“The Tenth Muse” by Catherine Chung

After poring through pages and pages of my library’s virtual bookshelves, I decided I needed a bit of help finding books rather than endlessly scrolling and hoping that I would find what I was looking for. Call it fate, but stamped on the cover of The Tenth Muse was the logo for the Jewish Book Council. One visit to their website gave me a lovely list of books and authors to read. I’m sure that more than a few of their book recommendations will make their way to bookshelf, but I promise to continue exploring on my own as well. Or reading books that you recommend! Mostly I’m just glad to have a better starting place for finding future reads.

Now, if The Tenth Muse is anything, it’s a love letter to many: to the scientists and bright minds of Europe lost in World War II to Jews of color to girls who want to break glass ceilings. I absolutely loved this book, and I couldn’t put it down. I may or may not have read it in one day.

Katherine, the main character, reflects on her life as though she were telling you her life story over coffee. This is another novel in which, quite coincidently, the main character has a mysterious past that they unravel through the book. I don’t want to ruin the ending for you, but this one was a real gut punch. I read this book months ago, and I still think about it a lot.  

It’s a very personal feeling memoir about a woman who grew up in post-war America with a lot going against her. She faces racism and sexism throughout her life due to her Chinese heritage and exceptional math and science abilities. Despite it all, she doesn’t let anyone tell her how to live her life. As she reflects, you discover the costs of her pursuits, and Ms. Chung does a wonderful job in making Katherine a complex, and deeply feeling person. Hence, why I couldn’t put this book down. I really enjoyed this beautiful, bittersweet book, and I hope that you will, too.

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