Black Enough

black enoughBlack Enough is an excellent collection of short stories, edited by the mighty Ibi Zoboi.  It is a collection from many of the hottest writers in Young Adult fiction right now. This collection has something for everyone, and to every taste all centered around the idea of being a young black person in America today. We have stories from immigrants, queer boys, girls who don’t fit in and second generation children who are not sure of their identity. It is a very eclectic collection and some stories will hit the mark for you and others might not but I can promise something will resonate with you.

I think it is very important to read books from different points of view from yours. I think it is something that expands your mind and enables you to be a person with greater empathy and greater awareness of struggles that are not your own. I think if every one try to seek out stories that would open their awareness the world would be a better place. I am not Black but reading books like this is important to me and I cannot even imagine how important is to young Black people to be able to see themselves in these stories.

My favourite story in the collection was “Hackathon Summers” by Coe Booth. A young man, Marc, looks forward to his Hackathon event every year at NYU, where he gets to meet his peers and do some great work, and be around his people, people that make him feel like he fits in. Of course there is a girl, Inaaya, who makes those summers even more special. This year, they are going to actually attend NYU and have promised to meet. There is just so much emotion and so many touching issues in one story I had tears rolling down my cheek as it ended. Real issues, real stories, wonderful collection.

 

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We Set the Dark on Fire

I was very pleased as soon as I finished this book to find out it was a duology. I am certainly not ready to give up on these amazing strong characters yet! I need to know what happens! I will be waiting anxiously for the next one to come out.

we set the dark on fireWe Set the Dark on Fire is written by Tehlor Kay Mejia and has a bit of everything I like. It is YA, a dystopian, has queer characters and diverse voices. It is a novel with twists and turns that always kept me guessing until the last page. It brings up issues that are facing our world today (women’s reproductive rights, fear of the “other” and differences in classes) in a way that certainly gets you thinking. I loved it!

In an undetermined time, girls who are lucky enough to live on the “right” side of the wall are sent to the Medio School for Girls, where young women are trained to be one of two things a “Primera” or a “Segunda”. Two very different sort of girls to make up the perfect marriage- a man and his two wives, each with their place and their role. One to help him keep his affairs in orders, one to be his lover and mother of his children. Of course the Primeras and Segundas are sold to the highest bidder and off they go to the homes of rich, powerful men.

We enter the story at the Medio School for Girls graduation as Daniela is graduating as the school’s top student and heading; as an important Primera; to one of the most important and powerful political families going.

As Daniela tries to keep all her “masks” in place, to avoid showing who she really is and getting used to a new life things start to slip. Her Segunda is the impossibly beautiful Carmen, a girl who bullied her in school. Her memories of her poor family left behind and struggling to survive keep arising. Anger comes to her chest more and more frequently thinking about the unfairness of their  world and her new husband sure does have a mean streak. And that’s not even the most serious of it all, she has been asked to join the resistance. It is a wonderful story as we watch Dani make her choices in a brave and thrilling novel, racing with powerful women learning to speak and act for themselves and figure out who exactly they are and who they want to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Esi Edugyan- Washington Black

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This book “Washington Black” is written by Esi Edugyan and is up for the 2018 Giller Prize and well as the Man Booker Prize.
It is a large book, a moving saga that consists in a lot of space and time, different countries and times in Wash’s life. It is a tremendous undertaking and Edugyan is a wonderful writer. She writes beautifully, excellent prose that makes you imagine things perfectly in your mind and she is very a very strong, yet poetic storyteller.
Washington Black, or “Wash” is an excellent narrator.

The book starts in the South, where Wash is a field slave. The owner of the plantation dies, and his nephew comes to take over. He is an evil, awful man and things don’t get easier for any of the slaves. The owner’s brother, “Titch” comes for a visit and strikes up an unusual partnership with Wash, originally because of his size and eventually the bonds between them are harder to decide.

This book brings up a lot of thoughts regarding life and friendship. What is the purpose of friendship? Is it always because someone needs someone else for something? Can there ever be real friendship if there is always some balance of power?

In this story we go from the South, to the Arctic, through Nova Scotia, to London and to Morocco. It is a journey of epic proportions and a difficult but very worthwhile read.

Women Talking by Miriam Toews

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I am thinking a 3.5/5 on this book.
I finished it a few days ago and have been thinking about it, and now I am ready to say some words.

This book takes places over two days and discusses the choices the women of a strict Mennonite community have regarding their mass rape and abuse; stay and fight, leave or do nothing.

I like Miriam Toews, I have read everything she has ever written and I am a big fan. I do not think this is her finest work.
First of all I am sensitive, that doesn’t stop me from reading all kinds of books, but this subject matter was really tough for me to read. I often couldn’t sleep if I read it before bed, so I stopped using it as my nighttime read. I would just imagine being a woman who had horse tranquilizer spread into her bedroom and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. The parts about the young children as well really bothered me, of course.

I also found the story often hard to follow and couldn’t keep up exactly with who was talking and when. I have a very vivid imagination while reading and love to picture characters and with this I was having a hard time picturing anyone at all. I found the narrative mostly rambling thoughts and little character or story development. I wanted more emotion and more feeling.

I do think this is an important book and I think the subject matter is something that needs to be discussed (based on true events) but I had a hard time convincing myself to pick it up.

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehouse

Jonny Appleseed is written by Joshua Whitehouse and is on the long list for the Giller Prize at this time. The short list will be announced tomorrow, September 30th, 2018. I have only read three of the long listed books, but I am rooting for Whitehouse. This book is important.

I just finished reading it and almost started reading it again right away.

I really like books that are written in this sort of free-verse writtentimeline. I love feeling the emotion of characters and it seeming like I was getting inside the inner chambers of Jonny, our “Two-spirit/Indigiqueer and ND glitter princess” narrator’s head.

Jonny’s stepfather has died and he must get back to the rez to be with is mother and is trying to earn enough money in the next seven days to get there. What follows are seven days of heartbreaking reflection, yearning, giving and working to earn the money. We are visited by the haunting memories of his kokum (grandmother), his lover and best friend Tias, and his mother.

Excellent and beautiful prose, a viewpoint that needs to be seen and a bold and courageous homecoming.

 

YA Party

I am going to be 35 in two weeks.

I used to be slightly ashamed at it, but the older I get the less f*cks I give, and actually it is becoming very popular to admit and love it so I will yell it from the Internet rooftops: I love YA (Young Adult) fiction. Especially in the summer. There is just something about  really getting in YA on the beach. There are so many types of YA, fantasy, romance, coming of ages stories, magical, etc. I love them all!

Here are some brief recaps of some swell YA I have read this summer:

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danfort

PostIn this wonderful story Cameron Post has to lose and find herself and who she really is. It deals with coming from a very conservative religious household and what that means when you are gay. I like the way this book doesn’t give us just one easy answer and we see in plain language the real struggle that comes from really not seeing things in just one complete way or another. I thought the characters were super raw and real and I loved the multiple aspects and story lines to this page turner.

 

 

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

leahThis is a sort of tie in or follow up the very popular Love, Simon.  I really enjoy Becky’s Albertalli’s writing as it is super positive, relatable and fun. Her writing is light but always has an undertone lesson, be yourself, be confident and go into the world as who you are. Leah struggles to be who she is and kick ass while doing it. A wonderful coming of age novel.

Zero Repeat Forever by G. S. Prendergast
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This one is dystopian, futuristic stuff which sometimes I really enjoy as a great break from what I usually read. Sixteen year old Raven is at summer camp with her boyfriend and some friends when the terrifying armored Nahx invade. Who are the next and where did they come from? Are they alien life forms and is this the end of Earth? Raven and her friends are in the woods, trying to figure out the best way to go about the rest of their terrifying lives when she encounters a Nahx up close. What are they and are they really all evil? Raven gets deeper than any other human when she befriend a Nahx, in a way.

 

Summer Reading

I haven’t posted in a while. It’s been the summer, and I have been busy camping or heading to a friend’s cottage every weekend. It’s been wonderful and crazy and hot but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I am always reading, and there is some great reading to be done while mini vacationing. I have always been someone who needs a little alone time and you can find me begging off the group hike to be left alone for an hour to read. What a sweet, sweet hour that is.

So let me give you some mini-recaps about things I have been reading lately that are worth checking out.

1. Ayesha at Last by Uzm Jalaluddin- I really enjoyed this sweet modern Muslim take on Pride and Prejudice set in Ontario, Canada. I think it is always important to read other viewpoints different from your own and open your mind to new lenses. Seeing the world from this Muslim viewpoint and different ways to go about love was a wonderful read and a way to think differently. Plus, it was fun and sweet and a real page turner.

2. The Recovering- Intoxication and its Aftermath- Leslie Jamison- This book took me a long time to read. It is thick and deep with a lot of well thought out research. It is a mix of memoir, history and research on addiction and I learned a lot about addiction and it’s sordid history in North America, especially the United States.

3. Leah on the Offbeat- by Becky Albertalli- This is the second in the series also starring Love Simon. It is cute and sweet YA with a twist into being queer and being yourself. I like that a lot of YA is focusing on being you and who you really are and hope this encourages generations coming that they truly can be who they want to be and love who they want to love.

4. The Wealthy Renter: How to Choose Housing That Will Make You Rich by Alex Avery- I rent and I don’t own a home. At my age it is something that I have starting thinking about, but people shove it down your throats as the only option. As we know, do what the masses do or face persecution. I thought it was refreshing to read another opinion with solid, backed up facts regarding the benefitssummer-reading-1.jpg of being a life long renter. The book is also based on Canadian markets, which was great for me.

 

That’s it for now! Keep reading folks!

 

“The Astonishing Color of After” by Emily X. R. Pan

color of afterI really loved this book by Taiwanese American author Emily X.R. Pan. It is a YA novel, however I would say it is for older YA audiences as (trigger warning) one of the main themes is suicide. The book has it all! It has romance, depth of family relationships, growing as a person in your art, travel, mysticism and a touch of fantasy.

I also lived in Taiwan for almost three years and still have my twelve year old Taiwanese street dog kicking by my side, so I loved the nostalgic aspects of the book as well. The novel has intense and vivid descriptions of Taiwan and it left me craving some dan-bing like nobodies business.

The story centers around Leigh Chen Sanders, a high school student who is half Taiwanese and half white, who lives in America with her parents. She has never been to Taiwan or met her grandparents, but no one in her family is wiling to talk about why. Her family feels shrouds in secrets and Leigh mostly lets it be and keeps to herself, doing art and trying to figure things out.

At the beginning of the book, Leigh’s mother commits suicide. Leigh has known that something was always off with her mother, but perhaps she did not know just how deeply. But there is one thing that Leigh is sure of, it is that her mother has been changed into a bird. She receives a mysterious package from Taiwan, and her father agrees to take her to Taiwan to began her journey of discovery and for Leigh, well she wants to find the bird that is her mother. Through this journey Leigh has to come to terms with her mental illness, her relationship with her father, her love for her best friend Axel and her own self.

It is a beautiful and full journey, one that deals with grief much deeper than the usual YA. It is vivid and magical and I think any audience could enjoy it.

As a note- The NLAAS found that Asian-Americans are less likely to seek mental health help. This book is important work in breaking down stigmas.

 

The Female Persuasion Meg Wolitzer

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The Female Persuasion  by Meg Wolitzer was a very enjoyable read. I have liked her as an author and especially liked one of her other novels, The Interestings and upon hearing that this one was about feminism I thought I better read it quickly! I am always the person in gym class being like “ugh, your husband/boss/whoever can’t say that to you and you have the same rights as he does” as the rest of them roll their eyes behind my jumping jack back, so I was excited to dive in.

What does feminism even mean? I know that it is a question that is often difficult to answer in any form and I am not going to say that this book answered the question for me, nor did I think it was particularly deep or groundbreaking, but I did enjoy reading it. I thought it went by really quickly and I pretty much absorbed it in a weekend.

It is a quick and interesting read focusing on smart girl Greer, always unsatisfied by her life in her small town with her small parents. She dates her high school boyfriend and dreams of doing big things. Greer ends up meeting Faith Frank, a dazzling figure head of the “women’s movement”. Greer feels that her life is forever changed after meeting Faith, and that Frank helps her find her “outside voice.” She ends up going to work for Faith and always idolizes her.

This book explores the ideas of female friendship, privilege, relationships and what power means. Like I said I don’t think it was overwhelming in any new messages, but I certainly saw a lot of myself in Greer, floating around in her twenties trying to do good and discover who she is. I mean, pretty much something we can all relate too. It deals with why women are so often mean to each other, what does it mean to “help” people and do you have to be a rich white woman to help? Anyways a good, quick read, and I believe worth your time.