Keeping it Breezy

Hello, hello! So recently I found myself in a big, chaotic gathering amid a lot of people who don't know me all that well, namely my brother's wedding weekend, and one of these relative strangers, namely his new mother-in-law, said to my new sister-in-law (stay with me here) that she thinks I'm very, and I quote: "laid back and go-with-the-flow."

Wait, what? Who? This Liz?

It was obviously not something I'd heard much before, so I jokingly brought it up to a few people who do know me better and they all...confirmed it. That yes, I am a person with the capacity to be wildly neurotic and controlling but also a person with the capacity to be, as Monica Gellar might say, breezy

breezy monica hottsauce blog funny humor

We all contain multitudes! Who knew? 

This off-hand conversation has led me on a -Trigger Warning for Oprah Language! - personal growth journey. It's interesting to consider how the ways we see ourselves might differ from the way others see us. Perhaps if I can begin to recognize my multitudes, I won't be as hard on myself in those instances when I am well, not breezy. Perhaps I could begin to appreciate myself for the times I do, actually, go with the flow while letting myself off the hook for the times I don't. It's possible that I'm not the uptight control monster I always envisioned but just a layered individual who can, on occasion, be a little tightly wound. 

Though I was, apparently, really leaning into my breezy side while feting the newlyweds a few weeks back (and yes, I'll go ahead and say what you're all thinking, I am making my brother's wedding weekend all about me...I haven't personally grown that much yet), the ensuing weeks have hurled me in the opposite direction and I've felt myself winding tighter and tighter until like a spring, I'm ready to snap. 

I'm not like, hovering on the edge of a breakdown or anything, don't worry, but I am maybe not being the best me I can be.  Thanks to a spicy mix of high pressure work projects, dumb personal life stuff, and this continued knee injury, which has left me unable to run, thus providing me with an extra thing to stress about while effectively wiping out my #1 coping mechanism, I've been feeling like a hot mess express. I need to chill out...and fast.

I decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns if you will (I have no idea what that phrase even means) this past weekend and treat myself to a massage, hoping it would loosen some shit up, physically and emotionally. I have only had one massage ever in my life, in Cambodia and I would not say it was a stellar experience. I mean, the masseuse was great but I was, as always a total spaz, and spent the entire time stressing about class issues and thinking about boners. You can read that whole saga riiight here. But desperate times call for desperate measures so I boldly made an appointment for Sunday afternoon at the wellness clinic down the street where I have occasionally visited for acupuncture. I mean! I've been so calm and normal during those appointments, just think of how relaxed I'll be laying there fully nude while a stranger massages my armpits.

Yes, armpits.

Mid-massage the masseuse started going in on that area of fat that hangs over strapless dresses no matter how many half-assed push ups you do (ladies know what I'm talkin' about) and advised that I ask Brian to massage me in the same location. What? I can't. I have, god-willing, 50+ years of keeping the mystery alive here, we are NOT in the armpit massage stage of marriage just yet. 

But the pits weren't even the worst of it. APPARENTLY I am even more tightly wound that I thought and here are all of the places I hold tension: back, hips, ankles, glutes, mid-torso, shoulder blades, neck, pits, and especially forearms. What! How are even my forearms stressed? The masseuse did do something wonderful that made my hands feel all loose and wiggly and then asked me how big my office was. "Big enough!" I replied, thinking he was going to advise me on some stretches. Instead he offered me one takeaway: buy a hot towel warmer from the internet and wrap my forearms in warm towels every time I begin to feel stressed.

Again: no.

LOVE your enthusiasm, bud, but I am never going to purchase and install a hot towel warmer in my office I just don't think that's how the real world works. And as routinely demonstrated, I am so deeply neurotic AT ALL TIMES, this just ends with me fully draped in hot towels like I'm Andre Agassi after a rough match at Wimbledon. 

But, all things considered, the massage was actually great and did help to bust some kinks out of my back and I would for sure do it again. And next time, I might even come prepared with cash!

That's right. Superfans of Ye Olde Hott Sauce will surely recall that I left my first acupuncture experience at this clinic in a total panic after seeing a tip envelope, unsure of the protocol on tipping for these sorts of services. Post massage I dressed and languorously made my way to the front desk only to again be instantly snapped out of my relaxed reverie by the sight of those damn tiny envelopes. Acupuncture is a grey area but massage surely falls under the tippage category of physical services. 

I paid for my appointment with my credit card and, nervously looking around the room, sucked up my pride and in a loud whisper asked the very nice young woman behind the desk "can I ask you an important question?"

"Of course!" she replied politely.

"This is so embarrassing but...are you supposed to tip? For a massage, I mean? I've only ever been to acupuncture and..."

She cut me off with a kind but chastising all the same: "for massage, it is customary. And we do only take tips in cash."

KEWL.

Here's how much cash I had on my person: zero dollars and zero cents. 

I gave a frenzied laugh, yelped "OK I'LL BE RIGHT BACK!", and sprinted out into the day in search of some dolla bills. All along my plan for the afternoon had been to go to the massage and then do my grocery shopping at the big, reasonably priced grocery store three blocks from clinic, in the opposite direction from my apartment. As I came out of the massage place in search of some cash, I decided I didn't want to spend $2.50 on bodega ATM fees, so my best option was to walk to the CVS which is directly next to said grocery store and get some cash back. I should have just done my grocery shopping at this time, but decided it would be too weird to go back to the clinic carrying all of my groceries, so instead I purchased one solitary paper towel roll at CVS and took out $40 cash back and hiked the three blocks - uphill, mind you! - back to the massage place. I know you're thinking that is a very generous tip for one massage and you are right but I wanted to be prepared just in case. You see, I'd never actually tipped for my few acupuncture appointments and decided as long as I was already embarrassing myself, I'd just ask the front desk gal what the protocol was on that front and, if needed, leave some kind of retroactive tip to atone for my sins. 

Formal confirmation for the equally confused: massage = tip. Acupuncture = "considered a medical practice" = no tip. The more you know!

Once again I found myself leaving an appointment intended to help me relax even more stressed than when I first begin. 

Exhausted by it all, I decided I did not have the energy to walk all the way back to the cheap grocery store and instead just visited the smaller, v bougie grocery store a block away from my apartment, effectively cancelling out any and all savings I'd accrued by avoiding bodega ATM fees, and then some. 

Shopping alongside me was a rumpled older gentleman - picture the drunk uncle character on SNL Weekend Update and give him a bushier beard - who was muttering a grouchy monologue throughout his shopping, lamenting the high price of groceries these days, the rents, the pesticides.

"You just can't afford to live in this town anymore!" he groused to his lettuce. "The rents will kill you, if the chemicals don't first," under his breath while pawing through a stack of carrots. Then louder: "FIVE DOLLARS FOR PINEAPPLE, are you fucking kidding me??"

I managed to bob and weave around him as I filled my cart with ingredients for the evening's meal, indulging in plenty of fresh produce and herbs, a new bottle of olive oil. I like to buy nice foods and besides, I was having a bad week. Don't I deserve to treat myself?

I thought I'd lost him until I turned into the cheese aisle and found him having cornered a deli worker beside a stack of fancy Parmesan wheels, ranting about The Cost Of Things These Days.

"You can't even live!" I heard him exclaim. "Look at her! That's a month of my salary in her basket!"

The her he was referring to? Me, of course. I glanced over and there he was, pointing an angry finger in my direction, glowering at my basket piled high with shallots and dill. 

Needless to say, between the tip fiasco and this character, any positive relaxing effects of the massage were very swiftly departing.

I checked every item off my list except the keystone ingredient of my dinner recipe: dried chick peas. I was planning to make this falafel recipe which says in no uncertain terms that one should NOT use canned chickpeas. Dried or GTFO. This fancy-ass grocery story had dried kidney beans and dried peas but nary a dried chick pea in sight. 

I was frustrated, to be sure, but not defeated. I live in New York City, after all! I had two more grocery shopping options within a two block radius: the medium-sized, medium-priced Food Train, and the tiny but well-stocked Asian grocery memorably named The Bad Wife. I decided Food Train was my best bean bet, so I loaded my heavy canvas bags (reduce, reuse, recycle!) onto my rapidly re-tightening shoulders and trudged on over. Again: a wide variety of dried beans but NO CHICKPEAS.

A Garbanzo Goldilocks, I huffed out of the store, took a deep breath, and headed for The Bad Wife. This time, things would be just right.

I wove my way through the narrow aisles and there in front of me, my bounty lay: dried chick peas!  They were a fancy organic brand, rather than the basic Goya I'm familiar with, but who doesn't love organic? GMO free, baby! I grabbed the bag, turned it over, and stopped in my tracks. 

"SIX NINETY-NINE," I barked aloud, "for some dried beans?! Are you fucking kidding me??" 

Sweet mother of pearl, there was a new unhinged grocery shopper in town ... and it was me. 

I flung the beans back on the shelf and sprinted for the comfort of my home, locking the doors behind me and throwing myself on the couch with a dramatic sigh.

"Welcome home, babe!" called Brian from the other room. "How was your relaxing day?"

Great, great, SO GREAT.

And here we are. I think I'm in the home stretch on the work stuff but life loves to throw curve balls so if anyone could recommend some tried and true de-stressing activities that do not involve the following, would you please let me know?

Touching people, being touched, an option to leave a tip, needles, the use of one's knees, drugs, interacting with other human beings in any form, or dried chick peas. 

There's a breezy person inside me, yearning to break free! 

XO

Liz Hott

 

HOTTREADS: Volume Twelve

Hi and how are ya?! I had a lofty goal to blog once a week this year but apparently once a month is more my speed. Oops? I'd love to say I've been off somewhere exotic, but in reality I've been drowning in work, dealing with a frustrating knee injury (long story!), jetting off to Chicago for my brother's wedding, subsequently recovering for 2-6 weeks post my brother's wedding (how long do hangovers usually last? Asking for a friend!), etc. Normal things! I feel like I have one million ideas to write about, my brain is constantly tumbling over thoughts, but whenever I get a spare moment to sit at my computer, they fly away. 

I'll capture them someday. Until then you can sit with growing anticipation for what brilliance I shall deliver.

Ok fine, I won't leave you totally hanging. Amid the working and the physical therapy and the peeing in an alleyway in downtown Chicago in a bridesmaid dress (oh like you've never peed in a city alley before), I have managed to find some time to sneak in a book or two. Or four, if I'm being entirely upfront here. 

So, without further ado: here are the four books I read in March of 2017. And YES I KNOW it is now essentially May 2017 so I'm falling wildly behind but did I not just list enough excuses for you?

My dog ate my blog. It wasn't my fault! 

just mercy hottreads hottsauce book blogger

JUST MERCY: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

First up, my March Nonfiction Challenge pick!

I know the term "must-read" gets tossed around pretty fast and loose by certain book publicists (ahem), diluting the meaning, but this one is the real deal! So just in case "must read" isn't powerful enough for ya, I took to the interwebs to come up with a few synonyms c/o thesaurus.com: obligatory, compulsory, binding, required, requisite, necessary, essential, imperative. 

JUST MERCY is all of those things and a page turner to boot! 

Bryan Stevenson is legit an American hero. After working with death row inmates in law school, Stevenson co-founded the Equal Justice Initiative, fully dedicating his life's work to defending and fighting for wrongfully incarcerated, especially those sent to death row and young children convicted to gruesome life sentences. The narrative arc of the story is one of his first, and most famous cases, representing Walter McMillian, a man sent to death row for a crime he didn't commit. Interwoven with the McMillan case are absolutely harrowing statistics and stories about other clients of the EJI, about kids as young as 12 sentenced to life in solitary confinement for minor infractions, about men wrongfully sent to death row, about people usually too poor, too powerless, and yes, too black, to fight the system that's supposed to protect them. This book is timely and timeless at once and feels especially vital in light of the rush of executions set to roll out in the next few weeks in Arkansas. 

The stories he tells are crushing, and yet it's not all bleak, as Stevenson and the people who work with him and in support of him in the EJI are some of the most inspiring, moving, compassionate souls. It's horrific to think of the way that this country treats criminals and continues to perpetuate a mindset of white superiority and yet, knowing that there are people like Bryan Stevenson out there gives me a glimmer of hope. I know several friends - one a badass lady judge from my hometown, another an eager young law student - who consider him a hero and it excites me to think of other brilliant legal minds following in his footsteps moves me to the core.

And just a final note here, in case I haven't heard sold this enough, we all know nearly every book makes me cry at one point or another,  but this one made me cry literally every time I opened it so we're talking about a real winner here. 

Recommended For: Uh, everyone. What part of "obligatory, compulsory, binding, required, requisite, necessary, esssential, imperative" is unclear? 

the hate u give angie thomas book blogger hottreads

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

I love this book so much you guys. So much. Technically a Young Adult novel, The Hate U Give (title pulled from a Tupac song) is the story of 16-year-old Starr who lives in a predominantly black inner-city neighborhood and goes to school at a preppy, predominantly white private school in the 'burbs, making her an expert in the art of code switching. One night she's the only witness as her childhood best friend is killed at the hands of a white police officer and she has to make serious choices and confront harsh realities that threaten to shatter the delicate balance she's created in her worlds. 

I don't usually like YA books because I'm an old curmudgeon but every now and again one comes along that I truly think transcends age genres. Starr and her friends and family are - for the most part - fully realized and complex and Thomas does an exceptional job at portraying a teen world that is nuanced and full. For Starr, and most teens in real life, I think (IDK it's been a while since I was a youth), boys and friends and math tests take equal billing in her mind alongside race relations and family strain and money concerns. That said, though the teen themes are universal, Angie Thomas does not whitewash (literally or figuratively!) her heroine, exploring fears and hopes unique to the experience of young Black women, who rarely get to be the stars of blockbuster films or bestselling novels. More of this, entertainment and publishing execs! 

Also it's just a good read. Starr is hilarious, the dialogue is flawless, the plot is propulsive, the pop-culture references are spot-on, there's just enough teen romance to make you swoon, but not so much you have to roll your old lady eyes (you're 16,  you're going to break up, get over it!), there's family drama, prom, cliquey girl groups, the works. 

Also, this book did not make me cry on the subway but DID make me cry on an Amtrak train which is maybe even more powerful? Amtraks are so fancy, who could cry on such a luxurious chariot? 

Recommended for: Adult YA fans, parents and/or teachers of teens - I think this would be SUCH a good book to read alongside your t(w)een to help guide a discussion on race and activism, sneakerheads. 

all grown up hottsauce hottreads book blogger jami attenberg

ALL GROWN UP by Jami Attenberg

Remember my ill-fated charity mingle from earlier this year? Of course you do, how could you forget! Well, my night didn't end when I slunk out the door of the fancy party and by slunk I mean tried to open the door myself, was startled when instead it was opened by a butler standing on the patio outside and suuuuper cooly remarked to him "Oh wow, I usually open my own doors, this is the fanciest place I've ever been."

VERY.

SMOOTH.

MOVES.

LIZ. 

Anyhoodle I had initially thought the party was much later than it actually was, and Brian had made plans to host a poker night at our house, so I told him I'd make myself scarce so they could really bro out. I'd made plans to have dinner with a friend after the party, but she got held up at work so I figured if I could take myself to a cocktail mingle, I could certainly take myself out for a bite and a drink.

Also, like, how could the night get any worse?

By the grace of all that is holy, the remainder of the evening was a pure delight and I did not make any more scenes. Miracles happen! Instead, I cozied up at the bar at June, a chic little place in Cobble Hill, and ordered a glass of wine and a fancy Brussels sprout dish featuring "Parmesan whip" which turned out to be like, a cloud of Parmesan cheese and butter of some kind? I don't know, but it was magical and delicious, my mouth is watering thinking about it again. And the crown jewel atop this lovely dinner was my companion, Jami Attenberg's charming yet maddening new novel. 

All Grown Up is structurally interesting, reading almost like a linked connection of short stories rather than a full novel, all building together to tell the life of a rather ordinary woman, Andrea, and through her story, explore family, addiction, sex, romance, ambition, art, the changing landscape of Brooklyn neighborhoods, friendship. It's slim, easy to read, and I found it wholly affecting.

My friend Angie is very smart and cool and runs a fantastic podcast called the Lit Up Show, which I also cannot recommend enough. She had Jami on the show a few months back and wrote what I thought to be the most accurate and selling description of what make this book resonant: "If you've ever been single, infatuated, partnered up, in a weird, not-right relationship (this excludes no one)... if you love your mom so hard and in the same moment think she might be killing you with her emotions, this fantastic novel is for you."

Yes! This book also reminded me a great deal of one of my all-time favorites, The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Banks. So a real winner here, folks. 

And did I cry in public? 3 for 3 baby. 

Recommended for: um, what Angie said! 

dear ijeawele, chimamanda ngozi adichie, hottreads book blogger

DEAR IJEAWELE or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Closing on a slim little volume from one of my favorite writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who I had the opportunity to see give a talk a few weeks ago. It was an incredibly invigorating discussion on gender, race, pop culture, and literature and Chimamanda and I became instant besties, here is a picture of our budding friendship.

liz and chimamanda bff

BFF. It's so fun how we're like this classic odd couple, you know? One of us is glamorous and brilliant and the other hasn't washed her hair in four days. And you can barely even tell from this picture which is which! 

This book is a reprint of a letter she wrote to a friend, at the birth of her first child, after being asked for advice on raising feminists. Adichie admits she's not an expert on feminism or parenting, but still overs 15 ideas: teach them that gender roles are irrelevant, encourage them to read, teach girls not to worry so much about likeability. Her ideas aren't flawless, I'm sure, but I think she's starting interesting conversations about gender and feminism and as I look ahead to raising children of my own (like, far ahead, as previously stated, I just drank 5078 beers at my brother's wedding, don't get any fun ideas, close-readers in the crowd)  I am a sponge for ideas on presenting teaching feminism to kids of both genders. I'm grateful to have this book in my life! 

Recommended for: parents of young children (would make an aces baby shower gift!); Chimamanda superfans; a passive-aggressive gift for a friend who thinks feminism doesn't apply to her life.

-----------------

And that'll be that! I have to admit in advance that there will be no Nonfiction Challenge Hott Read for April because someoneeee who shall not be named can't find her copy of  The New Jim Crow  and also decided that amid her busy schedule she needed to give herself a slight break on the heavy reading and just pick up a fun book or to and she's of course feeling guilty about failing the challenge but also, deep down, knows she made up the challenge and nobody cares so it's all fine, but she will continue to feel guilty nonetheless, because that is who she is.

She's fun.

Ok the end, have a GREAT final week of April and I promise to be back with more enthralling content lickity split. Or not. Who ever knows what I'll do!

Smooch,

Liz Ho 

 

HOTTREADS: Volume Eleven

Happy Pi Day! I am here to regale you with my thoughts on February's Nonfiction Challenge #Hottread, THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson.

warmth of other suns, hottread, book review

I'm clearly behind in life as we're already racing through March but it's frickin' snowing in NYC today so honestly, what are months and seasons anyway, except constructs of humanity created in a vain attempt to control the whims of Mother Earth?

time is a flat circle

Is your mind blown? I thought so. 

Ok, back to February we go! First thing's first, this book is very, very, very long. I'm not saying this to discourage you from reading - oh no - but rather giving you a warning up front to allow yourself some time to tackle it, perhaps alongside a reading group with whom you can discuss all you're learning. Don't be like me, basically, foolishly assigning yourself to read the longest book in the shortest month and then panicking when it takes you longer than you thought to finish because you told the internet you'd read it in February and god forbid you let down the internet!!! Don't worry, I saved myself from the brink of meltdown when I remembered this is a one woman book club and literally no one cares.  And, luckily for my pride and the consistency of this book-a-month thing, I managed to finish this baby the night of February 28th, with not a moment to spare. 

Phew.

Ok wow I'm really doing a great job of selling this book, huh? 

THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS tells the epic but largely untold story of The Great Migration, the mass exodus of Black Americans from the south to the North, Midwest, and West in the first half of the 20th Century. It was a movement with no defined beginning and no real leader which would completely change the American demographic fabric. Until 1910, more than 90% of Black Americans lived in the South, and most of them in rural areas, and by the 1970's, just under 50% of Black Americans lived in the North, West, and Northwest, with the majority in all regions living in urban areas. This mass migration of Black Americans led to the cities we recognize today - and read about last month in Evicted - ushering in the era of white flight, urban segregation, and broad racially based injustice in housing, education, and employment. 

Wilkerson follows the stories of three everyday Americans: Ida Mae Gladney, a sharecropper's wife who moves from Mississippi to Chicago with her young family; Robert Pershing Foster, a brilliant doctor with big ideas and an ego to match who chases his dreams to Los Angeles; and George Starling, whose rabble-rousing and attempts at unionizing under violent Jim Crow rule in central Florida send him fleeing to New York City for better opportunities, and to not get his ass locked up or much, much worse.  She weaves the life stories of these three, from childhood until very old age, exploring their lives in the South, their motivations for moving, and the lives they built in their new homes. Interspersed with their stories she tells the broader tale of the Great Migration, full of facts, figures, and anecdotes. The main story lines help to give a propulsive, central plot, but this is not a book you can just race through, every page is dense with information. 

I'll admit, I did find this a challenge for me, this isn't a book you can flip through easily on the subway, while trying to balance a coffee and hold onto the pole at the same time. But, again, again, I feel I'm not being a very compelling book reviewer here - I'm just keeping it real about my own shortcomings. I'm very glad I read this book and, if anything, think I did myself a bit of a disservice by trying to cram it into a challenge rather than take my time and absorb the information. I would highly recommend everyone read this and do suggest, as I said up top, bringing in a group to dive into discussion. And invite me? I HAVE A MILLION THOUGHTS. 

Two main takeaways that have lingered with me in the  few weeks since I've read: 

1) Why didn't I know about like, any of this? Granted, it's been a minute since I sat in a high school or college US History class but I don't recall The Great Migration ever being taught. We spent weeks on things like the Gold Rush and the Oregon Trail - white people boldly going where no white people have gone before! - but The Great Migration would have been a footnote, at best, though it did as much to shape the country we live in today. And it's got me thinking about the lens through which history (and let's be real, everything) is taught, and that lens is for sure white, and probably also straight, male, and Christian. Black History - along with Women's History, LGBT+ History, Native History, etc - is always kind of taught as a sidebar, like, here's Real America, kids, and then over here are some other stories. If you're only ever reading books by and about white men, except for a special Black History Month dip into the works of Langston Hughes, or a permission-slip needed, one-day-only lesson on the Stonewall Riots, it is hard, even for the most well-intentioned PBS watchers among us (ahem!) not to subconsciously absorb the narrative of certain people being inherently other.

And by other, I mean lesser

And again, it's been a while since I was in school and I don't know jack about teaching or textbooks but I feel like there's gotta be a better way. Maybe some teachers in the crowd with insights? I'd (TRULY!!) love to discuss and learn more. 

2) Speaking of other people's history, goddamn if Americans ever learn from the past. This book is, of course, chockablock full of anecdotes of immigration and migration, of folks refusing to accept newcomers to their cities, even when recently newcomers themselves. This rejection is especially aimed at those who don't look quite like them, and always, ALWAYS, entirely out of self-interest and fear.

Sound familiar??

There was one story that really crystallized things for me, a brief interlude into the 1800's to touch on the Civil War Draft Riots in NYC in 1863, when a war draft led to five days of violence by Irish immigrants against Blacks living in their city. Wilkerson writes: "Anger rose among Irish working-class men, in particular, who couldn't afford to buy their way out of a war they felt they had not stake in.  They saw it as risking their lives to defend southern slaves, who would, in their minds, come north and only become competition for them." 

Wait, when was that again? 200 years ago? Or last week?

In the past few months, as we talk about refugee crises and border walls, and America turns in on herself, as we debate which lives matter, and how much, I often hear people, usually of the privileged idealist liberal bent, righteously arguing that Trumpian white nationalism doesn't represent "true American values." Unforrrrrrtchhhhhh it kinda does. Those certainly aren't my values, and they may not be yours, but America, for all of her great melting pot rhetoric, does not have the most flawless track record for inclusion. In fact, if there is one trend we see repeating itself over, and over, and over again it is the vilifying and suppression of those we view as other. 

How quickly we forget. How easy it is to lean into our fear. 

It would be nice to think that we've come a long way since 1863, when these scared Irishmen rioted, or 1953, when Robert Pershing Foster arrived in LA and wasn't allowed to practice medicine on white people buuuutttt...have we? IDK, dudes. IDK. 

ANYWAY clearly this book has resonated with me in a major way and I'd encourage you to give it a read, too. I know I made it sound pretty dense and intense and it definitely is both of those things, but it's also incredibly readable and compelling and even moving. I fell so in love with the three people she profiles, and this is going to sound corny, but felt like, honored to get to hear their stories. At the end of the day, these were just straight up regular people - they weren't celebrities or headliners, they were unremarkable, but sharing their stories was a remarkable act. Another key trait of history lessons is that we tend to focus on only the big players, the game changers. And those people are important, obviously, but there's so much to be learned from the lives of everyday people, too. And I'm so grateful for the opportunity to learn from Isabel Wilkerson and from these three remarkably unremarkable stories. 

THE END! Two thumbs way up, would recommend. Have you read it? What did you think? 

As a reminder, 2017 Reading Challenge here & up next: JUST MERCY by Bryan Stevenson. Double dog dare you to join me! 

xoxo Liz Ho 

 

One Awkward Charity Mingle

It has now been 45 days since the 45th POTUS took office and, as you may recall from my post-inauguration, post-women's march manifesto, I have taken the occasion of his election to work towards a few goals: to incite fear of outsiders in the hearts of the American people, play plenty of golf, and go on wildly accusatory rants via my popular Twitter feed. 

And wooooo, doggie have I been successful!!!! 

Oh, wait, sorry I'm mixing things up here. Those are, apparently, the goals of the man now holding the nuclear codes and wow I'm sure glad he's in charge here. As for me, it's a little more like this: don't go insane, access even a small pinch of understanding for "good people" who still voted for The Donald, and become a better citizen. 

And how am I doing? No bueno, no bueno, and... getting there???

I'm still tiptoeing into the bigger political arena. I've been calling my senators (but real talk: not every single day...it's still so daunting and time consuming, excuses, excuses), signing petitions, and I even attended a progressive activism panel hosted by a local district council member! Look at me go!

Just kidding, so, so much room for growth.

But outside of the immediate Trumpian Resistance, my main area of focus on this good citizenry journey has been to become more engaged with my community and use my time and talents to serve and support my neighbors.

As for how that's going, well, if we consider being wildly socially awkward my main talent then it is going just SO GREAT!!

An anecdote:

In the past few months I have found myself moved by the work of a group called CAMBA which has a truly inspiring comprehensive approach to bolstering strong communities here in Brooklyn. They recognize the interconnected nature of issues facing those most in need and their services are holistic: housing, education, addiction counselling, refugee services, job training and more all under one umbrella. They also offer eviction counselling, which you know is my new jam thanks to January's HottRead, so I've been looking to become more involved with them on the ground level. 

I actually first discovered CAMBA through my work, who occasionally partners with them on some corporate responsibility programs. Last year we raised funds for CAMBA through a company-wide walk, and earlier this winter there was an opportunity to go to a CAMBA location for a corporate day of volunteering which I did not, and I can not stress this enough, DID NOT ATTEND. 

~Foreshadowing! ~ 

Somehow or other I ended up on their mailing list and snagged myself an invite to to a swanky informational cocktail reception. After doing several double-takes, checking that the e-vite was, in fact, addressed to me and not some wealthy, cocktail party-attending fancyperson, I enthusiastically clicked "yes!"

A friend was planing to join, but had to bow out to take care of her daughter, which is just like, so unfair. I mean, this kid is almost two I'm pretty sure she can fend for herself for a few hours, but meanwhile I really should not be left to my own devices in public. 

I decided to still attend solo, because I am an adult now, and spent the entire day panicking about how to act normal, even dedicating my full hour of therapy for the week to mature mingling strategies. One of my main sources of anxiety (for the event, duh, there's not enough room on this or any other blog to list allll of my sources of anxiety) was the guilt and shame I have for not being a regularly active community citizen, and I imagined every person in the room listing all of the charity work they do, all the boards they serve on, all the good they've achieved, while I just chugged wine in a corner. We discussed that, when asked about my relationship to CAMBA and presence at the party, it would be best to avoid launching into the full answer of "well, I heard about them through work and then Donald Trump happened and I used to be such a good person and now I never help anyone except myself and I'm constantly abusing my privilege and the guilt is eating me alive and I actually have no idea why or how I ended up at this party I'm such a mess!!!", and instead just keep it simple: "I've been drawn to CAMBA's mission and am excited to hear more."

The evening of the party arrived and, to my surprise, I was feeling generally pretty confident. 'Twas one of those freakishly warm winter days, so I didn't have to worry about a giant coat and was able to wear my favorite big-girl outfit, this really chic navy blue wrap dress that evokes Kate Middleton's engagement look (you know...minus the title, the flowing locks, perfect face, giant sapphire, etc), and the gods had blessed me with a lifetime top ten, maybe even top five hair day so I was pretty much bringing it, on the outside at least. I tried to channel my outer hotness into inner poise as I entered the party venue, a stately brownstone in one of Brooklyn's most chi-chi neighborhoods. 

Things started fine.

I gave my name at the door and was given a little name tag. No issues!

I hung up my coat and purse on the designated coat rack, relieving me of the "wtf will I do with this giant tote bag worries." A win, tbh! 

I fluffed my hair, straightened my dress, took a deeeep breath and entered the main room, whereupon I was immediately greeted by two very friendly CAMBA staffers, one of whom struck up a polite introductory conversation: 

Her: "Hello!"

Me: "Hello!"

Her: "So how are you affiliated with CAMBA?"

Me, confidently: "I've been drawn to CAMBA's mission and am excited to hear more..."

END SCENE, flawless execution, you did it Liz, you're a champ. JUST KIDDING, there's more...

Me, rambling: "...my company did a walk to raise funds and also did a day of corporate volunteering...which I attended." 

Her, delighted: "Oh that's wonderful! I remember that day, which branch did you attend?"

Me, flailing: "Um....the one in Flatbush...?" (a neighborhood in Brooklyn) 

Her, confused: "Hmm, we don't have a branch in Flatbush, do you mean Kensington?" 

Me, dying inside: "Oh {manic laughter} yes, obviously, I always get those two neighborhoods confused but yes, Kensington, of course, is the branch at which I volunteered." 

Her, seeming skeptical: "Oh, I was the event leader at that branch that day, I don't remember meeting you..."

Me: {runs to window, throws self out}

WHAT in the everliving fuck is wrong with me??? WHYYY did I just lie to this woman's face? I was so confident! I had that dress on, I had a plan...and I couldn't even make it four minutes without choking! No one even asked about volunteering. No one mentioned the corporate day of giving. There was literally no reason for that to have even been a topic of discussion until I started to word vomit, incriminating no one but myself. My greatest fear was that I would be outed as a fraud and instead I just doubled down and frauded all over the room.

Ugh. Ugh. UGHHH.

Blessedly, Her Heavenly Mother Queen Beyonce sent down a miracle at the moment I most needed it in the form of another group of party guests who arrived right in the nick of time, interrupting our conversation before I dug myself even further into a hole. I stayed on at the party for another hour or so, mainly because now I felt like I had to re-prove my normalcy, I didn't want them to be at the office the next day like "did you see that chick who came, lied to us, and then ran out the door?" Instead they could say "did you see that chick who came, lied to us, and then still hung around and ate all of our cheese?" 

Win! 

Sooooo yes, Operation Become A Good Citizen is off to a spectacular start, A++, I'm basically going to have my face on a postage stamp by 2019 at the rate I'm going.

In related news, does anyone know of any caves deep in the middle of the forest with a flexible lease until the end of time? Asking for a friend! 

(The friend is me.) 

xoxo Liz Hott 

 

Feelin' 32

grown up hottsauce funny blog

Hello, friends. I have some big news to share. I have become a woman!

No, I didn’t just start my period - that happened when I was in fourth grade, years before all the other girls, and I still have the emotional scars to prove it. Nor did I just lose my virginity - that happened well into my twenties, years after all the other girls, and I did have the emotional scars to prove it until I learned that Tina Fey also kept her v card until a late age so now I’m an out and proud member of the Old Virgins Club.

It turns out that, contrary to every Judy Blume novel ever written, womanhood is not one (likely v bloody) milestone that you can check off in your diary, but something unexpected and innate that sneaks up on you from behind whether you’re ready or not.

In every way I am an adult. I am thirty-two years old, by which I mean I’m very much “in my thirties,” woof. I’m married. I have a robust 401K and an assistant and a bad hip and multiple blazers and yet I still feel like a perpetual tween. I do in some ways think that city living may be a bit to blame. Unlike the town where I grew up, people here generally marry later, have kids later, live in tiny rental apartments with roommates into their 30’s, 40’s and beyond. The traditional trappings of adulthood, as embodied by the suburban parents of my childhood, don’t seem to apply to me or to any of my NYC friends, so I’ve been able to hold onto a sort of eternal Peter Pan feeling. We’re all growing older, but are any of us growing up? When I see my peers doing these adulty things like procreating or buying four bedroom houses on cul-de-sacs it feels utterly foreign and somehow wrong, like they’re play acting at real life. Those things are for adults and we can’t possibly be adults yet.  I mean, I certainly am not! Or... am I?

Some of this, surely, is because I’m such a horrid snob about non-urban living - the word “cul-de-sac” is basically moist to my ears (shudder, shudder) - but in other ways it still just takes me by surprise every day that I’m allowed to do things like take money out of the bank or rent a car without a note from my mom.

I’d say it’s a mix of this snobbishness, a little jealousy, a whole bunch of fear, and no small pinch of denial that’s had me feeling pretty OK about this eternal tween scene. Who even needs adulthood?? SEEMS BORING.

And then, when I least expected it, it found me.

Last week I was hanging out with two young co-workers, both 22, fresh outta college, just like me! Err...me circa a literal decade ago. I have always known I’m like, older than these gals, but we’re all still peers, right? Hashtag millennials! Snapchat! The Chainsmokers, probably!?!?

The two of them were regaling the group with funny stories about their apartment situations - all the post-college classics like bad roommates and plenty of mice, navigating subleases and guarantors, pulling together just enough cash for a security deposit, crashing on couches, full of optimism and enviable naivete As they talked I became filled with these unexpected feelings. I was worried for them. I wanted to nurture them. I could sympathize with what they were going through, having been there myself before, but I could not currently relate. Instead of being like, “OMG girls, life is so crazy, should we do some shots?!”, I just...nodded, a supportive yet moderately concerned look on my face. I gave them advice on dealing with landlords and reminded them never to meet a person from Craigslist without a buddy. I blithely uttered the phrase, “when I was your age,” with no irony whatsoever and all at once it hit me: holy shit, me, you are a grown-up. 

Apparently to achieve adulthood you need not purchase a townhouse or a minivan or even just one of those medium sized SUVs all the hot soccer moms are driving these days, you simply need to close your eyes and think “dear god, you could not pay me to be 22 again” and whoosh, there you are, in adulthood. It’s like Dorothy clicking her ruby slippers to get home again except instead of leaving Oz behind, it’s your youth that’s fading from technicolor behind you.

Ain't life something? 

So there you have it, world, I am an adult now. I am not a girl, not yet ... nope... 100% a woman. And I don’t know how I feel about it, so if anyone’s looking for me you’ll find me at the nearest Chico’s indulging in a little retail therapy while I sort it all out.


Whatever the mature version of xoxoxox is, 

HoBag 

 

Another Awkward Week: Still Waters Run Deep

OH HI! Does your brain hurt from all the Beyonce/Adele Grammys think pieces you devoured today ...despite not actually watching the Grammys last night?

No?? Um, me either, I worked very hard all day!!

But just in case you do need a bit of a brain break, here is a quick story for your Monday night.

Anyone who spends time with me IRL quickly becomes aware that they are a lucky bitch because I am amazing. 

Ha, just kidding, that's not what I was going to saaay.

Anyone who spends time with me IRL quickly becomes aware that I am obsessed with hydration, to a level bordering on unhinged. I have three glasses of water before I leave the house and usually 8-10 more 16oz bottles by EOD. Every time I pee I check out the scene to monitor the situation and if my urine is not crystal clear by noon I get stressed and slam a few cups of H20 to speed up the process. Once, a year or two ago, I had a UTI, because being a human woman is an EVIL TRAP, and I went to the clinic and peed in the lil cup and the doctor came back and pulled up the test results on the computer and said "I can tell by looking at your results that you are very hydrated," and I blushed and beamed and replied "thank you so much for noticing!" As if she was commenting on my liquid eyeliner application or clean baseboards. 

When I said "bordering on unhinged" I may have meant like, very far beyond unhinged... 

So it should be an obvious no duh by this point that I literally never leave the house without a water bottle. Ever. This means I always have to lug some kind of big bag with me, even if I'm going to like, a club (lol as if) or trendy restaurant (slightly more likely). I would so rather risk a fashion don't than be caught out there dehydrated whilst daintily holding my evening clutch.

A true nightmare scenario.

Why am I telling you all of this TMI about my inner neurosis / urine color? Stay with me. This is alllll helpful background information to have in mind as we *finally* find ourselves at the beginning of my tale.

'Twas a week ago today, around eleven in the AM and I was returning to my office from a doctor's appointment. I was carrying the large leather tote pictured below:

bag of water humor blog I am so bad at naming photos

(Urban Outfitters, under eye circles + empty boxes sold separately).

In said bag, I had packed 3/4 full Nalgene style water bottle branded with my imprint's logo (always be selling!), a hardcover copy of The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, and my bullet journal + pack of colored markers (just in case I needed to make an urgent to-do list in the waiting room? IDK guys),  along with some assorted nonsense which shall be discussed later. 

I swiped my card through the turnstile, moseyed (obviously sprinted) to a suitable spot on the platform and stood patiently waiting for my train. I was a little thirsty from all the moseying (sprinting), not to mention that I consider any amount of downtime to be a primo opportunity to re-up on the hydraysh, so I reached into my purse and pulled out my water bottle only to discover it was now...empty. 

I plunged my hand back into my purse and like a kid digging a hole to China via the Jersey Shore, I hit water. I must not have screwed on the lit tightly last time I took a public chug! In a panic I began to pull out my important belongings. My wallet...soaked. My book...soaked. My #bujo...miraculously only a tiny bit damp, praise be to you Beyonce, who so should have won Best Album, everyone knows Lemonade was the greatest album of the year / decade, even people who forgot to watch the Grammys! 

And then, my train came.

I had two options. Option one was to pull out all of my stuff, dump the water onto the tracks, cry about my misfortune, and cause a big ol' scene right there in the 23rd Street 1 Train Station. Or I could choose option two, which was to board the train, hold my sopping books in my arms, and ride the four stops back to my office with two inches of water sloshing around my handbag. And then, you know, pull out all my stuff, dump the water into the sink, cry about my misfortune...and cause a big ol' scene right there in the middle of my office.

I chose option two.

Y'all I boarded the train and I carried the water all the way home.

(That  kind of sounds like a gospel song! Carry the water, children. I carry the water, Oh Lord.)

(Pretty sure those are just the lyrics to Wade in the Water but with a lil remix.)

(Enough parenthetical asides, Liz.)

When I got back to the office I carried my water over to the communal kitchen sink, tipped the bag over, and out poured half a liter of water, as though from a lovely pitcher. I assessed the damage. In addition to the above mentioned book and journal, I pulled out 3 half-full travel sized packs of tissues (all obviously ruined), several handfuls of change (unscathed!), one running sock that had been in there since who even knows when (soaked but salvageable), miscellaneous receipts (destroyed),and the real kicker: two very important referral papers handed to me by the doctor I'd visited just before my ill-fated subway purse drowning situation. One of these papers contains notes from my doctor to a physical therapist who I am to see next Monday for the first time. I need to present this piece of paper to the physical therapist so she knows what my issues are. 

My physical issues, that is. No one needs a paper note to see my mental issues, which will be fully apparent when I hand her a crumpled script that is ripped at one corner and bears the texture of an elementary school homemade paper making project gone awry, having once been soaked and then left to dry on the back of my desk chair. I should just call the original doctor and tell them I need a replacement prescription but I don't want them to think I'm irresponsible. For some reason that seems more embarrassing to me than waltzing into the physical therapists office with a ruined piece of garbage.

Where did I say I was on the unhinged scale again? Maybe we should double it.

Anyway, all's well that ends well, I suppose. My most beloved of possessions, the journal, snuck through generally unscathed with just a few bits of runny ink towards the top of some pages, and after a few days to dry out, my copy of The Warmth of Other Suns now looks rather chic. My assistant saw it sitting on my desk all yellowed, sans dustcover (a tragic casualty, RIP dustcover, I hope you had a great life), and exclaimed "wow, what a cool antique book!" I didn't have the heart to tell her it is not, in fact, an antique, but a relatively new book I ruined. She'll find out I'm a hot mess soon enough, but until that day I'll let her - and the world! - think I'm some kind of intellectual savant whose handbag is overflowing with antique literary works, instead of spilled water, wet socks, and garbage.

The joke is definitely on them! 

And by them, I mean me.

Have a grand week, m'dears. Don't forget to hydrate, hydrate, HYDRATE and also always check your water bottle lids. 

Peace, Love, and Clear Pee -

Liz Hott 

HOTTREADS: 2017 Nonfiction Reading Challenge

After reflecting on my reading habits (so many thrillers, so little time) and the current affairs of the world (ahem), I decided to challenge myself to reading one work of nonfiction with a social justice theme for each month of 2017. Below is an ongoing list, including planned titles and eventually links to monthly reviews.

I'd love to hear any recommendations or suggestions you have, or for you to join me in this challenge! Comment here or email me anytime: lizhottsauce@gmail.com and we'll book club it up.

JANUARY 2017 NONFICTION READING CHALLENGE

JANUARY:

FEBRUARY:

MARCH

APRIL

  • Title: NOTHING because I'm a hot mess this month. MY B.  
  • Review coming never, plz see above. 

MAY

-DECEMBER...Still to come! 

HOTTREADS: Volume Ten

Goooood morning and happy Monday! Ok the most moronic of oxymorons but I am nothing if not an eternal Pollyanna so let's try to start this week off on the right foot, shall we?

Did y'all watch The Big Game last night? What a sporting event! I thought I was just going to binge on dip and then go to bed early, but found myself totally sucked into the game. That upset! I wanted the Falcons to win, mostly because Tom Brady seems like a giant douche and I really love Donald Glover, and his TV show Atlanta, so I guess I'm like, sort of sad in this moment, but I guarantee you I will forget this game ever happened by Wednesday afternoon at the very latest.

So don't cry for me, Argentina, I'll be fine. 

But I'm getting distracted. I didn't come here to talk about sports, I came to talk about books, duh. We're on month into 2017 and thus, one month into my grand Nonfiction Reading Challenge. And what a MONTH! I am so excited to share my first book pick with you - a truly unforgettable, brilliant read - along with a few other recent faves to help you stock up for those six more weeks of winter that Ol' Punxutawney Phil has bestowed upon us.

Also, I dragged my colleague away from her desk on Friday afternoon and made her me my personal pan Annie Liebovitz in an attempt to get a super cute photo of me with my books andddd this is the best I could muster:

hottreads, hottsauce, january reading challenge, book blogger

Karlie Kloss, you're on notice.

Ok, let's gooo! 

evicted matthew desmond hottread book blog

 

EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

I'll ramble endlessly in just a mo, but if you don't have the time for that, here's the takeaway: this book is outstanding, urgent, harrowing, illuminating, compelling, insert more positive adjectives here, and I urge everyone to read it. 

Evicted falls into a genre officially called ethnography, but I like to call it "documentary nonfiction." You know when you're watching a phenomenal documentary and it's so good, you forget it's real life? I guess the simpler way to express this would be to say the book reads like a novel, but that feels like it negates the writing, somehow, so I spice it up.

Just get to the point, Liz!

To write Evicted, MacArthur Genius and Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond embedded himself in two of Milwaukee's poorest neighborhoods for two years, in 2008-09, at the peak of the financial crisis to study first-hand the rising eviction rates incurred by the renting poor. He divvied his time between the predominantly black, "inner-city" North Side and a predomimnantly white trailer park community on the city's South Side. 

His story follows an array of tenants - a single mom, a former nurse consumed by a debilitating heroin addiction, a man with no legs trying to keep his two sons (and the rest of the neighborhood boys) out of trouble, a family of eight crammed into a tiny one bedroom apartment - and two landlords, Sharenna, a self-made inner-city entrepreneur and Tobin, who manages the mobile park.  Though wildly diverse in their personal struggles, all of the tenants share the same debilitating poverty, hanging on by a thread. Across America, rents are arbitrarily decided upon by private landlords and are not priced proportionally to income, so the renting poor, many unemployed or at most, underemployed, are forced to pay 60-80% of their wages to rent, leaving very little for things like clothes, food, even basic utilities. Falling behind on rent can lead to eviction, pulling apart families, sending families into a cycle of homelessness and instability that is difficult to break.

Desmond argues that housing insecurity is the linchpin of this cycle. When a person does not have stable housing, everything else is affected - their ability to hold down a job, to send their kids to a good school, to feed themselves, to build self worth. Desmond does offer some ideas on how we might address this issue via housing vouchers, income-based rents, and other initiatives, but admits it is not an easy solve and he doesn't have all the answers. Instead, he hopes these stories will  bring this issue out of the shadows and encourage everyone to make housing stability a national priority.

It feels funny to say that I enjoyed reading this book - can one really enjoy reading true stories of other people struggling so viscerally - and yet, I loved this book. Desmond's writing is brilliant, portraying these people with such nuance in all of their flawed, broken, striving, beautiful truth. Their stories lingered with me each time I closed the pages, it was one of those books I'd read while walking down the sidewalk, immediately upon walking in the door, late into the evening. I still can't get it out of my head. I've begun to study NYC rental and eviction regulations (it's all so over MY head, and I have a college education and endless free time, and access to the internet and other resources to get help, I can't even imagine how confusing it must be for people who don't have the same privileges I've been so luckily granted in life) and am going to begin volunteering with a local organization here in Brooklyn that helps with eviction prevention, alongside a number of other really outstanding initiatives. 

And this is only book one of (at least) twelve in my 2017 social justice nonfiction challenge! If I keep up at this rate, I'll be like, Mother Teresa by December. Again, it sounds kind of funny to say, but I am so excited to keep going in this challenge, I feel like I've already learned so much. 

Recommended for: Everyone. I truly can't recommend this book strongly enough.

~~

Editor's Note: For bookkeeping purposes (like, literally and organizationally), I've started a landing page under the HottReads tab for the 2017 Reading Challenge here, where I'll be building my list and updating with reviews each month. I'd LOVE for you to join me in any / all of the books! 

Next up: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. I'd initially had The New Jim Crow planned for February, but decided I wanted to swap in this one, which looks at the great migration of Black Americans from the south to northern cities in the early to mid-20th century. I thought this would give an enlightening historical context to some of the other titles on my list - including Evicted and New Jim Crow - so figured I'd move it up on the list. 

~~

Now movin' it and shakin' it to a few other favorite recent reads. 

I let you go clare mackintosh book blog hottread

 

I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh

YOU GUYS. As we all know, I read basically every buzzy psychological thriller that enters the marketplace and though I usually enjoy the reading experience, when it comes to the thrills and chills, I'm often let down. Especially when the marketing materials (ugh, publishing people, am I right, folks?) promise a big twist. "You will be shocked!" blares a cover blurb. "A twist of epic proportions!"

I gotta say, I'm rarely shocked. I'm often kind of surprised, like "huh, I didn't suspect him to be the bad guy" or creeped out or maybe breathlessly racing to find out what's what, so I'm not saying I don't enjoy these other reads, because clearly I do, but it is a raaaare book that has me gasping in disbelief. I think the last one was probably Gone Girl and if my math is correct I've read close to 760 thrillers since then, give or take. Well Clare Mackintosh ya done gone and did it, girl. I was instantly pulled into to this story which follows several lives unraveled after a young boy is killed in a hit and run and true to the press materials, there was an actual twist so shocking I yelled "OH MY GOD!" and Brian came running from the other room to see what was the matter. 

I don't want to spoil anything so I'm going to zip it here, if you are a thriller fan, grab this one posthaste and email me the second you're done so we can talk about it - lizhottsauce@gmail.com. KEWL. 

Recommended for: Fans of twisty thrillers like Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, Woman in Cabin 10, thriller aficionados who swear they can not be tricked, anyone looking for a fun and absorbing read to devour over a weekend or travel. 

Under the Harrow, flynn barry, book blog, hottreads

UNDER THE HARROW by Flynn Barry

Oh look, another thriller by a British lady writer! What a fresh idea. I feel confident recommending both of these to you in the same post, as I feel equally enthusiastic and they're just different enough. Where I Let You Go is twisty and shocking, Under the Harrow is spare, tense, unnerving in its brilliant portrayal of a woman on the edge.  

Nora travels from London to a small country town a few hours north, to visit her sister, Rachel, and instead finds her brutally murdered in her home. In shock, Nora is unable to return to her old life and finds herself haunting the small town Rachel lived in, slowly unraveling as she obsessively tries to solve the crime, all the while haunted herself by a violent crime that happened to Rachel years in the past. What she uncovers reveals she may not have known her sister as well as she thought - or that we might not know Nora as much as initially let on. As she falls deeper into the investigation, her motives become blurred, her sanity hazy. This again falls into that broad unreliable narrator genre but to me is one of the smartest and darkest I've read in a while. Nora's descent into obsession is chilling, I found myself at once fearing for her and just fearing her. 

Bonus: this book is a slim one, at just 24 pages. The story is suspenseful enough to keep you moving no matter what, but amid piles of door stoppers it can be a real treat to read a book that tells just what it needs to and not a page more. 

Recommended for: fans of smart literary suspense who are as intrigued by the inner workings of the human psyche as they are about solving a whodunit, people with sisters or close best friends who think they know everything their is to know about that other person, readers with excellent nightlights because you will not be able to put this one down. 

when breath becomes air, paul kalanithi, hottreads

WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Paul Kalanithi

So when I first sat down to draft this I put little one sentence descriptors of each book and the one for When Breath Becomes Air = "Dis Book So Sad."

I mean, that baaaaiscally sums it up!

But, of course, it's so much more.

Dr. Paul Kalanithi was a rising neurosurgical star in his 30's when he was diagnosed with a rare, terminal cancer. Facing the inevitable end of his young life, he began to write, telling a story that is as much a memoir of a brilliant medical life cut short, as it is a literary, lyrical meditation on mortality and morality. Paul lost his battle to cancer before finishing the book, so his widow Lucy wraps it up with a heartbreaking and intimate epilogue, reflecting on the life of her partner, and sharing the deep, raw grief she now experiences.

I had read a lot about this book when it came out last January, including this stunning essay by Lucy in the New York Times, but finding myself unable to read so much as a review without sobbing, I knew I needed to save to read until I was ready. Finally, cozied up over the holidays, I pulled from the shelf, grabbed my tissues, and dug in. And I'm so glad I did. 

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone, even if you don't consider yourself a fan of medical writing or spiritual meditations. Neither of those genres are my usual jam, but perhaps they should be, this pushed me beyond my comfort zone, both in considering ideological concepts of mortality, belief, and ambition, and in grappling with the devastating reality that his story could happen to any of us. It was hard not to think of Brian when reading Lucy's reflections on Paul.

Recommended for: uh, see above, anyone! Just be sure you have a hanky or twelve nearby. 

And that'll be that, folks. What are you reading lately? Wishing you a beautiful week to come and happy reading! 

xoxo Liz Hott 

Women Be Marchin'

Hello! Unless you've been living under a rock for the last 12 years and just now crawled out and somehow got yourself to a public library or internet cafe and taught yourself how to log onto the internet and started to type "how do I use this thing?" into your browser but instead only got as far as "h-o" and were miraculously re-routed to Hottsauceblog.com, and this is literally the first piece of world news or information you've read in over a decade, you're well aware that on Friday, January 20, 2017, Donald Trump became the President of the United States of America. And that the following day, Saturday, January 21, 2017, millions of women and men gathered all around the world to express their hopes and fears over the new administration.

If you have, in fact, been living under a rock welcome and hello and OMG I must hear your story, what a wild adventure, and also yep, yep, and yes, Donald Trump is now the President of the United States of America. Uh huh, this guy. I know! Times are weird, huh? Wait, where are you going?? Oh, back under your rock? Eh...makes sense. Thanks for stopping by! 

But yes, for the rest of you, you know the drill. You've seen the CNN coverage. You've read the backlash and the backlash to the backlash, and the frontlash, and the eyelash and now you have whiplash. But you haven't yet read MY thrilling account of the day so bust out your reading glasses and buckle up...because here it is.

womens rights are human rights

I made the trip from NYC to DC with two of my besties, Maureen and Kathleen. We traveled by MegaBus Friday evening, a trip that was to take 5-6 hours and came in closer to 8, finally dragging into Union Station close to midnight. The bus was stuffy and bumpy and as we stopped and started down the Jersey Turnpike, it became warmer and warmer until finally, unable to bear the heat, one woman approached the driver to inquire about adjusting the heat, which he revealed to be a crisp 83 degrees. Oof. But from this discomfort emerged a warm camaraderie which would set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Nearly all of the other passengers were also headed down to the march, everyone with homemade signs and comfortable sneakers. When we finally did arrive in DC and emerge, blinking, from our brick oven of a bus, we saw dozens of other buses unloading fellow protesters, everyone buzzing with energy. I realized our bus parked right next to a bus marked with the emblem of the Chickasaw Nation, which had likely traveled in from Oklahoma, and I was awestruck -for the first, but not even close to last - time at the scope of the event in which we were about to participate.

Early Saturday morning we hit the streets, bundled in layers of heattech and spirited layered  t-shirts - Kathleen had a homemade shirt with the slogan "Women's Rights = Human Rights" across the chest, and I wore my Unapologetic shirt, natch, the same shirt I wore to vote for Hillary Clinton and awkwardly interrogate the manager of the jewelry-thieving boutique in my neighborhood. Two equally momentous moments in women's history!!! After obsessively reading up on rules for the march, I had purchased a hideous clear backpack  the only regulation bag allowed by the NPS, and filled it up with water bottles, because if I am one thing, it's a rule follower and if I'm two things, it's a rule follower who is obsessed with hydration. 

But not quite as much as this guy, who is my new role model:

not all heroes wear capes

Not all heroes wear capes! 

As we walked out the door we were greeted by a sea of women in the now ubiquitous pink pussy hats streaming through the streets. A man caught our eyes as we walked past, gave a grin, and said "give 'em hell, ladies."

And I'd like to think we did. 

war on women

We arrived at the National Mall around 9:30 AM and finally dragged our addled bodies home as dusk began to fall. In between, we wandered from street to street, trying to take everything in. The march was a bit disorganized, I must admit, likely accounting to the massive swell of visitors. The day began with a rally featuring incredible speakers like Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Cecile Richards, America Ferrara, and Michael Moore, and musical performances from Solange (omg), Katy Perry, and obvzzzz the Indigo Girls. Cell service came in and out throughout the day, but I managed to catch some just enough for my brother to text that Indigo Girls performing at a Women's Rally is the center square in Feminist Bingo.

El. Oh. El. Too true.

I am disappointed we didn't get to catch much of the rally, I really would have liked to see or hear more, but it was fun just to soak in the energy. As many people have remarked, the vibe was so, so, positive and polite. Everyone was elbow to elbow, constantly bumping into one another, and each time, the women would turn to each other and apologize. Kathleen, Mo, and I cracked up each time, referencing this classic Amy Schumer sketch, only to find ourselves blurting out "omg sorry!" the next time we turned around. People were sharing snacks, helping one another cross streets, high fiving cops, at one point a group was trying to cut through a large mass of people standing in the street...and they walked ON THE CROSSWALK! It was adorable. Anne Helen Petersen, one of my favorite writers, penned a really thoughtful piece about how the symbols of this particular march - homemade hats, signs, regulation backpacks - represented how inherently feminine this march was. Worth a read

march march march

Finally around 4 PM, after having been out and on our feet for coming on eight hours, we decided to call it a day. We'd been so ensconced in our little cluster of folks right around the National Mall that we thought we were it. But as we elbowed our way out of the crowd, we realized we were just one of many mini-marches streaming all over the city. As we headed out, groups were pouring into the main area, blasting music, chanting, dancing. For several blocks in all directions the streets were blocked off, bars and restaurants open to the street, women in pink hats as far as the eye could see. It was truly incredible to be part of. 

And then we went back to our hotel and were rewarded by a beautiful cable TV lineup consisting of a Lindsay Lohan marathon (Mean Girls and The Parent Trap) followed by Frozen. There is a god and she is good! 

But more on the march! Among the protesters, we met a group of young women from Hanover College in Indiana, Mike Pence's alma-mater, who traveled 12 hours by overnight bus, doing their homework on their laps, to protest against the ideologies of their now famous (or shall I say infamous) vice presidential alum. We met women who'd traveled in from California, Georgia, Maine, Boston, Oregon. We chanted alongside the funniest young girl named Saja, who led the crowd in enthusiastic rounds of "not my president," hilariously throwing her whole body into the cheer.

The crowd was heavily skewed towards female, but a lot of men joined too. There were older women relying on walkers who still stood up and marched. Parents with babies strapped to their backs or in strollers. We marched next to a middle aged man in a wheelchair who wore a tshirt with "Donald eres una pendejo" emblazoned across the front. Feel free to Google Translate that ish! 

mother daughter duo womens march blog

I could have spent the entire day just reading people's clever protest signs. A large amount were focused on reproductive health, including several VERY anatomically correct reproductions of female genitalia and two gigantic papier-mache bloody tampons. But not all were quite so, um, graphic, with many bearing general female empowerment slogans, funny memes, or focusing on the enormous list of issues women fear will be threatened under the new administration: climate change, Black Lives Matter, gun violence, immigration, LGBTQ rights, equal pay, protection against domestic violence and sexual abuse.

womens march resist
womens march signs

One criticism the march received was a lack of a central theme - what are these angry women protesting, anyway?? And it's possible to look at this wide range of protest signs and say, you know, "pick one thing and stick to it!," but to me, it's an impressive, visual reminder that women's issues are WORLD ISSUES. And to downplay them as just, well, bitches bitchin' is a risk to our communal well being. 

voldemort
Putin

There were a fair number of others which poked fun at our new president, including one featuring ACTUAL CHEETOS, which I failed to photograph, many making digs at his close relationship with Russia, and this one which of course spoke very deeply to me:

donald trump is illiterate

FOR REAL THO.

And though the day did carry an air of Anti-Trumpsim, with the crowds erupting into hilarious chants like "He's orange, he's gross, he lost the popular vote" and, my favorite, "We need a leader, not a creepy Tweeter," it wasn't just about him. There really was an overwhelming sense of communal forward energy, of women (and men, but mostly women) who have been quiet for too long finally speaking up. 

One of the other of the main criticisms (oh, and there have been many) (some likely valid, I'm sure!), lobbed at the march in the past few days has been on this theme: "Where have you been before this?? Why are you just getting mad now??" This question comes from two distinctly different groups. First, from people who generally seem annoyed by the march and consider protesters "crybabies," who I would politely ask to mediate on the cliche "the straw that broke the camel's back" and also email me (lizhottsauce@gmail.com) if they'd like to discuss in depth in a civil way. But the second group is one I want to really take to heart, and this comes from groups of women who have been fighting on the front lines of justice for women, primarily non-white, non-straight women who have had to wage daily battles for their rights which I just haven't had to go through. Here, here, and here are a few pieces I've been meditating on, if you think this might be something for you to consider, too. 

from here http://www.theroot.com/woman-in-viral-photo-from-women-s-march-to-white-female-1791524613

from here http://www.theroot.com/woman-in-viral-photo-from-women-s-march-to-white-female-1791524613

from here http://fusion.net/story/382776/amir-talai-viral-photo-womens-march-nice-white-ladies-black-lives-matter/

from here http://fusion.net/story/382776/amir-talai-viral-photo-womens-march-nice-white-ladies-black-lives-matter/

These two photos were making the rounds on social media following the march and have been lingering heavy in my mind as I map out my action plans for the coming days. I have not been as active or as vocal as I could have been. There's that saying "put your money where your mouth is," but the problem is, I kind of need to put my mouth where my money is. I've happily given as much as I can financially to causes I believe in. But I have yet to march in a Black Lives Matter rally. I just voted in a mid-term election for the first time this past fall and mostly only so I could show off about it on Instagram. I do call my senator every time there was a mass shooting (so like, once a week), but I never really follow up, I just kind of check it off the list and move on. In high school and college I used to be so active in community engagement and then when I moved to New York I just kind of stopped. I'll do some outreach here and there but I've never made it a cornerstone of my life the way I used to and I'm ashamed of that. 

I suppose I have Donald Trump - and Mike Pence, and Paul Ryan, and Betsy "Dolores Umbridge" Devos, and the whole motley, racist, misogynist, homophobic crew - to thank for ultimately being the straw that broke my back, for lighting the fire that's been simmering inside of me, untended, for all of these years. I'm fired the fuck up. And should I have been protesting years ago? PROBABLY. Could I have been better about being engaged with the community? FOR SHEEZY. But is it too late to get started now? Is it too late to make a change? is it too late to apologize? No, Justin Bieber, it's never too late. Don't tell me what I can't do! 

And I'm saying this both because it's like, a rah-rah, inspiring end to this blog post, but also, mostly because of accountability. Studies show that if you tell a people you'll do something - go on a diet, quit smoking, whatever - you may be more likely to actually go through with it. And anecdotal data has shown that I, personally, am very motivated by a fear of letting people down or being considered a failure. And also by attention, ha. So I figured if I told all of the millions of people who read this blog (hey mom!) that I was going to try to become a better citizen, well, maybe I would. 

We'll see! 

Now tell me - did you march? Where? How was it for you? How are YOU taking action and accountability in the coming days? I'm all ears for suggestions! Conversely, do you have totally different viewpoints that me and want to have a respectful discussion? I'm working hard to be a better listener, so I'd really love to hear from you.

Fired Up, Ready to Go -

Liz  

 

It's The End of the World as We Know It (and I Need a Nap)

Writing this blog post at the Thursday White House, my office, about twelve seconds ago. ENJOY! 

Writing this blog post at the Thursday White House, my office, about twelve seconds ago. ENJOY! 

Fun Fact! Donald Trump is going to become the President of the United States tomorrow! Tomorrow. Tomorrow, I hate you, tomorrow, you're only a day away.  I was just listening to NPR and the host teed up the news by saying "in less than 24 hours, Donald Trump will be sworn in..." and y'all, I nearly spontaneously combusted. IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS THIS IS HAPPENING. I mean, like, obviously I knew this day would someday come but I still thought we had more time. We just need more time!  

And do you ever, even for just a moment, forget? Every now and then in the days since November 9th, I've found myself slipping into a blissful state of mindlessness, completely checked-out from the reality swirling around me before one thing or another pulls me back down to earth. And yes, the shock of remembering jolts me every single time, but oh man, those sweet little moments - usually right when I first wake up in the wee hours of the morning, between refreshing the snooze button, or when I hit my stride on a great run - are pure gold. 

Exceptttt lately life has been conspiring to steal my precious moments (of time, not the religious figurines I received for my First Holy Communion) and things are not going well.

First of all, snooze button? What even is that? I've been absolutely swamped at work since the beginning of the year and I feel like I'm climbing a ladder and every day I get so close to the top only to fall off but then catch a middle rung with one hand and mustering all the upper body and core strength I have, pull myself back up. And then repeat. (Aka "two steps forward, one step back" but less cliche and far more dramatic.)  I've been waking at the crack of dawn to get to my desk as early as I can, working late, and tossing and turning due to the stress of it all. 

I need a nap. Badly. How badly? Let me share just one anecdote to illustrate. 

This afternoon one of my authors was in the office doing a few phone interviews from our in-house studio. I went to meet him to walk to another appointment and when I arrived, he was still on the phone, so I quietly found a seat in the adjoining conference room. As I sat down I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a person sitting on another chair next to me and I was a little startled, I'd thought I was alone, so I quickly and politely gave a little nod and said "hello" and at the same time the other person quickly and politely gave a little nod and said "hello" and oh wait...

FullSizeRender (1).jpg

It wasn't another person, it was a mirror. I was waving and chatting to my own reflection. The whole time. 

So yes, I need a nap. Badly.

And I'd really like to clear my head with a good stretch of the legs and a lap or two around Prospect Park, exceptttt, I'm hobbled, and unable to run. My usually tricky right hip has been just dandy lately, but in a fun twist, my left hip is busted.  I think I may have thrown something into whack over the holidays, because for the past few weeks I've had near constant discomfort in my hip, glute, and IT band, having trouble walking, running, and sitting.So basically just living, really. 

The discomfort became too much to bear (and I really, really miss running!) so I decided to be brave and try acupuncture again (ps I finally learned how to spell that word, only one c!) even though It was one of the more harrowing experiences of my life because I am unable to avoid the lure of a magical holistic cure and/or a good story to tell. 

I was feeling all proud of myself for uterising up and taking care of myself instead of laying on the couch, self-diagnosing via WebMD, and complaining about my life, which is my usual M.O., but hit my first road block when I went to get dressed. I could not for the life of me remember what the protocol vis a vis undergarments was the last time I'd gone in. I remembered a blanket. And taking my pants off. But was I wearing underpants? Or were we full monty down there? Because the primary issue is centered in the piriformis and gluteus medius muscles, aka da butt, I was worried about having too much fabric in the way but also didn't want to show up just like, vag out, you know? 

And then I remembered, thongs! They're a thing! An underwear specific for times when you need your bits covered but your cheeks out, i.e. butt acupuncture and literally that's it because thongs are terrible and life is painful enough already without a string up your b. So I duggggg into the fun drawer where I keep all of my special occasion (read: laundry day) underwear and unearthed a thongity-thong, suited up, and confidently marched out the door.

The whole time I walked over, sat in the waiting room, and then chatted with the acupuncturist in the exam room, I repeated a silent mantra in my head: "don't make it weird, don't make it weird, don't make it weird," and then, as I lay face down, in my lingerie, as a stranger, basically, stuck pins into my butt cheeks it occurred to me that it probably could not get any weirder, no matter what I did and at last, I was able to relax.

And I think my hip's starting to feel better afterwards, too! Now that I'm a mature acupuncture goddess (no), maybe I should get her to 'puncture away my sleeplessness and life would be all better again. I mean, except for the Trump thing.

DO YOU THINK there's a way we could acupuncture ourselves back in time, or maybe acupuncture Trump out of office?? I MEAN! People swear acupuncture is a cure for everything??????

Anywaaay, enough. I'm not 100% sure what either of these stories actually have to do with a) one another or b) tomorrow's Doomsday Situation, but one of my 2017 resolutions was "blog once a week...even if it's not that great" and they were medium funny and I can't focus on work on account of the exhaustion and the butt pain and the dawning apocalypse sooooo here we are. 

And how are you doing? 

The Year in Reading: 2016

2016 was a year for the books. Both in the sense of the popular idiom, roughly translating to "holy sh*t, did that just happen?" (I trust I needn't elaborate, you lived through it too) and in the sense of actual books. You know, literature! I used to be quite good about keeping detailed reading lists, but fell out of the habit sometime along the way. I picked it back up at the start of this past year (recording in my 5 Year Journal, about which I ought to elaborate another time) and now as we kickstart 2017, I'm looking back on my year in reading.

In 2016 I completed 55 books. More than one per week on average, bah-booh-yah! 12 of these were books I "had" to read for work, which sounds like a lot until you realize we publish 30+ titles a year. In 2017, I will do better. Of the books I read for funsies, 4 were by men and the remaining 39 by women. I realize midway through the year that I was inadvertently favoring the  ladies, and decided to lean into the trend. Only three were non-fiction and all of them in the memoir/personal essay genre. A whopping 12 were psychological thrillers, the rest a pretty even mix of historical and "literary" fiction, with a handful of short story collections sprinkled on top. 14 of the overall total were written by non-white authors, which leaves the balance of 41 books by white writers, eek. Looking at my list, it appears that many of the books by nonwhite authors I read were published by my imprint, which makes me proud to work for a publisher that values diverse voices, but does encourage me to look deeper when considering  the writers I'm consuming in my free time. Thinking about it now, white women (esp British) women seem to be dominating the psychological thriller genre. I wonder what's up with that?!  

2016 was also a year of unfinished books. I used to be of the philosophy that you should never quit on a book, no matter what, but ride it through to the end. A year or two I abandoned that ideology and in the process, many novels that just weren’t quite for me for whatever reason. I still can't help but feel frustrated by time "lost" reading a book, only to not make it to the end, but I guess them's the breaks. I carted Zadie Smith’s newest in my bag for weeks before conceding defeat (beautiful writing, but we all know I need a fast-paced plot!),  and seem to have come down with the only case of curable Ferrante Fever. The flame burned hot through all of book two, The Story of a New Name, but cooled reading the third, which I finally tossed aside ¾ through. Am I the only Ferrante Failure?? I’ve also taken to the habit of keeping inspirational or self-help type books by my nightstand, tucking into a few chapters before bed, but never really finishing any. I’ve been working through Pema Chodron’s Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times for the past few weeks (since November 9 obv) and savoring essays from Mary Oliver’s Upstream, too.

As people say about their pets or children, and I often say about sandwiches, it is hard to pick one favorite. But a few did stand out, like the bulging Italian hoagie from Faicco’s in the West Village or the gooey, savory breakfast sandwich at Deli Board in San Francisco.

Mmm. Cheesy.

Oh wait, right, this is the Year in Reading, not the Year in Eating. A few books did stand out, too! A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara remains a singular reading experience, impossible to fit into simplistic like or dislike columns. It was the very first book I read in 2016 and still it haunts me. As I recently wrote, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad blew me away, easily living up to the great hype. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett felt familiar and comforting, and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi made me weep and weep and weep. American Housewife by Helen Ellis also made me weep, but with laughter. This slim little collection of stories still stands out as one of my most enjoyable reading experiences of 2016 and I’ve re-read many of the stories over and again throughout the year. My two favorite thrillers were actually the last two books I read this December, I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh and Under the Harrow by Flynn Barry. Full reports to come on both!

But possibly my favorite book of 2016, were I to have to pick just one, is not a new release at all, but an old, yet eerily prescient novel, The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood. Working in publishing there seem to be these classics that everyone has read and this one is pretty much the bible for literary feminists. I’d never read it and was feeling quite shameful about that fact. Finally visiting Bookshop Santa Cruz on vacation I scooped up a paperback copy and devoured it, dog earing page after page, propelled by the suspenseful plot, horrified by the connections between Atwood’s fictional dystopia and the events unfolding around me in real life.  I realized that perhaps I’d yet to read it because I needed it now, this story came to me at just the perfect moment in time. If you’ve not yet read it oh, do it. And also after confessing to a few literary friends, who revealed that they too hadn't read it yet, I now know for a fact that many of you probably haven’t either and that’s totally OK! We really ought not to feel so shameful about books we have yet to read - so many books, so little time, etc. Another goal for next year! Not to read more old books, but you know, to stop assigning pass/fail grades to every decision I make. In literature as in all life!

And in 2016 I read the internet. More than any year before, I felt like a rabid consumer of all the web had to offer, highbrow and oh so low. If there was an article “How Hillary Lost” or “What The Fuck Do We Do Now?” oh, you know I read it. I read on Bernie Bros, on Standing Rock,  anything with bylines by Alexandra Petri or Anne Helen Petersen. I read on super foods, core strength, Aleppo, Lemonade, fertility, cropped jeans, Drake, Flint, gut microbes, Kimye, Zika, gun control, Black Lives Matter, bullet journaling, empathy, apathy, sinusitus, manicure trends, national parks, immunity, “silent majorities,” hair volumizers, succulent gardens, Brangelina. At times my mind felt overstuffed with random knowledge, unsure of how to process, prioritize, understand.

And I read countless, endless, mostly pointless Facebook status updates and Instagram captions, scrolling, scrolling, aimlessly scrolling, often while also eating, watching TV, or yes, even on the john, seemingly unable to just allow my brain to do one thing at a time, to take a single second from endless stimuli. This is one of my main “reading” goals for the year ahead. Less mindless scrolling, more intentional consumption. I realized I may have reached a breaking point when several times in a row Brian came upon me face pressed to phone and asked “whatcha looking at?”, and my response was “Oh, some random person on Instagram.” Unnecessary! The internet can be a big and beautiful space and falling into a Kinfolk prairie mama Instagram k-hole can be a fun way to pass a few idle minutes but so can ripping tequila shots and maybe both activities ought to be limited to special occasions only.

So that’s Year in Reading: 2016...what do I hope 2017 will bring? Why don’t we make a list!

  1. Less aimless, pointless scrolling.

  2. More non-white authors + intentional focus on other areas of diversity - gender, sexuality, physical ability, etc. Essentially, who is being overlooked in publishing and how can I do a better job of acknowledging that imbalance? 

  3. Read more books for work. I have a habit of only reading the books I’m immediately assigned to, plus any fun and sexy fiction we publish, ignoring a lot of the really interesting nonfiction we put out (...more on this in a second). Even if I don’t read every word, I want to at least dip into every book on our 2017 list and better support my colleagues and the authors we represent.

  4. NONFICTION! This is my biggie. I realized that I essentially never, ever read nonfiction, and when I do, it’s probably a funny feminist memoir. And there’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but it’s an area that gives me room for growth. I do think there is a lot to learn about the world from fiction, but as I enter a  period of political uncertainty, with a personal goal towards becoming a better global citizen, it might be time to break out the big guns. There’s so much incredible, investigative nonfiction work that may help me to reframe how I see the world and my place in it. In 2017 I plan to read one work of nonfiction on a social justice or sociology subject each month. Let’s make a list within this list!!!

    1. January is Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, a book my very brilliant friend Katie has been telling me to read for a literal year.

    2. In February I’ll tackle The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, another one of those seminal works of woke literature that I’ve been pretending to read but oops, never have.

    3. March - December: HELP A SISTER OUT?! I have a list going here, but would loooove to hear suggestions from y’all.

I also just purchased The Fire Next Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward with essays by a lot of other exceptional black writers, and plan to make this my in-between book, dipping into essays on subway rides, or whenever I’m in between books and can’t seem to commit to starting anything big and new. It’s usually in this window that I reach for thrillers or lighter fare and that’s all well and good and you KNOW I’m going to still go all in on those genres, but it wouldn’t hurt to push beyond that too.

2016 a year in reading

I picked up these three books at Barnes & Noble yesterday (I was too hungover to walk the four extra blocks to the local indie, so sue me) (crushing 2017 so far!!), the guy behind the counter rang me up, gave the books a once-over, and said “well that’s a fiery start to the new year!”

Oh, indeed.

What will you be reading in 2017??? Aside from Hottsauce Blog Dot Com, obviously. And what was your fave in 2016? My TBR is ever growing and I'm all ears (err...eyes?) for your suggestions! 

Wishing you a HOTT and spicy 2017, my friends!  

xo Liz