I survived another COVID month and got some very insightful books read. The books this time were a little heavier because they are a direct reflection of how I’m feeling. I have an even greater desire to know more about how America got here. I want to know the whole story. And then I there in a little self-love and some YA and had a great literary month.
First the YA books…
You Should See Me in My Crown by Leah Johnson exceeded all of my expectations. Liz Lighty is a Black girl (the only one) in a small Indiana town who is dealing with her mother’s death, living with her grandparents and struggling to find a way to pay to go to college. She dreams of attending her mother’s alma mater, but not wanting to be a burden on her grandparents, she is determined to pay for it all herself. When the band scholarship she was hoping for doesn’t happen, she resorts to Plan B – run for prom queen and get the prize money. Of course Liz is the most least likely prom queen ever – especially with the crazy prom queen culture that’s deeply rooted in privilege, whiteness and legacy. But, Liz persists, and along the way, a few other surprises pop up. I won’t spoil the end for you, but this book was delightful. I was rooting hard for Liz to find her way. This was a 4-star read.
Pride by Obi Zoboi is billed as the Pride and Prejudice remix, so I thought it might be an interesting read. The original P+P, was all about judgments and how they can be dangerous and it also addressed issues of wealth and class. Zuri Benitez is a girl from Brooklyn. Not just from Brooklyn, she’s from BUSHWICK and she makes sure that no one ever forgets it! She is proud of everything that makes her her – her neighborhood, her roots (Afro-Latino), her family (including her FIVE sisters) and her way of life. She loves her hood and she hates to see it become a victim of gentrification. But it’s happening, and all she can do IS hate it. Her disgust heightens when the rich and fabulous Darcy family moves into the gentrified house across the street. The Darcys have two boys – Ainsley and Darius. Eventually, Zuri’s sister, Janae falls for Ainsley and Zuri cannot understand it. Zuri is all-knowing and she has sized up the boys and their parents very nicely in her head. She is probably one of the most judgmental teenagers I have ever encountered. It’s her judgment of others that keeps her from seeing the good. But as much as she wanted to hate Darius, he keeps popping up and they end up having to figure each other out and put their judgements aside. I give this one a 3.5-ish stars. It wasn’t a bad read at all.
Next up…Black Politics.
I knew I had to read Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose and the Fight for a Fair America by Stacey Abrams before the November election. In true Stacey Abrams fashion, she clearly and thoroughly lays out the history of voting in America and voter suppression. She chronicles her run for Governor of Georgia against Brian Kemp, who was Secretary of State at the time of the race. As SoS, he essentially had oversight over an election HE was running in. What a disgrace! In addition to the history and personal accounts of what voter suppression looks like, Abrams provides a plan to end voter suppression, excite voters and ignite the democracy that we are supposed to have. The stakes are high right now, and we need a voice like Stacey Abrams in the fight. This was an excellent and timely read. I give it 4.3ish stars.
Zerlina Maxwell is a MSNBC contributor that I look forward to hearing from every week. She has worked on both the Hillary Clinton campaign and Barack Obama’s campaign and has an interesting insight that comes from working in two completely different camps. The End of White Politics: How to Heal Our Liberal Divide is a book is focused on what’s wrong with the Democrats. Why can’t they be a unified party? Where are they falling short? Why are they not listening to all of the voices – especially the voices of Black and brown people. Could the answer be in abandoning “white politics” and acknowledging that times are different now? The same way cannot be the way forward. It’s time to be inclusive and listen to the most marginalized among us. Perhaps that will usher in the change that is sought. I found this book interesting and a had few amen moments, but at times it was a bit slow. I give it 3 stars, but I still think that it is a good political read.
And now for my favorite political read of the month…Say It Loud! Black Voters, Voices & the Shaping of American Democracy by Tiffany Cross. Tiffany is another MSNBC contributor that I enjoy seeing. I love her voice, her intellect…and her shade. This book brought all of that. I listened to it via Audible because I just needed to hear her tell this story. That was a good choice because she was an excellent narrator. Say It Loud! provides some historical insight into the way the voter system was built and how it really wasn’t meant to include Black voters. It took the Civil Rights Movement for Black people to even enter the system. But why are we constantly overlooked…especially when the Black vote is so needed for the Democratic Party, especially? This book will spark some much needed and timely conversations about voting, voter suppression, and an ever-changing political landscape that will require everyone to take notice. I give this one 4.5 stars. Tiffany didn’t let me down.
Next up…history. My fav.
Black hair is interesting, complicated and glorious all at the same time. In Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture by Emma Dabiri, she gives the reader the history of Black Hair and it was an amazing read. I read this book via Audible and was very surprised by the author’s accent. Emma Dabiri is Irish-Nigerian and I wasn’t expecting it at all. But what I liked about the author not being a Black American woman, was that it reminded me that sisters are all over the world fighting the same hair battles. Sometimes I forget that. Emma brings a mixture of history and personal experiences (like getting a perm for the first time) to tell the story of our hair. The history starts in pre-colonial Africa and goes through different historical time periods and how our hair has been and is viewed. People love to hate our hair…but they also love to appropriate (ex. cornrows on white people) too. It’s maddening. I felt all of Emma Dabiri’s stories because they are closely aligned with mine. I have been on a natural hair journey for over 10 years now, but getting to the point where I was happy with and proud of my natural hair was a huge feat. I am not proud to say that, but I know I am not alone and this book made me realize that. I am giving this one FIVE WHOLE STARS. It was historically sound, entertaining and I had quite a few amen moments. Go get it.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein is the eye opening book we all need to read. At this point, many are grappling with the question of how we (America) got here. This book does an excellent job of explaining how we have ended up with segregated neighborhoods, projects, ghettos, redlining, subprime mortgages and more. The story begins in the 1920’s and shows how “de jure segregation” started with zoning during the time when many Black people were migrating from the south to other parts of the country. From there, urban planners and the law essentially created segregated living situations by dismantling previously integrated neighborhoods. Many, if not all of the impoverished neighborhoods we see today have the same troubling history. It was all by design. This book is good, but it was slow in some areas. Also, it has a textbook-ish feel that I think some people would be turned off by. Nonetheless, if we are in this space where we are attempting to understand the real history of America, this is a huge part of it, and it’s worth the read. I give it 4 stars.
A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross is AMAZING. It’a a tour of American history through the lives and experiences of Black women. This book covers 400 years of history. From 1619, with the stories of Isabel’s Expedition and Angela’s Exodus out of Africa to the present. One thing that the telling of history usually omits is Black women, but this telling is just the opposite. There were several women that I had heard of before, and there are just as many that I never knew existed. This book left me in awe of the power and persistence of Black women. The stories that they chose were fascinating and empowering. This was a wonderful read. FIVE Stars!
And now for a little self-love…
“Radical self-love summons us to be our most expansive selves, knowing that the more unflinchingly powerful we allow ourselves to be, the more unflinchingly powerful others feel capable of being. Our unapologetic embrace of our bodies gives others permission to unapologetically embrace theirs.” The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor was like a church service. You know when you go to church and it seems like the sermon was just for you? This book is kinda like that. There were so many epiphanies, so many aha moments and so much to ponder about the way we look at and treat our bodies and its relationship to oppression and justice. In short, this book is about how to embrace yourself and live your best life. You may be a person who thinks they have a great relationship with their body…but reading this book may make you think otherwise. I loved this one. I give it 4 stars.
I will be back next month with some fresh reviews. What are you reading?