PopSugar 2021 Challenge

Have you heard of the PopSugar Reading Challenge? It’s an annual challenge with a list of prompts – you pick the book to fit each one!

Here is my list for the PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge. Books in bold are books that I’ve read.

All books are available to purchase from my Bookshop store! If you buy from this link, I will receive a small commission, and part of the proceeds will go to independent bookstores.

1. A book that published in 2021 – Black Buck
2. An Afrofuturist book
3. A book that has a heart, diamond, club, or spade on the cover – The Dating Plan
4. A book by an author who shares your zodiac sign – Becoming, by Michelle Obama
5. A dark academia book – A Deadly Education
6. A book with a gem, mineral, or rock in the title – The Nickel Boys

7. A book where the main character works at your current or dream job – The Prime of Miss. Jean Brodie
8. A book that has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction
9. A book with a family tree – Romancing Mister Bridgerton
10. A bestseller from the 1990s
11. A book about forgetting – Wintersong
12. A book you have seen on someone’s bookshelf (in real life, on a Zoom call, in a TV show, etc.) – From Blood and Ash

13. A locked-room mystery
14. A book set in a restaurant – Arsenic & Adobo
15. A book with a black-and-white cover – Luminous
16. A book by an indigenous author – Firekeeper’s Daughter
17. A book that has the same title as a song – It’s In His Kiss (Bridgerton #7)
18. A book about a subject you are passionate about
19. A book that discusses body positivity – The House in the Cerulean Sea
20. A book on a Black Lives Matter reading list – The Poet X
21. A genre hybrid – The Viscount Who Loved Me
22. A book set mostly or entirely outdoors – King and the Dragonflies

23. A book with something broken on the cover
24. A book by a Muslim American / Muslim British author
25. A book that was published anonymously – Pride and Prejudice
26. A book with an oxymoron in the title
27. A book about do-overs or fresh starts – The Lost Apothecary
28. A magical realism book – Instant Karma
29. A book set in multiple countries – Infinite Country

30. A book set somewhere you’d like to visit in 2021 – The Exiles
31. A book by a blogger, vlogger, YouTube video creator, or other online personality
32. A book whose title starts with “Q,” “X,” or “Z”
33. A book featuring three generations (grandparent, parent, child) – The School for Good Mothers
34. A book about a social justice issue – This Promise of Change
35. A book in a different format than what you normally read (audiobooks, ebooks, graphic novels) – They Call me Guero: A Border Kid’s poems
36. A book that has fewer than 1,000 reviews on Amazon or Goodreads – Between Perfect and Real
37. A book you think your best friend would like – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

38. A book about art or an artist – An Offer From a Gentleman
39. A book everyone seems to have read but you – The Duke & I
40. Your favorite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge – Cinderella is Dead

41. The longest book (by pages) on your TBR list – A Court of Silver Flames
42. The shortest book (by pages) on your TBR list – The Prince and the Troll
43. The book on your TBR list with the prettiest cover – The Undocumented Americans
44. The book on your TBR list with the ugliest cover – Mediocre
45. The book that’s been on your TBR list for the longest amount of time – The Once and Future King
46. A book from your TBR list you meant to read last year but didn’t – Cemetery Boys
47. A book from your TBR list you associate with a favorite person, place, or thing – Alanna
48. A book from your TBR list chosen at random – An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

49. A DNF book from your TBR list – Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology
50. A free book from your TBR list (gifted, borrowed, library) – Truly Devious

Last Standing Woman, Winona LaDuke

last standing woman cover

“Wazhaskoons eyes still looked past the priest; it was disrespectful to look directly at an individual.

The priest froze. Why would Wazhaskoons not look at him; was he being contentious or rebellious?”

Last Standing Woman, Winona LaDuke, p. 52

Last Standing Woman, by Winona LaDuke, spans seven generations of the Anishinaabeg – from 1862 to 2018. It spans generations of Anishinaabeg trying to live their lives, and white people getting in their way. From treaties, to conflicts with settlers and raiding parties, missionaries and boarding schools, to loan sharks who steal land, and finally the generation who works for justice, to take back their traditional lands, homes, and the artifacts and ancestors that were taken to museums.  It is one thing to read in history books about the effect of colonization on Native Americans, and it is quite another to watch in unfurl before your eyes, and to watch the effect colonization has on families and communities. To watch, for example, two young girls in a sanitarium, the older sister falling asleep and waking up to find her younger sister has died in her arms overnight. It is much easier to read in history books.

The book started out a little slow for me. The names were long, and the shifts between characters, as well as the steady march of time, made it hard for me to connect to the story at first. However, the last half of the book took on a more traditional Western narrative structure, following the occupation of White Earth reservation, and sticking to a few main characters that you got to know for more than a few pages at a time. But this is when the beginning of the book also pays off – because you know so much of their history, you understand the characters’ motivations more deeply.

While reading Last Standing Woman, I was also reading White Fragility, and the parallels between what Robin DiAngelo explains and the actions the white characters were taking in Last Standing Woman were both depressing and fascinating.

“There is a peculiar kind of hatred in the northwoods, a hatred born of living with with three generations of complicity in the theft of lives and land. What is worse is that each day, those who hold this position of privilege must come face to face with those whom they have dispossessed. To others who rightfully should share in the complicity and the guilt, Indians are far away and long ago. But in reservation border towns, Indians are ever-present.”

Last Standing Woman, Winona LaDuke. p 125

Honestly, it made me feel like a bit of an idiot that a book written in 1997 could clearly show the racism that a book published in 2018 has to lay out for us self-proclaimed well-meaning whites. It reinforced that so much of the “study” of racism is just white people opening our eyes to the oppression people of color have felt for generations. You don’t need to explain the nuances of racism to everyone. (Just white people.)

“The idea of racial inferiority was created to justify unequal treatment; belief in racial inferiority is not what triggered unequal treatment. Nor was fear of difference. As Ta-Nehisi Coates states*, “But race is the child of racism, not the father.” He means that first we exploited people for their resources, not according to how they looked. Exploitation came first, and then the ideology of unequal races to justify this exploitation followed.”

White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo. 

*The Case for Reparations, Ta Nehisi-Coates.



All this rambling is not to say that reading Last Standing Woman was the hard work of allyship or activism in some way. I genuinely enjoyed the experience, and will hold Winona LaDuke’s characters in my heart for a long time.