I don't post every time I read a book by a PoC, but I come back here now and again and fill in.
First up is Caren Gussoff's Three Songs for Roxy,
in the Aqueduct Press Conversation Pieces series. Gussoff is Roma, a severely underexplored culture in fiction, and speculative fiction. This delightful volume examines an alien left on earth and adopted by Roma, the security guard who develops an obsessive crush on her, and the alien sent to retrieve her, with forays into Roma culture, tinfoil hat alien panic, and Stevie Nicks fandom. I really enjoyed it.
I can't say enough good things about Black Against Empire: THe History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr. Props to waywardcats
for giving me her extra copy, and to imnotandrei
for recommending it initially. I figured out why it doesn't seem academic, though it is so thoroughly researched: more than 95% of the book is purely narrative, describing what happened, and providing some context, but not bringing in academic theory or even very much analysis. This (plus clear prose) makes the book very readable, and often even compelling. In the conclusion, the two authors (Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin) do bring in theory and analysis, discarding both "represssion breeds resistance" and "repression discourages insurgency" for a more complex model in which social context determines which of those two models is going to be true in the moment. Because the book was written before Occupy, and long before Black Lives Matter, the authors end on a note of "it may be a very long time before a revolutionary black movement appears in the United States." I wonder what they would say now.
I am very glad to have read Octavia's Brood,
edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha. I think there's a problem with the concept, which is that stories by activists about activism are very likely to fall into the joint traps of similarity and heavy-handedness, and the anthology does suffer some from both of those problems, but it also has many readable and memorable stories. I really liked brown's own story, "The River," Mia Mingus's "Hollow," and "Little Brown Mouse" by Tunde Olaniran, among others. And I never got around to reading LeVar Burton's novel Aftermath,
from the late 1990s, and I appreciated that excerpt too. Recommended, probably to read in shorter bursts than I did.
A friend gave me T'ai Chi Classics
by Waysun Liao. The "t'ai chi classics" are three very short monographs, and various t'ai chi advocates have done different things to make a whole book out of them. Liao's is the first one I have tried to read (I had no idea the Classics were so short). He opens with a long essay using a lot of storyboard-type simple diagrams to explain various concepts. Then he prints the annotated classics and then he uses the same type of simple diagrams to "teach" his own version of the short form. My own t'ai chi teacher is very well versed in the various t'ai chi publications, and he said he thought this book was okay but some of the diagrams didn't make sense. I feel like I got a fair amount out of it, and would get more if I actually practiced with it to hand. Not of much interest to anyone who doesn't either practice t'ai chi or study martial arts or Chinese history.
We did a work volunteering gig at the big San Francisco Public Library booksale, and as part of my volunteering free books, I picked up A Singular Hostage
by Thalassa Ali, in my ongoing habit of trying to buy something I've never heard of by a person of color. Ali is an American who has lived in Pakistan; it isn't actually clear, on examination, whether she is of Pakistani extraction herself, though she has lived in Pakistan and is a convert to Islam. At any rate, I didn't enjoy the book, which is set in 19th century India and told from various British and Indian viewpoints. The biggest problem is that it's a stereotypical romance, with exactly the kind of "plucky young" heroine that I've been bored with for decades. Also, I thought both the British and the Indians were overstereotyped, the magic was simplistic, and the writing was nothing special. Oh, well, that's a consequence of reading on spec.How the Other Half Banks
by Mehrsa Baradaran is a very specialized book on a topic I'm involved in, by an Iranian immigrant to the U.S. Like Black Against Empire,
this book well-researched and with lots of references, but without that "smarter than thou" tone I associate with a lot of university press publications. Do I have to say this is a relief? Baradaran is very smart and very knowledgeable. Her platform is postal banking, with which my Strike Debt group strongly agrees, but the value in the book for me was the history and the background theory. Her basic thesis is that banks and governments are inevitably, inextricably
inter-related, and the only question is not whether they are closely entwined but how. This, with detailed history, helps to illuminate why the current U.S. (but not only U.S.) attitude that banks are somehow free-market entities which should not be regulated only serves to minimize the services banks historically provide to citizens in return for the government support they always receive.
Baradaran also goes into the history of various alternatives to big banks, including many I didn't know about, such as the Freedmen's Bank for former slaves (started well, got unregulated and went nasty), the "Morris banks," and others, along with lots of information I didn't have about credit unions and other more-or-less still existing options. And then she makes a strong case for postal banking, again with lots of history and information about postal banking around the world. Probably you should only read this if it's a particular area of interest for you. But I'm extremely glad it came my way.
Finally (for this post) Ayize Jama-Everett's The Liminal War
is a satisfying sequel to The Liminal People (which I reviewed the last time I did a catch-up post here). Jama-Everett is using comic-book fantasy tropes to examine the lives and troubles of his characters, primarily people of color. He does an especially good job of walking the line between serious ideas and entertaining reading. This volume takes us to 1930s Mississippi and brings in bluesman Robert Johnson, and does so very well.