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
6, 7, & 8. Three poetry collections by Moniza Alvi: Carrying My Wife, A Bowl of Warm Air, and The Country At My Shoulder (all three collections are available together in an omnibus also called "Carrying My Wife"). I have to admit, out of about 150 poems, there were three that did anything for me. I mostly found the expression of content incomprehensible, possibly due to the author reaching for innovative imagery, and the aesthetics of form uninteresting, but she's a comparatively popular mainstream Establishment poet so my judgement is extremely questionable (and I haven't heard her read her own work live). There are two of the poems, which did speak to me, at my dw journal.

9. The Redbeck* Anthology of British South Asian Poetry, edited by Debjani Chatterjee, is a nearly 200 page collection with a wide variety of content and style, which I enjoyed. There are two example poems at my dw journal and a third example poem but, of course, three poems can't reflect the breadth (or depth) of this anthology.

* I keep misreading it as "Redneck". ::facepalm::

10. The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan didn't appeal to me visually as much as the previous Tan books I've perused but the gist, that it's more important to be happy than to fit in, is another good theme, especially for kids.

Note to tag wranglers: "british-asian" and/or "british-south-asian" is correct usage and, yes, some of the authors (and/or their subjects) are also caribbean / african / &c.

Tags: women writers, poetry, anthologies, asian, british-asian, pakistan, britain, british, caribbean, african, bangladesh, india, indian, indian-british, pakistani, bangladeshi, pakistani-british, bangladeshi-british, british-south-asian, asian-australian, australian, chinese-australian, picture books
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
7. Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

This very short novel (though apparently heavily based on Kincaid's real life) follows Lucy, a young woman who moves from the Caribbean to New York City to become a nanny for a wealthy white family. There's little plot, and instead the book reads like a series of vignettes about Lucy's life, interspersed with memories of her childhood. The mother Lucy works for treats her more like a friend than an employee, leading to difficulties; Lucy adjusts to life in a new country; Lucy makes friends and has relationships. Despite relatively little happening, this is a powerful book. I found Lucy to be an insightful, cynical character, and really enjoyed her voice.

I actually read this book back in January and just have been terribly lazy about getting around to posting this review, but one scene in particular has stuck with me all this time: in New York, one day Lucy sees daffodils for the first time. However, as a child, Lucy memorized a poem about daffodils to recite at a school assembly, despite never having seen the flowers and their not growing in her country. This metaphor for the insidious results of colonialism and the ways it affects people really hit home.
[identity profile] zara-capeverde.livejournal.com
The Final Passage by Caryl Phillips

Tells the story of Leila, a young woman from an unspecified Caribbean island, her doomed marriage and later migration to England.

Phillips' style is very poetic. There are some flat-out beautiful descriptions of the sea and the colours of the island, which are later contrasted strongly with the monotone grey of London. The connection between the environment and the state of Leila and Michael's marriage is cleverly intertwined the whole way through - as they cast off to sea it seems their relationship has a breath of futurity, but then the weather and poverty of life in England begin to make it claustrophobic again. Here for instance: The sky hung so low it covered the street like a dark coffin lid. The cars that passed by were just blurry colours, and the people rushed homeward, images of isolation, fighting umbrellas and winds that buffeted their bodies. . The book is much more focussed on tone than plot, however, and it ends quite abruptly. It is intentionally timeless, and it is a good exploration of the trials of emigration, but I think if it was less vague it would possibly have more authenticity and meaning. I enjoyed it though.

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

Zhaung flies to the UK to learn English, then falls in love with an English man and discovers that the language of love is even harder to comprehend.

I absolutely loved this book. I loved Z. It's been a while since I read a female protagonist who is as smart, funny and bold as she is. I think this book might annoy some people because of the way it starts with deliberately broken English, but I am a word geek and I adored all the discussions about English vs Chinese words (there's a particularly moving section where Z and her English lover exchange the words for different plants). I am a sucker for romance, and I liked that it felt sort of clumsily natural and that there were problems and miscommunications, because that is real love. This book also had really great descriptions of London (like The Final Passage): The morning wind is washing my brain, and my small body. This is a city with something really heavy and serious in its soul. This is a city which had big wars in the history. And, I feel, this is a city made for mans, and politics, and disciplines. Like Beijing. Highly recommend this novel, I'll be checking out more of her writing asap.

Legacy by Larissa Behrendt

Simone is a young Aboriginal lawyer researching the legal arguments for Indigenous sovereignty. Her father is a prominent Aboriginal activist. The two have a troubled relationship due to his chronic infidelity. The novel explores the dynamics between all the people in Simone's life, as well as the legacy of Aboriginal dispossession. I have a heart that has been quick to fall in love with ideals ... but I’ve never been as willing to love realities

I struggled a little bit to get into this book because I thought some of the literary/historical references were forced in toward the beginning but by the middle, and certainly throughout all of the second part, the story really took off and I couldn't put it down. Again, Simone is a strong and sympathetic leading character, and it was great to see a female lead with such integrity. Behrendt is very talented at writing in more than one voice, she allows every character to have their say on the truth and to redeem themselves. I haven't read a book that was so good at heart for a long while. It is lighter than you might expect given some of the subject matter (not that it shies away from it or anything, just that it is the familial/romantic relationships that are the core of the plot not the political issues) and it is a great book if you just want something uplifting to read.
vass: Jon Stewart reading a dictionary (books)
[personal profile] vass
new tags: a: joseph anthony

32. Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching
This is a truly excellent, very thorough introduction to Buddhism. It defines all the terms and concepts a beginner is likely to know, and then some, while giving a gentle introduction to the practice of Buddhism as well as its intellectual foundations.

I'm in awe of Thich Nhat Hanh's scholarship. His first language is Vietnamese, and he's writing here in English about sutras he's read in their original languages of Chinese, Sanskrit, and Pali. And he also speaks French.

33. Anthony Joseph, The African Origins of UFOs

A short, difficult book. Well, no, I'll amend that. At 137 pages it's definitely a short book. But it might not be a difficult book for you, if all of the following conditions are met: you're very experienced at reading stream of consciousness prose or poetry; you know how to unpack science fiction; you're familiar with the rhythms of soca, calypso, reggae, and jazz; you have a passing familiarity with the history of Trinidad; you understand Caribbean speech patterns well; and you know what the author set out to say before he wrote it.

Even if you don't meet all those conditions (I didn't) you can still enjoy this book, but you'll be very confused. The prose is beautiful. The author is a poet, and it shows. The structure is intricate (according to the introduction, it was based on Dr Timothy Leary's theory that human consciousness evolved through wenty-four evolutionary niches (there are twenty-four chapters in The African Origins of UFOs.)

The novel comes with an introduction by Dr Lauri Ramey, which explains it all including things (like the precise year of the future section) that you couldn't have worked out from the text; but if you prefer muddling things out for yourself, you'll want to read the introduction after, not before, as it contains spoilers.

Edited because I forgot to say what it's about: it's slipstream SF that moves between past, present, and future, dealing with African diaspora, breast cancer, music, and food.
vass: Jon Stewart reading a dictionary (books)
[personal profile] vass
27. Doris Pilkington, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence
This was a surprisingly easy read for something so heartbreaking. I could probably give it to my seven-year-old niece - there wasn't anything there too old for her to comprehend. The parts that are truly hard to comprehend are hard for me too at age 28: how did we (white Australians) do that. How are we still doing it? I liked that this was a realistic book about Indigenous Australians' agency, not about passive victims. But it excuses nothing.

28. Amin Maalouf, Balthasar's Odyssey
This book was traumatic in a totally silly way that I'm sure the author didn't intend: it's about a man who gets hold of a book that he really really wants to read... and then it's taken out of his hands before he can read it. As a bookworm, I find this distressing. And it gets worse from there as he goes from country to country looking for his lost book.

29. Tobias Buckell, Crystal Rain
30. Tobias Buckell, Ragamuffin
31. Tobias Buckell, Sly Mongoose
I'll take these three together, as they're a trilogy. I'm glad I read them in order - some people had said it doesn't matter which order you read them in, but I think it does. This is space opera/military SF, but it's also very definitely postcolonial literature. But you can enjoy it purely as space opera if that's what you prefer. I liked it both ways. I also enjoyed in Sly Mongoose, after two books about alien overlords and space pirates and airships, the sudden SURPRISE ZOMBIES. I would like to add a trigger warning for Sly Mongoose. Folks with eating disorders: there is a bulimic character, and this is described in detail.

Finally, a question: who else is trying to read 50 books by POC this year? Are you running out of time? Are you getting edgy about it? I started late, and I've got 19 books to go, and there are 17 weeks left of the year. That's cutting it a little fine for my taste.
[identity profile] sairaali.livejournal.com
I'm awful at doing writeups, so this list has just been sitting on my desktop for ages making me feel guilty for not doing writeups.

Soo, I will just put the list up with brief one-liners on whether I liked it or not, and I'd be happy to discuss more in comments.

5) Silver Pheonix by Cindy Pon
Fantasy, adventure, romance, dragons, goddesses, intrigue! What's not to love?

6) Bodies in Motion by Maryanne Mohanraj
This is more of a series of interrelated short stories than a novel. The stories follow three generations of two families who immigrate from Sri Lanka to the US. It portrays a mix of different immigrant experiences, although nearly all of the characters are solidly middle or upper-middle class. The style is very ethereal and dreamy.

7) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
This has been reviewed here a million times. I enjoyed it, but found the casual sexism a bit grating.

8) My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson
If I thought Oscar Wao had a few problematic scenes wrt to gender, holy wow, it was nothing compared to this. Neither the narrator nor any of the characters question the basic assumption that a woman needs a man to love her and that only a domineering man could possibly handle loving a strong independent woman. The story itself was well crafted and tightly written, but I couldn't get past the sexism.

9) Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor
Love! A young girl with the ability to speak to shadows struggles with her community's distrust and fear of female Shadow Speakers, a result of her estranged father's dictatorial and regressive policies. When her father is publicly beheaded, her world is turned inside out, and she embarks on a quest of self-discovery that takes her far away from home, during which she discovers a major military plot against her home.

Girls with cat eyes! Talking camels! Magic plants that grow into houses! A girl meets a strange orphan boy with his own powers and secrets on her quest without a queasy romance subplot being introduced! Again, what's not to love?

10)And the World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women Ed: Muneez Shamshie
Definitely would recommend this. Like any anthology, some of the stories are so-so, some are fantastic.

And I know this comm is focused on books by POC, but I know there are a bunch of SFF fans here and I'd like to make some anti-recs. I found the following books at the $1 ARC sale at Wiscon, and I suggest giving them all a miss for skeevy race issues.
Stone Voice Rising by C Lee Tocci - pseudo-Natives with magic powers just for being Native, and also misappropriational mishmash of at least six different tribes' religious beliefs, that I could recognize. Kokopelli become Popokelli, a demented fae creature who betrays his species and sells out to the (literal) Devil.
Kop and Ex-Kop by Warren Hammond - Locals on a backwater economically depressed planet are being murdered by a serial killer from the orbiting space station, which has technology centuries advanced of what is available planetside. Oh and incidentally, all the space dwellers have perfect milky white skin and the planet dwellers are all dark. Bleck.
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
18. Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat
Vintage, 1994

Another writer who's long been on my to-read list.  Breath, Eyes, Memory is Danticat's first novel; it chronicles part of a girlhood in Haiti, the experience of moving to New York to rejoin her mother, and, later, as an adult and young mother, returning to Haiti to see her aunt and grandmother again.

As a novel, the book is very loosely plotted; it has a number of characteristic first-novel traits, including a certain uncertainty about its direction and themes, and some clumsiness in construction.  But Danticat is a good writer -- not yet skilled, here, but good -- and the kind of writer I like: the uncertainty usually doesn't lead to contrivedness, but lends an honest ear to mystery; it is seeking rather than trying to make things clean.

I found the book's heavy use of (snippets of) Haitian Creole very interesting -- I know French well, so parsing the meaning and looking up words and phrases was very cool -- and was moved and troubled by the book's exploration of the "virgnity cult" with which the generations of Haitian women in the book are so obsessed, trying to preserve their daughters' 'purity' in ways that seem shocking and violent to a reader like me.  Also -- and I don't know whether or not this was deliberate -- I find the evocations of daily life in Haiti extraordinarily illuminating, not so much for the descriptions of weather, customs, flora and food (although those are there) but for the differences between its material culture and my own.  Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere (a fact I looked up, not a point underlined in the book), and the ordinary people in this book do not have things surrounding them in the way that Americans do.  They live in houses with one room and one bed, they have outhouses and outdoor firepits, they cook their food in banana leaves, they sleep on the same mat they use to pile their beans to sell at market.  They walk miles in the dark to save fare on the collective taxis.  I don't think they have electricity; they light lanterns after dark.  All these things are normal to the narrator, and, I guess, to the people as well, but they are amazing, collectively, to a reader like me, at least when paying attention.

Summary: I like Danticat, and her lyricism; I like the odd, bold, lyrical, very unusual title of this book.  Any recommendations for other, later works of hers?

[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
A Small Place, Jamaica Kincaid
1988.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux

I am a fan of Jamaica Kincaid.  In the last year or so I have read her books At the Bottom of the River, Annie John, and Lucy, and got a lot out of each of them.  I was looking forward to reading A Small Place because I was looking forward to learning more about Antigua, the Caribbean island she comes from.  (Both Annie John and At the Bottom of the River are set on Antigua, but since they are pretty much in the mind of a first-person narrator, who is usually a child, there is not the kind of distance that you'd need to be _told about_ Antigua -- the kind of political, historical, or sociological things about it that might be interesting to a grown-up North American reader.)

I am disappointed in A Small Place, partly because... I'm not sure what the book wants to be.  I've seen it described as a "travelogue," and also as a "jeremiad."  The first section, or chapter (like many of Kincaid's books, it is very short: 80 pages of large, clear print), starts off in second-person: it is telling "you," the traveller, what to expect when you arrive in Antigua.  The next two sections are in first person, with many recollections of Kincaid's early life in Antigua, which move out and away to analysis of what the problems of the island are (the second section considers mostly colonialism and slavery, the third the island's desperate political corruption.)  There is also a very short fourth section, which feels sort of tacked on for closure. 

I guess I feel as if the book is not very tight or well-held together, in spite of its size -- and a small book needs that even more, doesn't it?  Although her fiction is also full of digressions, I feel as if they work and shape to a larger whole.  A Small Place is strangely imbalanced, though: analysis, personal recollection, anger carrying the writer away.. Part of the issue, maybe, is that she seems to sort of be writing around or even trying to get at certain ideas and concepts which have, I think, been formulated more concisely and forcefully by various other post-colonialist theorists and writers.   But Kincaid does not want to seem to avail herself of any of that language or intellectual discourse, and so it feels as if she is lurching at things and coming up short.  (It feels odd and audacious to level this criticism at Jamaica Kincaid, whose intellect is profound and formidable and whose writing sometimes borders on genius.  But nonetheless, that is how the book made me feel.)

Despite that, there were entire passages I want to copy out to think about and remember. )
[identity profile] anitabuchan.livejournal.com
8. Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

This has already been reviewed several times, so I doubt I'm going to say anything new here. Overall, I liked this book a lot, and have added other books by Hopkinson to my wishlist. It wasn't perfect. Sometimes the writing was a bit clumsy, and at times I felt it was a bit slow moving. There was a lot of detail and description, which was great because it established this fascinating and original future world, but I felt it also slowed the pace a little. I loved that this was different - not based on European mythologies, like most fantasies are. I also thought the dialogue was very well written, and the big finish was perfect.

9. Sunday You Learn How To Box by Bil Wright

This has also been reviewed here before. It's set in 1968, and centres on a 14 year old boy, Louis Bowman, who lives with his mother and stepfather in a housing project.

It is a very good novel. The writing style is great, and it tackles many issues I'm interested in - Louis is gay, suffers from depression, and really doesn't fit in. The scene in which he went to a party and stood pretending he was helping the DJ instead of socialising felt painfully real. The characters were complex and real. Louis' mother let his stepfather abuse him - encouraged it, even - but was also shown to be a woman with her own ambitions, struggling to do her best to improve her life. Ray Anthony, the local 'hoodlum' Louis gets a crush on, defies stereotypes to act as a kind of protecter to Louis, and the friendship that grows between the two is very sweet.

It did take me a while to get into this. Louis is a character I found difficult to like, although that changed as the book went on. To be honest, I didn't much like the beginning - it starts with a very dramatic event, then skips back several months, which is something I'm never a fan of. But the ending was beautiful and sweet, and left me with a happy glow.
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson

Well, I see that Nalo Hopkinson is very popular here.  I have had several of her books on my to-read list for years, so I began with this one.

My feelings about the book are mixed -- it definitely shows many of the signs of a first novel, including some very clumsily worded passages, and a lot of filtering-type language ("Ti-Jeanne thought... Ti-Jeanne felt... Ti-Jeanne heard XX say..."), as well as some info-dumping ("Ti-Jeanne knew...")  But the setting, and the cultural and political backdrop, are so new and so vibrant -- fully felt, deeply realized and believed in -- that the book has some very strong bones, despite the occasional infelicities.  

more... )

Anyway.  An interesting book, and I will look forward to seeing how Hopkinson's style develops as she progresses in her career.  Two and a half or three stars out of five, I think: two or two and a half for execution and technique, and three and a half for power and potential.

(ETA: Oh!  And I am also going to read Derek Walcott's "Ti-Jean and His Brothers," which ought to shed further light.)
[identity profile] shveta-thakrar.livejournal.com
From Nalo's blog: "Island Fiction is a brand new fiction series from Macmillan Caribbean aimed at teenagers. The novels are all based around fantasy, science fiction and the legends and folklore of the Caribbean."

The first two titles launch on 20 May. For more information, go here.
[identity profile] floriatosca.livejournal.com
1. The Arab Table by May S. Bsisu
I'm a big fan of cookbooks, because the chattier ones tend to give a lot of cultural context along with the recipes. This book definitely counts as one of the chattier ones. There's an introductory anecdote to go with each recipe, as well as sections on subjects like the culinary traditions of different parts of the Arab world and holiday customs (including a guide to Ramadan etiquette for non-Muslims). The recipes seemed pretty accessible to me, although not all of the ingredients are stuff you can find at your nearest supermarket or even your nearest internationally-leaning health food store (Bsisu does give mail-order sources in the back of the book), and the book includes some vegetarian recipes, which I appreciated.

2. Brown Girl In the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
This was an interesting read, and very different from my previous experiences with urban fantasy (which leaned much more towards elves than orishas.) I really liked the world building in this. Post-apocalyptic Toronto felt like a real, plausible community and not just a place for the plot to happen. The story's supernatural aspects are grounded in Caribbean spirituality, which was an interesting change from the more European or Christian influenced cosmologies of a lot of the fantasy novels I've read. This book also got me interested in "Ti-Jean and His Brothers," which Hopkinson references in her author's notes.
[identity profile] vash137.livejournal.com
I was recommended to this community by a friend, and I'm very excited to enjoy such a wealth of recommendations of books by people of color as well as share about the books I'm reading. Though I'm excited to read 50 more books by people of color, I'll probably also share some reviews of previous books that I've read and loved.

Currently, I'm in the middle of The Brief And Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. It was recommended to me by a number of friends and I'm really enjoying it. The book employs a lovely mix of comic tone and seriousness, and I feel as though I am being given a glimpse into Dominican culture that is both new to me and wildly interesting. I also love the high degree of nerdiness that permeates the book (as someone who is highly nerdy myself) 

I'm also reading a manga called Nana by Ai Yazawa. (do we talk about manga here?)  It's entertaining in a highly girly way.  I'm usually not really into shoujo (for girls in Japanese) but I wanted to try something new and it looked interesting.

I'm looking forward to getting to know everyone and participating in this community.

Love and hugs :-)
[identity profile] coraa.livejournal.com
Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson

This was a fantastic read -- very entertaining and above all very fresh.

Ti-Jeanne lives with her newborn son and her grandmother, Mami, in "the Burn" -- the interior city of Toronto, after both business and government abandoned it and fled to the suburbs. Her life of inner-city subsistence, aiding her grandmother's work as a nurse, herbalist and healer, is interrupted when her baby's father turns up. The father, Tony, has failed to complete an organ-harvesting mission for the powerful and dangerous leader of the Burn's pre-eminent gang, the 'posse,' and the leader, Rudy, is now after him. To escape, he must turn to Mami's potent spiritual practices -- but Rudy is not without power of his own....

I said at first that the book was 'fresh,' and what I mean by that is that it's not quite like any other urban fantasy I've ever read. And I've read quite a bit, from the early-90s elves-in-rock-bands to the badass-women-plus-vampires-and-shapeshifters of the 2000s. But the Caribbean mythic and religious themes in Brown Girl in the Ring were something completely new to me, and wonderful (in both senses of the world). It was very powerful and very real and also engaging because it wasn't the same thing again.

I also liked the way the story of the quasi-post-apocalyptic Burn didn't just focus on the gangs and violence. They were definitely there, and a very real threat that Ti-Jeanne was aware of, but much of the book was about the details of daily life in that world: Mami's herb garden and home remedies, the roti shop, the way food was grown, acquired and prepared, the fact that everyone got around on bicycles. Which isn't to say that the story was quiet -- it was a page-turner, with a lot of exciting action -- but I am a big fan of that kind of detail of everyday life.

I also liked that, while Tony and Ti-Jeanne's relationship was important and complex, it wasn't Ti-Jeanne's only important relationship. Indeed, her relationship with Mami was probably the most vital in the book, both in the sense of being the most important and in the sense of being the most vivid and alive. The book wasn't about romance -- it was about family. It was very much about family.

I also loved that the supernatural characters were just as well-characterized as the human ones.

Anyway. Highly recommended, a page-turning read that wasn't just more of the same urban fantasy.
[identity profile] glitter-femme.livejournal.com
I seem to have moved from watching the community and adding everything that looks interesting to my library list, to counting and posting. Hi, everyone! There's no way I'm going to read fifty books total this year, even if my reading list is shaping up to be mostly authors of color, but I'll certainly keep track and be more conscious of who's getting my attention. And even so far, that's been awesome.

1. Walter Dean Myers, The Legend of Tarik
I read this because of a recommendation here (and here's another), and they do a far better job of it than I will at this hour. It's a classic fantasy quest novel, complete with mini-quests first to obtain the magical items that will help the hero on said quest; except that he's black, and African, and that colors everything about the story. His quest is to kill the warlord who killed his father and brother and had him sold into slavery, and that brings a lot of complexity and depth that kill-the-dragon-rescue-the-maiden novels don't often have. I agree with the previous reviewers that I thoroughly enjoyed this even though I'm kinda over the quest subgenre of fantasy at this point. And I'm as thrilled as [livejournal.com profile] annwfyn that the grief-stricken young woman who joins Tarik on his journey doesn't magically heal with a kiss.

2. Nalo Hopkinson, The Salt Roads
This one is cross-posted from my blog on bisexuality and so is much longer. So let's just put it behind a cut, shall we? )
Other reviews on this community: here and here.

3. Lavanya Sankaran, The Red Carpet: Bangalore Stories
This one was also from a rec here.It's a beautiful collection of short stories set in Bangalore. The stories are somewhat linked by common characters, but only enough to show you that they're all happening in the same time period. They're quick, lovely stories. The overarching themes seem to be about how Bangalore's rapid modernization has set the traditional values of the older generation (and, to an extent, the poor) somewhat against the global sophistication of the city's new breed of young professionals, but the stories address everything from men taking credit for their female coworkers' work to the effect of a father's suicide on a family, a girl's contentious relationship with her ayah (nanny? Is that close enough?) to mothers matchmaking for their children. My favorite passage is from the thoughts of a chauffeur, appalled by his employers' lack of traditional values, who nonetheless finds himself sympathizing with her when her nagging mother-in-law turns out to be his father's old employer, whom he met in childhood and loathed:

Raju glanced in the rearview mirror and saw her eyes filling with uncontrollable tears. And though Mother-in-law Choudhary's words expressed his sentiments exactly, at that moment, all he wanted to say was: please don't be upset by that woman -- she's awful, I know, but she shrinks with time.
[identity profile] dakiwiboid.livejournal.com
Here are my book 1 and 2 of the formal challenge. I suspect that I've actually read at least 15 books by POC so far this year, but I haven't been keeping track of them, so they don't count. I have been delighted to find a number of authors who are new to me and to expand my reading, especially in SF, by the way!

I know that I'm going over decidedly well-trodden ground here, so I'm going to put the reviews behind a cut. Read more... )
[identity profile] billies-blues.livejournal.com
I'm excited about this community and this challenge. I hope I can do it in a month. I'm going to start by counting the book I read last month.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Much like everyone else, I fell in love with this book. It was hard for me to put down. Even the characters I found hard to take, were made a little relatable as I continued reading. 
The Third Life of Copeland Grange by Alice Walker...I have read this book already. I believe it was her first novel.

I am looking forward to finding book ideas through this community and am glad to have joined.

Edit: I also meant to add Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson. This story is amazing, dark, funny. It's mystical, futuristic and yet has an old feeling to it.

So two read, one current.
[identity profile] stakebait.livejournal.com
This doesn't count toward my 50 because I read it already, but I highly recommend The Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad, by Minister Faust, for those who like science fiction.


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