Book Recommendations from Danica Roem

Welcome to shelf life, The ELLE.com book column, in which authors share their most memorable lectures. Whether you’re looking for a book to comfort you, touch you deeply, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’ve been here), love books holds. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours.

Burn the Page: A True Story of Burning Doubts, Flaming Paths and Igniting Change

Before she defeated her bathroom bill-presenting, “main homophobic” opponent for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017 — the first openly transgender person to be elected to a U.S. state legislature — Danica Roem was a local reporter for a decade. She once again shows the power of her pen in “memoir-turned-manifest” Burn the page (Viking).

Re-elected in 2019 and 2021, Representative Roem has helped expand Medicaid to nearly 650,000 Virginians, raise teachers’ salaries, cancel school lunch debt (including personal donations), and a ban on gay/trans panic defence, a legal strategy that attributes a defendant’s violence to a victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation. She recently became executive director of Emerge Virginia, which recruits and trains Democratic women to run (including Roem herself).

The one-time lead singer of the thrash metal band Cab Ride Home; was the subject of the campaign documentary This is how we win† has cats named Melinda and Bela; wrote for a yoga nonprofit, worked as a delivery boy for an Afghan kabob house, and ran a mobile yoga-to-metal music studio; has an ERA tattoo† went to the AMAs with Demi Lovato; got her first cassette tape, The Who’s quadrophenia, at age 5; and is a fan of Swedish melodic death metal (all favorite band: Dark Tranquility, plus loves At the Gates, Soilwork and Arch Enemy.)

The book that…

… made me cry uncontrollably:

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. When Jamie Fraser said goodbye to his pregnant wife, Claire, before going back through the rocks at Craigh na Dun, I sobbed out loud:

“I’ll find you,” he whispered in my ear. ‘I promise. If I have to endure two hundred years of purgatory, two hundred years without you – that is my punishment, which I have earned for my crimes. For I have lied and killed and stolen; betrayed and broken trust. But there is one thing that will be at stake. When I stand before God, I’ll have one thing to say to weigh against the rest.”

“His voice dropped, almost to a whisper, and his arms wrapped around me.

‘Lord, you have given me a rare wife, and God! I loved her very much.’”

… I recommend again and again:

Born as a crime by Trevor Noah. It has nothing to do with The Daily Show or even his stand-up career. It is about growing up as a biracial child in apartheid in South Africa and the years that followed. It’s an incredible lecture with a perspective of a life I could never have imagined.

… made me reflect on a long-held belief:

The Science of Yoga by William J. Broad dissects both the truths and myths about what different asanas and exercises do and don’t do for the body. For example, your body does not sweat out toxins; sweat water out. (No joke, right?) That said, the health benefits of consistent practice are real, so much so that you actually read about a doctor prescribing specific asanas (postures/postures) for specific ailments that his patients face.

…I swear I’ll be ready one day:

light on yoga by the late BKS Iyengar. I’ve had it for eight years and at some point I will really finish it once I get into the main room to just re-do and welcome yoga into my daily life as it was so much in 2014.

… I read it in one sitting, it was that good:

Heavy stories: the metal. The music. the madness† It’s the autobiography of Megaforce Records founder Jon Zazula, told to one of my fellow Virginians, Harold Claros-Maldonado. If you’re an old-school metal nerd like yours then you’ll get such a kick out of this book as Jonny Z talks about everything from the smashing of Metallica on the East Coast to how America’s thrash scene came to be with storytelling about Anthrax, Slayer, Testament and so many others.

…I would like to turn into a TV show:

The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon in particular and the Lord John series in general. From the accompanying novellas and short stories away from the nine most important foreigner novels, you’ll easily have enough material for four or five seasons following Lord John through the many battlefields and bedrooms that make up his absurdly fascinating (fictional) life.

…I recently bought:

Go tell the bees I’m gone by Diana Gabaldon, the ninth main novel in the foreigner series, signed by herself!

…has the best title:

Will my cat eat my eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty, America’s favorite (and funniest) undertaker.

…has the best opening line:

The introduction to Voyager by Diana Gabaldon won EW’s “Best Opening Line” award, and I always have to grin: “He was dead. His nose was throbbing painfully though, which he thought was odd in the circumstances.”

…has a sex scene that makes you blush:

A straight, a gay and a bi, all from the foreigner series:

Right in VoyagerJamie describes to Claire in great detail exactly what he intended to act out his fantasies with her when they come ashore again, somehow even better than describing a real sex scene.

Gay: Lord John Finally Connects With Captain Stephan Van Namtzen in The Scottish Prisoner is… ::ahem::… oh my.

Bi: In Written in the blood of my own heart, my mouth dropped open and I screamed, “No!” when Jamie Fraser’s gay best friend Lord John explains why he had sex with Claire while they were both grieving what they believe was Jamie’s death: “We were both fucking you!” Fist, meet face.

Lord John is one of my all-time favorite characters and at the same time, for all his wit and charm, he definitely can’t keep his shit together around his unsolicited love, Jamie.

…Surprise me:

So before I super into the foreigner books as a coping mechanism during the lockdown in 2020, I rarely read fiction books. However, a friend recommended Death on the River by JM Redmann to me and it’s such a journey: part mystery, part thriller, lots of sarcasm and swear words from our sweet lesbian protagonist private detective in Cajun country. It definitely opened novels for me for the first time since I was a kid.

…as a child I asked for one Christmas:

The chickens are restless by Gary Larson. I mean, whether you’re a kid, teen, or adult, you just gotta love The Far Side.

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