Books I am currently reading: - The Story of Egypt: The Civilization that Shaped the World, by Joann Fletcher - Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping, by Matthew Salesses - Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Letters of a Woman Homesteader, by Elinore Pruitt Stewart - An African American and Latinx History of the United States, by Paul Ortiz - The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern (reread)
Yes, that is a number of books to be reading simultaneously. Most are audiobooks that I listen to throughout the day, depending on what I am doing and how much concentration I need. I usually find it difficult to keep momentum when reading non-fiction and audiobooks help me to do that, even if I often want a physical copy to mark passages for later reference.
Books I finished reading in March: - The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djèlí Clark - Letters from Egypt, by Lady Lucie Duff-Gordon - Middlemarch, by George Eliot - Provenance, by Ann Leckie - The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution, by Peter Hessler - Woman at Point Zero, by Nawal el Saadawi
Some of these are obviously WINTERS research-related (Letters from Egypt and The Buried), while others are palette-cleansers in being unrelated (Provenance). Though, to be honest, everything I read eventually ties back to WINTERS.
I recently finished reading/listening to Letters from Egypt by Lady Lucie Duff-Gordon. Advised to leave England for her health, she moved to Egypt in 1862 and spent the remaining seven years of her life there before dying of tuberculosis in Cairo.
Janet Ross, her daughter, collected and published Lady Duff-Gordon's letters to her family, consisting mostly of letters to Janet, her mother Mrs. Austin, and her husband Alexander Duff-Gordon. It was fascinating to see how Lucie's letters tracked her experiences, beginning with a tourist's wonder at how the landscape and people are "just out of The Arabian Nights" and comparing what she saw to Biblical scenes to her settling in Luxor and counting her Egyptian neighbors among her dearest friends, learning Arabic and participating in the community as much as her health would allow her to. Her letters describe the daily life of her neighbors, the hardships of famine and European interference, the relations between Muslims and Copts, Egyptians and Turks and Europeans, and between different social classes. Lady Duff-Gordon demonstrates a self-awareness of her own changing attitudes towards Egypt and its people the longer she lives there.
Lady Duff-Gordon spent the last years of her life separated from her family. Her longing for them, as well as her desire to reassure them about her well being, are seen throughout her letters. Her candidness about her health resonated with me as someone living with chronic illness, and as someone who knows that Lucie died from her illness. I dreaded coming to the end of the letters, knowing that she was also coming to her end. It is a strange feeling to mourn the death of someone who died 150 years ago.
I had been hesitant to read books like Letters of Egypt, memoirs or accounts of Egypt and North Africa from the perspective of a European when I preferred to use Egyptian sources. However, local sources have proven difficult to find for a number of reasons (worth a blog post in itself). I hoped Lady Duff-Gordon's account would provide some insight into the daily lives of "regular" Egyptians in the 19th century, knowing that I would have to parse through the white, Christian gaze as I read. I did find what I was looking for, but I also got to know a woman who was determined to make the best of whatever life was left to her. I think we might have been good friends, had not the centuries and distance divided us.
January: I return to SMU and process the Documents series of the Otis and Velma Davis Dozier collection. I start playing Elga of Dale in my gaming group's current campaign in The One Ring and continue research on childhood in 18th-century Europe.
February: I process the Ephemera series of the Dozier collection and have a friend-date with K. to see Little Women. I return a book on the history of the 18th century to the library with a note correcting the entry about the "Rise of the Novel".
March: I hastily pack up the Dozier collection and prepare to work from home for a few weeks. Tuesday game night goes virtual. I cease going to a cafe for my research sessions and experiment with homemade chai lattes. I cancel travel plans to see family and friends in South Carolina.
April: Definitely did not bring enough work home with me in March. Research focus shifts to identify elements from Pathfinder's Mummy's Mask adventure modules that were used in the D&D campaign that inspired WINTERS. Friends come to the rescue when I have to repair a car during a pandemic. My cat resents the eviction of a mouse from under the sofa.
May: My hand hurts from pre-labeling countless number of folders for the Dozier collection. I sit outside and begin typing up my Mummy's Mask campaign notes. A friend brings me flowers on my birthday and I rearrange my workspace at home.
June: Cautiously return to campus to complete processing the Dozier collection and spend a week reading several hundred AP English essays. Typing up campaign notes continues, even in the summer heat. I participate in Black Lives Matters by attending protests in person and supporting online.
July: Begin unemployment. The cat suffers from pandemic restrictions when going to the vet. I also become an Avatar: The Last Airbender fan. I do #ASummerInWriting on Instagram.
August: Masked friends help me pack my earthly belongings. I complete typing the campaign notes to use as reference while replotting WINTERS and celebrate the debut of IGNITE THE SUN by Hanna C. Howard. I say farewell to my friends in North Texas and move to South Texas.
September: Recovering from moving takes most of the month. Adjust to living with my parents again. I read about Lady Hester Stanhope, usually with a cat nearby, and wrap up another season of Savage Worlds: The Last Parsec.
October: I bring home a kitten from the shelter and name her Hazel. I did "Thinktober", a writing version of Inktober, on Instagram and decide upon THE ARCANIST as a working title for my WINTERS novel. I devour the long-awaited RETURN OF THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner. I introduce Ana Page in our new campaign using the Fantasy: AGE system. I vote and continue to self-quarantine.
November: National Novel Writing Month to begin drafting THE ARCANIST. My dad and I build a catio. An artist brings three deities in WINTERS to life. Much time is spent chaperoning the cats. I and countless others hold our breath and celebrate with HAMILTON at the election results. I have Thanksgiving alone with my cats.
December: I use my NaNoWriMo experience to make a plan regarding further research and outlining and celebrate an unusually low-key Advent and Christmas. I end the year by watching fireworks from the window.
2020 was a year. May 2021 be a happy new year indeed.