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Writers of Color 50 Book Challenge

Vampire Hunter D and Battle Angel Alita
We're jumping over to two Japanese authors for my next two reads!

Vampire Hunter D by is a novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi. It has lovely illustrations interspersed by Yoshitaka Amano. Now, the disambiguation can be a little confusing, because Vampire Hunter D is also the title of the book series (which has 26 novels in it), as well as the manga, anime, and video game that it inspired. I was able to see immediately why all of that followup happened because this book is simply amazing. You could call it a crossover between sci fi and fantasy - although there are vampires, werewolves, and magic this is described as owing to nanotech, unusual power sources, etc rather than anything mystical. I loved this book!! I'm very interesting in trying out the manga as well as the anime.

Battle Angel Alita: Rusty Angel is volume one of the BAA series. This manga was written and illustrated by Yukito Kishiro. The art is absolutely beautiful and possibly one of my favorite things about the manga. I appreciated that this went beyond a basic "she's a beautiful girl, but she's a battle cyborg!" level of engagement to have some philosophical discussions between the heroine and villain. This was also my first time learning about the interesting issue of sound effects in Japanese typically being portrayed as kanji and kana that are worked into the image - this can make them difficult to translate without changing the look of the manga. You can see some examples here.

Really excellent books in both cases. Stay tuned as I move back to memoir for my next review!

Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou
I selected this book of essays by Angelou as book 13. It was a fairly light read. I especially enjoyed the way she shared openly her own failings and mistakes, as describing a time when she and a friend were waiting for a meal in a restaurant for a long time. She thinks that it is a racist incident - it turns out to be a running-out-of-grits incident. It takes a lot of grace to admit your mistakes publicly like that. I mean, on paper! In black and white! I admire that and I definitely have a ton to learn in that area.

I felt very welcomed by the tone of this book.

You can read more about my impressions here.

I have been thinking about whether to try to read 50 books by different authors of color, or just fifty books by authors of color. So far, I haven't repeated any authors, but when it comes to someone like Lorde or Angelou, I'm certainly tempted! Fifty authors, or fifty books? What do the rest of you think about this?

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Signal to Noise is the debut novel of Mexican-Canadian author Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who has spent the last few years carefully crafting a respectable reputation for herself as a short story author (of the excellent This Strange Way of Dying) and editor (of various anthologies published through Innsmouth Free Press, the micropress she created).

The novel takes place in Mexico city in 1988/89 and 2009. In the contemporary portion of the story we learn that our lead heroine Meche Vega has returned to the city of her adolesence to attend her estranged father's funeral and is on poor terms with nearly everyone she left behind while in the 80s we see that she has strong ties with both her father and her two best friends Daniela and Sebastian. The source of the rift and the source of the closeness are one and the same: in the 80s, while listening to music, Meche learns she can harness the power of records to cast spells and brings her friends in on the secret in order to make the magic stronger.

The problem I had with this book is a problem I have with a lot of science fiction books. The prose just wasn't that good. That doesn't mean it was badly written, just that there was a flatness to the language and that there were a lot of cliches which was especially disappointing in a story about the magic of words, music and poetry.  

The actual story was very enjoyable and pretty well-plotted. I appreciated that the groundwork for the climax of the story was pretty firmly laid out early on so that even though, because of the 2009 portion of the story, it as obvious that a rift was coming how it happened and why was a surprise that was well-earned through the plot.

I suspect readers less picky than I will thoroughly enjoy this. And despite my criticisms I did too. 

3.09 Oxfam, Around the World - At School, 2010
Oh Jonathon!
Oxfam, Around the World - At School, 2010

This is a collection of photos, showing children at schools around the world – in the UK, Haiti, Peru, Chile, Tajikistan, Yemen, Kenya, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. There is a line or two of text for each photo, some of which were frankly confusing.

Apparently Vietnam has travelling libraries where the books are kept in bottles? All three kids I was reading to were interested in this, but googling it has provided no more information. (Just heaps about bottles of alcohol in Vietnam). Perhaps it keeps them dry? Allows storage? What is going on here?

The photos were taken by a range of Oxfam affiliates, including Amin from the Drik Photo Agency, Nguyen Thi Hoang Yen, and Ami Vitale. No one is credited with the text.

more romance! and more nonfiction!
Book 11 for me was A Brother's Honor by Brenda Jackson. Jackson won a Lifetime RITA award (given in the romance industry for outstanding career achievements). This book was most interesting to me in that it is written mainly from male PoV. That is quite unusual in the romance world. However, I didn't find it very enjoyable overall, nothing to compare with Sanctuary Cove. I think it's the only romance I've ever read that failed the Bechdel Test.

For Book 12 I did something completely different and read Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by African-American romance writer Zane. I knew I wanted to read at least one relationship advice book as part of my challenge because I find that sort of thing extremely interesting. It was a good book, a quick read and very funny. Definitely only for adults.

romance and nonfiction
For book #9 in my challenge I read Sanctuary Cove by Rochelle Alers. This is a cozy romance by an African American writer. It was not graphic, but sweet and touching. I learned some things from it about black parenting styles and Gullah culture. I recommend it.

For book #10 I read Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. I cannot say enough good things about this book of essays by a black lesbian poet and activist. An amazing book which was also short and easy to read. My first piece of nonfiction for the challenge. Highly recommended.

Woo hoo people ten books! I'm doing really well here!

This community!
I'm thrilled to see LIFE in this community!

So here's a PSA. All sales of Sujata Massey's The Kizuna Coast e-book, through 30th March, go to Direct Relief Japan.

I haven't read The Kizuna Coast yet, but I have read the first TEN Rei Shimura mysteries, and they're delicious. So #11 is bound to be fantastic. (So to speak... it's an ebook, so it isn't bound... nevermind.)

In other book news, was I the last person in the world to read Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being? I finished it yesterday, and it has (presumably temporarily) cast a quiet calm across my mind. Ruth and Nao are my kind of time beings.

Would any of you like a new LJ friend? And what if I promote this community a little among some of my remaining LJ friends?

two graphic novels
books not bombs
For books 7 and 8, I read two graphic novels.

Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black is pretty much what it sounds like. Contemporary take on Sherlock Holmes where both Holmes and Watson are black. It seems to be set in the US. So far this is the one I was least enthusiastic about.

Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi is a short, funny exploration of the sex lives of Iranian women. I enjoyed it but it was not moving like Persepolis.

One thing I've been considering is that graphic novels often have many contributors. So far for my project my standard is that the primary author or the main illustrator must be a person of color.

I'm now on target to finish 50 books this year if I continue at the same rate, so yay for that!

I'm currently working on Sister Outsider, a book of essays by Audre Lourde.

3.07 Sally Morgan, Bush Bash!, Ambelin Kwaymullina, 2012
Oh Jonathon!
This picture book has the colourful, contemporary illustrations that Kwaymullina specialises in. My kids especially liked finding the ‘hidden’ objects on each page – one traditional implement and one non-native animal.

The text, however, does feel a bit phoned in. Even in a counting book, I had expected more from Sally Morgan.

Books 5&6
My book five was It Rhymes With Lust by Arnold Drake, Leslie Waller, Matt Baker and Ray Osrin, an early graphic novel with an African American primary illustrator (Matt Baker). Very interesting book - especially the biography of the artist at the end, which explained that some unusual stuff about the comics publishing industry at that time anonymized the artists to a certain extent, which is part of what made it possible for a person of color to work in the field.

Book 6 was Adaptation by Malinda Lo. It's an interesting YA book with conspiracies and romantic uncertainty running through it. It was a little slow getting started, but the further I went, the better I liked it. By the final third of the book, I couldn't put it down!

As a note, I am now on target for my first month on the project. Now if I can just do this nine more times!

I'm currently working on The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah and Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson.

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