I closed out the year with some pretty good and diverse reads.
The saddest read of the month goes to If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson. Admittedly, this book took me a while to get into…and then I did…and then my heart got broken into a million pieces. Basically, this is a modern day Romeo and Juliet type story. Elisha is white and Jewish and Jeremiah is African-American. They both live in New York, but in different worlds. They attend the same school, which is where they meet. They are both outsiders and both grappling with their own family issues. They meet and immediately fall in love. But of course, she cannot let her family know that she has fallen in love with a black boy. Jeremiah doesn’t share with his family either. They both deal with what it means to date someone from another race, but they don’t care because they are in love. And, just when I was ready to root for these two…tragedy strikes. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
My ten-year old son has turned me into a Jason Reynold’s fan, which is why I chose Look Both Ways this month. This setup was interesting. 10 short stories, about 10 kids, walking home to different blocks of the city, after the school bell rings. What happens when school lets out? These kids live such drastically different lives. Some will go home to a sick parent, some worry about their parent’s safety, some are battling illnesses themselves, while others are overly concerned about finding the safest route home so he can avoid the dog he’s afraid of. And then there’s all the stuff that goes on in the hearts and minds of tweens and teens and all of the things they talk about with their friends. Some of the content was a little heavy for my son right now, but this is a book that he will read in the future. Per the usual, Jason Reynolds has a way with words and making the reader connect with each character. This is a good read for a young adult.
“Most people have no understanding of the myriad ways feminism has positively changed all our lives. Sharing feminist thought and practice sustains feminist movement. Feminist knowledge is for everybody.” Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks is a short but mighty primer on feminism. It was especially written for those that do not believe feminism is their problem or something that they should have a vested interest in. bell hooks does what bell hooks does and gives it straight with no chaser…and we all need that.
The most delightfully surprising read of the month was Erica Campbell’s More Than Pretty: Doing the Soul Work that Uncovers Your True Beauty. I guess I really didn’t know what to expect. The book is a little bit of everything. I am a fan of Mary Mary and Erica, so I enjoyed learning more about her. It’s not quite a full memoir, but it’s full of stories about her life and lessons she’s learned along the way. It’s biographical, motivational, spiritual, advice-ish and very honest. There’s even a list of scriptures to read, mediate on and learn from in order to do the real work. I appreciated her honesty and vulnerability in the storytelling and the overall approach. It didn’t feel preachy. It felt like an auntie or older cousin sharing their wisdom in a loving way and hoping that you can learn from their mistakes. This was a light and enlightening read. I even took a few notes.
“I did not know then that this is what life is—just when you master the geometry of one world, it slips away, and suddenly again, you’re swarmed by strange shapes and impossible angles.” That’s how Ta-Nahisi Coates sums up life in The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons and an Unlikely Road to Manhood. I am a fan of Coates, and I am wondering why it took me so long to get to this book. This is his coming of age story and how he grew up with a well-meaning, enigmatic, eclectic and sometimes confused father who did his best to shuttle his sons through the teenage years and teach them how to be black men in America. It was a tough story at times, but, it was beautifully written and is a story we can all find commonality in.
Expect to Win by Carla A. Harris is your roadmap to building a successful career and how to maneuver to get what you want out of it. I prolly should have read this one sooner…like about 10 years ago. Carla Harris shares stories from her career, where she went wrong, and how she corrected her mistakes and continued to move up the corporate ladder. I appreciated her discussion of how we should take an inventory of what we are doing to determine if this is what we even want in the first place. And if the answer is “no,” it’s ok! Make moves to do what you want. Success comes easier that way. I would recommend this book for college graduates so that they can start off on the right foot. This is information I wish I had when I entered the workforce.
The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table by Minda Harts is the other book every sister entering corporate America needs a copy of. This book was like talking to your favorite member of the tribe about what really goes down when we enter the workforce and how to get our minds right for the journey. Networking, office politics, negotiating, salaries, asking (and getting) what you want and what you are worth – yes to all of it! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it’s another one that I wish I had had a LONG time ago.
The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole was my first Audible Original read. I chose it because Regina Hall was the narrator and I love Regina Hall, so there’s that. This was a romance/science fiction/futuristic mashup. Trinity lives a very mundane live. She works for the government a government research center called “The Hive.” She is recovering from an incident at The Hive and trying to get her life back in order. Love is the last thing on her mind. While she’s minding her business, she comes across her neighbor’s nephew, Le Wei. He happens to be kinda sexy. Odd…but sexy. They end up having a relationship, even though he’s really A.I…like…he’s a robot! Is he even capable of loving? That’s the catch.
My last book of the year was What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey. My first book of the year was The Path Made Clear by Oprah Winfrey. I love how that worked out. Perfect bookends. Oprah shares her stories and lessons learned. I don’t even know how to review this, so I will just share a few of my favorite quotes. What I know for sure, is that with most things Oprah-related, I felt inspired, motivated and ready to do better. A few favorite quotes:
“I know for sure that what we dwell on is who we become—as a woman thinks, so she is. If we absorb hour upon hour of images and messages that don’t reflect our magnificence, it’s no wonder we walk around feeling drained of our life force.”
“What I know for sure is that every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and step out and dance—to live free of regret and filled with as much joy, fun, and laughter as you can stand. You can either waltz boldly onto the stage of life and live the way you know your spirit is nudging you to, or you can sit quietly by the wall, receding into the shadows of fear and self-doubt.”
“What I know for sure is that reading opens you up. It exposes you and gives you access to anything your mind can hold. What I love most about reading: It gives you the ability to reach higher ground. And keep climbing.”
Well…that’s it for this year…and this decade. I am looking forward to 2020 and some more magnificent reads! I hope you will read with me.