Writers of Color 50 Book Challenge

The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
Let me preface this by saying that I did not enjoy The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, a book for which Jemisin won many awards. But I thought this book was terrific. Jemisin's work has become better known recently and I was happy to include her in my project. I am now EXTREMELY EAGER for the sequel to this book.

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang
Buffy - Willow
A charming story about a hen in a laying battery who dreams of escaping to freedom and hatching one of her eggs. Clear and simple prose with a likeable heroine.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Though I am close to the end of my project I couldn't help sneaking in one more memoir. I really have enjoyed the nonfiction I have read in this year - so much more than I would normally read and the quality was excellent.

If you have ever felt that you are holding yourself back... that you don't have the life you really want to have... that you would rather not try than embarrass yourself by failing... then you need to get this book as quickly as possible.

Because Rhimes is writing about herself the tone is never preachy. It's short and it's funny but also so inspirational. I loved that it included speeches she gave and pictures of her and her family.

I highly recommend this book for everyone.

Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due
This is an anthology of short pieces by the well-known speculative fiction writer Due. They don't quite fall into the horror category - I would rather describe them as atmospheric dark fantasy. The linked pieces center around Gracetown, Florida, a small town with a troubled past...

Though I'm not a horror fan I enjoyed this anthology immensely. The writing was terrific. It made a nice introduction to Due and her work. Highly recommended.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō
Buffy - Willow
This wasn't my thing. The aggressive cheerfulness put me off. The claim that doing only a little bit at a time doesn't work doesn't fit with my life experience at all. And striving for perfection all the time seems tiring- I'm more in the "The Perfect is the enemy of the good" camp.

The Tempest Tales by Walter Mosley
This is an interesting short work by the author of Devil in a Blue Dress. It relates the story of a black man who is back on earth after his death, trying to convince an angel that he doesn't deserve to go to hell because he only did what he needed to do to survive. Short chapters relate new developments in the lives of the man and the angel.

It was a fun and interesting read.

Side note: I presented about my reading project to a group of interested people and it went great! Everyone was really supportive :)

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
Buffy - Willow
Every summer Rose comes to the same house at a beach with her family. She has always loved being there but this year things have changed, her parents are always fighting and her relatonship with her best friend Windy is strained.

A lovely graphic novel. The art is great with an amount of detail that rewards looking closer. This is more character-driven than plot-driven, but I loved the atmosphere so that didn't bother me. Themes touched upon are growing up, sexuality and relationships of all kinds.

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
The Tamaki sisters created this beautiful graphic novel - Mariko did the prose and Jillian created the art. It's a lovely picture of a prep school girl who doesn't quite fit in. If you had a "I don't really belong here" type of high school experience (and I think a lot of people did!) you will find a lot to relate to here.

Trigger warnings: suicide, the occult, LGBTQ issues.

Edward Said: A Legacy of Emancipation and Representation
Not precisely a book by a PoC, since it is a book of essays, and some of them (by no means the majority) are by apparently-white people. Nonetheless, very relevant to this community.

I picked up Edward Said: A Legacy of Emancipation and Representation, edited by Adel Iskandar and Hakem Rustom, in a free box in my neighborhood. This is way outside my comfort zone for reading: it was published (and largely written) after Said's death in 2002, and it consists of 29 varyingly academic essays, many of them by Arabs and Muslims, many by women, many by people who come from colonized cultures. Something about finding a nearly-new copy in a free box made me feel compelled to give it a try.

I knew Said was important; I deeply appreciated Orientalism, the only book of his that I have read. However, I had no idea of the length and scope of his intellectual life, let alone the substantial number of controversies and criticisms that center around his various beliefs and positions. The book took me about a month to read. I especially appreciated (among others) the interviews with Noam Chomsky and Daniel Barenboim, the chance to read some Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, whom I've always been curious about, the specific essays on Palestinian policy and history, including "Said and the Palestinian Diaspora: A Personal Reflection" by Ghada Karmi,

Some of the things this book made me think about, either for the first time or in a deeper and more nuanced fashion than I had before:

  • the concept of "filiation" (identifying with one's family or nation) and "affiliation" (identifying across perceived gaps in family or nation) and the implications of thinking that way

  • the failures of secular humanism as a philosophy, what has "replaced" it, and what if anything can be restored from it;

  • Arab women writers (in particular, Ahdaf Soueif, of whom I had never heard);

  • "late style," or how people's creativity changes when they are old enough to be forced to face mortality;

  • the difference between the philosophy of the academy and the politics of the world;

  • the tension between simply fighting the colonizer and understanding the colonizer while continuing to fight;

  • the role of exile in a person's perspective, and the difference between kinds of exile;

  • Joseph Conrad (a passion of Said's);

  • music, and intercultural musical initiatives (another passion of Said, who created a Jewish-Palestinian young people's orchestra with Daniel Barenboim);

  • the irony of authors with extremely ponderous academic high-jargon styles writing with approval about Said's insistence on clear communication (and thus, Robertson Davies' thoughts about "plain style")

  • the specific, detailed failures of the Oslo "accords," and Said's journey from supporting a two-state solution to a one-state solution;

  • the amazing richness of Said's life, mind, and journeys

That's an incomplete list, but it helps me understand why I stuck with the book even when I was at my most frustrated (although I am not quite sure why I finished Abdirahman A. Hussein's really dense and jargon-y essay, "A New "Copernican" Revolution: Said's Critique of Metaphysics and Theology." I did skip the essay on comparative literature, and I was way out of my depth in the essay on Said's contributions/relationship to anthropology.

I doubt that very many people have really sat down and read this book; it's more intended for graduate students to cherry-pick, for people with specific interests to browse through. So many times, I considered stopping, taking what I had gotten along the way and reading something else. In the end, however, I'm really glad I stuck with it. Ideas from it, roads to follow, ways of thinking will bounce around in my head for many years to come.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
I really enjoyed the essay collections that I read for this project. Bad Feminist took me the longest. The author survived some very difficult sexual trauma and in places the book is quite hard to read. What kept me going was her humor and her insightful analysis of popular culture. I would recommend this book, especially to those who are not survivors of sexual trauma.


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