Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What I Read in January


One of my reading goals for 2017 is to read more books written by authors of color, in part because there are so many issues with just how white the publishing world is. Simply put, it's easier to "make it" as a white writer than as a writer of color, & I want to make a personal effort not to overlook these talented writers in my own reading. In January, I started reading a bunch of the books on my to-read list written by authors of color, & I'm looking for more recommendations to add to that ongoing, ever-growing list.

I started three or four other books this month & am now about halfway through all of them, so I guess they'll count for February's total. The one that's really holding me up - but fortunately also keeping me intrigued - is Stephen King's 11/22/63, the 866-page beast we chose for book club. I'm not even close to done with it... & we meet in a week! Gotta buckle down & see if I can get it finished before then. Add me on Goodreads to see what else I'm halfway through, then tell me: What are you reading?

Here are the 11 books I finished in January.

I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi

I picked up this book without being familiar with its author, the take-no-shit blogger behind AwesomelyLuvvie.com. While the book initially seems frivolous & pop culture-centric, it turns into a smart, worthwhile take on feminism, racism, & a bunch of other important aspects of our culture - namely the ridiculous & unacceptable ways we act when it comes to them. ★★★☆

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I'm comfortable saying that this book should be a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand racial tension in America, whether you're a POC who's living that reality every day or a white person who seeks deeper understanding in order to become a better ally. Truly, Coates' writing - a memoir & social commentary in the form of a letter to his son - is a work of art, & I believe this book will long be looked upon as a classic in its genre. ★★★★★

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

I have almost no experience with poetry, save the bad poems I wrote myself growing up, but on a whim, I bought this book as a gift to myself while doing some holiday shopping. It's one of the most moving works of art I've ever consumed, & it had me feeling all kinds of ways for days to follow. I have a feeling this is one that'll end up dog-eared & well-loved. ★★★★★

Adnan's Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial by Rabia Chaudry

Like the rest of the world, I fell hard for Serial, & after finishing season one, I wanted to know more about Adnan Sayed's story. This book is written by his friend & advocate, the lawyer who reached out to Serial's Sarah Koenig in the first place. Elements of it were fascinating & personal & compelling, but the overall book was, unfortunately, a bit of slog. Still, it ultimately did what the podcast couldn't: convince me of Adnan's innocence. ★★★☆

Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family by Najla Said

Said is a great storyteller, in terms of language & visualization, but I found much of the story itself to be too disjointed to feel as compelling or cohesive as it should've been. The atheist daughter of Christian Lebanese/Palestinian parents, Said was raised as a WASP surrounded by Jews; this memoir is about her ongoing identity crisis. This was a bit of a difficult read for me; when it came to Jews, I found Said hostile at worst, appropriative at best. I liked her book, but I wasn't sure I liked her. ★★★

You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

I lovedlovedloved this one, written by the co-host of the 2 Dope Queens podcast (a Cleveland native!), which I plowed through on my Austin flights. Robinson has a way with analogies, using hilarious & unexpected pop culture references to discuss important issues like racism, feminism, etc. Yes, it had a lot of similarities to I'm Judging You, but they were both worth the read. I liked this one better, though, if you only want to choose one. ★★★

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

This YA fantasy novel is full of color & curiosities, with writing so lovely I wanted to, like, wrap it in cotton candy & glitter. Like the rest of the townspeople in Ferenwood, 12-year-old Alice was born with a magical talent - but, unlike them, she was born completely colorless. With the help of former enemy Oliver, white-haired Alice goes in search of her missing father in the renegade magical world of Furthermore - which is very dangerous. I loved the imagery & the storytelling, but rarely have I been so disappointed in such a rushed ending. ★★★

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Amanda is just a normal teenage girl who's well-liked at her new school & falling in love with a cute boy. But she has a secret: She was born male. What will happen if her new friends - & her boyfriend - find out? This was a very simplified version of just one of many trans stories & issues that trans people face, but I think it's so important that novels like this exist. I hope it helps readers better understand that trans people are just people. ★★★

The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou

This was my first book by the indomitable Miss Angelou, but it won't be my last. She was incredible, with writing to rival her personality. This memoir focuses primarily on the time of her life when she was in a relationship with a South African civil rights activist who tried to mold her into the perfect African (rather than African-American) wife. Her spirit, work ethic, & sense of justice are all on full display as she struggles to be the perfect wife while also remaining an activist, a mother, a writer, an independent working woman, & a proud, justice-seeking Black woman. ★★★

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson  

This book came highly recommended by a few friends, & for good reason. It's fascinating! Academic psychologist Jon Ronson takes a look at trends in public shaming, including the latest angle: the online shaming. Can people bounce back from these pile-ons, or are they destined to ruin their lives? With real-life examples (remember the white-girl AIDS tweet?) as well as a look at the history of public shaming, this nonfiction book will make you rethink the Internet. ★★★

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

This was my first book by bestselling Australian novelist Moriarty, though Goodreads tells me it's not her best. The book's first half switches back & forth between present day & a recent BBQ, told from the perspective of three suburban couples who were all in attendance & who are all struggling to deal with the aftermath of something terrible that took place there - though we don't find out until halfway through the book what it was. Even though it started verrrry slowly, the character development was fascinating , which makes me want to read more from Moriarty. ★★

Comment to tell me what you're reading, then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch & see what I've read in months past.

Please note that my "What I Read in..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but please also don't judge me too harshly for including them. 

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