Writers of Color 50 Book Challenge

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.

Valerie Wilson Wesley - The Devil Riding
Buffy - Willow
A solid mystery with a likeable heroine, tough and down to earth. I didn't much care for the love interest, he was way too slippery for my taste.

Beasts of No Nation - Uzodinma Iweala
Joan Smalls, Yoncé
Beasts of No Nation is a rather deceptive book in that it's very slim and compact (a mere 142 pages in the edition I read) and yet the depth of the material makes it a difficult read. The plot follows a young child soldier in an unnamed African country who not only has unspeakable things happen to him but does the unspeakable to others. It reminded me a lot of Elie Wiesel's Night. Though that book is a memoir and Beasts of No Nation is fiction it is based on reality and there is the uncomfortable and painful realization as it is being read that somewhere in the world this is actually happening.

Iweala writes the book in dialect which at first is a little hard to adjust too, but once a few pages go by it is a beautiful immersive language which perfectly encapsulates the feelings and the emotions of a child forced to, in his own words, become a man. 

Huntress by Malinda Lo
If you have not encountered this science fiction and fantasy writer, I highly recommend her work which is primarily YA and GLBT oriented and features female protagonists. Huntress is set in the same universe as her acclaimed debut novel Ash. I read Ash in a previous year I recommend it more highly - but I enjoyed Huntress, just as I have enjoyed all her books.

5 Shots by Jemir Robert Johnson
Close to the finish line here. I was intrigued by this collection of comic-style shorts about the telepath Jay Novo and her partner Randy in the private investigation business. However, though it was interesting ultimately I didn't feel I got a lot out of it.

If anybody in this community would like to be the next to read it, leave a comment and I can send it along.

Changing My Minds: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith
Buffy - Willow
I picked this one up because of a review in this community and I'm glad I did. I enjoyed it a lot. The essays cover a broad range from George Eliot and E. M. Forster over writing and Liberia to movie reviews and personal life. I found the author's voice to be pleasant and original. A lot of the book made me think or smile or both. My favorites were the essays about literature, I'd read a whole book just about that.


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