Since January 17 2018, I Have read the following books:
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Jaswal, Balli Kaur
American Street by Zoboi, Ibi
Known to Evil (Leonid McGill, #2) by Mosley, Walter
Home by Morrison, Toni
Piecing Me Together by Watson, Renée
The Golden Son by Gowda, Shilpi Somaya
The Jumbies (The Jumbies #1) by Baptiste, Tracey
Go Set a Watchman by Lee, Harper
A Brief History of Seven Killings by James, Marlon
Rise of the Jumbies (The Jumbies #2) by Baptiste, Tracey
Gone Crazy in Alabama (Gaither Sisters, #3) by Williams-Garcia, Rita
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Barnes, Derrick
Islandborn by Junot Diaz
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
These are the books I am currently reading 5 that I am actively reading at the moment:
- The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
- Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender
- The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake
I have found an efficient way to read more and in larger volumes. I am also hoping to participate in a reading circle/book club community in which I can discuss the books I read.
Reading books has added a lushness and vibrancy to my life and all the everyday things I do such as running on a treadmill or driving across town to errands and school visits. Reading certainly brings me a lot of joy and reminds me of one of the things that I loved to do as a child.
I hope you will check out some of these books I have reviewed below by many authors of colour. And please rate and write even a short review (e.g., a word, a phrase, a sentence, or more) about the book you have read. The authors will thank you.
Wow! This was a book that was begging to be read. Just look at the title. As a children's and young adult writer and a Christian, I couldn't help but think, what would my colleagues think if this pops up on my newsfeed? But in all truth, what a juicy story. It takes place mostly inside of a Gudhwara (a Sikh temple) in a corner of London inhabited by a predominantly Punjabi population. Nikki is a young protagonist, idealistic, reasonable, and bridging the gap between traditional Punjabi values and western expressions sensuality and romance. These Punjabi widows, her students in a literacy class, find voice in self-expression and weaving intimate tales of the erotic nature-- all tastefully done of course. The fundamentals are not liking it and neither are those who are trying to keep honour in the community by any means. I liked this story. It was very British. Perhaps, it was the accent of the narrator. However, it was a little predictable. I feel like this story could have been told in any immigrant community whether around the temple or the mosque or the church or the synagogue with a whole host of ethnicities trying to bridge the gaps between the first generation and the aging immigrant parents and grandparents, oscillating between the desire to please and the need to find one's voice. This story is fun and buoyant and although it has it's emotional tide, it does not leave you "cast at sea" for very long. I hope this will be a film directed by Gurinder Chadha and starring Parminder Nagra. Oh, please could one of her best friends be Jamaican. I do hope so.
Interesting and familiar... weaving of traditional Haitian spirituality with an American story of immigration. Tragic and whole and hopeful. This was a novel I had wanted to read since it's release. Fabiola is a young woman who has left Haiti with her mother to live with family in Detroit. Tragically along the way, her mother is detained for months. This is a rare tale of a teenage immigrant experience told through her eyes. This story is filled with many heartbreaking moments. First, Fabiola's very real loss of her mother is palpable. Secondly, the dream she had of an idealized America is extinguished with the reality of an economically-depressed and dangerous Detroit where one must fight (literally) to survive. Third, the losses Fabiola gave up especially in the wake of the Haitian earthquake to then experience it so many times in the new country. There are glimmers of hope as Fabiola navigates her own journey through this new land. I don't want to give anything more away so you're going to need to read it yourself.
I did not particularly enjoy this book. I know that Walter Mosley wrote a novel which was turned into a Spike Lee-directed movie called "Devil in a Blue Dress." I never saw this movie although it was a big hit and my older brother had. So when I saw this audiobook, I said, I should definitely read it. If Spike Lee made a movie from a Walter Mosley book, then he should be great. I was wrong. Well, maybe it was THIS book or perhaps it was because of the arrogant cockiness of the lead character McGill or douchebaggery of it all. I did not have a liking for the lead character at all. I was bored. I wanted to hurry up and get through the story. I know it was a mystery and I usually don't read mystery but nothing interested in me and I did not care enough. I also don't know if it was the actor's voice I didn't like which sounded flat in some parts. I finished listening to the whole story though since I always like to give a story a chance. I did not feel any suspence in the story. The fight scenes were described with such arrogance it almost mocked the lead character. I didn't take any of the story seriously. And I wasn't sure if McGill had an open relationship with his wife or was everyone just straight up cheating on the others. The fact that McGill risked his life to save a girl and hence also the girlfriend of his son seemed a little cliche and a bit stereotypical when it comes to the roles of women. And speaking of cliches, this novel was full of them. Walter Mosley, I will give your books a second chance but not with this one.
I listened to Home by Toni Morrison as an audiobook. One of the challenges I have with authors who read their own work is that they are not actors. Just as I found with Ray Bradbury the Fahrenheit 911 audiobook, I loved listening to Toni Morrison's voice. However, the tones and voice variations of the characters was limited and I had a difficult time following the story as well as who was talking. Something about a family with the last name Money and a Korean war vet haunted by trauma. There was a fight scene, some people killed, and a botched "gyneacologal" procedure. That is about all I gathered. Sorry.
This book is a masterpiece. It's treatment of class and the visibility of Black girls' bodies was one I have never seen before. In the wake of videos released showcasing brutality enacted on the bodies of young Black women, Piecing Me Together attempts to bring the pieces together-- literally. Jade is a young collage artist and this story is told through her eyes. As in This Side of Home, author Renee Watson has made Portland the main setting but also a character in this book of the changing demographics. This book is a great study of Black girl friendships within the community (Lee Lee and Jade's own neighbourhood), across communities (Sam is also poor and a white ally), and class (Maxine is a mentor). I love Renee's treatment of all of these issues in a gentle and moving way. Thumbs up.
I think I am in love with books set in India or about India or the Indian diaspora. I found this book very romantic and dreamy, tragic and realistic. The Golden Son has been described as a coming of age book and I guess it technically is. Would it be qualified/classified as a new adult book? I found the tale and detail quite predictable as it is the "hero's journey" in every archetypal way in an Indian context but the details are so lush, rich,and full of angst. Set in a small village in Gujarat and at a Dallas hospital, this story incorporates a cast of varied characters and describes some difficult cultural issues including dowry crimes, domestic violence, hate crimes, and making your way as a young adult, sometimes against your parents' and communities wishes. Great book! It would make a lovely movie...
I realize now that I didn't write a review for this book. It was a great read and a nice introduction to Trinidad for children.
Another name for this book might have been A Brief History of Jamaican Curse Words or A Brief History of the Multitude of Execution Styles. This book was difficult to read in the first 20 or so pages so I insisted on the audiobook. I loved the readings when a few of readers actually had authentic Jamaican accents. Unfortunately, some of the readers were either African-American or white-Americans obviously didn't get the Jamaican right. In fact, it was very laborious and painful to listen to at times. There were 2 other actors who had accents but they sounded like they were from another island. Anyway, jargon and language aside, this book had me but I began to feel quite lost. I originally thought it was about the Bob Marley assassination attempt and it was. Author Marlon James referred to him as "the singer" however these chapters were short in comparison with the devotion of this book to the crack/cocaine trade in the United States. It was an education of sorts and left the Kingston slums and jetsetted to Miami, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. There were even "name drops" of Mississauga, Toronto, and London. I was quite impressed. But, one of the things I felt challenged again is Jamaica being painted in a highly violent and scary light. I couldn't expect it to be any different. Come on! This book was about a drug war and described not just seven but MANY, MANY killings. Nevertheless, having finally had the chance to listen to this book by audio, meant I could put to rest my curiosity. I had seen Marlon James interviewed about this book, describe his process, purchased my own autographed copy, and cheered on his Booker Prize win, especially after he received almost 80 rejections of his manuscript. My complaints were really about the too harsh, realistic, vernacular used in the violent interactions between US (CIA agent and a New Yorker reporter), Jamaica (various gang members and an unsuspecting woman with changed identity), Cuba, and Colombia. This book was more about politics and the drug trade and how those worlds intertwined from the 1970s to early 1990s. How much is fictional or non-fictional, I am not too sure other than the references to "the Singer", the Jamaican politicians of the 1970s, Colombian drug trader Griselda Blanco, and a number of name droppings in between. Very good book if you like crime novels, music history, and mysteries. A challenge if you write for younger audiences like I do.
This book was a nice compliment and continuation of the first. I like how it took a turn to integrated West African water goddess stories with the Jumbies plot. It took my mind out and gave me some closure about certain characters like Malik, Bouki, and Dru. The children are in danger and I admit through each suspenseful twist of the plot, I couldn't wait for resolution... for now. I also appreciate how author Tracey Baptiste introduces the African diaspora, transatlantic slave trade, and returnees/Ababyo to young readers. A great read!
Oh my gosh, Rita Wiliams-Garcia. Is there really any serious, heavy topic you can't write about for young audiences with levity and hope? Gone Crazy in Alabama felt like how I imagine life in the south might be... slower pace of life, familial, old-fashioned methods still maintained like homemade starched sheets and preferring homemade over store-bought items, families that stick together no matter what, and relations and "next of kin" in close proximity. Rita captured all of these and more. I felt it and then her plot took turns that I did not foresee. Since I do not want to give it away, I will say she explained mixed-race Black ancestry very well in a way that I had not seen in other books. (It's also a topic I am exploring in a manuscript.) Such a masterpiece Rita. I hope this will not be the last of the Gaither sister series.
Great book! Really beautifully told and such an honour of Black manhood, humanity, and hairstyles. It was so lovely and touching. A perfect book to lift any boy's self-esteem. I took this as a library book but I am considering purchases for a couple young men that I know. Stunning illustrations. Natural.
I enjoyed reading this picture book but it was very wordy. I know that editors and the publishing industry disagrees about the maximum number of words in a picture book. My own picture books hover around 1, 000 words. Word count aside, I loved Junot's reading of this story. It's quirky and has his humor woven through it's pages and hidden jokes that I know adults will understand but kids will get the innocence and insistence of its character Lola. The illustrations are dreamy and gorgeous. The metaphor of the giant bat/dictator was very clever and effective. Good work.
The Help is a novel set in early 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. After graduation from college, Eugenia aka Skeeter is a budding young writer who decides to write a book about "colored" domestics and their employers told in a series of interviews. Due to the controversial nature of this book, the author's name was anonymous and the interviewee's identifiers were also changed. The Help was amazing and compelling. I honestly did not want to like this book for two reasons. First, The Help was adapted to screen, in yet another movie in which Black women were/are portrayed as housekeepers and servants and often treated badly by their white employers. Secondly, I did not want to like it especially after learning that author Kathryn Stockett was being taken to court by the maid of her brother with allegations that the story was written about her. However this story was compelling and so interesting that it had me sitting in my car, parked, while the audiobook played for fifteen minutes at a time. The characters were so real and the plot so compelling. The actors in the audiobook were excellent including Octavia Spencer, the Oscar-winner who also starred in the film. I connected to this story in a few ways especially given my Jamaican background. So many women in my family and in the Caribbean migrated to North America to work as domestics in white homes. I once recalled seeing a photo of my grandmother with a smiling white child. I asked who that child was and she was one of her charges. I instantly felt envious of this child. There are so many touching and intense moments in this book and it makes me want to watch this movie a second time (the first time I did not quite finish). I really wish I knew what happened to these women who were interviewed as part of this book, as I already did for Skeeter, Minnie, and Aibileen.