June Reads

June has been a emotionally demanding month and I’ve answered my thirst for respite and education through reading more than ever, even as the initial weeks made it difficult for me to focus. For this month, I mixed Pride and Black-authored reads, with a few other entries in-between. Though I didn’t cover as much ground as I’d hoped, I’m excited to keep reading diverse texts in the future. If you’re looking for more Black Pride reads not listed here, I encourage you to check out Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, Marsha P. Johnson, and Pauli Murray.

All photos courtesy of Goodreads

Blood on the Tracks by Shuzo Oshimi

Sei, Honey, please forgive me . . .

Short Description: After a family visit to the mountains, a young boy comes to the startling realization that his kind mother may be more than she seems.

Critic Quote: “Oshimi is able to create a seemingly normal world where one incident sparks an entire series of events, wanting you to read what will happen next. ” – Anime UK News

My Verdict: A slow-burn horror with stunning artwork, I’d definitely recommend this to fans of Junji Ito and Japanese horror manga.

Lakewood by Megan Giddings

Human rights, Human dignity, they yelled. If you’re in a study, we can help you, a white man with dreadlocks yelled.

Short Description: A young woman signs up to participate in a mysterious set of medical trials in hopes it will pay enough to cover her mother’s medical bills.

Critic Quote: “Racial and gender dynamics, along with critiques of ableism, are seamlessly woven throughout the book’s narrative.” –Bitch Media

My Verdict: I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS ONE!! The writing was a 3.5, but I’d recommend this book for the concept alone. DEFINITELY READ.

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

when i was born,

i was born a bull’s-eye.

i spent my life arguing how i

mattered until it didn’t matter.

who knew my haven would be my coffin?

dead is the safest i’ve ever been.

i’ve never been so alive.

Short Description: A collection of poems focusing on the intersection of black masculinity, the threat of police brutality, and sexuality.

Critic Quote: “The result is bittersweet, but the sweetness is real, even when it’s grounded in imagination . . .” – Kenyon Review

My Verdict: Precise and moving, Danez Smith is certainly a poet to add to your library.

Mean by Myriam Gurba

It’s OK to be mean. 

It isn’t just greed that’s good. Mean is good too. Being mean makes us feel alive. It’s fun and exciting. Sometimes it keeps us alive.

Short Description: A young chicana woman sarcastically narrates her adolescence, and all the violence, homophobia, and racism that she faces.

Critic Quote: “Gurba’s experience as a spoken word poet shines through in her colloquial quips and clever turns of phrase. It’s not an easy feat to inject wit into such a heavy subject matter, but Gurba does so with tact.” – Lambda Literary

My Verdict: This one just didn’t resonate with me – though some excerpts were memorable heavy hitters, the author’s sense of humor didn’t quite reach me. Consider your own tastes before diving in!

Full Review HERE

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman

Mattie never stopped clutching at a way of life better than what she had. Everyone had an idea of who she should be and what she should do. It was clear that her own desires mattered to no one but herself. If she didn’t decide how she wanted to live, then the world would dictate, and it would always consign her to the bottom.

Short Description: A historian follows the lives of black women in early 20th century New York and Philadelphia as they reject the roles imposed upon them to embrace their ambitions and true selves.

Critic Quote: “Hartman deploys Black feminism as the framework with which to understand the tremendous shifts in political economy, culture, and resistance in this time, making an extraordinary comment on the centrality of Black women’s history and experience to the history and politics of the United States. By situating them as central agents, Hartman disables the notion that US history thrived on the momentum of progress in the Progressive Era. Instead, the lives of ordinary Black women hold the horrors of the American past as much as they represent the possibility of the future represented in their movement and rebellion.” –Los Angeles Review of Books

My Verdict: Though a bit difficult to sink into at first, Hartman provides a wealth of information on a often over-looked area of history — definitely pick this up next time you’re looking for a historical read.

Full Review HERE

When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors

If I die in police custody, know that they killed me. If I die in police custody, show up at the jail, make noise, protest, tell my mother. If I die in police custody, tell the entire world: I wanted to live.

Short Description: BLM co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors narrates her childhood and growth as an activist against police brutality and racism.

Critic Quote: “Love here is imagined as a political force in addition to an interpersonal one, and the two aspects are joined in the fear and protective drive for those we care about deeply that keeps us going when we might not be able to persevere for ourselves alone, that keeps us committed to a collective future even when it may be difficult to imagine ours individually.” – The Georgia Review

My Verdict: ESSENTIAL READING! This was an excellent memoir and I highly recommend it.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality… whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.

Short Description: The famous James Baldwin presents two letters recounting his growth into the Civil Rights movement and his outlook on racism in America as a whole.

Critic Quote: “So eloquent in its passion and so scorching in its candor that it is bound to unsettle any reader.” – The Atalntic

My Verdict: Baldwin is famous for a reason! Another excellent short read to add to your list.

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

I was finding myself forced to acknowledge that the limit of my imagination was by no means the limit of the world.

Short Description: A young Nigerian woman comes to acknowledge and accept her sexuality during a civil war and under the watchful eyes of her deeply religious mother.

Critic Quote: “Despite the violence, Okparanta’s narrative style is graceful and understated. It reflects Ijeoma’s youth, and naivete, and it characterizes her thoughts and actions as she matures. In Ijeoma, Okaparanta has created a victim who survives two different wars— one waged against her cultural identity and one waged against her sexual orientation. Both are life-threatening, and both teach her how to live with scars.” – The Rumpus

My Verdict: Though the writing was average, the story was unique and emotional, making it worth reading.

Full Review HERE

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

That’s the deal we make when we love someone, isn’t it? Somewhere along the path one person is always going to have to find a way to carry on without the other.

Short Description: Long-time lovebirds Lydia and Freddie are permanently separated after a deadly car crash, leaving Lydia to only see him in her dreams — and forcing her to decide which reality she wants to live in.

Critic Quote: “An incredibly moving and nuanced portrait of love, both lost and found, and how grief can shape us. It is hard read, but one that ends on an ultimately happy and uplifting note.” – She’s Full of Lit

My Verdict: This made me CRY SO MUCH. If you want to get your heart PULVERIZED then pick this up. This is 25% romance and 75% processing the depths of grief.

The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale

At root, they fail to appreciate that the basic nature of the law and the police, since its earliest origins, is to be a tool for managing inequality and maintaining the status quo. Police reforms that fail to directly address this reality are doomed to reproduce it.

Short Description: An intensive overview on the failure of the police system and a series of alternatives to combat these issues.

Critic Quote: “A clearly argued, sure-to-be-controversial book.” – Kirkus Reviews

My Verdict: I loved this book! Well-researched and thorough, this is a wonderful read for those eager to learn about how systemic injustice is foundational to policing.

Adulthood Rites by Octavia E. Butler

 We couldn’t let you breed alongside us, coming to us only when you saw the value of what we offered. Stabilizing a trade that way takes too many generations. We needed to free you—the least dangerous of you anyway. But we couldn’t let your numbers grow. We couldn’t let you begin to become what you were.

Short Description: The sequel to Dawn and predecessor to Imago, Adulthood Rites follows the next generation of alien and human interaction, now through the eyes of a boy bound to unite them both.

Critic Quote: “. . . thought provoking, dark and full of alien complexity.” –Fantasy Book Review

My Verdict: A meaty and thought-provoking read. Though this is not my favorite of Butler’s, it was still enjoyable none-the-less due to her excellent world-building and musings on humanity.

Tomorrow Will Be Different by Sarah McBride

I exhaled. A few months before, displaying such vulnerability before that body seemed impossible, but through the last several months I had found my voice. I had realized that I could speak from a place of power if I spoke from a place of authenticity.

Short Description: Trans Equality activist and politician Sarah McBride recounts her personal and political growth.

Critic Quote: “McBride’s book comes at a time when many Americans — and not just those in the transgender community — are feeling demoralized and disenfranchised. ” – The Washington Post

My Verdict: The second half was far stronger than the first, and for this reason I’d recommend it. This is definitely a politician’s “rise to fame” book, so that’s something to keep in mind – but McBride’s sincerity and passion shines through it all.

Full Review HERE

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin

Life is so much more complicated than I ever imagined, and nothing is as easy as it seems. We meet at the border of mutual attraction and repulsion, and between us is a row of thorns. The two of us … have been ravaged, yet no one can walk away. Tell me, is love – along with honesty, patience, and determination – strong enough? Is it?

Short Description: A group of Taiwanese LGBTQ young adults must navigate graduating college, tumultuous relationships, and facing a world unable to accept them.

Critic Quote: “The is an important work that explores the liberation of gender during a time when anything behind a façade of hetrosexuality in Taiwan was still considered taboo. Candid and creative, Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin is a classic of Taiwanese contemporary literature that stirs the imagination as it confronts social inequities of gender and sexuality.” – Asian Review of Books

My Verdict: A ground-breaking text in Taiwanese LGBTQ literature, this book is necessary read for all. Though the end drags on a bit, I highly enjoyed this book and found myself highlighting scores and scores of paragraphs.

Are Prisons Obsolete by Angela Davis

Mass imprisonment generates profits as it devours social wealth, and thus it tends to reproduce the very conditions that lead people to prison. There are thus real and often quite complicated connections between the deindustrialization of the economy—a process that reached its peak during the 1980s—and the rise of mass imprisonment, which also began to spiral during the Reagan-Bush era.

Short Description: Famous activist Angela Davis presents a case on the obsolescence of prisons and how society must progress beyond them.

Critic Quote: “This book is well worth reading for understanding this radically important new perspective.” – Political Affairs

My Verdict: A short but educational read and a great place to START learning about the prison abolitionist movement.

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

Perhaps it was a statement after all: I don’t want to die yet without knowing you. Do you feel the same way, Carol?

Short Description: In the repressive 1950s, two women, drawn to each other, must risk the safe predictability of their daily lives to explore a budding love.

Critic Quote: “It tells us, in short, that even in 1952 women who fell in love with other women could break all kinds of molds, without breaking themselves.” – The National Book Review

My Verdict: A slow read, best known for its pivotal use of happy ending during a time when LGBTQ+ people were often relegated to death or depression. It’s the blueprint, so for this reason, pick it up!

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