September Reads

During September I participated in Latinx-athon and the Bratz-readathon (Team Yasmin!) and read a variety of books to fulfill those challenges, sprinkling in some poetry and history in-between. Overall, I’m pleased with the reads of the month, especially in regards to the balancing of heavy and light reading. In October I’ll be reading some more Hispanic and Latinx reads alongside some spooky books (I’ll be trying my hand at Santreads’ readathon and The Artisan Geek’s readathon as well)!.

All photos courtesy of Goodreads

A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernandez

It is in those moments that I doubt myself, that I wonder if arranging words on a computer screen and sharing them with others makes any difference, if that is the best I can do with my own hands. It will take years to understand that writing makes everything else possible. Writing is how I learn to love my father and where I come from. Writing is how I leave him and also how I take him with me.

Short Description: Writer Daisy Hernandez recounts the lessons and memories she experienced during her childhood living in New York City as the queer Cuban-Columbian daughter of an immigrant family. 

Critic Quote: “Personal storytelling at its most authentic and heartfelt.” –Kirkus Reviews

My Verdict:A short but wonderfully written memoir. Though it took a bit of time to get into at first, for the most part this book read quickly and effortlessly, the structure of the essays well-formed, flowing into each other marvelously. I really felt as though I’d been offered a true, intimate look at the author’s adolescence.

Full Review HERE

The Henna Wars by Adina Jaigirdar

It’s funny that Flávia and I are from such different parts of the world but our parents have the same philosophy. They shifted us halfway across the world, risking our culture, putting us in the middle of two nations and giving us an identity crisis, all because they believe it gives us more opportunities. It’s strange to think about how much our parents really sacrifice for us. But then, I’m stuck on the fact that Ammu and Abbu can leave their entire world behind, yet they can’t pause for a moment and consider who I am. How can they sacrifice everything for me and Priti, but they can’t sacrifice their closed view of sexuality to accept me as I am?

Short Description: Nishat is excited to display her Henna skills and Bangladeshi culture during her school’s business competition, but when her competition appropriates her culture by putting forth the same idea, Nishat must wrestle with her anger as well as her growing romantic feelings for her competition. 

Critic Quote: “Each conflict is resolved authentically and naturally, moving the story along at the perfect speed. The scenes between Flávia and Nishat simmer, and their mesmerizing relationship unfolds with just the right amount of complexity. Most satisfyingly, each character gets the ending she deserves..” –Kirkus Reviews

My Verdict: What a sweet, beautiful book! I usually don’t read contemporary YA these days, but this book was truly a gem – it covered such heart wrenching topics while maintaining an atmosphere of hope and optimism. The characters are all so wonderful and full of various complexities, and I really enjoyed seeing Nishat’s romance blossom. 

Body of Render by Felicia Zamora

Rise To all my brothers & sisters of color, Rise; to my gay, trans, queer soulmates, Rise; to all my nasty women, Rise; to all who experience sexual assault, Rise; to the immigrants who make this nation great, Rise; alone is not us; Rise; degradation not our destiny; Rise; hateful slander in tear at our children’s ears, tear our hearts, remains feeble to our strength

Short Description: A collection of deeply sonic poetry following the election of Donald Trump and the rise of patriarchal white supremacy.

Critic Quote: “In this luminous, multifaceted collection, Zamora continues her surgical and experimental relationship with form and language, like in her previous work; however, in “Body of Render” she also debunks the idea of an America for all, an idea she “no longer apologizes for,” in preference for a more democratized, diverse form of social justice. Zamora is a singular voice in both Latinx and American letters: she is the future and present of American poetry. This book deserves to win awards. It is Zamora’s finest collection, which is saying a lot.” –Green Mountains Review

My Verdict: It’s obvious Zamora has spent time cultivating and writing these pieces, however, they just weren’t effective for me.

Reenactments by Hai-Dang Phan

the crack of a bat sent a tiny moon

into orbit,

…and you had no team, you did not know

whom to root for, home or away.

Short Description: A unique collection of poetry documenting Phan’s memories and attempts with healing following the Vietnam War. 

Critic Quote: “Phan’s debut unflinchingly presents the trauma inherited through cultural memory as a kind of endless war reenactment. In these poems, even the most mundane setting is haunted by living ghosts.” –Publisher’s Weekly

My Verdict: A mixed bag for me, but I’m still glad to have read this!

The Write Escape by Charish Reid

He wanted her, badly, but that want warred with an insistent message: People leave, people leave, people leave.

Short Description: When she finds out her fiancé is cheating on her days before their wedding, a heartbroken Antonia spends her honeymoon alone in the Irish countryside . . . until, of course, a handsome local literature professor joins her.

Critic Quote: The Write Escape made me feel like I was vacationing with Antonia and Aiden as they sensually explored the countryside: the smell of peat fire; the roughness of a nubby sweater; windy storms outside a warm cottage; the sounds of a small town pub where old men sing shanties. Their journey to become more confident versions of themselves was mostly satisfying, and involved surprisingly thoughtful discussions about American and Irish books and music. This was a great escapist read with a simplistic villain, but nuanced main characters.” –Smart Bitches Trashy Books

My Verdict: Some iffy pacing and a leading man I had mixed feelings for (some things he did I’m still a bit upset about), but overall a fun, adorable read. I appreciated the dialogue as well as Antonia’s character and I’ll definitely be on the look out for other books by Reid.

Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World by Kumari Jayawardena

Many people in the Third World are not aware that their countries have a history of active feminism, or of early movements for women’s emancipation, that were supported both by women and men reformers.

Short Description: A series of short histories on the coinciding rise of nationalism during pre and post-colonial Middle-eastern and Asian countries (and Egypt) and how anti-imperialist and feminist revolutions intertwined during these time periods. 

Critic Quote: “More than three decades after it first came out, the book remains the best introduction to the history of women’s movements in Turkey, Egypt, Iran, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan. It takes us into the lives and ideas of a host of women and men who sought reform and revolutionary transformation. Their stories leap from the page.” –The Guardian

My Verdict: Literally one of my favorite books on global feminisms ever . . . it took me over a year to read but only because it’s so dense with valuable information. I highly encourage anyone interested in learning more about feminism in general to read this deeply informative text. Jayawardena’s language may not be flowery, but it’s easy to follow and efficient in relaying complex histories and politics.

A Song of Wraith and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

Even when my own mind is threatening to tear me apart, I fight. I struggle and I fail and I still fight, even when it seems pointless. That’s what you don’t understand about being human, and that’s why you can’t beat me.

Short Description: A poor immigrant boy and daring princess make deals with powerful supernatural forces to be reunited with the people they love at the cost of their lives and possibly their kingdom. 

Critic Quote: “High fantasy, epic worlds, spirits, magic, love, and murder—you couldn’t ask for a more entertaining novel. ” –The Children’s Book Review

My Verdict: It was okay! 3 stars mainly because it wasn’t my jam, but I’m sure it will be someone else’s. Brown really goes all out on world-building and mythology in this fantasy — that was this book’s greatest strength. Still, this was a very slow book and I never felt a giant push to finish it. I found it hard to care for any of the characters (I also found some of the plot twists to be a bit obvious). For this reason, though I’m happy this book is getting attention and praise, I, personally, won’t be finishing the series. 

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

It’s easy to become anything you wish . . . so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.

Short Description: A short comic detailing three interconnected stories of the mythical Monkey King, the misadventures of a racist Chinese caricature, and a young Chinese boy attempting to fit in his predominantly white school.

Critic Quote: “This story’s clear, concise lines and expert coloring are deceptively simple yet expressive. Even when Yang slips in an occasional Chinese ideogram or myth, the sentiments he’s depicting need no translation. Yang accomplishes the remarkable feat of practicing what he preaches with this book: accept who you are and you’ll already have reached out to others. .” –Publisher’s Weekly

My Verdict: Really enjoyed reading this! I would have preferred a longer story though (to really expand on Jin’s life), which could have helped in easing the reader into the fantastical twist towards the end.

Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods by Tishani Doshi

Tell me: was it necessary to bite that girl 

in school when all she was being 

is friendly? And why in life’s tough 

moments did I need to just lie down? 

What does that say about decency? 

Short Description: A poetry book featured visually rich mediations on women. 

Critic Quote: “ It’s impossible not to cheer the boldness and liberation enacted by much of this book, and to be stirred by its bravery. To paraphrase one interviewer, Doshi is writing the anthems of her generation.” –The Guardian

My Verdict: Some beautiful pieces in here, even if the entire collection isn’t my favorite. Definitely recommend for those looking for something new!

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Papi was a man split in two, playing a game against himself. But the problem with that is that in order to win, you also always lose.

Short Description: Two half-sisters become aware of each others’ existence when they receive news of the death of their father during a plane crash, spurring both into complicated stages of grief and a desire to meet each other. 

Critic Quote: “Heartfelt and raw, Acevedo’s verse is deft at sifting through the complicated emotions that arise in the wake of great loss, and particularly poignant in those moments when it is not afraid to linger on the characters’ imperfections. A powerful and vibrant work that will leave you thinking long after you’ve put it down.” –Latino Book Review

My Verdict: I really enjoyed this story and it may be my favorite from Acedevo yet. She artfully expresses the complicated grief of these girls through precise word choices in her poetry, creating a deeply moving piece. This being said, like many others, I often found Yahaira and Camino’s voices somewhat similar and wished to know other facets of the girls’ lives to better know their distinct characters. 

Full Review HERE

By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery

Visit and get whatever it is you need. But then, after that, you come back. You come back here and plant your roots in this ground as deep as they’ll go.

Short Description: A college freshman must reconcile with leaving his home and his bee aviary while pursuing an old love and fighting against gentrification. 

Critic Quote: “Heart-wrenchingly honest, fans of Brandy Colbert and Nicola Yoon will anticipate this poignant reflection on what it means to choose yourself.” –YA Book Central

My Verdict: Not a bad book, just not my jam. Consider your own tastes before picking up this YA Contemporary novel.

Full Review HERE

Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat

I go to them now as though it was always meant to be, as though the very day that my mother birthed me, she had chosen me to live life eternal, among the children of the deep blue sea, those who have escaped the chains of slavery to form a world beneath the heavens and the blood-drenched earth where you live.

Short Description: A collection of loosely connected stories centered on Haitian women through history in Haiti and the USA.

Critic Quote: “As we become familiar with Danticat’s characters, moved and pained by the seemingly increasing distance between their hopes and their lived reality, we are forced to realize that it is the actions of other humans that have created such painful experiences.  Not all of Danticat’s characters survive; in fact, many do not.  But what continues to remain is the spirit of hope, the determination to hold on to what it really means to be Haitian, even after one has escaped to the United States.” –Teaching Latin America Through Literature

My Verdict: An excellent collection of short stories – each was was powerful and memorable in their own right. I will be eagerly reading more of Danticat’s writing in the future and highly recommend this book to others.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

She’d pressed all her fantasies like dried flowers in books, carefully hidden where neither Martín nor Cirilo would see them. Rarely, late at night, had she allowed herself to contemplate them. If she’d declared them in a loud voice Casiopea would have let them take root inside her, and she could not have that. Instead, she polished them in secret, precious bits that they were, but bits and not wholes.

Short Description: A poor, practical young woman accidentally frees a powerful Mayan deity and must join him on a mythical quest through 1920s Mexico to reclaim his throne in the underworld. 

Critic Quote: Gods of Jade and Shadow does not offer easy or simple answers. It dazzles, instead, showing the reader a world that seems entirely inevitable, a Mexico of the 1920s that would naturally be infused with Precolumbian magic — a magic which evolves and changes with colonization and modernity, and is as current, vital, and strange as any more expected mythological underpinning for a story about figuring out how to be a woman, a free spirit, and an ethical person in a rapidly changing world. It is effervescent and surprising.” –NPR

My Verdict: Though I sometimes felt the amount of description weighed down the novel a bit, overall this was a wonderfully told story – lush, romantic, and (especially the final third of the novel) exciting. I loved how Mayan mythology was centered and the strength of Casiopea. A great, memorable tale.

The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan

She forced herself to stare back at him, forced her heart to beat at a steady pace, unaffected by the dark glitter of his eyes. He had no impact on her. He was the kind of man who could draw a response from a rock—but then, Violet was colder than rock. She had to be.

Short Description: Sebastian is a renowned rake and scientist within regency England, however, he’s secretly sourcing all his ideas from his childhood friend, the stone-cold widowed Violet. When he refuses to spread her ideas any longer, Violet must decide if she is ready to come public with her scientific prowess and ready to admit her feelings for Sebastian.

Critic Quote: The Countess Conspiracy is a beautifully constructed love story with vivid language and memorable characters which explores themes of family, women’s roles in society and the importance and validity of science.” –Smart Bitches Trashy Books

My Verdict: Some iffy pacing and unbelievable directness in characters’ emotional expressions – but overall a lovely read with character complexity.

Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura

It’s sad, but in society, there are lots of people who judge others based on their appearance. 

Short Description: Young adult Tsukimi finds a nerdy community with her fellow “nuns” in Tokyo, only to have her idyllic routine shaken up with the forceful introduction of a mysterious stylish girl who changes the course of her life forever.

Critic Quote: “At its heart, Akiko Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish (Kuragehime) celebrates the power of not fitting in and the joy of being yourself.” –Women Write About Comics

My Verdict: I loved the anime and this manga is equally worthy of praise. The art, characters, and pacing is excellent and the storyline is quite unique.

Umami by Laia Jufresa

Nobody warns you aobut this, but the dead, or at least some of them, take customs, decades, whole neighborhoods with them. Things you thought you shared but which turn out to be theirs. 

Short Description: A collection of vignettes following the grieving residents of a small apartment complex in Mexico.

Critic Quote: “Jufresa and Hughes offer a version [of grief] that is complex without weight, a saffron purée. Dynamic and delicate, Umami draws our attention without pretense.” –The Rumpus

My Verdict: A fantastic look at grief through numerous perspectives (all of which are well structured, in my opinion), though I did get a bit bored halfway through due to some repetitiveness. It’s short though, so I’d still recommend it!

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

The two of us back then, mother and daughter, we were ourselves an experiment. The question was, and has remained: Are we going to be okay?

Short Description: The story of a young Ghanian neuroscientist grieving the loss of her brother, the depression of her mother, and her complicated feelings on religion.

Critic Quote: “This is a quiet, ruminative story, proceeding through its ideas as carefully and deliberately as cautious Gifty proceeds when she makes her way through an experiment. Its intensity crept up on me slowly . . .” –VOX

My Verdict: Well-written, but simply not for me. If mediations on religion and science sound interesting to you then perhaps pick this one up!

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