RG: 33/48

The greatest decision I made this year, (besides accepting my dream job at LDLA) has been actively participating in the Goodreads’ Reading Challenge!

I have always been a big reader! In grade school, I participated in reading challenges regularly from reading to get a dollar from my mom to the schoolwide Battle of the Books contests. I not only loved reading, I loved being competitive about reading and honestly still do! Given that in my desired career field reading is mandatory, I asked myself: what better way to motivate myself than to challenge myself to read X number of books in a year? I love being able to report what I’ve read, write short reviews, and also see how my friends are doing on their challenges. My sister is my biggest competitor when it comes to reading. She reads so quickly and it’s not fair! She also has been reading from my library at home so, we often discuss what we’re reading and I challenge her to think like publishing people do :).

To date, I’ve read 33 books. That’s crazy! Granted, 33 includes graphic novels, audiobooks, and poetry. If I’m being honest, I’ve actually read closer to 40 books but I can’t really include manuscripts that I read for work and/or interviews. Setting my goal number was difficult. I didn’t want to be too ambitious so I started with about 20 but eventually settled at 48 books, which roughly amounts to 4 books per month. Again, it sounds crazy but I also tend to read two or three books at a time. It keeps me on my toes! Finding time to read has proven to be hard but I think this challenge, my friends, and my co-workers have definitely encouraged me to keep going!

I may not reach my goal by December, I may read less or more, but I think the most important thing is that I’m challenging myself each day to do something that I love. I strongly believe that books challenge the way you see the world around you, but also how you see yourself. I have read some unbelievable books this year that maybe I never would have if I never committed to this challenge. I’d love to know what you guys are reading! Is there anything you are dying to read? Or anything that you read this year that you can’t stop thinking about? Those are the best! Let’s chat about it.

 

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The Hate U Give

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I knew when I first heard about this book that it was going to become one of my favorites of the decade. Angie Thomas, a debut novelist, has written an incredibly poignant tale about a sixteen year old, Starr Carter, as she balances living in a poor neighborhood and attending a suburban prep school. Everything hits a head when Starr witnesses the shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. The shooting becomes a national headline twisted with rumors that he was an alleged drug dealer and gangbanger. The story follows Starr as she navigates this emotional minefield and finds her voice to speak out.

Thomas takes a timely and heavy-handed topic but writes the story with caution, humor, and remarkable characters that you become deeply invested in from the very beginning. I found myself relating to Starr’s character far more than expected. They describe at length her unconscious habit of “code-switching” or behaving in a certain way in her neighborhood and another way while at her school. Having personally grown up in a suburban neighborhood, as one of the few black girls in the school, I understood her desire to avoid the “angry black girl” or “ghetto black girl” labels. It impacts your friendships, demeanor, and all interactions in that community.

One of the greatest strengths of THE HATE U GIVE, apart from the hysterical Harry Potter references, were the parallels.  The parallels are what made the entire piece realistic and dynamic. Chris and Hailey each represent the various reactions that the Caucasian community can have toward the issue of police brutality in the African American community. Each had significant connections to Starr, yet each handles the news of Khalil’s death differently. While one is able to set aside their privilege to earnestly gain insight into the feeling of outrage, the other merely behaves as if it is a minor inconvenience. Another parallel exists between the police officer responsible for shooting Khalil to Starr’s Uncle Carlos. Both have sworn the oath of a police officer/detective to protect and serve their communities, but approach that task in different ways. This parallel is also essential to removing any complete bias of “F*** the Police” because you cannot blame one community for the mistakes of the few. The last two parallels were between the prosecutors who question Starr and her attorney, Ms. Ofrah. Each has a duty to find the truth and seek out justice, but they both take different approaches to that as well based on their motivations. The last parallel is between the riots and peaceful protest. The riots are reminiscent to the Black Panther Organization and Malcolm X’s beliefs versus the peaceful protest which is reflective of Martin Luther King Jr’s belief. Each form of rebellion comes from deeply emotional places of hurt, but it’s important to acknowledge the consequences that riots can have.

There are so many valuable lessons that can be taken away from reading THE HATE U GIVE which is why it is now one of my favorite novels. An important lesson I needed to learn was the importance of not staying silent in situations where you should speak up. Personally, there have been times when a lump forms around my throat when it’s my responsibility to speak out as an African American/ Haitian American woman. For example, I’m surrounded by white people and a song that has the n-word comes on. It can be uncomfortable and awkward but at the end of the day — it’s my responsibility to stand up and tell those who are saying it that it’s wrong. By remaining silent, I am joining the side of the oppressor and allowing them to believe that this behavior is acceptable when it’s not. Bravery does not mean that you are never afraid, but that you do what should be done regardless of that fear.

Now that I’m so invested in this novel, my only fear now is for the film development. Thomas has repeatedly explained that she has had no involvement in the casting process, but part of me is concerned that the truth of the novel will not reflect as strongly. For example, I am a fan of the young African American actress, Amandla Stenberg, but she was not who I envisioned in the role of Starr. She has already played the role of Rue (“Hunger Games”), Maddy (“Everything, Everything”), and is even projected to portray Ruby in The Darkest Minds series. I worry that we won’t get the performance we deserve since this will be merely another role on a long list of films. I could be wrong, we will just have to wait and see when the film comes out.

 

What were your thoughts about THE HATE U GIVE? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you looking forward to June for her second novel, ON THE COME UP? I know I am.

Truncated Reviews

Hey guys, I’m back again and I’ve been doing some reading! In the midst of my job search, I’ve been dedicating as much free time to reading as possible. I’m not sure if it’s true for others but the more I read, the better I write. Since, I’ve read about 5 books since I posted last,  I’m going to provide truncated reviews

 

#1) Nora Ephron’s Heartburn

Heartburn was my first book of 2018 and I loved absolutely everything about it. I mentioned before that I had never read any of Ephron’s works before and I can’t believe it took me this long. She is witty, engaging, and her writing captivates you from beginning to end. I never knew I could laugh so hard reading about a woman who is seven months pregnant finding out that her husband is having an affair, but somehow I did. It was a quick but insightful read that I enjoyed back and forth on my train rides to work. I can’t recommend it enough.

 

#2) Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Lisa See is an incredible writer and does such a great job of showing rather than telling the reader about the customs of Snow Flower and China in this time period. It is exceptionally literary and well-written, however, I was disappointed by the lack of action. The story is majorly reflective and I did not like Snow Flower’s resignation to her fate. It left me dissatisfied that her only means of rebellion was this recounting of events that she also seemed resigned to share. I would recommend it for those looking to examine Lisa See’s writing style, those interested in Asian culture especially the tradition of footbinding, and readers who enjoy the more factual recounting of events versus more emotional memoir-esque stories.

#3 & #4 Olivia Gatwood’s My New American Best FriendNeil Hilborn’s Our Numbered Days.
My secret santa bought me both of these books after noticing my love for spoken word and poetry. For those who are friends with me on Facebook, they know just how often I am posting a video from Button Poetry. These two books were high on my TBR list and they were incredible. Short, sweet, and to the point — each of these two books gave me chills. Stars now adorn the margins of the poems that left me pensive even hours after I’d closed the books. I recommend them both to those who are fans of Rupi Kaur’s, spoken word, or just exploring poetry as a whole.

#5) David Barclay Moore’s The Stars Beneath Our Feet

This book was a gift from one of my supervisors at Writers House. I had gone on and on about how I was dying to read this book and she gifted it to me. David Barclay Moore introduces you to the main character, Wallace a.k.a Lolly. A young boy growing up in Harlem, forced to cope in his own way with the loss of his older brother. Moore tells a story of both diversity and dealing with grief in an urban community. Through unlikely friendships, much-needed conversation, and the use of creativity as an outlet, Lolly finally finds the perfect outlet for his emotions. I absolutely adore this book. It’s not a PSA or after-school special, it’s a realistic portrayal of the decisions that are laid before young men and women in urban communities everyday along with the consequences of those choices.

It is long overdue but I am presently reading, Angie Thomas’ THE HATE U GIVE and I am in love with it. That book will surely warrant its own blog post so look out for that in the not too distant future.

Also, feel free to follow my Goodreads account

What are you guys reading? 🙂 

Silver Sparrow

Hello again, so I apologize for that unannounced hiatus — but I am back.

Luckily enough during my hiatus, I did still get to read a bit. I actually just finished reading Tayari Jones’ novel, Silver Sparrow. I actually had the opportunity of meeting Tayari Jones last year and not only is she an incredible talent, inspirational speaker but she’s also just a genuinely relatable human being. Last summer, I heard her speak to my Columbia Publishing Course class in a time that I desperately needed to hear everything she had to say. I could probably gush for ours about how much of a role model she is to me but let’s concentrate on her book.

I actually purchased her book when she came to visit the Publishing Course and she signed my copy for me. I knew that I was desperate to read it but with little to no free time within the course – it kept getting postponed. During my hiatus, I had been off and on reading the novel and was a little unsure about the general direction of the plot. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to happen or where I wanted the plot to go.

Silver Sparrow is the alternating narrative story of two girls who live in the south and how their circumstances have impacted them. The narrator of the first chapters is Dana Lynn Yarboro who is the daughter of James Witherspoon. Even in her childhood, Dana is acutely aware of the fact that she is a secret. Her father, an already married man, participated in bigamy by marrying her mother, Gwen, and fathering her. Although older than her sister, Chaurisse, Dana as the product of that bigamy and must learn to take a backseat in all things. The narrator to the second half of the novel is Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon, James Witherspoon’s daughter from his first marriage. These chapters highlight the complex circumstances and truly cast a shade of gray on things that are generally seen as black and white.

I think that Tayari excelled in making the depth of each character’s turmoil apparent. There are so many conflicting feelings and opinions, that even the reader is swept into the conflict. This novel is very different from what I usually gravitate toward the shelf but I enjoyed reading it as a whole. It was an escape that I was happy to turn to and I look forward to reading more of Jones’ works.

 

*Hiatus*

HI GUYS!

I’m terribly sorry for that extended hiatus. Life was getting a bit hectic so my reading temporarily hit the back-burner. Hopefully, things are officially slowed down to a manageable pace so I can get back to doing what I love: reading, writing and reviewing!

While my posts may have stopped temporarily, the growth of my TBR pile never wavered. I still have a bunch of books that I can’t wait to review for you guys and pick up right where we left off.

So, keep an eye out for my next post which is going to be a book review on Tayari Jones’  Silver Sparrow.