Category Archives: Lite Reads

Lite Reads Selection: ‘Civil Peace’ by Chinua Achebe

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Welcome to The Feminist Bibliothecary’s Lite Reads, where we read a different short story every week, and then discuss it here and on social media. This week’s Lite Reads selection is Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe!

Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe was published in 1971 and focuses on the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970). Set in eastern Nigeria immediately following the war, this piece of literary fiction stars Jonathan Iwegbu as he tries to make it through life in a post-war society through sheer optimism.

Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) was an Igbo Nigerian writer and professor. When he was awarded the 2007 Man Booker International Prize, he was called the “father of modern African writing.” His work tends to focus on Nigeria, especially within his own Igbo background, a powerhouse of the post-colonial literary movement. He is famous for works such as his iconic novel Things Fall Apart (1958), Anthills of the Savannah (1987),  Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays, 1965-1987 (1988), and, his final published work before he died of an illness, There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra (2013).

You can read Civil Peace in full in this PDF, either in your browser or downloaded to your device. I was unable to find an audio recording of the story, and I apologise for any difficulties this may cause.

Join us in the comments section here, or on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram, to participate in discussions throughout the week. You can also join in on the discussion at Litsy by following @elizabethlk and the #litereads hashtag.

Lite Reads Review: ‘The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees’ by E. Lily Yu

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Week seventy-one of Lite Reads comes to a close as we finish our selection The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu. There were questions as food for thought on social media as people had the chance to read it and think about it. Before I announce the next Lite Reads selection (January 19), I will be sharing my own thoughts here. Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t finished reading the story yet.

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu is a science fiction short story about groups of bees and wasps in the wild. When the village of Yiwei destroys a wasp nest, they realise that the nests contain maps to the entire region and destroy all of the local nests to see the maps. The surviving wasps flee and begin a new life further away from the human community. They essentially colonise a region already inhabited by bees, and the bees are forced under wasp control. One of the bees has the anarchist gene, a natural phenomenon in bees that can be passed on as a hereditary trait. The bee and its descendants begin to plan to escape from under the thumb of the colonial wasp rule and the bee monarchy alike. They slowly build up their own nest for the winter. During the winter, the anarchist bees, monarchical bees, and colonial ruling wasps all go into their own nests to either hold out the winter or hibernate. A girl from Yiwei comes and collects the wasp nest to prove that wasp nests have maps in them to those who hadn’t believed the village before because they had killed all the wasps first and couldn’t prove the maps were wasp-made. When the monarchical bees come out in spring, they begin anew, free from wasp rule, and they find the anarchist bees dead from infighting and a poorly planned winter hideaway.

Yu considers The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees to be hard science fiction rather than fantasy (as many stories about insects might be) because entomology is a real science and the story’s major plot points come from real entomological papers the author had read prior to writing the story, particularly about the phenomenon of anarchism in bees. I confess I hadn’t truly considered the idea of hard science fiction focused on insects, but as soon as I read that explanation (prior to reading the story), I knew I was interested.  I’m a sucker for lesser-known facts used in unconventional ways for storytelling purposes. It’s the kind of thing I would be inclined to read more of as a whole. In this particular instance, Yu manages to take an interesting fact that can be compared to the human world with social and political relevance, but present it in a small scale way that is surprisingly easy to connect with. It also makes me want to read entomological papers, which I can’t say I’ve experienced as a result of any other story I’ve read before.

Anarchism as a hereditary trait in bees and anarchism as a political ideology are obviously not the same thing, but it’s certainly interesting to see the ways they are similar and the ways they are different laid out in such a story, even if it’s not the primary focus of the story. The trait in bees essentially makes them anti-monarchy (which is definitely a trait of the political ideology!), which means they aren’t able to live peaceably in a traditional hive with a queen as both ruler and mother and with every bee in its own role. The anarchist bees in this story defy the social structures of bees by breeding on their own, as well as by abandoning assigned roles to work as a community in all areas of life (communal contributions like this are also characteristic of the political ideology). I thought it was especially interesting to see them leave the original hive altogether and begin a new one on their own, which I thought was reminiscent of anarchist communes (the human kind). These bees were unfortunate in that beehives aren’t exactly designed for anarchy to be a sustainable option.

The ending of The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees is something of a happy one in that the humans are able to prove that the wasps are mapmakers (although I extremely not in favour of mass exterminating wasps for their nests given that they are ecologically necessary and our environment is in crisis), and the monarchist bees are able to survive free of the colonial rule of the wasps, but the anarchist bees are unable to survive on their own. I kind of wish we had gotten more information about how the anarchist bees fail, but I thought it was fascinating to see the monarchist bees at least attempt to learn from those failures. It’s just a shame that this natural phenomenon kind of goes against the nature of bees.

Overall, The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu was an engaging and fascinating story. I feel like it made me really curious about bees and wasps in a way I don’t usually feel that I am. It was also just a genuinely fun and engaging story that made for an easy but thought-provoking read. I would definitely recommend it, and I look forward to reading more from the author.

I hope everyone who participated by reading the story and following along on social media enjoyed the story. If you have more thoughts to add, please feel free to comment on this post, or anywhere on The Feminist Bibliothecary’s social media. Week seventy-two begins shortly, January 19, with a brand new short story selection!

Lite Reads Selection: ‘The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees’ by E. Lily Yu

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Welcome to The Feminist Bibliothecary’s Lite Reads, where we read a different short story every week, and then discuss it here and on social media. This week’s Lite Reads selection is The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu!

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu was published in issue 55 of Clarkesworld Magazine in April of 2011. This science fiction short story was nominated for a Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award following the year it was published. The author based the story on entomological papers about anarchism in honeybees.

E. Lily Yu is a USAmerican author of science fiction and fantasy. She is a Princeton graduate and has been nominated for numerous writing awards. Yu has authored many short stories, and her debut novel, On Fragile Waves, is due to be released Fall 2020.

You can read The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu on the Clarkesworld Magazine website. You can also hear the story on audio as read by Kate Baker as part of the Clarkesworld Magazine podcast at this link.

Join us in the comments section here, or on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram, to participate in discussions throughout the week. You can also join in on the discussion at Litsy by following @elizabethlk and the #litereads hashtag.

Lite Reads Review: ‘Rhizome’ by Libia Brenda and Richard Zela

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Week seventy of Lite Reads comes to a close as we finish our selection Rhizome by Libia Brenda and Richard Zela. There were questions as food for thought on social media as people had the chance to read it and think about it. Before I announce the next Lite Reads selection (January 12), I will be sharing my own thoughts here. Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t finished reading the story yet.

Rhizome by writer Libia Brenda and artist Richard Zela, with the Spanish to English translation by Libia Brenda and David Bowles, is a short science fiction comic. Set in 2043, the story features a young man named Alex visiting the home of Maria Luisa, a famous author who happens to be his personal favourite writer. Maria reveals that she is actually a time traveller from the future, born in 2164. She grows flowers that she brought back from the future, and Alex has one tattooed on him with exact detail without ever seeing one until this moment because he is connected to the time travel as well. While Maria has stayed in the past (the past to her) for many years, she has decided to go home to her own time, but she leaves Alex with the ability to travel to the past as well. When she arrives in her own time, she has a letter from Alex about his own time travel adventures and the work he has done to keep her house up for her.

While Rhizome is a very short story and leaves many details to the unknown or the imagination, it is still a delightful time travel story with a lot of information included in a short space. Rather than witnessing the time travel and experiencing it as part of the story, we experience a sort of calm and domestic moment in the lives of a longtime time traveller and a soon-to-be time traveller. I thought it was interesting to experience a moment of calm with the characters as they share information. I thought it was fun and refreshing to see how the travel was magical, but also intensely weaved into the literary and botanical nature of the characters’ lives. With two bookishly inclined characters, I thought it was fascinating to see that they time travelled using words.

As this is our first ever comic in almost a year and a half of Lite Reads, I think it’s especially important that we take the time to look at the art (although the artwork of comics should always be acknowledged, examined, appreciated, etc). While this style of art wouldn’t be a default preference for me, I do think it fits the story. The grey shading is really crisp and appealing. I feel like the artist especially managed to capture the wizened eccentricity of Maria while also capturing the fresh-faced curiosity of Alex. The background art is pretty, but it stays in the background, which is probably ideal with this sort of short comic story. Zela manages to provide the exact kind of art the story requires, and I think the way the story and art mesh together is one of the strongest points of Rhizome.

I do have a soft spot for stories about books, literature, writers, and anything or one of that nature, so I was inclined towards enjoying the focus on writers and their literature. Starting the story with Alex getting incredibly excited and nervous about Maria Luisa, a writer of speculative fiction short stories, was a very relatable moment. Getting a taste of both of the characters’ literary lives was genuinely a fun and interesting thing for me. The importance of words is apparent in this story, from the impact of literature on individual readers to the use of words to travel through time to even simply noting that the flower from the future is often referred to by an incorrect name. While I wouldn’t say the story is specifically about words and literature, I feel like it’s something important that is ingrained in the story, something the tale could not exist without.

Overall, Rhizome by Libia Brenda and Richard Zela was a deeply charming tale of time travel and literature. I don’t know that I’m in love with it or anything, I do think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been the length of a standard comic book or a little longer, but I definitely enjoyed what the author and artist gave us, and I would be curious to read more from either since this is my first time with both.

I hope everyone who participated by reading the story and following along on social media enjoyed the story. If you have more thoughts to add, please feel free to comment on this post, or anywhere on The Feminist Bibliothecary’s social media. Week seventy-one begins tomorrow, January 12, with a brand new short story selection!

Lite Reads Selection: ‘Rhizome’ by Libia Brenda and Richard Zela

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Welcome to The Feminist Bibliothecary’s Lite Reads, where we read a different short story every week, and then discuss it here and on social media. This week’s Lite Reads selection is Rhizome by Libia Brenda and Richard Zela!

Rhizome by writer Libia Brenda and artist Richard Zela is a science fiction comic published in November of 2018 in Latin American Literature Today. It was originally written and published in Spanish, but it was translated into English by Libia Brenda and David Bowles. This nine-page comic story focuses on time travel, botany, and literature. This is our first time selecting a comic for Lite Reads, and it is our first new selection for 2020!

Libia Brenda wrote Rhizome and contributed to the English translation. She is a Mexican writer who studied Hispanic Language and Literature, and she writes science-fiction and fantasy short stories. Richard Zela was the artist for Rhizome. He is a Mexican comic artist and illustrator, with a background in studying Design and visual communication. David Bowles is a Mexican-American writer who contributed to the translation of Rhizome.

You can read the English translation of the story at Latin American Literature Today’s website. You can also read it there in the original Spanish as well if that is your preference or comfort.

Join us in the comments section here, or on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram, to participate in discussions throughout the week. You can also join in on the discussion at Litsy by following @elizabethlk and the #litereads hashtag.