Kujichagulia – Self-Determination [Kwanzaa]

Sunday Chat

Kwanzaa: Day#2

Kujichagulia

Herí za Kwanzaa! (Happy Kwanzaa in KiSwahili)

Herí za Kwanzaa, readers! I hope your holiday season is ending well. 

Welcome to the second day of Kwanzaa! If you haven’t already, check out the giveaway from the first day of Kwanzaa on yesterday’s post.

Today we celebrate the principle of Kujichagulia or self-determination! 

On this day, our goal is “to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.”

The Adinkra symbol for Kujichagulia is an Ashanti stool of royalty. This symbol calls for us to exercise, individually and collectively, the diligence and determination required to make ourselves the royal authority for the shaping of our lives and destiny.

“I am my best work - a series of road maps, reports, recipes, doodles, and prayers from the front lines.”
 ― Audre Lorde

This is slightly childish, but there’s something fun about saying the name of today’s Kwanzaa principle. It’s a throwback to elementary school when we learned the Kwanzaa Song, and any multisyllabic word got a good chuckle from us kids. So, saying Ku-ji-cha-gu-lia never fails to give me a good chuckle even to this day.

From an adult standpoint, though, the ability to carry out self-defining or self-fashioning traits is a bit tougher on the sensibilities.

In a world where everything seems to be carried out as mere performance and based on trends, it’s hard to know what you want or be your authentic self sometimes. It almost seems as if we’re all scrambling to stay “on brand” and caping for likes from a silent audience.

In 2021, I found myself taking several much-needed social media breaks due to life circumstances and out of a general feeling of exhaustion.

My intention for 2022 is to take more time to focus on life outside of my screens.

In the moments where I delete my apps and spend time face-to-face with family or researching and catching up on my school/work, I feel that same type of awe that I did as a kid at how much the little things like a song can amaze me and buoy my spirits. There’s almost a nostalgic quality that comes in those moments.

Going offline also brings about a clear distinction for me about my reason for doing things. In those times, I’m not worried about if what I’m reading is “on trend” or if it counts toward my yearly Goodreads challenges, I’m just indulging in a hobby I love.

This feeling of freedom is something that feels refreshing now that I’ve been online for a decade as a social media user, being influenced and posting as a micro-“influencer.”

Cheers to 2022 being a year of self-discovery and self-fulfillment!

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

Kwanzaa Is Here!!! [Umoja] + Giveaway

Sunday Chat: Kwanzaa is Here!!!

Day #1: Umoja

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

Habari Gani!

Created by @Introvert Interrupted
To greet someone on Kwanzaa, you say, “Habari Gani!”

Bookish peeps! I’ve missed you all and this space!

Today is the start of my favorite holiday – Kwanzaa!

Kwanzaa is a Pan-African holiday that Dr. Maulana Karenga started in 1966 after the Watts riots in LA. This holiday is built around multiple African harvest or “first fruit” celebrations, including cultural festivals from the Ashanti and Zulu people. 

Kwanzaa can be celebrated alongside other Winter holidays. It lasts for a week from December 26 to January 1 and can be celebrated in whatever way you and your family and friends decide.

All that’s required is that you honor the Nguzo Saba, which are the seven principles of Kwanzaa, one for each night.

Our goal for Umoja is “to strive for a principled and harmonious togetherness in the family, community, nation, and across the African Diasporic community.”

The Adinkra symbol for Umoja is the Kramo Bone. The Kramo Bone translates to “The bad make it difficult for the good to be noticed.” This Adinkra symbol symbolizes “warning against deception and hypocrisy.”

To promote unity, we must be aware and guard against those who are not actively seeking to do good for the race as a whole and make sure all our goals actively align to have the greatest impact for the majority opposed to the minority of the race in our fight against oppression.

One of my favorite Kwanzaa traditions for Kwanzaa is reading the Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story, written by Angela Shelf Mederais and illustrated by Daniel Minter. This year, I’ve also added The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson and illustrated by Nikolas Smith to my list of Kwanzaa reads.

Mederais’ story is a children’s book set in Ghana that tells the story of seven brothers who are tasked with making gold out of seven spools of thread to gain their inheritance from their father. 

Seven Spools of Thread is a great representation of what Umoja means. Working alongside the people you love working through your differences, and building up your community to be even stronger than you initially found is a hallmark of Kwanzaa.

A person is a person through other persons. 

None of us comes into the world fully formed. We would not know how to think, or walk, or speak, or behave as human beings unless we learned it from other human beings.We need other human beings in order to be human. 

I am because other people are. 

A person is entitled to a stable community life, and the first of these communities is the family.” 

― Desmond Tutu

Born on the Water is a reminder of the strength of being born Black in America. We are a people who were given nothing but took those meager scraps and built a rich heritage that is often imitated but rarely duplicated.

Hannah-Jones and Watson’s book reminds me of the proverb that the Kramo Bone’s meaning stems from, is built off of, even though all the “the bad” African-Americans have been through in this country, Kwanzaa is a time where we can sit up and reflect on how those “difficult” times helped us notice how “the good.”

Regardless of your race or where you are in the world, I hope you’re able to celebrate something good in your life today amongst people you love.

I know we’re all still in this pandemic, and some people struggle to make it through. But, in this coming year, I hope you all can lean on your communities or find people who help you build back even stronger than you were in this pre-Covid era.

I hope you all will join me for this weeklong celebration of Kwanzaa. 

To enter today’s giveaway for a copy of Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story and Born on the Water, tell me what your favorite holiday memory or book is in the comment section below.

Then, like this post and subscribe to the newsletter to get the heads up about tomorrow’s giveaway!

The giveaway is open to all subscribers worldwide if the Book Depository or Bookshop.org delivers to your country.

The giveaway ends Monday, January 3.

Made of Gold – Ibeyi & Pa Salieu

When We Move (ft. Black Thought, Seun Kuti) – Common

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

WWW Wednesday – The One Where I Talk About “His Only Wife” by Peace Adzo Medie

Happy Wednesday, bookish peeps! Long time no see!

School has had me in a chokehold these last few weeks, but I’m back with one of the juiciest books reviews I’ve read all year as a part of this week’s reading check-in 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?

If you’re following me on Twitter, you may remember my play-by-play reading marathon for the masterpiece that is His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie.

Dr. Medie has written an enthralling story about a young couple, Afi and Eli, as they try to dodge their meddling families and the pressures that come from following Ghanaian traditions to find footing in their marriage. 

Oh! And there’s the troublesome hurdle of another woman who Afi, our narrator, must “get rid of” to find her happily ever after. No biggie, though…or so she thinks. 

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

Dr. Medie’s story is gripping from the first sentence when the reader finds out that Afi is set to marry Eli with his brother standing in for him since Eli is on a business trip and can’t make it to the wedding. 

Do you see the problem yet?

What drew me to His Only Wife is how well Dr. Medie situates readers inside Afi and Eli’s relationship. Her writing places characters into situations that feel like a stretch logically. Yet, they are so well-written that even when the reader knows better, you get sucked into wanting and believing for what the characters wish too, because the author is that good at stirring up the drama of her characters’ lives. 

For instance, even from the first page in His Only Wife, when Eli doesn’t show at the wedding, I was standing in faith alongside Afi and believing what Eli’s family and her mother were selling Afi about the “other woman.” And I’m sure anyone reading this review can already tell how wild this line of reasoning would be in real life. 

Peace Adzo Medie

But, the way Dr. Medie structures her story really takes hold while you are reading this book. To the point, you will believe this farce about the “other woman” having such a hold on Eli that can only be broken once he falls in love with Afi until you close the book and it hits you how crazy this plan was from the beginning.

His Only Wife has a little something for everyone in it. From a slow burn relationship to insights about how familial and romantic relationships work in Ghanaian culture from a rural and urban perspective and across generations as Afi gains advice about her and Eli’s relationship from various women in her life’s perspective. I especially enjoyed learning more about these parts of Dr. Medie’s book from her in my interview, which you can check out here.

Dr. Medie’s book is one I can’t recommend enough for its dynamic characters, in-depth critique of the Ghanaian cultural and women’s roles in it, and just for being an excellent book to read and react to.

As cliched as it sounds, I enjoyed having the feeling of “discussion” around His Only Wife and not being able to guess what would happen next as I read. Even with how predictable the “other woman” trope may seem in the beginning, I couldn’t have predicted exactly how Afi and Eli’s love story would play out. Getting to live-tweet my reaction and discuss my thoughts with a group was probably my favorite thing about this book.

You’ll definitely want this book as your next book club read!

What are you currently reading?

Thanks to school, I’m still holding off reading the last 10% of The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Jeffers book has taken me through it in every way possible. And oddly enough, I don’t want it to be over just yet. So, I’m still reading it.

I’ve also slowly but surely been making my way through The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. I’m now on book four, which is Broken Homes. Peter Grant is quickly becoming one of my favorite literary characters for his wit, perspective, and ability to almost always end up at the short end of the stick of magic wielders. 

My one issue with Aaronovitcth’s books is over time, it can become increasingly hard to separate the pro-police stance of the book and jokes Peter cracks about how coppers work inside with how vicious actual police tactics’ abroad can be. There are moments where Peter mentions how in the “old days,” a cop would go and “rough” a suspect up just because he could. These insights feel tone-deaf and wonky. 

I say this because even though Peter is a man of mixed heritage and a cop, it’s clear this is Aaronovitch using Peter as a mouthpiece to say these things instead of it being a case where Peter is just being Peter. Since Peter will follow these moments up acknowledging that cops don’t like Black men who look like him (which is highlighted in a racially charged scene in the first book with a superior). 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the stories atmosphere and the banter in the books. But, I do have moments when the story and backstories all feel a bit choppy.

On a lighter note, I’m currently reading The Checklist by Addie Woolridge. Woolridge’s story follows a “girl next door” type of romance about Dylan Delacroix, who temporarily moves back home to Seattle to help an eccentric tech CEO fix his flailing company. While she’s home, she finds sparks flying with Mike, the sun of her Bohemian family’s buttoned-up neighborhood rivals. I have laughed so hard at the characters in this book and their shenanigans.

If you’re looking for a palette cleanser after a heavy read, pick this one up! It’s free on Kindle Unlimited.

What will you read next?

As a mood reader, I don’t know what I’ll be reading next.

I have talked about a few of my top priorities on my TBR List in the previous post. So, check them out down below!

                  What are you reading now?

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

Happy reading!

Author Interview With Peace Adzo Medie

The Book

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

“Elikem married me in absentia; he did not come to our wedding.”

Afi Tekple is a young seamstress whose life is narrowing rapidly. She lives in a small town in Ghana with her widowed mother, spending much of her time in her uncle Pious’s house with his many wives and children. Then one day she is offered a life-changing opportunity—a proposal of marriage from the wealthy family of Elikem Ganyo, a man she doesn’t truly know. She acquiesces, but soon realizes that Elikem is not quite the catch he seemed. He sends a stand-in to his own wedding, and only weeks after Afi is married and installed in a plush apartment in the capital city of Accra does she meet her new husband. It turns out that he is in love with another woman, whom his family disapproves of; Afi is supposed to win him back on their behalf. But it is Accra that eventually wins Afi’s heart and gives her a life of independence that she never could have imagined for herself.

A brilliant scholar and a fierce advocate for women’s rights, author Peace Adzo Medie infuses her debut novel with intelligence and humor. For readers of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Candice Carty-Williams, His Only Wife is the story of an indomitable and relatable heroine that illuminates what it means to be a woman in a rapidly changing world.

The Interview

Adira: Ms. Medie, I appreciate you taking the time to speak to me today!

Your writing in His Only Wife had me so compelled and invested from its first sentence to the point where I pulled an all-nighter to finish it. 

Can you tell me about how you came up with the idea for your novel and what or who influenced your writing process?

Peace Adzo Medie: The influence for His Only came from several places, including my research. I study how gender norms affect various areas of women’s lives, including how these norms impact on their relationships, including marriage. I have published a book on the response to gender-based violence in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire and the novel was another vehicle through which I could explore how these norms affect women’s lives.

Global Norms and Local Action: The Campaigns to End Violence against Women in Africa by Peace Adzo Medie

A: Like you, I come from an academic background and am big on research that pushes for the conversation of advocacy for vulnerable populations, such as women, children, and those without sufficient resources. You currently also have a scholastic book out now called Global Norms and Local Action: The Campaign to End Violence against Women in Africa. Is there a connection between His Only Wife and this nonfiction work? If so, did your research for either book influence the other?

PAM: Yes, one of the findings from ‘Global Norms and Local Action’ was that women’s relatives and friends influenced the decisions they made after they experienced intimate partner violence. For example, some women told me they stayed in an abusive relationship because of pressure from a parent. While physical violence is not a theme in His Only Wife, pressure from family is a major issue in the book. And I chose to write about it partly because of my research. 

A: For Afi and Eli, community plays a huge part in their decisions throughout your book. How would you define community, and how did you use that definition to influence how you wrote the characters and settings in your novels?

PAM: Community describes the people closest to us, those we rely on and are accountable to, those in whom we see ourselves. It is the nuclear family, but also the extended family and those not related to us but surround us and touch our lives in manifold ways. In His Only Wife, most characters, especially Afi and Eli, are very concerned about their community, particularly their extended family, and this shapes much of what they do. The story underlines the connection between community expectations and character’s daily decisions and actions. 

A: As a social worker, when thinking about clients, I am always confronted with the notion of class and gender and the inherent social boundaries of each. These two things, along with the client’s race, often influence what choices are available to that person and if they are hindered or helped by the resources that are open to them. 

With His Only Wife, you show readers so many variations of how gender and class are tackled by each woman and woven into the fabric of their lives in their backgrounds, the jobs that are available to them, who they can date, and even the food they choose to eat. Was there a significance to how you explored these themes in the building of community in the novel and the character development of Afi, Evelyn, and Mawusi versus the older generation of women in your book (Aunty & Afi’s mother)?

PAM: Yes, I wanted to show how socioeconomic factors limit the options that are available to women, particularly young women like Afi. Many of the decisions that Afi and her mother made were guided by her socioeconomic status. In fact, I don’t think that Afi would have received that marriage proposal if she were from a well-off family, so we see class at play from the very beginning. I sought to show how the socioeconomic status of each character, especially the women impacted on what was possible in their lives. I especially wanted to show how experiences diverged and how some people succeed in climbing the economic ladder and how this then impacted their relationship with those around them.

A: Throughout your novel, there is an emphasis placed on the distinction between a “ceremonial wedding” and a “church wedding.” Does this hold cultural significance for Ghanaian culture, or was this written to help build tension for the drama of your novel? And if it was done for the novel’s sake, why was Elikem’s family so sure it would “fix” him?

PAM: I think a lot of people in Ghana have the traditional wedding and the church wedding. The latter is a relatively new practice that came with Christianity. However, the traditional wedding (and marriage) is deeply rooted and holds great significance in Ghanaian cultures. It usually involves both families, because it is not only about the bride and groom. There is a cultural and legal distinction between these two types of marriages; this is why many people have both. 

A: I loved your writing in His Only Wife so much! Are you working on any new books or a sequel or film adaption to this novel?

PAM: Thank you! Yes, I’m writing my second novel, Nightbloom. It’s a book about female friendship and is set in Ghana and the US.  It explores two childhood friends and their bond over several decades. 

A: Thank you for answering my questions! I can’t wait to read more of your work!

PAM: Thanks for the questions! 


Author Bio

Peace Adzo Medie

Peace Adzo Medie is a Ghanaian writer and senior lecturer in gender and international politics at the University of Bristol in England. Prior to that she was a research fellow at the University of Ghana. She has published several short stories, and her book Global Norms and Local Action: The Campaigns to End Violence Against Women in Africa was published by Oxford University Press in 2020. She is an award-winning scholar and has been awarded several fellowships. She holds a PhD in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh and a BA in geography from the University of Ghana. She was born in Liberia.

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