kaberett: A drawing of a black woman holding her right hand, minus a ring finger, in front of her face. "Oh, that. I cut it  off." (molly - cut it off)
[personal profile] kaberett
This came into my possession via the latest Humble Ebook Bundle, and I am so glad it did. This is how glad I am: I am about two-thirds of the way through it and I can't wait to finish before I tell you all how good it is.

The protagonist, Hanna, is sixteen, manic depressive (and explicitly, canonically prefers that descriptor to "bipolar", Because Reasons), and Finnish-"island girl" (Hawaiian?), raised (for most of her life) in Dallas. She describes herself as biracial and bicultural, and she's bilingual in English and Finnish - and the codeswitching is genuinely plausibly represented.

The dude she ends up hanging around with a lot is the same age, Latino, and bilingual in Spanish and English - again, really nicely represented.

The story takes place in creepy smalltown Texas. It's sub/urban fantasy and abusive parents and a critique of the medical-industrial complex and teenagers having (complicated, not always happy) sex lives all tied up in tight, funny monster-killing brilliance. It's lovely.

Content notes. )
ext_48823: 42, the answer to life, the universe and everything (Default)
[identity profile] sumofparts.livejournal.com
Haven't posted in a while. Here's a series of mini-reviews with some spoilers. Also, some of the books contain potentially triggering content.

6. Un-Nappily in Love by Trisha R. Thomas
7. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
8. Tracks by Louise Erdrich
9. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
10. Umbrella by Taro Yashima
11. Little Joy by Ruowen Wang
12. Why War is Never a Good Idea by Alice Walker
13. Erika-san by Allen Say
14. Dahanu Road by Anosh Irani
15. What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
16. The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez
17. In the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez
18. Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez
19. Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez
20. Monster by A. Lee  Martinez
21. Certainty by Madeleine Thien
22. So Long Been Dreaming edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan
23. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
24. Too Many Curses by A. Lee Martinez
25. A Nameless Witch by A. Lee Martinez
26. A Person of Interest by Susan Choi
27. Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead

Mention (not counted)
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren (white); illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (person of colour)

Read more... )
pauraque: bird flying (Default)
[personal profile] pauraque
Shirlee Taylor Haizlip's family has been racially mixed almost as far back as her genealogy can be traced. In her family tree one can find black slaves, American Indians, Irish immigrants, and Martha Washington.

It was on her mother's side of the family that something happened which is probably more common than most people know. Her mother's father took his light-skinned daughters, and they became "white", while their slightly darker-skinned sister was put in foster care and remained "black".

A good part of the book is about Haizlip's search for her family members who chose to pass as white, and what happens when they are reunited. She also tells the fascinating stories, pieced together from records and passed-down memories, of several generations of her relatives, of their experiences as multiracial Americans in different times and places.

The issue of passing is one that I can deeply relate to, as a transgender person, just from a slightly different angle. Haizlip identifies as black, but is sometimes read as white. She has to wonder whether she and her darker-skinned husband will be read as a black couple or an interracial couple, in a world where being read as the latter may put them in physical danger. Again, this is something one may be tempted to think is uncommon, but really isn't! Many of us have to wonder whether the rest of the world will see us as who we know we are, even in such seemingly basic characteristics as our race and gender. Many of us have to wonder on a daily basis whether we'll be read as a member of a privileged group or not, and to decide whether it is desirable -- or safe -- to correct any misconceptions.

Haizlip does not have cut-and-dried answers about race and passing, because there aren't any. What she has are stories, her family's stories. The range of experiences are both eye-opening and familiar. Some of her ancestors were listed as one race on one census form, and a different race on another (without asking them what they preferred, of course, or questioning whether the available options even made sense). Things like this are still happening. People need to know that not everyone is easy to categorize, and what it means for our social and emotional lives when someone else does the categorizing for us.

This is an awesome book. I strongly recommend it.


tags: a: Haizlip Shirlee Taylor, African-American, mixed race, memoir
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
Sarwat Chadda, Devil's Kiss

The Knights Templar are still present in modern-day London (though there's not many of them left), and they have a secret mission to fight the forces of evil: vampires, ghouls, ghosts, and so forth. Billi's dad, Arthur (a white British Christian), is the head of the Knights Templar, and ever since her mom (a Pakistani Muslim) died as a result of the Templar's work, he's been cold and closed off to her, focused only on the mission. Billi feels pressured to follow in his footsteps and join the Templars, but she wants her own life, her own friends, and for her dad to pay attention to her.

I really liked this book; it's fast-paced, with an exciting plot (involving the Ten Plagues of Exodus), and interesting characters (including appearances by the Angel of Death and Lucifer), and some genuinely scary moments. I was a bit confused by the fact that everyone in the Templar has a name from the Arthurian legends, some of which are names you would expect to see in modern London (Arthur, Kay) and some which you wouldn't (Gawain, Percival). But this patten is never mentioned in the book, and Arthurian legends have nothing to do with the plot, so I didn't understand what was up with that. There's a sequel that's just come out that I haven't read yet, so maybe it plays a part in the next book.

My favorite parts were moments when the characters dealt with issues regarding Knights Templar in the modern world. For instance, there a long-running argument between Arthur and Gwaine on emphasizing the "demon fighting" aspect of their mission over the "killing people of other religions" part of it. It's mentioned that Billi was raised as a Muslim, but had to convert to Christianity to join the Templars. This isn't a major part of the book, but for me, it made the whole thing feel much more real. I would have liked more exploration of how the Templars have changed and adjusted to the present, actually. Again: maybe in the sequel!

A fun read, and one I recommend.
ext_48823: 42, the answer to life, the universe and everything (books)
[identity profile] sumofparts.livejournal.com
Here is a batch of mini-reviews and notes on books I read from May to October. I started including descriptions from other websites but didn't do that for all the books. Also, please note there are potentially triggering scenes and events in some of the books (e.g., rape, childhood abuse, incidents with dubious consent, violence). Please let me know if you need more detail.

List of Books Read
33. Burndive by Karin Lowachee
34. Cagebird by Karin Lowachee
35. Ocean of Words by Ha Jin
36. Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
37. The Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong
38. Chinatown Beat by Henry Chang
39. The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh
40. Pulse by Lydia Kwa
41. Choose Me by Evelyn Lau
42. The Monkey King & Other Stories edited by Griffin Ondaatje
43. The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee
44. Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? by Anita Rau Badami

Reviews )
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
45. Tonya Cherie Hegamin, M+O4EVA

A very short YA novel, but one that really packs a punch. O (Opal, a young black woman) and M (Marianne, a mixed race woman) have been best friends (and sometimes more than that) since they were babies, the only two who understood each other in their rural Pennsylvania town. But now it's their senior year of high school, and they've been growing apart. Their story is interwoven with a old tale they heard from their parents, about a ghost who haunts a nearby ravine, the spirit of an escaped slave woman.

This book is hard to describe because I don't want to give away a major event that happens near the beginning. But it's excellent, a story about growing up and growing apart, grief, love, family, and the choices that people make. The writing is beautiful and powerful. I highly, highly recommend seeking this one out.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
35. Diana Abu-Jaber, Crescent

Oh, this book. I wish I could quote the entire thing at you; the language is gorgeous and perfect and there are so many bits of it floating in my head. This is the most wonderful thing I've read in ages. Okay, just a few quotes:

Describing Sir Richard Burton: He did, however, like so many Victorians, have an aptitude for ownership, an attachment to things material and personal, like colonies and slaves- he especially enjoyed owning slaves while living in someone else's house.

Two people discussing a fairy tale: I didn't know that business about the Queen of Sheba. That she was so beautiful. That it could make you go crazy.
It was one of her more salient characteristics.


Describing food: The potatoes are soft as velvet, the gravy satiny. It is as if she can taste the life inside all those ingredients: the stem that the cranberries grew on, the earth inside the bread, even the warm blood that was once inside the turkey.

The food porn in this book is amazing. I was left with a deep craving for hummus with olive oil, mjaddarah, lamb with garlic... all the amazing Middle Eastern food Abu-Jaber describes.

I suppose I should actually describe what this book is about. Sirine is a mixed-race woman, her father Iraqi and her mother European-American, who was born and has never left Los Angeles. She works as the chef at a Lebanese restaurant in the Iranian section of LA, and lives with her uncle, who is a professor at a nearby college. When she meets Han, a writer in exile from Iraq, they start a relationship and she has to deal with questions of exile, home, secrets, and so on. Interspersed with and weaving through the main plot is a long-running story told by Sirine's uncle, supposedly about his cousin, but which reads more like a fairy tale or a Sufi parable (though the uncle insists that it has no moral), full of mermaids, djinns, the Mother of the Nile, and lost tribes of Bedouin. The book is set in 1999, which means the political situation is a bit different from today; I kept being confused until I figured out when it was set.

But a description of the plot doesn't do much to capture the book, since, really, relatively little happens in it. It's full of beautifully described ordinary moments, lush cooking scenes, vivid evocations of both LA and Iraq (having only been to LA once, I can't say how accurate those scenes are, though they're amazing to read. The Iraq scenes, though, captured exactly my memories of Syria and made me long to go for a visit). It can be hilariously funny at points (I loved the mythical Hal'Awud), though it's a fairly serious book overall. The language is so poetic that reading it made me feel dreamy and content.

This post is getting long, so let me just say that I highly, highly recommend this book. I'll be seeking out other things by the author.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
26. Faith Adiele, Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun

Faith is the daughter of a Swedish mother and a Nigerian father; she grew up in a small town in the Midwest. She is smart, motivated, and involved, and her drive to succeed gets her a scholarship to Harvard, where she is involved in social work in addition to her classes.

And the pressure quickly causes her to fail and drop out.

This book is a memoir, mainly focusing on the time Faith spent in Thailand, where after leaving Harvard she went to work on an Anthropological research project about the status of women, particularly Buddhist nuns. Faith eventually decides to live as a nun herself for a season. The book jumps around in time a great deal, following a chapter about daily life as a nun with one about Faith's childhood, and then with another about prostitutes in Thailand's big cities. This style sometimes made things a little hard to follow, but it also was great for focusing on thematic issues instead of narrative. Another thing I disliked was that the book is published in a style that has quotes from scholars, Buddhist practitioners, and Faith's journal along the edges of the pages, making it look more like a textbook than a memoir.

However, I did like this book a lot. It's written in a style that accommodates both people who know nothing about Thailand or Buddhism with those who have more knowledge. Faith's comparison of the pressure and the succeed/fail mentality of Western culture against the more internal processes of Thai Buddhism are also pretty insightful, although they can be a bit simplistic at times. I really enjoyed her descriptions of meditation and mindfulness. She is a very vivid writer, and very readable. I really enjoyed this book.

Also recommended: If anyone is looking for more recommendations of books by POC, I really liked this podcast/blog post. Three African-American women talk about books they like. Not all the books mentioned have POC authors, but many do. Plus, though I'd never listened to this podcast before I stumbled on it today, these guys are really funny.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
23. Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, Skim

This is a graphic novel about Skim, a Japanese-Canadian teenage girl dealing with her parents' divorce, her rough relationship with her best friend, the suicide of another student, learning about Wicca, and oh, yeah, falling in love with her female teacher.

A lot of other people have reviewed this book, and I don't really have much to add. The art was gorgeous, plain black and white lines that went from sparse to lush. The story-telling is excellent, particularly in its use of silence, or understatement, to capture emotion. And personally, I really identified with Skim's interest in Wicca; I was totally that teenage girl.

Overall, a really lovely, quiet book, though one that didn't involve me too emotionally.




24. Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

I read this back in January and forgot to review it, so I will try to remember what I can. This is a nonfiction pop book about first impressions- why we get them, how they form, how they affect our thinking, if they're right, etc. It's an interesting topic. Gladwell's careful to look at both sides of the argument: when subconscious reactions are good, because there's not enough time to think a question through; and when they can be very, very bad- he examines the case of Amadou Diallo, a black unarmed man who was fatally shot by police officers.

Overall, this was a fun, informative book. I gulped it down in one sitting over an afternoon, so it's not a deep thought book, but one I enjoyed reading.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
15. Alice Randall, The Wind Done Gone

This book is, in a way, fanfiction of Gone with the Wind. I remember the huge controversy when it first came out (long story short: the copyright holders of Gone with the Wind sued to prevent publication of this book), but I hadn't read it until now.

It's an absolutely gorgeous book. The language is really lovely, poetic and often dream-like. The story is about Cynara, the mixed-race daughter of Mammy and the half-sister of Scarlett O'Hara. There's a great deal of intersection with and reinterpreting of the events and characters of Gone with the Wind (I haven't read that book, though I've seen the movie a few times, and didn't have a problem following along). The narration skips around in time a great deal, mainly following Cynara's life in Atlanta and Washington D.C. after Rhett Butler leaves Scarlett at the end of Gone with the Wind, but with large portions dealing with memories of events from her childhood or young adult life. It can be depressing and bitter, but the book ultimately ends on an optimistic note, due to the politics and changes of the Reconstruction Period that Cynara participates in.

I thought the best part of the book was its depiction of the emotional and psychology effects of slavery. Cynara, as the daughter of a plantation owner, is relatively sheltered from many of the physical effects of slavery (she is not whipped, she does not work in the fields, her father makes a bit of an attempt to protect her from sexual abuse), but it is still absolutely clear what devastating consequences it has had on her life. In particular, the four-way relationship between Cynara, Mammy, Scarlett, and Scarlett's mother is complicated, heart-breaking, and (I thought) insightful.
[identity profile] lehni.livejournal.com
1. Octavia Butler - Parable of the Sower
2. Octavia Butler - Parable of the Talents
3. Octavia Butler - Bloodchild and other stories

I'm really grateful to this community for introducing me to Octavia's work. My main delight in discovering her are the strong, complex and not always sympathetic female protagonists in her stories, but I also enjoy the realism she brings in her portrayal of dystopia. Parable of the Talents may come off strongly as anti-Christianity which might bother some readers.

I tried reading the first few hundred pages of The Broken Crown by Michelle Sagara but I found it really cliched and frustratingly difficult to follow. I think that the first ten pages will tell you if it's your kind of book or not.

4. Richard Kiyosaki and Lechter, Sharon - Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Personal finance book with an entrepreneurial slant - I had only heard of the blog before reading this. I don't really agree with most of the advice. Kiyossaki also comes off as anti-'wage slave' which isn't very endearing. This book also had some very negative reviews online. The main personal finance book that I would recommend to most of my friends is still Your Money or Your Life by Dominguez and Robin (the 2008 edition has a third author as well).

5. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown - Mixed feelings: the complex lives of mixed race Britons

The first third of this book is a brief history of mixed race relationships more globally; almost all of it was new to me and I found it really interesting. The personal anecdotes throughout the book really help to illustrate the diversity of interracial relationships and families, (although granted the majority of interviewees are white/poc and particularly white/black - not necessarily problematic given the methodology of collection; Alibhai-Brown does discuss the need for further research into the mixed race population and notes issues with self-reporting on government ethnic monitoring forms.) I found it a very worthwhile read and the personal stories prevent the content from seeming too dry. Alibhai-Brown does comment occasionally on her own personal situation (she has a white husband and a mixed-race daughter) but it doesn't detract from her research.

6. Tananarive Due - The Good House

Modern horror and a cautionary tale against dabbling in magic. The book centres around Angela and her relationships with her separated husband, her son and an old boyfriend. I found her relationships a bit boring and found it difficult to sympathise with Angela most of the time, but the book was interesting enough to finish.


Before joining this community I read Growing Up Asian in Australia (ed. Alice Pung), which is an anthology of 'growing up' stories written by Asian-Australians. The collection is pretty diverse and includes mixed race, queer and famous contributors (off the top of my head this includes celebrity chef Kylie Kwong and illustrator/writer Shaun Tan). I really recommend it, particularly for fellow Asians who have grown up in western countries.

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