For all the chaos of 2020, I had an excellent reading year.
I found myself gravitating more toward fantasy novels and doing a lot more rereading than usual as a means of escaping into “alternate realities” or books that were a comfort to me in my childhood.
Each of the featured books below are ones I loved or feel that I would revisit in the future.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
This book was such a joy to read! If you loved reading fairytales as a kid or want to read more fantasy novels, this book is a must read! It’s also a wonderful audiobook.
In a year of chaos and pandemic, Klune’s novel shows the side effects of burnout on people in helping professions. The House in the Cerulean Sea also details how the child welfare system fails children over time. The characters in Klune’s novel are ones that will stay with you long after the book closes.
The Mirror Visitor Quartet by Christelle Dabos
The Mirror Visitor Quartet is such a fun series! If you love audiobooks, I highly recommend this series as a listen as opposed to being physically read! My favorite so far is the second novel in the series, The Missing of Clairdelune.
Initially published in French, Dabos’ series is full of tomfoolery and shenanigans set around a world built on Classic Western Mythology. The main character of the series, Ophelia, is the odd one out in her family that has the gift of walking through mirrors.
Sent away to the sky palace of Clairdelune to marry Thorn, another outcast from the who has a detailed memory, Ophelia is on her own for the first time to be the person she’s always desired to be. From here, chaos ensues.
Crick Crack, Monkey by Merle Hodge
I really enjoyed reading this classic Caribbean novel by Merle Hodge.
Crick Crack, Monkey follows Tee, the main character, as she comes into her identity as a Black Trinidadian girl in a post-colonial nation. The novel was accessible and showed the differences in the class structure in this island nation.
Tee is shuttled between two aunts of varying class and economic levels and made to piece together an identity through her experiences with both. Hodge’s novel was short, but it packed a punch.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
Pedagogy of the Oppressed gave me a lot to think about when it comes to education and liberation.
In this text, Freire argues that teachers must open dialogue and facilitate critical thinking around subjects instead of spoonfeeding students lessons to regurgitate. By opening critical discussion around issues, the educator will build stronger learners that can become self-actualized.
Coupled with this, the chapters about how the oppressed seek out liberation blew me away. The idea that everyone can be an oppressor and the oppressed gave me a lot of food for thought. This text is one I hope to revisit in the future.
Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta
The task of a first or second-generation child of immigrants is to pick up the hopes and dreams of their parents and to carry them over the threshold of success. Often times, it’s not important what that child wants, but more importantly is how they add to the legacy of their family. Thus, these children live within a confined space that is both real and imagined, between cultures that they can never honestly explain until they meet someone else with a similar burden to carry.
Kara’s story in Frying Plantain leads me to wonder, what parts of our cultures do we inherit, and what is learned as people immigrate to new places? Likewise, how does the meaning/practice of culture change as each generation gains new information and comes into contact with new technologies that shift the way that certain traditions are carried out?
The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel
It starts cliched with the main female lead, Liya, a successful biochemical engineer sneaking out on a dinner they put together with the family of Jay Shah, a potential suitor. Unfortunately, Liya bumps into him on the way out, and of course, the two end up being forced to work together as the novel unfolds.
If you are a reader who enjoys multi-layered characters and non-generic romances, this book is for you! Jay and Liya both have a traumatic past, and Patel has each of them work through their trauma before giving them their happy ending. I appreciate that Patel showed the real aspects of trauma in a person’s life and how they play out in interpersonal relationships and across a community.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
If you are in the market for a book that will make you go through all the emotions & you’re not afraid to confront hard issues, this is the one for you!In Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, the fourth book of the Logan Family Saga, Mildred D. Taylor takes her characters through the beginning of the Depression Era of the American South (circa 1920s to 1930’s) and the Jim Crow Era where the young Black children see the rise of the Klan, lynchings, and the fight to keep their land.
Throughout this series, Taylor has the Logan children fight for their agency as Black people before they really even know what they’re fighting for. I’ve read this series countless times over the years, but it always hits differently each time. I highly recommend it!
Have you all read any of these books?