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!
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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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Ozeki’s book follows three different timelines: Nao, a sixteen-year-old Japanese teen who her peers are mercilesslybullying, 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 Lahiri. The 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 storieswriters 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.
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.
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…
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
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.
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
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?
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.
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
For instance, one of my favorite books from my middle school reading list was Shabanu, Daughter of the Windby 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.
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?
“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.”
Differencewhat a BIPOC author gets to write vs. What white authors get to write
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?
Welcome to another Sunday on the Bookternet, friends! I hope you’re having a wonderful day!
Today is the last day of Summer Break for me, and I’m feeling a little sad about it.
Come Monday, I’ll be back on my grind, balancing work, school, and reading. Even though I’m excited since I love my job and going to school, I can’t lie and say it’s not all just a little bit overwhelming for me.
Majorly because this is my first semester back in-person for school since the COVID-19 Pandemic hit in March of 2020, and I’m attending school in the state of Florida (insert a deadpan stare into the camera here). While my school is requires masks to attend, this level of tackling the unknown in a state where people love to be rebels against reason at the risk of themselves and others is putting me on pins and needles.
On the other hand, I’m a little saddened that my leisure time for reading is coming to an end.
In last week’s Sunday Chat post, I discussed the constraints of time for readers when deciding what to read and inevitably DNFing or unhauling our books. And some of your responses across social media pushed me to think even more about how much of a taxing hobby reading is.
Society often paints reading as this calm hobby where you’re sitting in a comfy chair with your book and drifting off to exotic mental landscapes.
A consistent trend, though, was that the rich and white demographic of people were still able to read more than their BIPOC and economically impoverished counterparts thanks to increased free-time.
For example, people “earning less than or equal to the 25th percentile” of “full-time wage and salary” dropped in their free-time for reading from “0.15” in 2019 to “0.11” for the average hours per day they read. While people “earning in the50th to 75th percentile” had the greatest leap in their averaged reading time from “0.16” to “0.37” hours per day and those in the “25th to 50th percentiles” also had a slight adjustment in their average from “0.13 to 0.17.” Those earning greater than the 75th percentile stayed the same with an average of a “0.20” for both years.
African-Americans saw the most significant leap in free-time for reading with a “.14” average from 2019 to 2020 average increase putting them at “0.24” average hours of reading time per day. But, they still trailed way behind white readers who clock in at “0.37” average hours and slightly behind Asian readers who are at “0.25” for their leisure reading time. Hispanic and Latinx readers are dwarfed by all parties at a steady average of “0.10” hours for both years. Unfortunately, there was no data I could find on Indigenous and Native American readers.
Looking at this data from the Department of Labor’s American Time Use Survey made it clear that even in a year as stressful as 2020, the idea that we’re all on an equal playing field when it comes to reading isn’t necessarily true.
How much do Americans spend on reading a year?
As a working-class student, whenever I see a #BookHaul or stack of books on the Bookternet, I immediately feel myself tallying up the cost.
According to the SLJ, the average Adult Hardcover in 2021 is projected at $27.45 for fiction and $28.49 for non-fiction. Trade paperbacks are going to run you about $21.04 for non-fiction and $17.89 for fiction.
Young Adult books cost slightly less at approximately $19.13 for a hardcover fiction copy and $21.15 for non-fiction. This genre’s trade paperback are slightly less than adults, though, at roughly $12.66 for fiction and $17.25 for non-fiction.
And all this is before the discounts hit and you find that sweet coupon code or worn copy in your charity shop.
If you’re an e-reader, you’re going to have to factor in the cost of internet services and a compatible electronic device to hold your e-books.
In short, for some people who lack access to a public library and are short on funds, reading requires a lot of hidden costs to feed their reading habits.
While reading is a type of self-care, I never forget that it’s a privilege that not everyone has at their disposal.
I’m blessed to have access, but I know the average cost for a reader adds up real quick.
So, I never take my love of this hobby for granted.
Enjoy your week, bookish peeps!
Let me know what you think is the driving force behind your reading hobby.
Happy Sunday, bookish peeps! I hope you’ve been enjoying your weekend!
I’ve spent the last week rearranging my shelves and ended up unhauling over 153 books from my personal collection. While this was a small portion of my books, it got me thinking about how we as readers are constantly in this frame of mind where we feel like literary Pokémon trainers in our quest to buy and read all the books.
As an avid reader who shares a living space with others, my desire to read often outweighs my ability to acquire as many books as I would like. Not to mention, the constraints on my free time to read are limited when it comes to working and completing assignments for my grad school courses.
To see my reading life laid out in such bare terms, it finally clicked why so many people refuse to waste time on books that don’t excite them.
Taking all this into consideration, I finally decided to let go of books I always knew deep down in my heart that I was never going to read again. And from my collection of about 1500 books, I culled the teenage fiction, new adult, and non-fiction books that “didn’t spark joy” for me anymore.
What I found most interesting about the books I unhauled was that the majority of these books were from those early days of BookTube and high school.
In 2010, when BookTube became popular, I would often buy books that were trending in the bookosphere with the intention of reading the books and just never get to them. This meant that when it came time to unhaul books from this era, I had a bunch of books that made me think of specific content creators I hadn’t watched in a while because they’d left YouTube (shout out to Tiffany from @Fat Shopaholic who put me onto Kiese Laymon’s books before they became a cultural staple) or from creators I just outgrew as I got older. Specific books that I found myself unhauling in this category were John Green books, dystopian YA fiction, and a lot of women’s fiction.
On the other hand, my unhauled books from my high school years mainly consisted of books from authors I no longer vibed with or just had outgrown (do you sense a theme?). This was interesting to see because, as a teen, I read an author’s entire backlist before moving onto the next author. So, when I got to unhauling books from this phase of my life, I noticed how much my taste had changed. Where I used to love a bubblegum YA romance or mystery book, I now find myself being much more selective in what I read.
While it was hard to let go of so many books, I couldn’t help but feel giddy at refocusing my mind to start enjoying more books that interest me on my TBR.
Drop down in the comments and tell me if you’ve unhauled any books lately or just how your reading taste have changed over the years?
As a person who came of age when the Internet was just taking off in the 90s, I can’t help but think about how drastically my world has changed as the Internet became more accessible.
Growing up, “computer time” was a “sacred” thing regulated to my middle school computer or the precious amount of minutes that came from hoarding those trial CDs from AOL’s dial-up in the 90s. For me, this meant Internet time was spent trying not to die of dysentery on the Oregon Trails and fighting to keep my Neopets alive or catching up with the boys from B2K in the 90s.
After the time ran down on the AOL free trials and my computer class ended, I put away my virtual ambition and penchant for celebrity gossip and went about my life. But, with the Internet being a 24 hour/365-day thing, it’s hard to disconnect time from virtual reality and recognize when it’s time for a break.
This past month, with the exception of live-tweeting the Olympic Games, I haven’t felt the motivation to be active on social media like I once was. And this is saying something since, according to my phone log, I average roughly 9.3 hours a day (way above the average American I know) of screen time thanks to my job and being a micro social media “influencer” in the book-o-sphere.
Having this time to sit and reflect has been nice.
For instance, I recently hit my Goodreads Challenge goal and have been enjoying my Summer Break by resting and sitting by the Gulf of Mexico with my Mom and brother or lazing away time in our family’s sunroom. Getting this moment to disconnect and realize that there’s more to life than your subscriber and like count has helped put things in perspective for me.
Sunday Vibes: “Be Good to Yourself” by Journey & “Safe Passage” by Laura Mvula
Drop down below in the comments and let me know what’s up with you, bookish peeps!
I turned thirty this Fall, and I felt super reflective. This milestone made me think about some of my favorite reads and songs that got me through my 20s.
Borders used to be my go-to spot on the weekend when I was at Howard University. Whenever I went to the bookstore, I would get either a Virginia DeBerry & Donna Grant or Pearl Cleage book to get me through the week to read.
Before there was an online reading community to turn to for recommendations, I stayed in that one stack designated for “African-American” books in Borders, Barnes & Nobles, and Books-A-Million. Before there was an online reading community to turn to for recommendations, I stayed in that one stack designated for “African-American” books in Borders, Barnes & Nobles, and Books-A-Million. Here is where I found DeBerry & Grant and Cleage’s books. By the time I was a junior in college, I’d read these three authors’ catalogs cover to cover and was hungry for more.
If you’re a lover of Bernice McFadden books, check out DeBerry & Grant’s books. Far From the Tree is If you’re a lover of Bernice McFadden’s books, check out DeBerry & Grant’s books. Far From the Tree is my favorite from DeBerry & Grant. This book is about “sisterhood, family secrets, and the ties that bind.” Cleage writes about two sisters who inherit a house in Prosper, North Carolina. While figuring out what to do with the house, they begin to come to terms with their tangled relationship with each other and their parents.
Babylon Sisters is for readers that enjoy mysteries and doing deep dive into Southern Black culture. Cleage’s writing exists within a specific universe/neighborhood called “Wed End” that she created in Atlanta, Georgia. Babylon Sisters is the second book in the West End series where the author tackles everything from crime in the Black community, gender roles, and other social justice topics using these really intricate character studies. They’re so good because they remind me of Walter Mosley‘s books and a touch of Black Futurism type reads where characters use Black Spirituality to draw conclusions and carry out tasks.
You have to read these books to know what I’m talking about.
My first stint in graduate school for my Masters in Literary and Cultural Studies allowed me to go more in-depth, learning about African and Caribbean Literature and reading classics from the African-American canon I’d never been introduced to in high school. I read books, like Changes: A Love Story by Ama Ata Aidoo and Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid, in my Globalism and Transnationalism course and did an individual study of Sam Greenlee’s Blaxploitation classic, The Spook Who Sat By the Door, for my final project. But, most importantly, this was the first time I found myself delving deep into a book when I wrote my entrance paper on The Blacker the Berryby Wallace Thurman.
During this time, I felt super isolated since I was the only Black person in my program and felt behind since I was going into the program as a Psychology student. This lead me to constantly fall behind in my reading and constantly feel disconnected while I was in the program.
The one thing that I loved about the program was taking courses with my favorite professor at the time, whose specialty was Postcolonial Studies. In her class, it was the only time I felt myself coming alive and being excited to read.
My favorite book that I studied during that year was Aidoo’s book, where I got to look at feminism and woman’s rights from the perspective of Ghanaian Literature. Getting to see how Aidoo used Changes: A Love Story to talk about intimate relationships and gender roles through the lens of another culture from the Diaspora were eye-opening and made me curious about African Literature.
Reading Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid was one of the first times I felt myself becoming possessive of a character. I remember one instance where I ended up verbally sparring with my classmates about Lucy’s character and her choices in contrast to her white employer. Having to defend Lucy’s character against my classmate’s ire was one of the first times I found myself experiencing the fact that I, as a Black woman, experience life and literature differently than my white peers.
If I could give anyone advice to someone in their 20s who has the means, I would say to try and get out of your comfort zone and travel to new places. If you can, travel and travel widely.
Throughout my time in school, I’ve had the chance to travel to three locations to study abroad as student. As an undergraduate, I went to Florence, Italy and London, England to study film and literature for a semester as a junior and senior. During my graduate education, I spent the summer learning about social work practices and social justice issues in Prague, Czech Republic.
My favorite experience by far is the Fall semester I spent as a senior in London. During this semester, I read Zadie Smith for the first time and Nella Larsen, which my best friend introduced me to when we were Sophomores by gifting me a copy of her novels, Passing&Quicksand.
Going to London was amazing because I got to experience theatre and literature almost every day in a way where it was integrated into my studies and curriculum. In our courses, we’d follow the paths of literary greats’ journeys throughout the city and connect them to our interests. My semester in London was the first time I ever got to see an August Wilson play performed live or saw a Shakespeare play with colorblind casting. Experiencing these types of art after having spent almost two years at a PWI where I rarely read any literature from the African Diaspora was refreshing.
You know when we talk about older generations living through technology shifts and how seeing all those tech innovations must have affected them in their lifetimes? I was randomly thinking about this and how by the time I was in college, social media was embedded into our global culture and a part of our daily lives to the point it was becoming taught in certain curriculums.
Technology affected my life in many ways, but I’ve seen the greatest impact on my reading. In college, I was an avid YouTube watcher. I would usually spend my nights watching YouTube videos instead of doing homework or as entertainment in college and graduate school, and this lead me to join BookTube in 2011.
During that brief stint as a content creator on YouTube, I realize how many genres I’d neglected as a reader from watching other bibliophiles across the world. This time period lead me to delve deeper into reading theory books I’d just started hearing about in graduate school. It also made me read more diversely and intentionally.
The first theory book I’d ever tackled on my own was Black Skin White Masks by Frantz Fanon. This was a book I read chapter by chapter in the library. I was so proud of myself because I remember having to go over each line annotating Fanon’s words with my dictionary and Google search tab open to guide my way. Finishing this text made me feel super confident as a reader. Through posting about Fanon’s book in 2015-ish, I connected with my current reading group, with who I read Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. From there, I’ve read a lot of other theory books, with the above two being my favorites, along with On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder.
Readers, what’s your favorite books that you’ve read over the last ten years?