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July Reads

African Americans in the building!

I didn't purpose to solely read African American authors this month, but it just happened randomly that I did.

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

I had this book on a list of books to buy, and I'm so glad I walked into a library and saw it available on the shelf.

This book has had a lot of hype on youtube, and the premise sounded interesting so I wanted to check it out.

Our main character finds herself accused of stealing the girl she babysits, and the story goes on from there.

Now, I'm not usually a fan of "race" books, because I find the message is usually the same: racism is bad. But this book was different. It didn't have an answer to "solve" racism, it didn't even show racism in a black and white way (pun intended). It represented race relations in everyday scenarios where people might not even realize they are taking part in a racist exchange. It was so complicated and non one dimensional, which is something that kept my attention.

The story itself is super fun and entertaining. As a girl in my twenties I found this character super relatable, especially when it comes to finding what one's purpose is. Here's a quote as an example:

Emira didn't love doing anything, but she didn't terribly mind doing anything either.

This book has interesting characters. I wasn't crazy about the writing; found it clunky at times. But it was a sweet, adult coming-of-age novel, definitely worth checking out.


Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

This is an African American classic that I've been wanting to read for a long time. I've never read Zora Neale Hurston before, so this experience was such an insightful one. Again, this book does feature race as a theme, though it's not the center of the story.

This story read as a coming-of-age story, in the sense that our main character grows to become fully aware of her worth. This is a big deal because of the time period, her family history, her sex, her poverty, her lack of education, her innocence, her race, which are all supposed to hold someone like her back. There are so many themes, messages, hidden meanings in this book which would make for a wonderful book discussion.

The story takes place in the early 1900s, and the language is written in African American vernacular of that time. At first I thought I would struggle with reading it, but it grew on me, and I found myself reading through it pretty seamlessly. I think this is an art, because I've read some other books written in certain English vernacular that didn't read as smooth for me. Hurston also uses 3 different voices: the narrator's, the main character's, and hers at some points.

This book a classic piece of literature, one that I'd love to read again.


Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

I have mixed feelings about this book.

I love the language used, the setting, and the situations our main character finds himself in. However, I didn't find the writing very consistent. Sometimes I felt the author was trying to do too much in a short amount of time, or making scenarios way too extreme that I became unconvinced of his end result. At times I felt like I was reading separate stories with our main character rotating around a new cast of characters. But still, this book was a fun and insightful read.

Like all these books I read this month, the main theme is race. What makes it different is that our setting is in modern day New York, with a young local mixed race New Yorker who gets a job that changes his basic, regular broke life into one that many would be envious of. As he becomes successful, he loses his way and forgets his old life, until tragedy happens, and he tries to take advantage of his situation and give back to those who have been marginalised in middle America.

There's a lot Askaripour presents to us in this book, especially in the aspect of non-white American youth, and their reality on how difficult it is to get a leg up in their own society.

I found the racism a bit too far fetched at times, but I suspect it part of the satire Askaripour intended.


Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

I have a mixed relationship with Octavia. I don't care much for her dry writing, but I love how deep she goes in exploring the human condition through extreme scenarios.

This is the second book of hers I've read, and it sort of feels the same as The Parable of the Sower, in terms of writing and characters: very unpretentious, too the point, and impassive. This could be read as boring at times, but Butler does a good job at making a point, albeit hidden throughout this type of writing. There's not a whole lot of action, either, but by the time I come to the end of her stories, I am full of opinions, insights, and thoughts that I feel I need to voice out loud.

This book is about Dana, who timetravels back to antebellum US from the 1980s. This time travel ability is connected to the son of a slave owner whenever he is in danger. This connection raises a lot of conflict as this son ends up inheriting his father's role, and doesn't change for the better despite Dana's hopes. He causes a lot of friction, and it doesn't help that Dana has a biological connection to him as well.

Furthermore, each time she travels, she is considered a slave and must play the role of one. I think that was what drew me to this book the most, because Butler DOES NOT HOLD BACK on the experiences Dana goes through. As the book kept progressing, the tension kept increasing, causing me to be on my seat the whole time wondering what else would go wrong.

This book is rough and explores racism in US history in a way that forces us to consider the faces and lives of those individuals who seem to be forgotten as time moves on to more modern times.


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