, which I very much enjoyed. I’m a huge Holly Black fan and this trilogy about Jude, a human girl who must learn to not only fight but outwit the royal court to survive in Faerie, is Holly Black at her best. I love the descriptive writing that pulls you in and makes you feel as if you are living in Faerie alongside Jude, rooting for her and gasping at her mistakes. And, of course there is Cardan, who is beautiful and cruel and is tortured by his own internal wounds which makes him impossible to resist. I wish there were more books in this series!

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby was a book I devoured then passed on to my 14- and 12-year old daughters. Reminiscent of The Book Thief given the unconventional and fresh plotting (a ghost serves as the narrator), this historical fiction paranormal novel set in Chicago during World War II was moving, important, and empowering of women and people of color. I couldn’t put it down. I don’t want to give away too much, but this should be on everyone’s must read list.

I just finished Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women which I found to be exceedingly well written but very disturbing in content. This is an adult non-fiction book that tells the stories of three women and their sexuality. It was disheartening and frightening as a mother to find that two of the three women had been abused and manipulated as teens. Of course, these experiences shaped their sexuality, impacting their whole lives. The third woman, who you initially think is the strong one living by her own design, also had an unfortunate incident as an 8-year old. I came away from the book fearing for my own daughters and remembering my abuela who was always a hawk when it came to protecting me, never allowing me to be alone with boys and men until I was in college. Abuela was right!

I’m currently in the middle of The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante which is a wonderful YA novel that provides a unique perspective on the migrant story. Marisol, a teen from El Salvador, is tasked with getting herself and her younger sister to safety in the US after her brother is killed by gang violence. But this story is about much more than just their journey. In an almost fantastical/dystopian twist, Marisol is tasked with becoming the grief keeper, someone who will absorb other people’s trauma in exchange for asylum. I thought this was going to be like Lois Lowry’s The Giver, but The Grief Keeper is set in this world and is very realistic other than that one twist. Marisol is also haunted by guilt for having fallen for her brother’s, and the gang leader’s, sometimes girlfriend. Beautifully written, tender and original, I am loving this story and can’t wait to see how it ends!
Visit Ismée Williams's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Ismée Amiel Williams & Rowan.

My Book, The Movie: Water in May.

My Book, The Movie: This Train Is Being Held.

--Marshal Zeringue

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