February was a busy month for me, with a final reading total of eight books. With this being Black History month as well as the month of Valentine’s day, I tried to incorporate some of these themes into my reading list and look forward to all the great finds I’ll have in March.
All photos courtesy of Goodreads.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So, when you study history, you must always ask yourself, whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story, too. From there, you begin to get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.
Short Description: A chronicle of the lineage of two Ghanian half-sisters beginning in the 1700s, one who escapes the ravages of slavery and one who does not, and how their winding paths separate and converge.
Critic Quote: “In Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi has given rare and heroic voice to the missing and suppressed.” – NPR
My Verdict: An absolute must-read! Awe-inducing in its scope and grasp of precise characterization simultaneously.
Full Review HERE
The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz
Yehya would never admit that he was just a single, powerless man in a society where rules and restrictions were stronger than everything else, stronger than the ruler himself, stronger.
Short Description: A short, Egyptian dystopian tale about an oppressive government who uses a system known as “The Gate” to decide who receives citizenship, healthcare, and safety, and a circle of family and friends who find themselves in unwitting opposition to it.
Critic Quote: “Such nuances actually set [Aziz] apart from the Orwellian standard, which focuses almost exclusively on the plight of bureaucrats.” – American Micro Reviews
My Verdict: A unique dystopian tale that looks at how the lives of well-meaning friends and family members are affected by an oppressive regime. Pick it up if you’re interested in diverse dystopias!
Full Review HERE
The Tradition by Jericho Brown
No matter how sore the injury
Has left you, you sit understanding
Yourself as a human being finally
Free now that nobody’s got to love you.
Short Description: A gorgeous collection of poetry centering on black masculinity, sexuality, and violence.
Critic Quote: “The Tradition is a major step forward for the poet; the collection is assured in its handling of autobiography and public history, as well as in its formal variety and play. It’s a collection full of ghosts, a complex and multifaceted Liebestod; its images, figures, and statements draw close and fade away, haunting its reader.” – LARB
My Verdict: Sharp and lush at the same time, I’d definitely recommend this collection to everyone for its quality and accessibility.
Full Review HERE
Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu
There’s a saying in Tamil that a thousand lies can make a marriage. Here the truth: I’m tired of lying.
Short Description: 27-year old Sri-Lankan-American lesbian Lucky must revaluate her marriage of convenience with her gay husband when she is invited to the wedding of her childhood love.
Critic Quote: “Marriage of a Thousand Lies is a beautiful exploration of queer South Asian-American identity that should be read by all. Beyond giving voice to an experience underrepresented in the mainstream queer cannon, it is a well-written debut and you grow to care about all the characters, regardless of whether or not you agree with their decisions.” – LAMBDA Literary
My Verdict: Heart-breaking and revealing, this text is a wonderful LGBTQ+ tale that acknowledges how queer POC consider the history of their cultures alongside their sexuality, acknowledging places of both pain and celebration. Highly recommend.
Good Talk by Mira Jacob
We think our hearts break only from endings — the love gone, the rooms empty, the future unhappening as we stand ready to step into it — but what about how they can shatter in the face of what is possible?
Short Description: And Indian-American mother recounts her conversations with her biracial son about race in America, forcing her to confront her own childhood and how her young mind reckoned with systematic and social oppression.
Critic Quote: “Told with immense bravery and candor, this book will make readers hunger for more of Jacob’s wisdom and light.” – Kirkus Reviews
My Verdict: Read for the immaculate structure, artful characterization, thought-provoking honesty, and clear message of hope in times of uncertainty.
Wild Beauty by Ntozake Shange
i found god in myself
& i loved her / i loved her fiercely
Short Description: A collection of bold poetry from the well-known poet and activist Ntozake Shange.
Critic Quote: “Shange’s ability to breathe life into myriad characters and voices is on display throughout the collection. And, despite the instances of disappointment, violence, and struggle, the poems all highlight hope, joy, and optimism. This is an exemplary representation of Shange’s body of poetic work.” – Publisher’s Weekly
My Verdict: Some poems reached me, some did not. This may be a hit or miss for some people, so perhaps read a few of her poems individually online before picking the collection up.
Hybrida by Tina Chang
Look out and look backward. The story we are living now is an ancient one. It has lived before but feels new in this present existence.
Short Description: A collection of dense poetry focusing on the writer’s grappling of being a mother to a biracial black boy.
Critic Quote: “Hybrida brings a poet’s careful stewardship of language to the mobilization of moral conscience.” – LA Review of Books
My Verdict: Though clearly well-written, I personally couldn’t connect to the writing, finding the language a bit difficult to parse, the meaning of it muddling beneath.
Magical Negro by Morgan Parker
You have a mouth men bless
You look good enough to bury
Short Description: A collection of clever, precise poetry examining the intersections of blackness gender, and pop culture.
Critic Quote: “Magical Negro’s soft radiance permeates the soul, inspiring a disquieting melancholy. It is wry and atmospheric, an epic work of aural pleasures and personifications that demands to be read–both as an account of a private life and as searing political protest.” – TIME
My Verdict: I really enjoyed Parker’s last collection, and while this book is certainly full of memorable, powerful pieces, it didn’t reach the same heights of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce.