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.

Six of Crows: A Review

For those of you who have kept up with my blog, you know that I cannot resist a good young adult fantasy novel. Yes, I read other genres but the books I remember loving the most were young adult fantasy novels. After hearing all of the hype, I decided to purchase the duology of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. Leigh Bardugo does an unbelievable job of creating a dynamic universe that is overflowing with colorfully unforgettable characters.

The minute we are introduced to Kaz Brekker, I already know he will quickly become the bad-ass character that you can’t help but love. He is the Danny Ocean to a similarly assembled band of thieves. Each of the six members of the team have a particular skill set, along with a complicated background story to explain how they found themselves here. Despite different back stories, they all found themselves agreeing to embark on an impossible heist with the highest stakes and potential for highest reward. Bardugo separates chapters by each character’s perspectives. These chapters help you gain a deeper understanding of each person’s past but also provides insight into what their motivations are during this journey. Apart from the story itself, which captivates the reader from the first page to the last, Bardugo supplies fluid prose without stutter. Her strong writing, in combination with the incredible plot, are what make Six of Crows a five-star must-read. 

I’m unsure if I want to jump directly into Crooked Kingdom (the second novel in the series) or take a break to read some other titles on my TBR. I’ll keep you guys posted.

XO

Currently reading…

I am so excited to announce that I have just started reading the famous Leigh Bardugo duology, Six of Crows! I know I’m super late on the whole bandwagon thing but — a good book is a good book whenever you choose to read it, at least in my opinion.

Life has been hectic so I haven’t been reading or writing as much as I used to. I want to change that and make an active effort to read and write more regularly. They always go hand in hand for me, if I’m not writing often it’s usually because I’m not reading as much as I should. I don’t want to make excuses but instead, challenge myself to take free moments to read. Y’all know how much I love a good YA fantasy so no better way to dive back in than with the famed Six of Crows duology. I’ve only heard good things and I’m excited to read it for myself.

My TBR is overflowing but if you have any suggestions for books to read. Comment below! I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading and why you liked it.

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.