2018 Reading Challenge Update: The Next Five Books
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Hi there! Not sure if you remember but I started a reading challenge last year (2017 Book Challenge), which I have had a hard time completing/keeping you updated. I finished all these books last year, I know, I know. As I have mentioned before I think one of the most significant challenges of this challenge is that the subject matter of a lot of these books makes it hard to move quickly from one to the next. I find myself needing about a week for each after I've finished just to digest and process everything that I've read. It's also hard not having someone to debrief with about some of this incredibly disturbing subject matter. I'm going to keep pushing through because I am learning a lot and as always every time you're challenged by something you read or encounter it widens and deepens your worldview. I hope you don't mind still following along with me and I thank you for your patience.
Beloved: A Novel by Toni Morrison - This novel brings up so many emotions for me. No matter how many times I read about slavery and all that black people endured, it's still difficult to fathom the sheer horror or the practice. What I love about Toni Morrison's writing is how she puts into words the suffering Black women and girls have experienced (and still experience ) in this country. Beloved doesn't hold back and forces us to contemplate just how dehumanizing slavery is and the intergenerational psychological trauma the practice brings about.
The novel begins in 1873 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the protagonist Sethe, a former slave, has been living with her eighteen-year-old daughter Denver. Sethe's mother-in-law, Baby Suggs lived with them until her death eight years earlier. Just before Baby Sugg's death, Sethe's two sons, Howard and Buglar, ran away. Sethe believes they fled because of the malevolent presence of an abusive ghost that haunted their house at 124 Bluestone Road for years.
Magical realism shapes Toni Morrison's novels and the idea of a ghost/memories that haunt and control our present day lives is an interesting one. As the book progresses the story of the ghost unfolds, and the truth of the past that Sethe has been trying not to confront takes on a life of its own. The book also explores how black motherhood and reproductive justice, mother-daughter relationships, community solidarity, and slavery's impact on autonomy and identity.
I would give this book a 5/5 because one year after reading I still can't get it out of my mind. I'm too afraid to watch the movie because reading it and conjuring up my images of everything that happens was a lot. If you haven't read this or any of Toni Morrison's other novels, please do and let's discuss.
Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel - This book was a delight to read and honestly left me hungry for me (see what I did there). I watched the movie adaptation of this novel a few years back and fell in love with the storytelling and the magic realism. Each chapter is broken down to a month of the year and has a recipe that corresponds to what is happening in the protagonist, Tita's life. Tita is the youngest of three girls. Tita cannot be with the man she loves, Pedro, because of her mother's upholding of the family tradition: the youngest daughter cannot marry, but instead must take care of her mother until she dies. Heartbroken when Pedro marries her older sister, and unable to freely express how she feels for fear of her mother's temper and violence, the only place Tita can express is through her cooking. Tita soon discovers that other people can feel the emotions she displayed at the time of her cooking when they eat her food.
The novel explores self-growth and figuring out who you are as a person, regardless of the plans or expectations that have been laid out by your family. Set during the time of the Mexican Revolution, the theme of power is explored. Like Tita's mother, Mama Elena, the power in Mexico, was held by a select few, while the people, like Tita, were not freely able to express how they felt without real consequences of violence or death.
I would give this book a 5/5 because I could not put it down and enjoyed every moment of reading. It was another novel that employed magical realism, which I appreciate and the journey towards self-actualization is one that I think is universal and relatable.
You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson - One half of the hilarious duo, Two Dope Queens, Phoebe Robinson's book, is a collection of essays on her thoughts about race, gender, and pop culture. The title sums up how difficult it is to be a Black Woman in America, dealing with being both invisible and hyper-visible at the same time and Robinson strikes the right balance of using humor to discuss this. In the second chapter of the book, she discusses the history of black hair in film, TV, and other media. In other essays, She also discusses how the NFL treats women, the demands she’d make on the first female U.S. president, and gives readers her list of nine guilty pleasures (No. 1: “Ranking Members of U2 in the Order of Whom I Want to Sleep With”; The Edge is first).
I would rate this book overall probably a 3/5 because as much as I enjoyed it, sometimes the humor felt a bit forced and I'm also not always a big fan of writers using so many pop culture references. I would recommend it for fans of comedic memoirs.
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi - Every book teaches you something and expands your worldview in its way, but I love reading about other places in the world and events that have occurred from the perspective of the people who have lived through it, not through the lens of American news reporting (shade intended). The Complete Persepolis is a graphic novel that chronicles author and illustrator Mariane Satrapi's childhood and young adulthood in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution.
The graphic novel begins when Marjane is ten years old, a year after the Islamic Revolution when secular schools are abolished, separated by gender and girls are forced to wear the veil to school. The year before she had attended a co-ed, secular, Fench language school. The comics carry on detailing Marjane's experiences and discovery of her country's history and current political climate. Marjane's parents send her to live in Austria for four years for her safety. The novel depicts the horrors of growing up in a war-torn nation run by religious extremist/fundamentalists, but also the resilience of the human spirit and how even during the face of difficult times, imprisonment, violence, torture and death, people find ways to keep living and celebrating. It also makes me think of what people in war-torn countries, must experience every day. I appreciate Marjane's honesty in recounting the events of her life and that she never sugarcoats who she was as a person or any historical events.
I give this novel a 5/5 and strongly recommend it. I am planning to watch the film adaptation sometime in the future.
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur - Though filled with beautiful, thought-provoking poetry, Milk and Honey was a difficult book to get through for me probably because so much of what Rupi Kaur was discussing was familiar. Most of the poems in the collection are written by a woman who was sexually abused as a child and an adult. This abuse permanently alters the way she thinks of and relates to the world, affecting her relationship with her father and men in general.
The book explores abuse as one of the central themes, and gendered violence and dominance. It also examines sex and love and how the two do not always go together. One of the most compelling aspects of the book is the fact that Kaur's illustrations are incorporated throughout the book. These sketches are hand-drawn in ink and complement the poems, visually representing the themes, characters, and situations described in the text. In some cases, the words are written around or even within the sketches.
I would rate this collection of poetry 4/5 and recommend it if you love poetry, especially in the style of poets such as Warsan Shire, Lang Leav, and Nayyira Waheed.