I think this year is seeing me giving series a chance. April was an EXCELLENT reading month! Pretty much everything I read except for one book were top quality. April was also the month I've read the most books, ever. Check it out👇
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (Dread Nation #1)
Zombies, post independent America, the wild west, black diversity, Natives, antebellum aesthetic, and old American English. This book had so much that interested me when it comes to thinking of American history.
Though this book is fictional, the setting takes place in a very real time period of America's history, the late 1800s - where blacks were still fighting to be treated as humans, where Native Americans were not yet extinguished, and where the hope for an ideal America was already crumbling. This book is deep if we think about the current state of America today, and realize that fairness and justice have been a struggle since a long time ago.
Our main character is a mixed race black girl who ends up in a combat school with other black girls, where they are taught how to fight the dead, to essentially protect the upper crust of society - whites. A lot of politics and messed up decisions find our girl at what seems like a prospective settlement, which is really a false promise of a world without a solid foundation.
Things take a turn for the worst when the leaders of this settlement have their own agendas, causing them to miss loopholes in their plan that involves the zombies posing a threat. Our girl has to save the day essentially, while figuring out why this promising town is actually a failure before it truly takes off, while suppressing her rage at the injustices of racism, while fighting zombies that the town has attracted, while also wondering whether her mother is alive or not and how to get back to her.
One thing I loved about this book is how it gave us multiple black identities, how racism is different for darker skinned blacks than lighter ones, even those who were known to pass as whites. I liked how the black identity wasn't seen as just ONE solid thing, and we saw that through our main character, and other characters she interacted with.
This book is a ride, and I loved it. The sequel is out, and I will not spend any moment longer delaying on getting it.
Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland (Dread Nation #2)
This book is the follow up to Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. While I didn't adore it in the same way as I did its prequel, I still was committed to the story progression of the characters.
This book was more interesting as we got to read it from two different characters: the main character, and her best friend (enemies to friends trope). It was interesting to read the different perspectives and see how our main character went to the negative extreme end of humanity, while the other tried to stay more positive, both in the hopes of survival. Friendships are one of my favourite relationships drawn out in books, and this series definitely succeeded in that.
This book was more cowboy/western heavy, which I loved. I appreciated the people Ireland portrayed - giving them identities and voices - during a period in US history where people of colour seem to have been erased.
I do wish we got to hear more from other characters, and there was one revenge plot that didn't fully satisfy me, but anyway, our girls saved the day, so that's what counts I guess. It also felt unnecessarily too long - I was just about getting itchy for it to end.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
This is a sci-fi story set in the future where a girl, Binti, is heading to university and boards a ship which becomes infiltrated by an alien species and kills all the passengers except her. They seem to be unsure of Binti, who is from an inferior people group, and is resistant to their attacks. They eventually get to the university where they retrieve an item that was stolen from them, then leave Binti and one of their own there.
That's all I got. 🤷♀️
I was a bit bored with this book. It didn't leave an impression on me. Being less than 100 pages, though, I was speculative that it would grip me in the way many short books have in the past. BUT, it is a series, and I'm willing to give the second book a chance just to see where it heads.
The Housemaid by Amma Darko
This book. Wooo child.
It may be the best book I've read this year, honestly. It was such a great, fun, effortless read AND it was only 108 pages - just the way I like my African lit. Honestly, I picked it up on a whim because of the title. Then I read the first sentence of the book:
"In Ghana, if you come into the world a she, acquire the habit of praying. And master it."
I was hooooooked.
Darko has a way of writing where reading seems so easy, though, not too easy, in the sense that there are various underlying messages. She is also a master of dialogue that feels so realistic and common.
This book really explores the struggles that many African women go through, regardless of status, and how their fates are almost already set out for them no matter how much they try and create a path for themselves. It's very telling of the desperation women have in trying to get more for themselves and a lot of the detriment that they've been used to tolerating.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
The story about a girl who knows loneliness too well and the achievement of having a fulfilling life with the help of nature.
A "white trash" girl whose family abandons her learns to take care of herself by living off of the marsh land. She's an outcast in the town she lives in, and so recluses from human contact, except for a few people.
As she grows up, she learns about people through what she witnesses in nature as well as how people treat her. There's also a murder trial that she is involved in that really shows us as the reader the assumptions and prejudices people make, and how detrimental they can be to such an individual and society.
This book is amazing for its depictions and appreciation of nature. The writing is beautiful and lovely. The only thing I didn't like was how the murder aspect had a very unsatisfactory conclusion.
Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi
I don't even know where to begin with this book.
This book is just an experience that can only be discussed about once read.
The book begins with a psychiatrist who wishes to interview a woman on death row named Firdaus. Firdaus initially refuses to meet with the psychiatrist, but right before she is sentenced, she narrates to the psychiatrist and us, her life's story.
Her story is one of loneliness and the hard lies she came to realize about life, yet still choosing to fight for her honour no matter how unpleasant it appeared. Her character is so remarkable that I became an admirer of women everywhere.
This could be a depressing book and an anti-male one as well, but I think the point of the book is not to depress us, but to ask ourselves what we teach girls/women that devalue and delude them into the lives they set out to live. And also to realize that there are hoards of women, mosty in patriarchal societies, who have zero hope for themselves, because of the hand life has dealt them.
I like this passage where Firdaus is talking of all kinds of women being trapped to the confines of men. Whether you're a wife, which may seem like the ultimate accolade of womanhood in a patriarchal society, compared to the opposite shame of prostitution:
I knew that my profession had been invented by men, and that men were in control of both our worlds, the one on earth, and the one in heaven. That men force women to sell their bodies at a price, and that the lowest paid body is that of a wife. All women are prostitutes of one kind or another. Because I was intelligent I preferred to be a free prostitute, rather than an enslaved wife.
This book goes into a lot more deeper narratives for conversations regarding feminism, women empowerment, and self worth. It's beautifully written - honestly, it felt like poetry, almost mystical-like too. There are too many beautiful sentences written in this short and sweet book. I feel like I have to read it more than once to truly appreciate the nuanced messages within it.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
I'm so excited about the books I got to read during April. They kept me turning the pages in a hurry, attentive at most times, and asking myself deeper questions.
One of the books that did all of this for me was Aravind Adiga's White Tiger. Dare I say this is the best book I've read in a while (sorry Amma Darko!).
This author is a genius. The pacing = perfect, to the point I didn't even notice that I was nearing the end. The language and voice = perfect. Not too obnoxious, not too wordy with many words I needed to look up, yet not lazy at all.
This author is a writer's writer. There were so many rich and clever lines in this book. The book was too smooth, I enjoyed reading it so much, I know for sure I'll definitely be reading it again in the future. The way he portrays and brings to life the worlds of the rich and poor in India is quite admirable and hilarious at the same time.
The premise is of a naive personal driver from a poor background in India who learns the hard truths of the future his society has already set out for him. He refuses to give into this future and decides to take his life into his own hands. The sad and dark part of the novel is, to break out of systemic poverty, he has to risk a lot and adopt a corrupt and depraved mindset. Told is the story of how he achieved that.
This book is ugly, and although there's a lot of humour that makes it readable, it represents the tolerance many societies have come to have for their messed up countries - a true picture of a system that keeps its people paying the price for a mere living, over and over again.
I'm still thinking about this book, just because of how accurate it was in so many ways especially to Kenya.