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[personal profile] yatima
"Welcome to the Middle-Aged Orphans Club," writes Sherman Alexie, and as a middle-aged orphan myself, I did feel welcome, and seen, and understood. In July, Alexie cancelled part of his book tour because of complicated grief and being haunted by his late mother: "I don’t believe in ghosts," he writes. "But I see them all the time." Me too, brother.

Like Bad Indians, this is an intricate quilt of a book, part memoir, part poem, part dream. It's hard to imagine how it could be otherwise. The loss of a parent is a loss of meaning. For indigenous people, this is doubly true. Lillian Alexie was one of the last fluent speakers of Salish. Her death robs her son, and the world, of an entire universe.

This book, like Hawking radiation, is an almost-undetectable glow of meaning escaping from a black hole. If you haven't lost a parent yet it might be too much to bear, but if you have, it might feel like joining a group of survivors around a campfire after a catastrophe.

IN AUGUST 2015, as a huge forest fire burned on my reservation, as it burned within feet of the abandoned uranium mine, the United States government sent a representative to conduct a town hall to address the growing concerns and fears. My sister texted me the play-by-play of the meeting. “OMG!” she texted. “The government guy just said the USA doesn’t believe the forest fire presents a serious danger to the Spokane Indian community, even if the fire burns right through the uranium mine.”

...“Is the air okay?” I texted. “It hurts a little to breathe,” my sister texted back. “But we’re okay.” Jesus, I thought, is there a better and more succinct definition of grief than It hurts a little to breathe, but we’re okay?
[identity profile] ms-mmelissa.livejournal.com
Through Black Spruce was the 2008 winner of the Giller award (Canada's top literary prize for those not in the know). I've only read a handful of the winners and nominees over the years, but Through Black Spruce easily tops my list as my favourite of those I've read.

In Moosonee, Ontario a middle aged man lies in a coma. His name is Will Bird and over the course of the novel he narrates the events of the past year of his life, slowly building up to the event that led to his coma. While he is in a coma his niece Annie Bird talks to him, telling him about the past year of her life, when she left the town she had lived in all her life in order to travel to Toronto, Montreal and New York in an attempt to track down her missing model sister Suzanne who ran off two years ago with her drug-dealing boyfriend Gus.

The novel alternates between Will and Annie's voices and it's a testament to Boyden's strength as a writer that each story is equally compelling. There was no sense of disappointment when a new chapter began and Will's story ended and Annie's story continued or vice versa. The missing Suzanne is also a compelling character, her abscence spurring on Annie's quest and having devastating consequences for Will. Suzanne is what weaves these two stories together despite the fact that we never "see" her within the novel.

There is also a lot of detail about Cree life and what it means to keep the traditions alive in an increasingly modern world. Will and especially Annie represent a bridge between traditional Cree culture and Western culture. Boyden is able to eloquently capture the negotiation between modern and traditional and the compromises that his characters must make in order to feel comfortable within themselves are woven elegantly into the story. 

FYI: Boyden wrote this as a loose sequel to his first novel Three Day Road (Will is the son of the main character of Three Day Road) and has announced that he intends to write a third book to form a trilogy.
[identity profile] veleda-k.livejournal.com
The Way to Rainy Mountain by N. Scott Momaday (Illustrated by Al Momaday)

The Way to Rainy Mountain )

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Illustrated by Ellen Forney)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian )
[identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com
”A Native vampire! That is so cool!”

An enjoyably quirky vampire novel by an Anishinabe (Ojibwa) writer. Anishinabe teenager Tiffany Hunter has normal teenage problems: her mother took off a year ago, her father hates the white boy she’s dating (and the white boy, unbeknownst to Tiffany, is a real jerk), and she’s flunking all her classes. And one not-so-normal problem: the bed-and-breakfast tenant in the basement is a vampire.

Despite the very YA premise, I’m not sure this is really a YA novel. A lot of the humor comes from the adult writer’s recollection of how absurd it is to be a teenager; it’s not mean humor, but it is based on distance. It’s also, interestingly, in omniscient point of view and even has a section from the perspective of an owl.

I enjoyed the offbeat voice and sense of humor of this novel, though there was some clunky prose and the occasional overheated metaphor that may not have been funny in the way the author intended it to be. Or maybe it was! The deadpan style made it hard to tell. The vampire is not sparkly or glamorous, but creepy and sad, bearing the weight of history. He has a weakness for truly terrible vampiric double entendres, which, again, may or may not have been intended to be hilariously over the top. (“I have a lot of different types of blood flowing through my veins.”) Thankfully, the possibility of romance between him and Tiffany is not even raised.

The ending, though a bit anvillicious at points, also had moments of true beauty and power.

Uneven but worth reading, particularly if you’re tired of white vampires.

The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
#25. This Bridge Called My Back, ed. Cherríe Moraga & Gloria Anzaldúa
1981/'83, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press

This is another book that is so full of... ideas and thinking and newness, and that has so many visions and so much emotion in it, and that contains both so much I can identify with and so much that seems deeply foreign -- I don't mean only the experiences and attitudes of the women who wrote it, but also, which is harder for me to assimilate, the lens through which they view the world: the moment of history, cultural and political, in which thy formulated these ideas and these manifestoes -- that I feel overwhelmed when I try to think about posting a review of it.

But I also feel kind of like a coward for backing out of reviewing it. What to do? I think I will let it simmer for a while. I may also read the much more recent companion book to it (this bridge we call home, used, I see, as an icon for this group ;), and see if that helps me understand, and bridge the thirty years of historical difference between these women and me.

[tags I would add if I could: assimilation, sociology, spirituality [or: religion/spirituality], puerto rican, a: morales rosario, a: rushin donna kate, a: wong nellie, a: lee mary hope, a: littlebear naomi, a: lim genny, a: yamada mitsuye, a: valerio anita, a: cameron barbara, a: levins morales anita, a: carillo jo, a: daniels gabrielle, a: moschkovich judit, a: davenport doris, a: gossett hattie, a: smith barbara, a: smith beverly, a: clarke cheryl, a: noda barbara, a: woo merle, a: quintanales mirtha, a: anzaldua gloria, a: alarcon norma, a: combahee river collective, a: canaan andrea, a: parker pat] 

(Also, apropos of nothing: Whoo! Halfway through! This book feels like an appropriate one for that milestone.)

[identity profile] livii.livejournal.com
5) Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King: I don't think I can adequately describe in a short review how much I loved this book. Suffice to say, I loved this book to pieces and if I'm not already the last person to read it, you should all read it too. King does an amazing job of weaving the fantastical into a modern day setting, and playing with various Aboriginal themes and making everything he does feel fresh and new, despite being rooted in a lot of history. The large cast of characters all pop, and their stories are nicely revealed a little bit at at time, in a clever, comic way. It's very funny while also being thoughtful and occasionally uncomfortable, has some great reflections on Canadian identity, and the pages absolutely fly by. Highly recommended.
[identity profile] rootedinsong.livejournal.com
27. Good Enough, by Paula Yoo

YA novel about a Korean-American girl whose parents push her to take all AP classes, get at least a 2300 (new scale...) on the SATs, etc. so she can get into an Ivy League college. She's also a very talented violinist, and her parents push her to achieve as much as she can in music so it will look good on her college applications.

She meets a boy at All-State orchestra rehearsal that she's very attracted to, and over the course of the book she gets closer and closer to him, sneaking out to his house to play music with him when her parents forbid her to hang out with boys or to waste any time that she could be spending studying. He teaches her about improvisation and the value of rock music, and helps her realize how truly passionate about music she is (he encourages her to apply to Juilliard behind her parents' backs).

And then, of course, there's the climax where they sneak out to a concert, she gets caught, there are consequences... and then it all wraps up nicely in the end. (I don't think I need to give a spoiler warning for any of this; how could the ending be anything else?)

I liked this well enough. The author's a musician and gets the music parts of the story exactly right (I'm picky about that sort of thing). And she gets math much better than Justina Chen Headley (although the part where the protagonist says that she doesn't have enough time to solve the last problem on her extra credit homework, d/dx(sin(x2+5)) or something like that, between homeroom and when she has to hand it in in the middle of the day... came off as false - how long could it really take her? 30 seconds?)...

And there is not too much girliness.

28. The Whale Rider, by Witi Ihimaera

I thought this was just lovely. I decided to read it after reading a friend's review of the movie, in which she said that the movie's message seemed to be inconsistent - that it seemed to be alternatingly sending the messages "The hope of indigenous peoples is returning to the Old Ways" and "Sexism is bad, and the Old Ways are sexist," when it should have been a real examination of how to keep indigenous cultures alive, living, evolving to survive in their times.

The book didn't seem to me to have that inconsistency at all. It actually seemed to be exactly what my friend wanted to see... except that it was less an examination and more that... both themes, returning to the ways of the Maori people and letting those ways evolve, were just there, pervading the book. The sexism of some of the traditions was challenged, but that challenge came from within the culture; it was not imposed on it from outside. This was not about a conflict between The Enlightened White Conception Of Human Rights and Our People's Cultural Identity And Traditions. Not at all.

Once again... lovely.
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[personal profile] oyceter
I grabbed these from the bibliography of Kim Anderson's A Recognition of Being: Reconstructing Native Womanhood (2000). Anderson is Cree/Métis. I took all the books with Native authors or co-authors, including ones with white editors that seemed to be majority-Native authors. For books with Native co-authors, I didn't exclude ones in which the Native co-authors are in the minority (ex. 2 non-Native authors, 1 Native) because I thought people could still use it to look up other books by the Native co-author. There are other women of color authors also in the bibliography, but I excluded them to keep the focus on Native authors.

Giant list of books )
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[personal profile] sanguinity
It's time for our monthly recs post! Usually I make this a space for members to ask for recs that interest them, but this time [livejournal.com profile] oyceter and I want to do something different.

Dunno how many of you have been following the dustup over a certain pair of white SFF authors? (Briefest of summaries: one author wrote a "shiny" alternate-universe U.S. "frontier" story in which Indians never existed and the U.S. never had slavery; she also characterized that as a history that wouldn't be "wildly divergent". Another author made statements that, among other things, imply that POC are new to SFF.) Notice, please, that this isn't a post about the two authors: we don't write posts about white authors on this comm.

Given that we don't write posts about white authors, here's the reason I'm even bringing up that hot mess: while browsing nahrat's link round-ups, I've been noticing that now and again someone asks for recs of books that give the lie to the assumptions those two authors made. Unfortunately, the rec-making has been a bit thin, and sometimes is pretty heavily tilted toward white authors.

Happily, reccing POC authors is something this comm does really well. Let's make some recs! I'd like to see recs for the following:
  • Alternate histories or universes that are indigenous-centric and/or anti-colonialist. There is no need for the AH/AU to focus on the Americas, and I'd love to see recs that don't.
  • Books that oppose the notion of an Empty Continent -- again, books can focus on either of the Americas, Australia, Africa, or anywhere else that has had to deal with that lie.
  • Books about how indigenous peoples have been an integral part of shaping the history of the world, and aren't just optional background scenery.
  • Books which document and/or demonstrate that POC have a long history with SFF, or a history that's independent of the Verne/Heinlein/Asimov/Campbell anglophone tradition.
If you have other themes that seem appropriate to the discussion, do feel free to start a comment-thread for them.

Additionally, here are two existing POC-author rec-making posts in the discussion:Remember, please: this is not a post for discussing white authors; this is a post for reccing POC authors. Let's make some recs!

ETA: I set up some category-specific comment threads below, but if you've got something that needs to be rec'd and the categories seem to be too constraining, DO feel free to ignore the categories. The recs are the important thing here, not the categories.


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