Friday, April 22, 2016

Book Synchronicity

There are moments when the book you're reading just resonates with something else in my life. I am reading a historical fiction and the next day, read an article about the very same topic. Or I am reading a novel which heavily involves spinning yarn, soon after I learned to spin myself.

But it is very odd when two books I'm reading complement each other. It just happened to me and it was magical. I had just finished listening to Janis Ian's autobiography Society's Child. Ian, for those who may not know, was a pretty famous folk and pop singer in the 60's and 70's, and rubbed elbows people like Janis Joplin and Bruce Springsteen. She was heavily involved in the folk music movement with the likes of Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie. She talked a lot about the other performers she sang with, toured with, and befriended. I really enjoyed hearing her tell her story, peppered with bits of her songs, some of which I knew, and others which I hadn't.

In her autobiography, Ian is pretty frank about how the music industry has changed through the decades since she started recording, and in her opinion, not for the better. She implies heavily that the industry has lost its heart and instead of fostering and nurturing its artists, it is too focused on money and protecting the bottom line. As she had to make a comeback several times in her career and had been performing since she was a teenager, she has many thoughts on this subject.

While I was finishing up Society's Child, I picked up a review copy of a young adult novel that is coming out in May called Devil and the Bluebird. It is the debut novel of Jennifer Mason-Black, and if this first book is any indication, she will have a place on my insta-buy list. It is just that good and my first solid five-star read of 2016.

In Devil and the Bluebird, we start off at the crossroads at midnight and watch Blue Ridley make a deal with the devil: her voice in exchange for magic boots that will lead her to her missing older sister, who had run away from home shortly after their mother had died. Armed only with her guitar, she follows the path the boots lead her. The story is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Seanan McGuire's Sparrow Hill Road, but is still completely unique. Unlike a lot of young adult books these days, Devil and the Bluebird is not focused on the here or the future. There are no name droppings of current movie stars or pop artists. There aren't worries about designer clothes or the latest iProduct. Instead, this book is nostalgia personified, and takes place in a part of America that still remembers people busking by the side of the road, exchanging a meal for a story or a song, and finding a shared language in music.

Reading this on the coattails of Society's Child was pure book synchronicity. It was kismet. The folk revolution that Janis Ian described and took part in was still going on in the roads Blue traveled in Devil and the Bluebird. The ghosts of folk music past are in these pages, and Blue learns the difference between making music for fame and fortune (the real deal with the devil) and making music from the heart and the soul.

I cannot recommend both books enough. And if you read them back-to-back, you may find your own moment of book synchronicity.

Society's Child by Janis Ian is available in audiobook from Audible, and in print at all major retailers.
Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black is out May 17th from Amulet Books.

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