How It Feels to Read As An Empath

Sunday Chat: How It feels to Read As An Empath

Banner by @Introvert Interrupted

The Sunday Post is hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer and Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb @Readerbuzz. Check their pages out for more information about these bookish memes!

Good Morning from my little corner of the Bookternet, peeps! I hope your weekend went well!

It’s looking like my reading slump is finally gone. I’ve finished two books and am slowly but surely finishing The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers.

For those of you who’ve been reading my WWW Wednesday posts, you’ve probably heard me mention Jeffers’ books more than a handful of times since August. Coming in at a whopping 816 pages, Jeffers’ book is an emotional and soul shattering family saga. 

In The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois, Jeffers tells the story of Ailey Pearl Garfield as she attempts to find her place in the world and combat the pain of surviving sexual abuse while she attempts to form her own identity as she honors the stories of her family’s past. It was an Oprah Book Club pick, which should instantly give you an idea of the emotional turmoil a reader could experience if they decide to pick up The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois.

For the average reader, this type of emotional book wouldn’t be so bad. However, I am an empath, which means that while the character is going through it, so am I.

An empath is a person highly attuned to the feelings and emotions of those around them. Their ability to discern what others are feeling goes beyond empathy (defined simply as the ability to understand the feelings of others) and extends to actually taking those feelings on; feeling what another person is feeling at a deep emotional level. 

- "What Is an Empath and How Do You Know If You Are One?"
By Leah Campbell

What is an empath?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with what being an empath is, it basically means that a person is “highly attuned to the feelings and emotions of those around them.” If they aren’t careful, empaths can take on the feelings of others and become deeply emotional because of what they feel others experiencing.

Scientists are torn if this “mirroring” actually occurs. However, the brain holds what is known as “mirror neurons,” which could help humans mirror the emotions of people they come in contact with. And it’s suggested that some of us have more mirror neurons than others.

Imagine walking through the world experiencing secondhand embarrassment, the frustrations of others, and also their successes, and you’ll essentially get the gist of what being an empath is.

For me, my empathic abilities come alive in the form of a profound feeling of intuition and when I’m reading or watching any form of television. I detest watching the news and going into stores and crowds because of all of the emotions that I feel rolling off other people. But, on the other hand, there’s no feeling that comes close to the contact high that comes with holidays, like Valentine’s Day and Christmas, where people are full of positive energy and uninhibited joy.

               Are you an empath?  

What does this have to do with reading?

Twitter post from @LitSplaining

As a reader, though, finishing heavy books can be a struggle. The usual feelings that come with reading a book that researchers attribute to building up emotional intelligence are amped up 1000% for me. When I read, I find myself experiencing what the characters are going through, no matter how small or big it may be, as if it were my own pain and trauma. 

The “reflection” period that other readers go through as they read, where they connect to the text seeing characters’ emotions and actions at a distance, is intensified for me as an empath. I feel as if I’ve been written into the story and am on an emotional rollercoaster embarking on a chaotic journey with the characters.

Even though I know that experiencing these narrative and aesthetic feelings are a part of what an author sets out to do with their writing, being drawn in as an empath sometimes feels like being bombarded from all sides – real and imagined.

How I cope with being an empathic reader

This wouldn’t be so bad if I weren’t reading books, like The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois, where Ailey’s family’s traumas are essential to the narrative and heavily drawn out. But, while I am a reader, I’m also going through my day-to-day life and experiencing empathic encounters IRL that require me to be present and in the moment. 

Because of this, pacing myself while I’m reading is essential.

If I try to read a book that has too many heavy topics at once, I’ll end up going into a reading slump. A slump is also inevitable if I try to draw out reading these books for too long.  

To combat this, I always try to be aware of how I feel as I read.

If you’ve been following me as I read The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois on Twitter, you know Jeffers has taken me through it as I’ve been reading this book. I’ve shed tears, grown angry with the book’s main protagonist, and just had to close the book and walk away from it altogether. 

Acknowledging and honoring my emotions throughout the reading process keeps me connected to the story but firmly rooted in reality as an empath. Posting Twitter threads for heavy books is especially helpful on this front. 

I’d also recommend pairing a heavy book with one that’s light or funny to help ground you if you’re an empath.

My last reading slump was harsh since I tried to read Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James with Jeffers’ book. These two dramatic books threw me for a loop. And that caused me to hit an instant slump. I’m now pairing The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois with a YA romance book to help ease the heavy emotions that come with Jeffers’ book.

Having these simple steps helps me mitigate adverse side effects that can come from reading and being an empath.

Reading will always be a hobby I’m passionate about, even when my empathic nature causes me to relate and interact with books differently.

            If you're an empath, how do you cope?

Thanks for stopping by for today’s Sunday chat!

If you’ve got any tips on how to cope with reading heavy tips or just want to share what you’re reading, leave a comment below.

As always, please don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe! #AllOfTheThings

Happy Reading!❤️📚

WWW Wednesday – The One That’s Really Short 

Happy Wednesday, bookish peeps! 

It’s time for my weekly reading check-in. 

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words and ask readers to answer the following questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

This week’s wrap-up is another short one, thanks to homework and projects.

What did you read last?

I think I’m finally out of my reading slump! 

Last week I finished Mona at Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James, and am I’m still working on a review of Mona at Sea

What are you currently reading?

I’m almost 87% done with The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. But Jeffers book is taking me through it! 

I haven’t felt this emotionally spent by a book in a long while. The last time I felt this frustrated, angry, and all together disgusted by the treatment of a character and their choices, I was reading Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Like Jones, Jeffers’ characters make me want to scream at them through the pages of her book. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been ready to hop into The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois and shake Ailey, the story’s main character, and her relatives for making the wrong choices. 

While I love Jeffers’ book, I will say there are heavy topics at play in Jeffers’ book.

The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois tackles everything from racism, Black womanhood, addiction, the perils and abuse of American Chattel Slavery, and sexual abuse through Ailey’s maternal bloodline. 

If you’re not a reader who likes to follow multiple plot points, The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois may not be for you. I’ve been live-tweeting my reading experience on my Twitter account if you want to see my unfiltered thoughts on Jeffers.

In addition to Jeffers’ book, I’m still reading Portrait of A Scotsman by Evie Dunmore and I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest. I’m also hoping to get Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune off of Scribd at the start of October.

What will you read next?

I’m a mood reader, so I don’t really plan what’s next.

              What are you reading now?

But I’ve got a few cool books on my TBR List if you want to check my previous post out to see what books I’m prioritizing.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you like, comment, and subscribe. #AllOfTheThings

Happy reading!

Books That Got Me Through My 20s (Pt. 2)

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Happy Tuesday!

This week’s Top Ten list is a freebie, and I’m focusing on my top books from my 20s.

In April, I turned 30 and published the first part of the list about what books “got me through” my 20s. That list was mainly about the “fun times.” 

Checkout the first part of the list here and my playlist over on Spotify for my favorite songs from my 20s. 

This second part covers the years I was a caretaker for my grandmother and father when they fell ill in the latter part of my 20s. 

The Lost Years

"The Lost Years" - Books That I Read While Care Taking (Pt. 1)

-The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri 
-5 to 1 by Holly Bodger 
-A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
-Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will always remind me of the road trip I took to get home after grad school with my mom and two strangers in the middle of a tornado when Southwest dumped us in Branson, Missouri. This road trip was unplanned and was so bananas, every time I look at my worn copy of Americanah, I think about that wild ride and the grace of God that kept us from being blown away like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz during that storm. 

You can check out my old post about it and my review of Adichie’s book here to read the whole story.

After graduate school, I spent a lot of time drifting while trying to adjust to life outside of school and to have to help take care of my grandmother and father. While I had always seen my mother taking care of one of my loved ones, I never realized just how much went into caring for people who were ill as a caretaker.

Dealing with the stress of caretaking is what led me to the Bookternet.

When the Bookternet was young and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Movement was starting out in 2014, I was one of the leaders of a book club on Goodreads called The Writers of Color Book. The primary purpose of the WCBC was to get people on BookTube and elsewhere focused on reading diverse authors that weren’t cookie-cutter selections.

One of my favorite books from the WCBC’s reading list was A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Ozeki’s book follows three different timelines: Nao, a sixteen-year-old Japanese teen who her peers are mercilessly bullying, Nao’s grandmother, a hundred-year-old Buddhist nun, and Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island in the Pacific that’s just retrieved a Hello Kitty lunchbox after the 2011 Japanese tsunami and earthquake that killed over 20,000 people. Ozeki’s work shines in the way that it tells such a visceral and heartbreaking story

Almost a decade later, I’m still thinking about A Tale For the Time Being because of the way it reminded me during my caretaking years that death is inevitable. But, the way you live your life determines how you’ll be remembered. 

After graduate school, I spent a lot of time drifting while trying to adjust to life outside of school and to have to help take care of my grandmother and father. While I had always seen my mother taking care of one of my loved ones, I never realized just how much went into caring for people who were ill as a caretaker. 

Dealing with the stress of caretaking is what led me to the Bookternet.

My favorite author during my 20s were Jhumpa LahiriThe Namesake is one of my favorite books of all time and the first book I ever did a live show for on YouTube. My favorite short story collection was The Interpreter of Maladies, which was also another WCBC pick. 

When I was on night watch with my grandmother and father or going to appointments, I would read short stories to pass the time in the waiting room or until the sun came up. 

Outside of Alice Walker, Jhumpa Lahiri has to be one of my favorite short stories writers for her to do with just a few pages. Walker and Lahiri get to the crux of the matter in mere lines when other authors use up hundreds of pages to tell a story. I highly recommend these authors’ short story collections.

5 to 1 by Holly Bodger was the first book I ever photographed on Bookstagram.

For the most part, Bodger’s book was a leftover read from the YA Dystopian era takeover. However, at the time, I remember thinking about how interesting the plot was from other books in the genre.

In 5 to 1, women choose their husbands from five men who vie for their attention in a trial of the woman’s choosing. Bodger tells The Handmaid’s Tale writing about a matriarchal society with the men being hunted if they dare run away from their wives.

"The Lost Years" - Books That I Read While Care Taking (Pt. 2)

-The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
-The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker
-The Bees by Laline Paull

My first audiobooks were The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker, and The Bees by Laline Paull. And as intricate as each of these three books was with their cast of characters, I loved them for keeping me company during this time in my life.

The Night Circus was probably the best possible choice to start my love of audiobooks alongside The Golem and the Jinni because of how imaginative both books were. The Night Circus covers a fierce battle between two young magicians, Celia and Marco. These magicians are given the task by their teachers of dueling each other by creating wondrous feats at Le Cirque des Rêves, a continuous night circus that runs throughout the book.

The Bees was equal parts whimsical and sad as Paull told the anthropomorphic tale of Flora 717, a sanitation bee in a hive where the Queen bee is ill. Flora 717 is a bee with unique talents that none of her kin share. Due to this, she’s seen as a threat to her beloved Queen, to who she only wants to dedicate her life.

Like The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker, who I’ve interviewed and reviewed on my blog, Paull and Morgenstern’s books helped get me through long waits at doctor’s offices, and hospital stays when caretaking. These books taught me that even in those dark moments when everything looks bleak, the sun eventually comes out, and you live to fight another day.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

When Life Gives You Lemons…: Books I Read While Coping With Death

-The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
-Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat

Sometimes the sun does not shine how you want it to. There are no television miracles or solemn moments where your loved one pops back up for a last “hoorah.” 

Sometimes the doctor comes in and tells you the person is in a coma, and you have to say your goodbyes while praying all along that maybe God will do you this solid just this one time even though you know it’d be better for your loved ones not to suffer anymore. 

When that moment came for me in my late 20s, I wasn’t ready. But, The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat eased the blows. Both memoirs talk about death and the changes that come with growing up in such a beautiful way. I cried while reading each, and whenever I look at my copies, I remember the time I had to say goodbye to my grandmother and father.

Favorite Books of the Decades

My Favorite Books of the Decades

These last few books are stories that connect to events and memories in my 20s that I hold dear.

The first advanced reader copy I ever received was All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor. Taylor’s Logan Family Saga is a series I’ve been reading since I was a little girl, and I reread all ten books, including the novellas, in order every few years from start to finish to recapture some of that magic. It’s the best book, in my opinion, for you to read if you want an authentic glimpse of the African-American experience in America.

I’m on a personal mission to see all of August Wilson’s Century Cycle performed in person. Fences, the sixth book in the Cycle, was the first play I saw performed live in the West End while studying abroad. Like the Logan Family Saga, Wilson’s Century Cycle is required reading for anyone who wants to peek behind the veil of the African-American heritage.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz and The Namesake were WCBC picks that introduced me to amazing authors who used language in unique and breathtaking ways. Díaz, in particular, had me thinking about how closely language mirrors traditions and is used by Black, Indigenous, and other writers of color to tell our stories and preserve our histories.

Based on where I read them, two books that stand out are The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

I read Moore’s book while looking after my father when he first got his diagnosis on our front porch. Moore’s whimsical story gave me laughter when I needed it the most. And Acevedo’s story kept me company when my mother and I took our first solo trip without my father to Atlanta the Winter after he died. Acevedo’s novel of confronting pain through poetry brought me comfort when I felt anything but.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith was the first classic that I truly loved. After years of reading, I never felt any connection to the classical novels in the white American canon. But, Smith’s book so clearly lays down how it feels to fall in love with reading, I instantly fell in love. 

Timebound by Rysa Walker was one of the first books that taught me to love e-books. Walker’s Chronos Files is a YA time-traveling series is one I devoured in almost a week after saying I would never read with an e-reader. If you’re a fan of Marvel’s current phase about the multiverse, this indie Kindle original may interest you.

What are the books that got you through your last decade?

Comment below and tell me some books that got you through your last decade!

As always, please don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe. #AllOfTheThings

WWW Wednesday – The One Where I Had Homework To Do

Thank you to Book Sparks and LibroFM for my ARC and ALC of Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James and PRH Audio for my ALC of Portrait of A Scotsman.

Greetings, bookworms! We made it to Wednesday, which means it’s time for my weekly check-in for what I’ve been reading on this wonderful WWW Wednesday. 

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words and ask readers to answer the following questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

This week’s wrap-up is going to be shorter than my other ones since I’m supposed to be prepping for a presentation in one of my MLIS courses. 

*Fingers crossed 🤞🏿 I do well!*

What did you read last?

Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James

I’m still working through my books from last week. But, by the time you read this, I’ll have finished the last forty minutes of the audiobook from Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James.

Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James book cover

If you’re not familiar with this title, check out last week’s #BookishMeme post to hear more about it and other books I received as a Book Sparks Ambassador, or you can click the photo to your left.

So far, I’m enjoying Mona At Sea. I would recommend it for anyone who loves a “coming of age” story and characters who have just enough snark in them to keep you laughing and rethinking how you see the world. Fair warning, though, there are mentions of self-harm and body dysmorphia that can be triggering to some readers if they go into the book unaware.

What are you currently reading?

While I’m super close to finishing Mona At Sea, I’m still trying to stave off residual “slump” feelings. So, all my decisions about reading are still preliminary at best.

I’ve been jumping in and out of Portrait of A Scotsman by Evie Dunmore, and I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest, and my favorite doorstopper, The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

However, TJ Klune’s newest book, Under the Whispering Door, just came out, and I’ve been excited to read it all summer. The House in the Cerulean Sea has been one of my favorite books since last year. You can read my review of it here.

What will you read next?

At this point, I’m at the mercy of my reading slump to decide what I’ll read next. 

If you have any good recommendations, I’d love to hear about them since my TBR List is forever growing! 

Drop them in the comment section below and tell me what you’re currently reading!

If you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you like, comment, and subscribe. #AllOfTheThings

Happy reading!

My Favorite 2021 Emmy Outfits as Books – #BookishMemes 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

How it works:

She assigns each Tuesday a topic and then posts her top ten list that fits that topic. You’re more than welcome to join her and create your own top ten (or 2, 5, 20, etc.) list as well. Feel free to put a unique spin on the topic to make it work for you! Please link back to That Artsy Reader Girl in your own post so that others know where to find more information.

Happy Tuesday, bookish peeps!

I didn’t come to you on Sunday for our weekly chat thanks to recovering from being ill, trying to finish my weekly homework, and keeping one eye on the Emmy’s.

This may sound strange, but after the disaster that was 2020, I honestly felt as if American television got some of the best screenwriting and acting that I’ve seen in a long time. So, I was looking forward to the Emmy’s this year.

I had so many hopeful wins for the awards, but fate had other plans.

To hold on to the Television and “Red Carpet” Magic a little longer, I put together a possibility pile for my Fall TBR list based on my favorite looks from the Emmy’s red carpet.

Have a peek!

Did you watch the Emmy’s? 

Nicole Byer

Host of “Nailed It!” and Comedian, writer, and actress, Nicole Byer, wore Christian Siriano and looked stunning from head to toe! This was by far my favorite look of the night.

Byer’s look has been paired with Fiebre Tropical by Juliana Delgado Lopera. Lopera’s novel recently won a Lambda Literary Award in 2021. This novel is a bildungsroman about a Columbian teenager uprooted from Bogotá to Miami and has a sexual awakening while also dealing with mental health issues and questioning her faith.

Olatunde Olateju Olaolorun “O-T” Fagbenle

Olatunde Olateju Olaolorun “O-T” Fagbenle, from “Handmaiden’s Tale,” wore my second favorite look of the night, a modernized traditional Nigerian agdaba in black and red making a bold statement with the simplicity of his look and the richness of the outfit’s color.

I paired Fagbenle’s outfit with Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark, a historical fiction horror novella that rewrites the history of the Ku Klux Klan, adding a supernatural twist. It’s perfect for the spooky season and giving a giant middle finger to racism. Clark’s novel is peppered with awards, such as the Locus and Nebula Award for Best Novella in 2021 and a nominee for the Hugo and Shirley Jackson Award in 2021 and 2020, respectively.

Taraji P. Henson

My favorite auntie in my head, Taraji P. Henson, wore a showstopping black & white sheer number from one of my favorite designers, Elie Saab.

To continue with the theme of the drama, her outfit has been paired with Fernanda Melchor’s cult favorite from the Bookternet, Hurricane Season. Melchor’s work was translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes. Equal parts mythology, horror story, and mystery, Melchor tackles how violence is visited on women’s bodies and how hate spreads in a community.

Awkwafina & Michaela Jaé “Mj” Rodriguez

The next two stars had my favorite color palettes of the night. Awkwafina looked stunning in her deep-V neck Turquoise Monique Lhuilier dress while presenting at the Emmys. Michaela Jaé “Mj” Rodriguez (who was robbed of her Lead Actress in a Drama Series) wowed in a one-shoulder light turquoise Atelier Versace dress.

I paired Awkwafina’s look with the memoir, The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh and MJ’s look with Island Queen by Vanessa Riley. Both books are high up on my TBR List and have breathtaking covers, just like these two women’s beautiful gowns.

Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that isn’t comfortable. I dare you — in a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to in turn feel the need to be constantly visible, for visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success — do not be afraid to disappear from it, from us for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence. ... I dedicate this story to every single survivor of sexual assault. - Michaela Coel, Acceptance Speech 

Michaela Coel

The win that I was most excited for outside of MJ’s category was Michaela Coel, who took home an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie. Not only did Coel star in the award-winning show I May Destroy You, but she also created, wrote, and co-directed this masterpiece.

I can’t even express how much care Coel and her cast and crew took with I May Destroy You. It tells the story of sexual trauma about a group of Millennial friends in the UK who are combatting the aftermath of being in sexual relationships that have left them scarred. Spanning a range of emotions, Coel’s limited series should be watched in small doses if you want to protect your feelings. This is like Marlon James’ first novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, which also has a rich and diverse cast of characters.

Winner of the 2015 Booker Prize and American Book Award, A Brief History of Seven Killings spans several decades from the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, in the 1970s to New York in the 1980s and back to Jamaica. Like Coel, James is a visionary and deserves all the accolades he’s been given. So, read this book pronto.

Jon Batiste & Leon Bridges 

Honestly, I’m really just here for the multi-talented musician Jon Batiste’s suit, which was custom-made and had images from the horrific 2005 storm, Hurricane Katrina, in a mosaic. This is a moment in history I’ll never forget as a resident of the Gulf states. 

Batiste and fellow musician Leon Bridges sang “River” as a part of the “In Memoriam” tribute at the Emmy’s. Bridges is one of my favorite singers because of the silkiness of his voice. Check out his new album, Gold-Diggers Sound!

To mirror Batiste’s suit, I chose a mosaic book cover of Jagua Nana by Cyprian Ekwensi. Ekwensi’s story speaks to the aging of the title character as she starts to enter her twilight years in Lagos even though she is still bent on having a good time.

Robin Thede

Robin Thede is the best part of HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show with her transformation from “homegirl” to a “zombie” to the being a member of a financially literate gang. Whatever her character, you best believe she keeps me laughing. Thede exchanged her comedic duds for this showstopping seafoam green Jason Wu dress.

Much like the newly released mystery Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia, Thede’s dress’ silhouette is giving me just a hint of drama while staying classic, and I adore it!

Dan Levy

Dan Levy’s royal blue Valentino Haute Couture suit made me stop and question where he was going in this ensemble. The lines! The draping! The color! Fashion-wise, Levy is giving a lot more than most of the men at the Emmy’s gave for me. So, he made this list by default. 

I also love that this cover so effortlessly matches Dream Country by Ashaye Brown. Brown’s story about the feuding siblings who also happen to be the gods of sleep, dreams, and nightmares is a top TBR pick for me. As we’ve already established, fantasy novels are my jam. But, Brown’s blend of Kenyan, Brazilian, Caribbean, and Grecian cultural references is just calling me to pick up this book sooner rather than later.

Yara Shahidi 

Yara Shahidi wore an emerald green Dior Haute Couture dress in a classic off-the-shoulder silhouette, and I lived! It’s rare, though, that her stylist, Jason Bolden, ever gets her looks wrong. Of course, because this look is so iconic and effortless, I had to pull a book off my shelves that could match it tit for tat. 

This book is Minutes Of Glory and Other Stories by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong ’o. Thiong’o is a master memoirist, novelist, and playwright from Kenya. This writer’s short story collection spans from “the period of British colonial rule and resistance in Kenya to the bittersweet experience of independence.” If you love getting a story in short bits that pack a punch, get this collection!\

Do you see any books or looks you like?

Don’t forget to comment, like, and subscribe! #AllOfTheThings

Certified Lover of Books – #BookishMemes

Thank you to @BookSparks for the following complimentary titles! I received the books below as an ambassador for the company’s #SRC2021 campaign.

This bookish meme was also inspired by @BlkGirlWithBook. You can visit her on Twitter here.

Happy Friday, book lovers!

The weekend is here, and I hope you all are gearing up for some rest and relaxation.

If you’re like me and had a doozy of a week, you may need a good book and a nice playlist to get you through the weekend. 

For me, my playlist is set with Drake’s newest album, Certified Lover Boy, and now, thanks to Book Sparks, so is my TBR List!

I started Mona at Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James yesterday while recovering from experiencing some Covid symptoms and am enjoying it so far. It hits different for me as a Millennial who hasn’t made anyone’s “30 under 30” list and went to college during those years immediately following the Recession of 2008. Mona’s snarkiness and biting wit at the way her post-college years is unfolding definitely is relatable to me.

The Marvelous Mirza Girls by Sheba Karim is another book from this list I’m looking forward to this weekend. Karim’s book reads like an episode of the Gilmore Girls set in New Delhi. As you all probably know by now, I adore banter in my books. Add the topic of traveling to that, and you have a perfect contemporary novel for me.

If you’re interested in participating in Book Sparks’ Fall Reading Challenge check their website out for more information here.

What will you be reading or listening to this weekend?

Books Pictured (from left to right)

Row 1:

Mona at Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James

Anna K Away by Jenny Lee

The Marvelous Mirza Girls by Sheba Karim

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz

Row 2:

Everyman by M Shelly Conner

The Checklist by Addie Woolridge

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

They’ll Never Catch Us by Jessica Goodman

Row 3:

The Show Girl by Nicola Harrison

Tell Me the Truth by Matthew Farrell

Flock by Kate Stewart 

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Don’t forget to tag me if you decide to do this meme tag!

Like, comment, and subscribe! #AllTheThings

The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch & The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner (#BookReview #WWWWednesday)

Happy Hump Day, bookworms! We made it to the halfway point of the week, which means it’s time for my weekly check-in for what I’ve been reading with a WWW Wednesday.

Today is special because it’s the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. So, shoutout to all my Latinx friends on the Bookternet!

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words and ask readers to answer the following questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

For the last few weeks, I’ve been in a miniature reading slump. I’ve started tons of books. But, haven’t had the desire to actually finish any of them. 

Because of that, I’m going to be talking about some older books I finished for what I read “last” and will share a few in my bookish queue for the ones I plan to read “next.”

What did you read last?

The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch is the first book I was able to finish from my slump.

I raved about Aaronovitch’s series two weeks ago in my last WWW Wednesday and have since purchased almost all of the books in the series secondhand.

My top requirement for fantasy novels is that they must have a top-notch cast of characters with loads of personality and a well thought out magical system/world-building. These things make it easier to sit through the chunkers that dominate this genre.

Aaronovitch’s series delivers on all fronts! 

From the setting of London to the characters, the author holds no punches (literally in the case of the villain) in this series opener. The book follows probationary constable Peter Grant, who meets the ghost, Mr. Punch, while staking out the scene of a mysteriously gruesome murder on a late-night assignment.

Up until then, Grant has lived an ordinary life up. So, getting thrust into the company of Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving “magic and other manifestations of the uncanny,” is a bit of a shock. What’s more, having dealings with gods and goddesses and the other creatures in Nightingale’s world keeps Grant on his toes.

There’s so much to love in Aaronovitch’s series.

Aaronovitch is one of the few white authors who seems to understand what it means to write characters of color in a way that gives them depth and brings them to life as human beings instead of to being caricatures. In Peter Grant, readers find an amateur detective who all most anyone can relate to if they’ve ever felt set adrift in life while everyone around them is succeeding.

The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Like most 20-something year old’s, Peter is trying to find his “thing.” Once a great science student, he has a knack for seeing the finer details in situations. Yet, he fails to grasp the bigger picture all too often, leaving him two steps behind the mass murderer who is terrorizing the citizens of London. This is the least of his worries because Father and Mama Thames are at war, and all hell is about to break lose if Grant can’t figure something out.

Even though The Rivers of London series takes place in modern-day London, the addition of magical beings and the supernatural adds a solid element of world-building to the mix. In this series opener, readers see Aaronovitch setting the stage using elements of world religions, such as the Yoruba’s Orishas and European Paganism, alongside magical spells that blend modern science with the uncanny. These all work well and make it the series’ setting believable that this “version” of London could exist counter to the world that readers may know.

In addition to excellent setting and character development, Aaronovitch’s series has really good dialogue and banter between the characters. This makes it a must for those who love audiobooks. Ghanaian-British actor, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who does a phenomenal job distinguishing each of the characters’ voices in The Rivers of London series.

If you’re a lover of Neil Gaiman or multi-layered books, read this book!

The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner

My second read is from my #Backlist TBR pile.

This book is called The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner.

The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner

While Zentner’s book has an extensive cast of characters and is rich in background lore about lobster fishing on a Canadian island, it falls short in every other department.

The drama of this novel is set around the Kings’ family, who live and fish for lobster on Loosewood Island. This story is through the eyes of Cordelia, the first female “lobster king” in her family, as she fights to be seen as the legitimate heir to her family’s empire. 

Zentner takes his cues from Shakespeare’s King Lear. However, he jumbles so much of the Bard’s original intention in his interpretation that I, as a reader, was left simultaneously under and overwhelmed.

For starters, the author has too many timelines happening at once

Cordelia, the main character of The Lobster Kings, bounces between being her present-day reality, her tumultuous childhood, a random side plot about an artist who lived on Loosewood Island in the past and who could’ve been one of her distant relatives, and a weird magical realist subplot about selkies. Cordelia’s character is monotonous in her narration. This means that even with things that might have been interesting, like the tortured artist and magical selkies subplots, it all becomes boring. 

Even extensive world-building doesn’t save Zentner’s book. Nor does the promise of feuding drug lords and Loosewood’s fishing community. 

At times, it feels like Zentner over seasoned The Lobster Kings by trying to be too literal with referencing his source material. 

Where Shakespeare understood how to meter out his gloomy and depressing story, Zetner leans too heavily into it and makes a mess. Topics, like death by suicide, death by drowning, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, infidelity, and animal violence, are rife in The Lobster Kings. It eventually got to a point where I found myself wondering what the point of any of this violence was. Furthermore, I wondered why Cordelia would even want to run the fishing empire when it seems to be mired in painful memories for her.

Needless to say, I didn’t love The Lobster Kings, and I can’t say I’d recommend this book at all.

What are you currently reading?

Portrait of A Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

I have a ton of current reads because of my reading slump. But, I’ve mainly been focusing on reading Portrait of A Scotsman by Evie Dunmore and I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest. Both books are from the romance genre, with one from the Regency era and the other being a contemporary romance.

Portrait of A Scotsman is the third in Dunmore’s A League of Extraordinary Women series. I’m currently taking a Women’s Studies course for my Master of Social Work degree, and we’ve gotten to the suffragette period in our module, so this read paired nicely with my lesson.

Dunmore’s book hinges on the “marriage of convenience” trope with two main characters from vastly different social standings who have paired together thanks to a breach in social etiquette. Hattie, a young artistic socialite with dyslexia, finds herself married off to the rich but scrappy Lucian as a tradeoff to help bolster her family’s wealth. Lucian, though rough around the edges, needs an “in” with polite society and settles on marriage to Hattie as a way to get revenge on the rich men who once terrorized his community in his youth. 

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

My favorite romance trope is the marriage of convenience novels, so I’m enjoying Portrait of A Scotsman so far.

I’m also enjoying the YA contemporary romance, I Wanna Be Where You Are. Similar to Dunmore’s book, the idea of “convenience” is present in this road trip-themed book. But, Forest also has elements of the “friend to lover” trope with her romance about Chloe, a teenage ballerina, and Eli, a budding artist, who are trying to beat the clock to get to North Carolina for an audition and college tour before they’re parents notice their gone.

Unfortunately, everything that could go wrong with these warring friends does go wrong. Nevertheless, Forest will keep you turning the page to find out what trouble her young pair and Eli’s dog, Geezer, get into.

What will you read next?

As a mood reader, I can’t say what I’ll read next.

Drop down below and tell me what you’re reading! 
And like, comment, and subscribe. #AllOfTheThings

Bookish peeps, I hope life and your TBR Lists treat you well as you finish out your week.

Happy reading!

Have I Read Too Many Books?

Sunday Chat: Have I Read Too Many Books?

Banner by @IntrovertInterrupted

Happy Sunday, bookish people!

It’s been a week since we spoke last, and I’ve got to say that I missed you all. 

I hope you’ve all been doing well and enjoying your current reads.

Since we last chatted, I’ve been in a tiny bit of a reading slump. And you know what that means 🤗 television time!

In addition to watching the Paralympics, I’ve been catching up on my Netflix queue. If you’re into academic dramedies, I highly recommend The Chair. For fans of Grey’s Anatomy, Sandra Oh is back as The Chair’s leading lady. 

For those of you who haven’t ever seen Oh in action on Grey’s Anatomy as the brillant and fiery Christina Yang, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.S, watching it is an excellent way to get over a reading slump. Thanks to the show being just as chaotic and engrossing as any book you’ll find on the market now. 

In fact, watching Grey’s Anatomy is how I ended up with todays’ Sunday Chat topic.

What does Grey’s Anatomy have to do with reading?

Christina Yang Quote Meme:

-“Oh, screw beautiful. I’m brilliant. If you want to appease me, compliment my brain.”

-“I am laughing, just not externally.”

-"If there's nano food, I'm going home."

I am Christina Yang

Grey’s Anatomy is the original show that put Shonda Rhimes on the map in 2005. Afterward, Rhimes made shows like Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder and, now, Bridgeton from her production company Shondaland TV.

On Rhimes’ original show, a group of medical professionals is followed as they go through their workday at Seattle Grace Hospital. 

Here, affairs happen. Marriages fall apart. LVAC wires get cut. And, at the end of each season, like clockwork, a huge disaster occurs, and I’m left wondering why nobody ever issues a class-action medical malpractice suit against the doctors at this hospital.

Watching Grey’s Anatomy is a perfect example of how reading has screwed up my ability to be shocked by the plot twist in most storylines. 

Do you all ever feel like you’ve read so many books that very little surprises you when you’re reading or watching television?

I’ve been an avid reader for nearly 25 years, and I’ve started to come to the conclusion that very few stories can surprise me now.

Like with Grey’s Anatomy, I’ll be watching a television show or reading a book and instantly start picking out tropes within the first few episodes or pages and guess how it ends. When this happens, it’s rare that I don’t get at least one guess right.

Even though the guessing can be fun, I can’t help but wonder if reading is making me immune to being as engrossed in stories as I once was before I became an avid reader.

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

– Ecclesiastes 1:9

Silly, I know. But, nowadays, I feel as if I’m watching stories appear on loop just with interchangeable characters and settings – I’ll know where the characters are going to end up even if I don’t know how they always get there.

I instantly get excited when I happen upon an author writing from a fresh perspective and telling a story that feels new to me.

If I’m being honest, sometimes I feel like I’m chasing the magic that came about when I first learned to read at this stage in my reading journey. That feeling of wonder that arose from opening a new book and escaping into a fictional world never ceased to amaze me back then.

However, with the vast amounts of retellings, fairytale adaptations, and spins on the same plot points, I miss the joy of being genuinely shocked when I read an original new story, which is why I love fantasy novels and romance books so much. This mostly has to do with the creativity of authors from this genres to get their characters from point A to B while keeping me guessing. Even a simple love story can see an author getting creative to build a connection between their leads.

That being said, while I’ll always love reading, I do get the feeling at times that my hobby has left me feeling like very few things can shock me when it comes to the art of storytelling. But, I love when it does happen.

Does anyone else feel this way?

If you want to read a few of my favorite books that have “wowed” me, checkout my review of Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury and the accompanying interview with Sambury!

Sunday Vibes Banner

This week’s vibes are songs I’ve had in my playlist rotation for almost two weeks. The music videos for each song have a “plot twist” I didn’t see coming based on the song. Due to some trigger warnings, I won’t link the videos, though. You can click on the YouTube link to watch when you get a chance.

Songs: “Foreign Things” by Amber Mark & “Questions (feat. Don Jazzy)” by Burna Boy

WWW Wednesday – The One Where I Didn’t Finish Reading Anything

Thank you to Harper Books for my ARCs of The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers and Tor Books for the ARC of She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chen.

Finally, thank you to Wesleyan Press for my finish She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chen copy of The Age of Phyllis by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Greetings, bookish peeps!

I hope life and your TBR Lists have been treating you well!

I’m coming to you with my weekly check-in of what I’m reading and a few mini book reviews for WWW Wednesday.

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words and ask readers to answer the following questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What did you read last?

Surprise, surprise! I have not finished anything new this week since school has started.

(LOL Can we take a minute to slow clap at me figuring out how to add a gif using WordPress tool suite. It took a good fifeteen minutes, but I did it! 🤗)

What are you currently reading?

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’ books

I’m going on week three of reading Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’ poetry collection, The Age of Phillis, and her novel, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is a bit of a chunker at 816 pages. However, if you love a novel that chronicles the journey of a single family, Jeffers’ book is for you.

It looks at a mixed-race family from the beginning of colonial times of American Chattel Slavery through the Civil War up until present day times in America. The story centers around Ailey Pearl Garfield’s journey to establishing her identity, but it also has a full cast of characters from her family tree.

Jeffers’ novel is perfect for audiobook lovers and readers who love a family saga or atmospheric read.

However, if you’re a reader who bulks at feeling too many emotions when reading a book, this book may not be the one for you.The Age of Phillis is a poetry collection that has made me really focus on reading it and googling notes about what Jeffers is talking about. So, here’s to another week with Phyllis!

The Books That I’m Taking A Break From

I took a break from Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin since my library loan expired. But I’m also still loving it!

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chen was becoming an uphill battle for me, so I put it down for a minute.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

 Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Finally, I started a “comfort fantasy read” this past weekend to keep me busy as we waited out Hurricane Ida. (check out this week’s “Sunday Chat” to read more about one of my favorite comfort read books and my mixed feelings about it now.) The book I chose to ride out the storm was Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch.

Aaronovitch’s book is the first in a series about the probationary constable, Peter Grant, who starts to see ghosts on a late-night assignment. Afterward, he’s thrust into a “world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.”

Rivers of London is hi-la-ri-ous! It blends comedy, fantasy, and mystery so well, and I’m so glad there are more books in the series to look forward to.

What will you read next?

Because I’m a mood reader, you all already know the drill by now.

I of course have no clue what I’ll read next outside of just continuing to read Jeffers and Aaronnnovitch’s novels.

Drop them in the comment section and tell me what you’re currently reading! 

Who Gets To Write Certain Stories

Sunday Chat: Who Gets To Write Certain Stories?

Banner by @Introvert Interrupted

I hope each of you had an amazing weekend and are having a wonderful start to your week!

Forgive me for not posting my usual Sunday Chat blog post this past weekend. 

Life got a bit hectic with my first week of assignments being due and the prospect of Hurricane Ida barreling down on us here in the Gulf States. Needless to say, my attention was elsewhere.

Thankfully, my family is all okay with us just experiencing a few minor flooding issues. For all you readers who were in the direct path of the storm, I hope you all are safe and doing well!

With the preparation for the storm and my continued anxiety over going back onto campus, I’ve been seeking out comfort reads.

Last year, I did a post of some of my favorite comfort reads, and as I’ve been reflecting on why I loved some of them and revisiting them, I’ve realized not all of my comfort reads have stood the test of time.

A comfort Read That I’ve Been Rethinking

For instance, one of my favorite books from my middle school reading list was Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples. In the book, Fisher, a retired white news reporter and editor for the United Press International, tells the story of Shabanu, the second daughter of desert nomads in Pakistan. After an incident with wealthy landowners occurs, Shabanu, who is twelve-year-olds at the start of the series, is married off as a child bride to keep the peace. 

Along with Haveli, the second novel in the series, Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind was my go-to book as a tween. The idea of getting to read about other cultures and seeing how other people around the world lived was something I’ve always craved as a reader. 

At the time, I interpreted Shabanu’s story to simply be about a free-spirited girl who was able to explore the Cholistan Desert, a place I’d never heard of until I read the book. I relished her ability to be free to seek out adventure up until the point that she was forced to marry.

Being able to see life through Shabanu’s eye was eye opening as a kid. And it was why I cherished the book king after I outgrew it.

The authenticity of the story and author’s right to tell that particular story is something I never thought of until I entered high school and had a Pakistani classmate bring into question the authenticity of Shabanu’s story. 

The only problem was who was telling Shabanu’s story.

Author, Suzanne Fisher Staples
Author, Suzanne Fisher Staples

Staples was a white woman from Philadelphia who had only visited Pakistan as a reporter and editor. Her writing was limited to the knowledge of what her host family told her, which means that Staples was effectively telling Shabanu’s story through a secondhand lens. 

So, when my classmate told me that she wished Staples hadn’t made her culture look so bad (I’m paraphrasing since a particular cuss word was used and I have older readers I want to be respectful of), a little of the luster went out of the book for me. 

Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind and Haveli are both feminist stories at their core. And they told a story that during the 1980s and mid- 2000s wasn’t largely being told about Islamic women.

But, did Staples have the right to tell these stories?

Based on a quote in Publisher’s Weekly from 2000, Staples claims that all her books “are made up of real stories about real people.” Staples even had a picture she showed the interviewer of the thirteen-year-old girl that Shabanu was modeled after. 

This unnamed girl’s story and many other Pakistani women were collected as Staples worked with a women’s literacy project in the country until she returned to work for the Washington Post. The women’s stories were kept in journals and used as the source material for Shabanu’s story, which won Staples the Newbury Honor award in 1990.

The accolades and book deals (Staples wrote six books with only one being written set in America) Staples acquired telling someone else’s story, who she openly admits lacked agency and free will to tell their own story in the Publisher Weekly interview once again drives home why #WeNeedDiverseBooks is so important.

It also left me wondering why did Staples not ever allow the young women from the literacy project she was a part of the chance to tell their own stories?

Also, would a BIPOC author have been showered with the same praise and idolization as Staples received for Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind if they’d released a similar book?

Case in point, In a 1989 book review for the New York Times, Maurya Simon said:

“It is a pleasure to read a book that explores a way of life profoundly different from our own, and that does so with such sensitivity, admiration and verisimilitude. Ms. Staples, who was a U.P.I. correspondent in Asia and has worked for The Washington Post, has surely accomplished a small miracle in the unfolding of her touching and powerful story. She has managed to present to her readers an engaging and convincing portrait of an adolescent girl who is alternately bewildered and exhilarated by her changing mind and body; at the same time, the author offers rich and provocative insights into a culture so distanced from rock videos and designer jeans as to seem extraplanetary. I hope her readers will gain from it a renewed sense of self and a deep respect for what is other.”

Difference what a BIPOC author gets to write vs. What white authors get to write

A part of me wants to chalk Simon’s use of phrases, like “rich and provocative insights into a culture” and “convincing portrait,” and the word “verisimilitude,” which means “the appearance of being real or true” up to this being a review from the ‘80s. However, I know better and the data the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison puts out yearly corroborates this fact.

Too often, the publishing industry wants BIPOC stories from authors who are white and not from an author of color or Indigenous background.

A white author can have a stamp in their passport, a degree on their wall, and the matching pedigree, or just have gone on vacation and gotten “inspired,” and voilà, they’ll be given the green light to become an expert on someone else’s culture.

A BIPOC author can have firsthand knowledge about who they are and their culture and be told they need to change their story to fit what a publisher thinks their audience wants in an #OwnVoices book.

And this differentiation of who gets to tell what stories, along with my classmate’s belief that her culture was done a disservice, is what keeps my tattered copies of Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind and Haveli shut tight on my shelves.

While the books hold a special place in my heart when I read them as a kid, I have iffy feelings about trying to read them now.

Do you all have any books like this on your shelves?