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[personal profile] yatima
I read Helen Oyeyemi's book White is for Witching in a sleeping bag in a tent in the Sierras during an ice storm, and found it spellbinding. Mr Fox has the same enchanting quality. It shifts seamlessly between realism and fairy tale in a way that reminded me of many of the writers I loved best as a child: Joan Aiken, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, Elizabeth Goudge, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Sylvia Townsend Warner, TH White. No surprises there, because Mr Foxis about the dissatisfactions both of being a reader:

With books you’ve got to know all about other books that are like the one you’re talking about, and it’s just never-ending, and it’s a pain.

and of trying to write:

I was sitting in my study, writing badly, just making words on the page, waiting for something good to come through, some sentence I could keep.

In particular, it's about reading a book and loving parts of it and wanting to smack the writer in the face for the other parts - the parts where women are tormented just to advance the plot, to choose an example at random.

As women, as queers, as POC, as any kind of Other, we all strike this devil's bargain with the canon as written by our oppressors, wanting to keep the good and rewrite the bad. Oyeyemi reminds us that this is the great work:

Tell the stories. Tell them to us. We want to know all the ways you’re still like us, and all the ways you’ve changed. Talk to us.

After all, our enemies do not rest.

Something terrible’s coming, and everyone in the world is working to bring it on. They won’t rest until they’ve brought it on.
sumofparts: picture of books with text 'books are humanity in print' (books)
[personal profile] sumofparts
I finished my second set of 50, yay and started a new set. Below are some thoughts on the books.

Remainder of second set:
39. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
40. A Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee
41. Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice
42. Zone One by Colson Whitehead
43. The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
44. The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
45. Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai
46. Snakes and Ladders by Gita Mehta
47. The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee
48. Beijing Confidential by Jan Wong
49. Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre
50. Brick Lane by Monica Ali
New set:
1. Decoded by Jay-Z

Cut for length )
ext_939: Sheep wearing an eyepatch (skywardprodigal Cog Flowers)
[identity profile] spiralsheep.livejournal.com
13. The Young Inferno by John Agard and Satoshi Kitamura is a verse retelling of Dante's Inferno embedded in a picture book. I liked Kitamura's stark, black and white, art style but in the art-as-storytelling stakes it seemed to me to lack variety. It also clashed with one of the text's spelled out messages: "My teacher said, 'You've got a point. Quite right. / It just shows that neither beast nor man / can be divided into black and white.' " Except this is a black and white book in several senses. Agard's verse text didn't work for me as either narrative or poetry. (Note to self: don't read retellings of Christian morality stories unless they're specifically subversive in some way.) However, I'm probably about as far from the target audience of hoodie-clad schoolboys as it's possible to be so who cares about my opinion anyway? I just hope this isn't picked up from the teen, graphic novel, section of the library by a reluctant reader who is consequently discouraged further. Agard writes good poetry but this isn't it. Kitamura's first and second illustrations are both interesting as art, especially the way Our Hero is represented as a negative (in the photographic sense) of himself, but the only illustration which wholly won me over is the fossil landscape in illo 4.

14. Too Black, Too Strong by Benjamin Zephaniah is an extremely powerful collection of individually skillful and soulful poems. Ben is one of the most humane people I've met and it shows through in every word of his work. Most people know him as a Rastafarian lyricist who wrote that "funny" poem about turkeys and Christmas, and maybe as that political poet who refused to accept the Order of the British Empire he was awarded, or that black British man who was bereaved of a family member by police violence (although that describes too many people), but his work is so much more: witty, political, memorial, deeply spiritual, widely literary, and linguistically sophisticated. There are several example poems at my dw journal.

15. Fiere* by Jackie Kay is her latest, 2011, poetry collection. I've loved Kay's writing since the first time I encountered it, years ago. Amongst other forms, she's an extremely accomplished poet in both Scots** and English. Kay's poems aren't generally confessional (in the strictest literary sense of that word) but they do contain enough autobiography that I feel some minimum background aids understanding, and that's provided in the brief blurb on the back. Kay is multiracial, her mother was a Scottish Highlander and her father was a Nigerian Igbo. She was born in Edinburgh and raised by white Scottish adoptive parents. There are two example poems, the ecstasy and the agony of human relationships, at my dw journal.

* "fiere", Scots, meaning "companion/friend/equal"
** Scots, which is primarily related to English, not Scottish Gaelic which is a different language.

Tags: women writers, african-caribbean, black british, britain, british, british-african-caribbean, caribbean, black scottish, scottish, guyanese, poetry, japanese, biracial, multiracial, children's books, sf/fantasy, fiction, guyanese-british, igbo, young adult
ext_939: Sheep wearing an eyepatch (skywardprodigal Cog Flowers)
[identity profile] spiralsheep.livejournal.com
11. Selected Poems by Mimi Khalvati is a selection from three previous books, which I enjoyed cos, although her poetry tends to be allusive (and so I missed some of the meaning), Khalvati's use of language is like listening to music. Two example poems, which I found particularly pleasing for various reasons, at my dw journal.

Disclaimer (also for the tag wranglers): I have no idea whether Mimi Khalvati herself, whose online autobiography is sparse, would identify as non-white and/or Iranian (or how the word "Persian" might or might not be a label of choice for some ex-pat Iranians). She certainly writes about non-Eurocentric concerns.

12. Startling the Flying Fish by Grace Nichols is a sequence of poems about Caribbean life and history. For me every word was powerful. It's outstandingly the best contemporary poetry I've read for years. The blurb perfectly describes this work as "symphonic". I wasn't sure whether to post an example poem or not because, even though all these poems are excellent as stand-alones, they belong in the context of the whole, which is more than the sum of its parts (but I caved anyway and posted two examples on my dw journal). If you're interested in contemporary poetry or the Caribbean then you should read this book. I strongly recommend it. Nichols is an author with plenty of published work too so if you like this then there's plenty more (and she writes for children too).

Tags: women writers, poetry, iran, britain, british-iranian, iranian, guyanese, british, guyanese-british, african-caribbean, british-african-caribbean, black british, caribbean
ext_939: Sheep wearing an eyepatch (skywardprodigal Cog Flowers)
[identity profile] spiralsheep.livejournal.com
1. Bloodshot Monochrome by Patience Agbabi, is a pleasingly varied contemporary poetry collection with a strong emphasis on reinventing traditional printed-poem forms, especially in the sonnet sequence Problem Pages. I posted a sample poem and a video link at my dw journal.

Author bio: http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth163

2. The Red Tree by Shaun Tan, is a picture book full of complex and surreal images. The verbal story is minimal but effective, the art is stunning. I can't explain but I recommend you read this or one of Tan's other equally brilliant works such as Tales From Outer Suburbia, The Lost Thing, or The Arrival (no words at all)... or...

3. Eric by Shaun Tan, is a very short picture book with drawings in a deceptively simple style. Their meanings, and Eric's story, may be puzzled out by would-be readers here: Eric by Shaun Tan @ The Grauniad. It's only 12 pages and FREE TO READ (but Mr Tan got paid)! :-)

Author's website: http://www.shauntan.net/

Tags: women writers, poetry, asian-australian, british, picture books, black british, australian, chinese-australian
[identity profile] puritybrown.livejournal.com
42: Sky Burial by Xinran

In two of her other books, Xinran mentions in passing Shu Wen, the elderly woman she ran into who was clearly Chinese in ethnicity but dressed in traditional Tibetan clothing -- a woman who had gone to Tibet in the 1950s to look for her husband, and spent over thirty years there. This is that woman's story, as told to Xinran. And: my God. What a story. I found it deeply, deeply moving, not just the sadness of Shu Wen's situation but the kindness and solidarity she encountered, even as a Chinese woman who had come to Tibet as a soldier during a period when Tibet was being conquered. I'm a sucker for stories about human goodness -- about people helping each other when they have nothing to gain -- and this book is chockfull of it.

I've noticed that one the characteristics of Xinran's writing is that she always strives to see the good in people, to dwell on kindness and compassion, and to ask: how can we care for one another better? In some respects this can be a little frustrating, when it seems she underestimates how hard it can be to get through to the people who cause suffering. In the case of this book in particular, Shu Wen's experience was such as to leave her ignorant of most of what went on in Tibet during her stay there; she didn't learn to speak Tibetan for a long time, and even when she learned the language, she spent most of her time with an isolated nomadic herding family, cut off from events elsewhere in the country. And so Sky Burial does not really address the damage done to Tibet by the Chinese government because Shu Wen didn't know about it; it wasn't relevant to her experience; and so Xinran is able to do what she does best: tell a human story. The politics are sort of there, in the background, out of focus, but this is not the book to read if you want to know about Tibetan history or politics or culture in a broader sense. I came away from it feeling privileged to have read this woman's extraordinary story, but eager to learn more about Tibet from a different (preferably Tibetan) point of view, so as to put Shu Wen's experience into perspective.

43: Reaching for the Stars by Lola Jaye

A short self-help book about achieving goals that seem out of your reach. Jaye is a novelist, apparently quite successful (though I've never read any of her novels), and by her own account her upbringing (though happy) was far from privileged, so her talk of the value of hard work and positive attitudes has a bit more weight than it might do from someone who got more of a head start. Actually, although it's not the best self-help book I've read[1] (it's a bit frothy -- basically an extended pep talk without much in the way of concrete advice), it's rather refreshing in some ways. A couple of times, Jaye mentions that you shouldn't assume that having a criminal record means you're condemned to the scrapheap -- it's not something she dwells on, just a passing aside, but it's the kind of aside I'm not used to seeing in this kind of book. Not enough to recommend it, but worth noting.

[1] Um. I read a slightly embarrassing number of self-help books so I have a pretty good basis for comparison.

(tags: black british, a: jaye lola, a: xinran, china, tibet, self-help)
ext_150: (Default)
[identity profile] kyuuketsukirui.livejournal.com
Damn it, I keep forgetting to crosspost my reviews.

Title: Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo 4: Onibijima Satsujin Jiken
Author: Amagi Seimaru
Number of Pages: 318 pages
My Rating: 5/5

Jacket Summary: A murderer witnessed through a keyhole who disappears without a trace when the door is opened. An approaching tornado. And snow in the middle of summer... The stage for this tragedy is a cursed island that people call Onibijima...Will-o'-Wisp Island.

Review: I think my love for Kindaichi mysteries is pretty well established, and I don't really have much of anything new or different to say here. I love Kindaichi so I loved this book. :p It's not just that they're good mysteries (though they are), but I really love how the killer always has this heart-wrenching tale of why they had to kill all these people. No one kills for greed or just because they're a psychotic killer. They're always motivated by revenge against the people who wronged them or their friends/family and there's always this big heart-felt apology at the end. idk, I like the ~drama~. (Sadly, these novels and even most of the manga are only available in Japanese, though some of the manga was released in English and I highly recommend those as well.)

Title: The Icarus Girl
Author: Helen Oyeyemi
Number of Pages: 338 pages
My Rating: 4/5

Jacket Summary: Jessamy "Jess" Harrison, age eight, is the child of an English father and a Nigerian mother. Possessed of an extraordinary imagination, she has a hard time fitting in at school. It is only when she visits Nigeria for the first time that she makes a friend who understands her: a ragged little girl named TillyTilly. But soon TillyTilly's visits become more disturbing, until Jess realizes she doesn't actually know who her friend is at all.

Review: I really enjoyed this a lot. I took it with me the other day to my doctor's appointment and ended up reading two-thirds of it on the bus and while waiting. It was definitely a good choice for being stuck out for a long time with no other options. It sucked me in right away and I found it hard to put down.

Apparently the author wrote this while still at school, and it does show, but it's still overall really well-written. The biggest annoyance to me was POV slippage here and there and stuff like how the entire book is from Jess's POV except for one random paragraph from her friend's POV, and then the last two chapters are her parents' POV (that choice at least has a good reason; the paragraph in the friend's POV was unnecessary and tell-y).

I have another of her books on my wishlist and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Title: Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science
Author: Carol Kaesuk Yoon
Number of Pages: 344 pages
My Rating: 4/5

Jacket Summary: In Naming Nature, Yoon takes us on a guided tour of science's brilliant, if sometimes misguided, attempts to order and name the overwhelming diversity of earth's living things. We follow a trail of scattered clues that reveals taxonomy's real origins in humanity's distant past. Yoon's journey brings us from New Guinea tribesmen who call a giant bird a mammal to the trials and tribulations of patients with a curious form of brain damage that causes them to be unable to distinguish among living things. Finally, Yoon shows us how the reclaiming of taxonomy will rekindle humanity's dwindling connection with wild nature.

Review: I did not previously have any interest in taxonomy before picking this up, or really much interest in nature at all. But I happened to see it on the shelf at the library and it sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did, because it really is interesting and written in a very engaging way. One thing that bugged me, though, was that she went on and on and on about how wonderful Carl Linneaus was and I would have liked for her to at least touch on the fact that not only did he order plants and animals, but also humans (with whites at the top, natch).
ext_22487: Fangirl and proud (books!)
[identity profile] glinda-penguin.livejournal.com
I've been holding off on posting for a while as I had four books by Chinese authors out of the library and I wanted to review them all together. However, Beijing Coma is really interesting but really long so it'll be a while before I finish that and I have other books to write up.

In the Pond - Ha Jin

Read more... )

Wild Ginger - Anchee Min

Read more... )

The Garlic Ballads - Mo Yan

Read more... )

Haroun and the Sea of Stories - Salmon Rushdie

Read more... )

Low Fat Meals in Minutes - Ainsley Harriott

Read more... )
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
39. Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, Black London: Life Before Emancipation

This was a great book, but not quite as great as I wanted it to be. An academic work as readable as any pop non-fiction book, Black London deals with the historical presence of black people in London throughout history, although the focus is on the 1700s. The author says that she decided to write this book when, while doing research, a bookseller told her, "Madam, there were no black people in England before 1945".

I loved how this book didn't just give generalities about black life in the 1700s, but used the historical record to find real individuals and tell their stories: slaves, escaped slaves, servants, husbands and wives (it appears to have been quite common for black men to marry white women during this time), shop-owners, writers, the children of African elites come to Europe to study, the mixed-race children of Caribbean planters, actors, beggars, and on and on. I found it really fascinating and wished the whole book had been about these stories of people. Alas, about half the book is actually taken up with recounting the stories of two legal changes (and the mostly white lawyers, judges, plaintiffs, defendants, reporters, etc, etc, involved): the James Somersett lawsuit of 1771, which outlawed slavery in England itself, and the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which abolished the slave trade. While these parts of the book were interesting, they weren't as incredibly awesome as the first part. Still, I enjoyed this book, and am excited to see she has another about black people during the Victorian period.
ext_20269: (studious - reading books)
[identity profile] annwfyn.livejournal.com
I reviewed 'Jupiter Williams', a historical novel about an African boy in 18th century London, a while ago, and having liked it decided to try an adult historical novel by the same writer, 'Incomparable World'. I think 'Incomparable World' is the first novel that SI Martin had published (although I could be wrong) and if it is, it sort of shows.

It's not a bad novel at all - in fact, I really enjoyed it. It's the story of a small group of Black men in 18th century London, who were brought over in the aftermath of the American War of Independence, when a number of slaves fought for the British in return for their freedom. In a really weird way it actually reminded me of a number of other novels I've read about the aftermath of the Vietnam War - one chapter, which was a flashback to the chaos of the British departure from New York, with people scrabbling to get on to the last boats, reminded me vividly of similar scenes about the evacuation of the American Embassy in Saigon. I've no idea if it was intentional or not, but it did strike me quite vividly.

The novel follows these men - Buckram, William, Georgie and Neville - through a meticulously described 18th century London. It's really interesting to see that side of London, its brutality, and its diversity.

It does, however, lack some of 'Jupiter Williams' structure and pacing. The story sort of ambles along, and the ending left me feeling oddly unsatisfied. The book seemed to dribble away, after ambling along, and somehow never quite picked up pace.

I'm glad I read it, and if you've read the 'Jupiter' books, and enjoyed them, then it's definitely worth giving this a go, but if you only have the time to read one of Si Martin's books, I wouldn't say this is the best one to be getting on with.
[identity profile] anitabuchan.livejournal.com
14. Out of India: An Anglo-Indian Childhood by Jamila Gavin

Out of India is an autobiographical account of Jamila Gavin's childhood. She's the daughter of an English mother and an Indian father, both teachers and Christian missionaries. She grew up in India, first visiting England at 5, before settling there aged 11, experiencing life in England during and after WW2, and life in India during the struggles for independence and the Partition. However, as this is a book for children, she doesn't go too deeply into any of these events, instead describing day-to-day life for her and her family. And she's good as descriptions: they're beautiful and evocative.

I enjoyed it, and I think it would be a very good read for children in the right age group.

15. Bindi Babes by Narinder Dhami

Bindi Babes is about three sisters, the coolest girls at their school. Everyone loves them, even the teachers, and it's entirely possible that if anything happened to any of them, the world would end. At first, I did wonder if they were the biggest Mary Sues ever, but after reading for a bit I started to think that Dhami was just having fun. All three sisters are very self-absorbed and more than a little conceited, but funny enough to just about get away with it.

The story focuses on what happens when their aunt arrives from India, determined to stop their dad spoiling them (as he has been doing since their mother's death). Meanwhile, at school, an Ofsted inspection is coming up and making the teachers panic. The aunt was the character I liked the most, and I have to admit I loved the scenes where she foiled the girls' plans to get rid of her.

16. Dead Gorgeous by Malorie Blackman

Nova's parents own a hotel, where they live with Nova, her sister Rainbow, and their little brothers. Nova's unhappy with her life, jealous of her older sister, and suffering from bulimia. Then she sees a gorgeous boy in the lobby: Liam. Ten years ago, Liam stormed out of his house after an argument with his dad. Now, he's a ghost, trapped in the hotel.

Dead Gorgeous is sometimes funny and sometimes sad. It's got lots of great (and mysterious!) characters, all with their own problems and issues. I liked that it wasn't a romance, but instead focused on family (Nova and Rainbow, Liam and his brother, all of them and their parents). I like most of Malorie Blackman's books, but I think this is one of my favourites by her.
[identity profile] cyphomandra.livejournal.com
Jackie Kay, Trumpet. )

Jackie Kay, Wish I was Here. )

Both these books have been reviewed here before - the reviews of Trumpet made me seek it out, and I'm glad I did. While I was trying to track it down I ran across Wish I was Here as well, which I liked - not as much as Trumpet, but I'm more of a novel person in most circumstances.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
14. Bernardine Evaristo, The Emperor's Babe

This is a novel in verse (which put me off a bit when I first realized it, but it actually works very well), set in Roman-era London, starring a young Sudanese woman. Most of the novel deals with the main character's tomboy-ish childhood and her friendship with another woman and a drag queen named Venus, but the climax comes when she has a affair with the Emperor. There's a lot of deliberate anachronisms such as brand names, musicians, and slang, stirred in with historically accurate details like Latin phrases or trips to watch gladiators fight, and I really enjoyed the bright, vivid world this mix created. Most of the tone of the novel is funny, optimistic, and confident, and so when the ending comes I found it both surprising and very effective.

Really recommend. I'll be looking up the author's other books.
[identity profile] cyphomandra.livejournal.com
Zephaniah famously turned down the Queen’s offer of an OBE due to his rejection of the concept and history of that Empire (interview, and rejection poem, here.) He’s better known as a poet, but he's also written at least four children’s books.

Refugee Boy is about Alem Kelo, a boy with an Ethiopian father and an Eritrean mother. The war between the two means that his family is safe in neither place, and instead his father takes him to the UK, where they have friends there working for peace – and leaves him. Alem is placed initially in a children’s home, and then with a foster family, as his application for refugee status progresses through the British legal system.

Vague spoilers. )
ext_20269: (studious - reading books)
[identity profile] annwfyn.livejournal.com
I came across this book quite randomly, whilst hunting for something totally different in my university library, so it was a bit of a surprise. It is an academic text, so it's a tad on the dry side, but it is really interesting and it ties in very well to one of my longstanding interests, which is the history of race as a social construct.

'Hogarth's Blacks' is really an art history book, primarily examining the ways that Black people were portrayed in 18th century English art, but there's a fair bit of backstory in there as well - the origins of the Black English population, a little bit on how Black people were portrayed in medieval and renaissance art. I was surprised to learn how different it was - before the advent of the slave trade you see Black figures in art being portrayed as kings or queens - figures with their own dignity. One example given is of Balthazar, one of the three magi in the nativity story. In medieval and renaissance art he is normally shown as a regal figure, standing before the Virgin Mary as an equal. With the advent of the slave trade this all changes, and suddenly he is predominantly shown kneeling or in another subservient position.

Another thing I found really really interesting was the very different way in which class and race interacted in the 18th century. In the far far more class conscious world of 18th century England, Dabydeen sees a lot more solidarity between working class Whites and the Black population of England. In contrast to the aristocratic portraits in which Black people appear as servants, or pets, he sees Black people appearing in scenes of working class life, apparently unselfconscious and assimilated.

'Hogarth's Blacks' isn't a novel. It's an art history text book, and I don't know how easily available it is to most people, but if you can get your hands on it, I do recommend it. It's very interesting, very easy to read, and covers an area of history which is often shamefully neglected.
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
[personal profile] sanguinity
41. Bernardine Evaristo, Blonde Roots.

Oh, this was awesome. :-D

For some reason, I had been expecting a straight-up specfic-nal alternate history. It's not, however: it's satire all the way. (Or put this way: it's as much a coherent alternate universe as Pratchett's Discworld is -- i.e., it makes no sense unless you're conversant in the dominant explanatory narratives of our world, and it only makes "sense" as a commentary on those narratives.) The very first sentence of Blonde Roots tipped me off to that -- here is a a world where Aphrikans are the imperial powers and whytes are slaves, but in which the beverage "rum and coke" -- Coca-Cola Corporation? really? -- exists. This can't be an alternate history. Even so, it still took me a chapter or so to stop fighting the implausibilities of the world (implausibilities which had been never meant to be plausible!) and slip mental gears into satire-through-AU.

(I'd still advise to skip the map in the forepages, though. That thing, with its Italy on a Polar ocean, like to broke my brain. The only thing you need to know about the map is that the British nation-state has been separated from the ethnic identities of England, Scotland, and Wales. The island of Great Britain is now the United Kingdom of Great Ambossa and is positioned off the Aphrikan coast; the ethnic English, Scottish, and Welsh peoples are still a part of Europa. That's an impressively sweet little bit of footwork on Evaristo's part: she can keep the British Empire on the satirical hook for its colonial outrages by having it be part of the Aphrikan power structure, even while she uses our expectations of how English culture "ought" to be spoken of to show us how screwily African cultures are spoken of. Too many "imagine the roles were reversed" narratives can devolve into allowing white people look away from things their cultures actually did, while helping them fantasize about having been themselves oppressed; Evaristo sidesteps that nicely here.)

(Also, using satire instead of a straight-up AU also effectively sidesteps the we-too-could-have-been-oppressed fantasy. When Doris Scagglethorpe (hee!) fantasizes about cabbages, cabbages, vermin in the thatch, and cabbages, it's so obviously tongue-in-cheek that a white reader can't descend into a help-I'm-being-oppressed fantasy. Others on this comm have long expressed fangirl-squee for Evaristo: on the basis of this single novel, I concur.)

There are essentially three interlinked satirical worlds here: a whyte house-slave in an imperial city (which, for whatever it's worth, could about as easily be set in the American South); the "I worked for everything I have; we're doing them a favor by enslaving them" worldview of the Aphrikan slaveowners; and a hybridized whyte/Aphrikan Caribbean slave culture. There's not a lot of plot here (of which I was glad -- the book was slowest where it got most plot-like). Instead, the book spends the bulk of its time exploring its satirical worlds, using both humor and horror to navigate them. (Purely technical aside: how does she do that? How does she keep the humorous satirical stuff from cheapening the horror she wove in?)

Anyway, the book makes me wish I was far better-read, because I know I'm not nearly getting all the references, but what I do get makes me grin. Some of the satire is "just" obvious role-inversion -- pointing out how ridiculously ethnocentric our beauty standards are by reversing them -- but other things are jabs at genre conventions or current social trends. (Like that thing in nineteenth century novels where no matter where you went in the world, you run into the same six people! And "field wiggers," f'rex, is a clear jab at the "everything but the burden" white culture vultures -- if you want to be a 'wigger,' then be a wigger and take the historical burden, too! Oh, wait -- you can't!) And then there's the Gaiman-esque moments of making verbal imagery literal: I too remember being confused as a child about how few Underground Railroad books seemed to mention either the railroad part or the underground part.

Let me share one of my favorite moments: a passage mocking the faux-oppression of the privileged. Near the end of the book, Doris, who has gone through incredible physical and emotional pain -- violently separated from her family as a child; her own children sold away from her; beaten savagely; working long, brutal hours in the cane fields; and all throughout having had to pretend unfettered adoration the masters that she hates and despises -- is in the master's house and spies a locked cupboard with the key still in:
...I opened it, and found myself on a trip into Nonso's mind.

Self-help books were stacked on shelves, loads of them:
They F**k You Up--How to Survive Family Life
Healing Your Inner Child
How to Start a Conversation & Make Friends
Dealing with People You Can't Stand
How to Motivate Your Workforce
Hidden away at the bottom, spines turned inward: Inheritance Tax for Dummies and Curing VD the Natural Way.

Not a single book had a creased spine.

I had to laugh.
I had to laugh, too.
sophinisba: Gwen looking sexy from Merlin season 2 promo pics (william hack rose by semyaza)
[personal profile] sophinisba
9. Trumpet by Jackie Kay, 1997

I loved this book a lot, probably more than anything else I've read so far this year. [livejournal.com profile] pigeonhed wrote a good review of it here. Jackie Kay does a really wonderful, subtle job of dealing with issues of gender, race, sexuality, class, and nationality interact in her characters' lives without ever taking you out of the story. It really does put you right in the minds of these people dealing with their loss and grief. I loved the way she left most of the narration to Joss's widow and son but also brought in the voices of so many other characters, and you could really see the lack of understanding between the family members and close friends who are grieving for a person they loved versus outsiders who want to know more about some sensational story. I found this book very beautiful and moving and I recommend it highly.

12. Blood Rights by Mike Phillips, 1989

Blood Rights is the first in a series of mysteries about a black British journalist named (get this, SPN fans) Sam Dean who ends up working as a private investigator. In this book he's hired by a rich white couple to look for their daughter, Patricia, who has recently disappeared. Dean is initially reluctant to take the job but he needs the money and also finds himself wanting to look out for Patricia's black friend, Roy, who reminds him both of his son and of himself as a young man.

This was a quick and interesting read and I was going along thinking, eh, it's not going to be one of my favorite books but I liked it pretty well, especially for the observations about race relations and different subcultures in London and Manchester, and I would probably try to read at least one more book in the series. Dean does that thing straight male narrators sometimes do where every time he meets a woman he has to evaluate her attractiveness, and this annoyed me some but I figured it wasn't a big deal. Early on there was a little romance developing with a female character that interested me and I was disappointed that she disappeared from the story, though I guess she comes back in later books. Then about 25 pages from the end some stuff that I really hated happened. Spoilers! )
[identity profile] rcloenen-ruiz.livejournal.com
Hi everyone. I'm new to 50books_poc and this is my first post :

I chose my first book on the basis of having met the writer in person, and because I found myself very much inspired by her at a time when I was about to give up on my own fiction.

Borrowed Body by Valerie Mason-John:

"Borrowed Body" is Pauline's story. Pauline is a black girl who was left by her mother in foster care when she was a child. Mason-John has a strong and compelling voice and we follow Pauline as she is moved from one foster home to the other until she finally is placed in Dr. Barnardo's Village in Essex.

"Borrowed Body" starts with these lines: 

I could have been born and raised in Africa. But my Spirit was in too much of a rush to be reincarnated. Instead I borrowed the body of a Nigerian woman who was trying to escape her life by setting sail to the land of Milk and Honey. I thought I saw two lovers lying together on the flower-strewn banks of the river Oshun. So I said to myself here's the chance I've been waiting for. I jumped inside her body in the hopes this time round I would be a love child.

It's hard to encapsulate "Borrowed Body" in a few lines, but I liked the way in which this book told its story in a straightforward manner. This is an engaging book with strong, beautiful prose and a hopeful ending.

"Borrowed Body" is a bit difficult to classify. Mason-John calls it a fictional magical-realist memoir and I think the book fits the bill. There are elements of the fantastic woven in with the very real world, but because of how this story is based on the author's own experience of growing up in Dr. Barnardo's Village, it easily fits within the literary mold as well.


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