Celebrate Black History Month with Some Amazing Fiction

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Welcome to February! What is with February and being all romantic and lovely and all those good things in the world? It’s like December is all about Christmas even though there’s so much more going on in December than just Christmas.

But February is also Black History Month and being an advocate for diverse reads, I’ve got to put in a plug for some of my very favorite reads. You can go hardcore and read Frederick Douglass or Malcolm X. You can listen to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on repeat. Do whatever it is you want to do, but do it in celebration of black culture.

Before I get into my quick list of recommended reading for the month, I want to mention (as I tend to do from time to time) that diverse reads are so important. Many people (including myself) believe that racism is an extension of fear and ignorance. Why not break that stigma and read about other cultures!

Books about cultures aside from our own (or even our own, let’s not forget we come from somewhere!) opens up our minds to how other people live and exist in the world. We are humans and each of us holds traditions and heritage and culture different from the person you’re sitting next to. Why not celebrate our differences, learn a little bit about being someone else, and spread the good love across this universe.

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Anyway, here’s a few of my favorite books to read during this month as well as a few I’ve got on my TBR for the rest of February. Let’s celebrate diversity and learn more about what it’s like to be on the other side of the pendulum OF LIFE!

Continue reading “Celebrate Black History Month with Some Amazing Fiction”

September 2016 Wrap Up

I can’t believe that it’s already October. The cool weather is really settling in Brooklyn and I’m pulling out the scarves, jackets, and hot cups of tea. It’s my favorite time of the year and it’s also the perfect reason to go out and read (more than I usually do).

Anyway, here’s my September Wrap Up. I had a few books on my list in September, but as always, my plans changed (lol). I only read four books in September, but I feel like I’m more enriched by my reads. Here’s my reads:

  1. P.S. I Like You by Kasie West (5/5 stars) – I got this book in my Owlcrate box in August, but haven’t had the chance to read it until now. This was such a sweet little read. I love doing “in-betweeners,” which are books that you read to separate out some of the more heavy and serious reads. Not to say that this book isn’t serious. It’s the kind of book that doesn’t remind you of the strife and struggle of reality.  I don’t know if you deal with this kind of thing, but when I read too many serious books I get some serious anxiety about life. When you’re so enveloped by a book, you forget what’s reality and what’s the fiction and in those situations, the anxiety is real. If you haven’t felt anxiety after reading a serious book then you’ve got a stronger mind than me.
  2. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (4.5/5 stars) – I was reading One True Loves as another “in-betweener” because I wasn’t ready to read something serious yet. However, as I got into it, I realized that this was a bit more serious. Dead husbands and finding love and finding old loves again. Those kinds of conversations are reserved for the reality of the world and not the fun world of “in-betweeners.” But I fell in love with this book the way Emma, the main character, fell in love twice. No spoilers here, but it’s really difficult to choose someone you want to be with when you have feelings for more than one person. I will keep the rest to myself, but I strongly suggest this book.
  3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (5/5 stars) – Alright, when I talk about serious books, this is a serious book. However, it’s an important book and something I think everyone should read. If you’ve ever asked yourself what your ethnicity and heritage/background is, then you should read this book. Coming from a very family-centric environment, it was frustrating for me to read about a family lineage where it gets so muddled because of something as barbaric as slavery and war. It reminds me of the Syrian refugees ripped from their families and their homes. I think with modern technology they may be able to be together again, but back in the 19th century, that wasn’t an option. It brings a sad tear to my eye knowing that some families will never be together again. Everyone should read this if only to value the families they have.
  4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (4/5 stars) – I read this one for Banned Books Week. There is something about Toni Morrison’s voice that compels me to read more and pushes me away from her. Her words are haunting and visceral like looking at a surrealist painting. The Bluest Eye is the first novel she’s published and if you’ve ever struggled with your own identity and accepting who you are, then you should definitely read this book. In the end, the moral of the story is that you shouldn’t struggle to try and be something you’re not. Love yourself for who you are and enjoy your youth as much as you can.

Enjoy!

 

Book Review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position.

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Synopsis (from Goodreads.com)

Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and will live in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising children who will be sent abroad to be educated before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the empire. Esi, imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle’s women’s dungeon and then shipped off on a boat bound for America, will be sold into slavery. Stretching from the wars of Ghana to slavery and the Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the American South to the Great Migration to twentieth-century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi’s novel moves through histories and geographies and captures–with outstanding economy and force– the troubled spirit of our own nation. She has written a modern masterpiece

Rating: 5/5 Stars

My thoughts

A remarkable read. I loved every single word of this book. I don’t think I’ve come across a novel like this in a really long time.

The story follows the bloodlines of two half-sisters; one who marries a white trader in Ghana while the other is shipped off to America to be sold as a slave. Both of them experience the prejudices and hardships of being a person of color within the last 100 years.

While in the middle of reading this book, a guy on the street asked me for directions to the train. Instead of just pointing out to him where to go, I asked him to follow me since we were going in the same direction. He asked where I was from and what part of Brooklyn I lived so I asked the same. “BedStuy, but I got out of there because I had enough,” he said.

“Did you always live in Brooklyn?” I asked curiously.

“No, I made my way up here from Mississippi with my mom,” he replied.

It was uncanny how I was in the middle of reading a book on families moving and striving for a better life for their young ones and then I encounter a man who’s family has done the same thing. I don’t think I would have had the same amount of curiosity for him and how he grew up if I wasn’t reading this book.

Honestly, everyone should read this book and other diverse books. Homegoing is one of those books that opens my eyes to the reality of the world. It makes me sad that some people can’t trace their ancestry back any further than a few generations. People made sacrifices in order for other people to survive. Some people are lucky enough to have their family heirlooms passed down generation after generation. Others, not so much. I wouldn’t have known that had I not given this book a shot. We read so many novels about the same characters going through the same hardships, so it’s good for readers like us to branch out and learn a little bit more about something we’re not so comfortable with.

This book made me want to call my mother and ask for more information about my family. I want to know my lineage and being an Asian American, it makes me want to connect further with my roots.

This is the problem of history. We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience for ourselves. We must rely upon the words of others. Those who were there in the olden days, they told stories to the children so that the children would know, so that the children could tell stories to their children. And so on, and so on.

I can’t say it any more clearly that people should read books like Homegoing. It will broaden your mind and make you less ignorant of the person standing next to you.

I love the Fall and my 2016 Fall TBR

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It’s mid-September and the cool breeze of autumn started to settle amongst the crevices of the city. Soon it will be so cold you need several layers to sit comfortably in your home before the landlord decides to turn on the heat.

Fall must be the designated season for reading. It must have something to do with going back to school and opening new notebooks and fresh pens and buying books for class. It might have something to do with the cool weather and cuddling in close with a good read.

I thought I would prepare myself for the cozy comforts of Fall with a few books to nourish my heart and my mind. I’ve never planned out the books I’ll be reading and I know I won’t be reading all the new books that just released because I’m always behind with what’s trendy (in my book life and my real life). So here’s a quick list of some of the books that sound interesting to me and I’d love to read this Fall:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoingtraces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indelibly drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

29429875Mara Wilson has always felt a little young and a little out of place: as the only child on a film set full of adults, the first daughter in a house full of boys, the sole clinically depressed member of the cheerleading squad, a valley girl in New York and a neurotic in California, and one of the few former child actors who has never been in jail or rehab. Tackling everything from how she first learned about sex on the set of Melrose Place, to losing her mother at a young age, to getting her first kiss (or was it kisses?) on a celebrity canoe trip, to not being “cute” enough to make it in Hollywood, these essays tell the story of one young woman’s journey from accidental fame to relative (but happy) obscurity. But they also illuminate a universal struggle: learning to accept yourself, and figuring out who you are and where you belong. Exquisitely crafted, revelatory, and full of the crack comic timing that has made Mara Wilson a sought-after live storyteller and Twitter star, Where Am I Now?introduces a witty, perceptive, and refreshingly candid new literary voice.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Running into a long-ago friend sets memories from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.

32 Yolks by Eric Ripert

25937923Before he earned three Michelin stars at Le Bernardin, won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef, or became a regular guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, and even before he knew how to make a proper omelet, Eric Ripert was a young boy in the South of France who felt that his world had come to an end. The only place Eric felt at home was in the kitchen. His desire to not only cook, but to become the best would lead him into some of the most celebrated and demanding restaurants in Paris.

 

 

 

Shrill by Lindy West

From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

22299763Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

 

Swear on this Life by Renee Carlino

When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

I wonder if within the three months of Fall I’ll be able to read all of these. Will I give up at some point? Will I want to move something to the next season? Will I end up reading another book from my endlessly growing pile of novels? I think it’ll be interesting to see what I end up reading even if I planned it all out ahead of time. I guess my interest in a book just comes with my mood (who would have thought?)

I do know that I will be enjoying the cool breeze and a warm cup of tea as I go through these. What does your Fall look like?