Categories
Our Queerest Shelves

Chinese and Mexican Non Binary Magic and Happily Ever Afters

OQS Readers! I’m Erica, another associate editor at Book Riot, and I’m filling in for Danika this week. I’m going to keep it short and cute with y’all and just share a little bookish tea, a few new releases, and some things you should check out at Book Riot.

Before we get into newsletter things, though, I’d like to highlight another queer-focused non profit in Ukraine called Insight. Before the current crisis, the organization served everyone under the LGBTQI umbrella, helping them get mental health care, legal help, and find doctors. Now, they’re focused on getting people much needed shelter, food, and other basic things. If you’re interested in helping, check out their insta, specifically the linktr.ee donation link.


All the Links Fit to Click

Chapter one of Eleutheria by Allegra Hyde, recommended by Lydia Conklin (also mentioned below in New Releases)

Eight Mystery Books With Bi+ Main Characters

On Lesbian Mommy Culture, Or: Why I Want Julianne Moore To Step On Me

Casey McQuiston on LGBTQ rom-com books and iI Kissed Shara Wheeler’

Texas students push back against book bans for censoring LGBTQ, racial justice issues

Queer HistFic Set In Paris

6 LGBTQ books politicans and parents have tried to ban this year

Students Protest Book Bans Over Content on LGBTQ Issues, Race

LGBTQ Book Riot Posts

10 Queer Dark Academia Novels to Obsess Over

Texas Republicans Ask Schools to Pledge Not To Buy from Vendors That Sell GENDER QUEER

24 Must-Read LGBTQ Books Out in March

New Releases This Week

Cover of Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore

Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore (Trans, Nonbinary YA Magical Realism)

There are stories of a world beneath the lake made of air and water. The only ones to have seen it, though, are Bastián, who has their anxieties stored there in the form of living Mexican folk art statues, and Lore, who once went to the lake seeking refuge. Now, the underwater world is starting to come to the surface, threatening to bring all of Lore’s and Bastián’s secrets along with it. They have to work together to make sure that doesn’t happen.

And They Lived . . . by Steven Salvatore

And They Lived . . . by Steven Salvatore (Gender Questioning YA Contemporary)

Chase loves everything Disney and has started his first year of college to study animation. Naturally, he dreams of a Happily Ever After, but doesn’t quite think he’s good enough to have it. When he meets poet Jack, he’s still trying to figure out his gender identity and recovering from an eating disorder, but Jack seems to be one of the few people that really gets him. Together, they embark on a journey of self discovery, sex positivity, and healing. So basically, feelings!

cover of The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories edited by by Yu Chen and  Regina Kanyu Wang

The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories, Edited by Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang (LGBTQ Inclusive SF/F Anthology)

Feast your eyes upon these 17 stories written, edited, and translated to English for the first time by a team of nonbinary and female creators.

Hungry? Journey to the end of the universe and eat at a restaurant where you pay your tab with a story in “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: Tai-Chi Mashed Taro” by Anna Wu, translated by Carmen Yiling Yan. Or, watch as stars are reared by young people on their own road to self discovery in “The Stars We Raised,” by Xiu Xinyu, translated by Judy Yi Zhou. Then there’s the titular tale by Wang Nuonuo and translated by Rebecca F. Kuang (author of The Poppy War) that tells of how a young woman and her companion learn of love and myth as they travel to sway the world’s oceans, bringing about spring.

The Circus Infinite by Khan Wong (Asexual Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

One for All by Lillie Lainoff

Eleutheria by Allegra Hyde (Sapphic Contemporary)

Daughters of the Deer by Danielle Daniel (Two Spirit Historical Fiction)

All That’s Left in the World by Erik J. Brown (M/M YA Dystopian)

The Best Liars in Riverview by Lin Thompson (Queer Middle Grade)

One for All by Lillie Lainoff (LGBTQ YA Historical)

Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American by Laura Gao (F/F YA Graphic Novel)

A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft (Queer Author YA Historical Fantasy)

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Annnd, that’s all, folx! Like I said, cute and short. If you’d like to keep in touch, you can follow me on Twitter @erica_eze_, check out In Reading Color (a newsletter that covers literature by and about people of color), In the Club (a newsletter to keep your book club well read and fed), or the Hey YA podcast I cohost with Tirzah Price.

Until next we meet, happy reading!

Erica

Categories
In The Club

How About an Audiobook Club with Some Award Winners?

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

These gas prices, man! Pretty soon, my car might have to start running on vibes. Or, maybe I should give Brezzzy’s solution a try. In any case it’s real out here!

Although, there are certainly people who have more things to worry about than rising gas prices. Here are some ways to help out by donating to Ukraine, Yemen, and Ethiopia if you can!

Now, for the club!


Nibbles and Sips

Have you ever heard of caramelized banana pudding?? Typing that out made my eyes water a bit, I have to admit. Chef Millie Peartree shares her banana brilliance here. There are similarities to banana puddings you’ve probably made before, except for the caramelizing and she makes it into a pie instead of a casserole dish or bowl.

side note: how cute and fitting is her name?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups half and half
  • 6 bananas, sliced into 1-inch-thick rounds
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 8 ounces ‘Nilla wafers (approx. 40 wafers), plus a few more
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons/1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Now for the audiobooks!

2022’s Audie Award Winners

Audiobook performances can make or break an audiobook listening experience, elevating the book or dragging it down. There are even some books that I have read that I never would have if it weren’t for their audiobooks *cough* Jane Austen *cough* (you can judge me, it’s fine). And for some disabled folx, audiobooks are the only way to enjoy books, period.

The point is that audiobooks are poppin’, and with the Audie Awards just having been announced this past Friday, I thought it’d be cool to highlight winners and propose you have a book club meeting focused solely on reviewing audiobooks.

cover of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

This took home the audiobook of the year award and was narrated by Ray Porter. It follows Ryland Grace, who just woke up from a looong sleep on a ship in space millions of miles from home. He has a crappy memory and two corpses to contend with. Annd he’s also humanity’s last hope to defeat a threat of epic proportions, but he doesn’t remember that, either. Suffice to say, Ryland is pressed.

Book Club Bonus: Speculative fiction writers have long been credited with predicting the future, but how close to a future reality does this book come, do you think? Has the pandemic changed just how much of speculative fiction you think is possible. Discuss!

A Promised Land cover by Obama

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Obama won the narration by the author award for this presidential memoir. It makes sense, since our former president has a voice like buttah! Anywho, here Obama takes it all the way back to some of his earliest political goals on through his historic eight year term. He includes everything from developing the Affordable Care Act, contending with Vladimir Putin, the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, and more.

Book Club Bonus: A lot of things get blamed on the president of the moment, even if said president had no hand or control over the issue. Obama talks about some of his limits as president here. Discuss what surprised you.

The Final Revival of Opal and Nev Book Cover

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawn Walton

This won the Audie award for fiction and was narrated by Janina Edwards, Bahni Turpin, James Langton, André De Shields, Dennis Boutsikaris, Steve West, Gabra Zackman, Robin Miles, and a full cast. Phew! “Full cast,” indeed! This is about Opal, a young, Black woman from Detroit as she figures out what she wants to do with her life in the early seventies. She’s not the type to conform to social standards and wants to be a star. So when she meets the British songwriter Neville Charles, she decides to pursue her musical dream with him. Then, when another band flies the confederate flag at a concert, tragedy strikes. Years later, journalist Sunny is covering Opal and Nev’s musical history and some shocking things come to light. This is told through oral tradition, which is especially suited to an audiobook.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss what the club thought of the revelation. Does it change things? If so, how?

Local Missing Woman by Mary Kubica cover

Local Missing Woman by Mary Kubica

This won for thriller/suspense and was narrated by Brittany Pressley, Jennifer Jill Araya, Gary Tiedemann, and Jesse Vilinsky. It takes place in a peaceful town where Shelby Tebow goes missing. Then, so do Meredith Dickey and Delilah, her young daughter. The case goes cold, but then eleven years later, Delilah shows up! A whole lot of wtf-isms ensue.

Book Club Bonus: A good mystery will surprise you with the reveal, but still lay the groundwork for it to be feasible in the build up to it. Discuss how you felt this book built up to its final conclusion.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

Colson Whitehead tweeted the name of his new book

Frolic’s book of the month is Hook, Line and Sinker by Tessa Bailey

Reese’s March book pick is The Club by Ellery Lloyd 

Here’s a reflection on Goodreads. What do you think of the site?

A library grants itself the power to ban books

Danika Ellis explores how appropriate sex is in YA books


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-E

Categories
In Reading Color

A Zimbabwean Animal Farm, Queer, Mexican Magic, Writing As Protest, and More New Releases

Welcome to In Reading Color, a space where we focus on literature by and about people of color.

How’s life/reading been going? I just made a bit of a lifestyle change this past weekend. I’m not usually one to have a list of hard and fast requirements for a partner, but I’ve since changed that in order to have “will let me run it up in Barnes & Noble” on the list. It may be the only thing on the list, but it’s there now.

Here are just a few of March’s new releases so you can run it up this week!

Children’s

cover of The Aquanaut by Dan Santat

The Aquanaut by Dan Santat

Those Kids from Fawn Creek  by Erin Entrada Kelly

New from Here by Kelly Yang

Caprice by Coe Booth

YA

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

Cover of Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore

Crimson Reign by Amélie Wen Zhao

Debating Darcy by Sayantani DasGupta

The Rumor Game by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra

A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee

LakeLore by Anna-Marie McLemore

Adult

Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place by Neema Avashia. Bonus: here’s a great article that discusses the book

Run and Hide by Pankaj Mishra

Scattered All Over the Earth by Yoko Tawada, translated by Margaret Mitsutani

The First, the Few, the Only: How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America by Deepa Purushothaman

Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo

Good Intentions by Kasim Ali 

cover of Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo

Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times by Azar Nafisi

Like a Sister by Kellye Garrett 

Red Paint: The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk by Sasha LaPointe 

The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to Dismantle Systems of Oppression to Protect People + Planet by Leah Thomas

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

News ‘n’ Things


Thanks for reading; it’s been cute! If you want to reach out and connect, email me at erica@riotnewmedia.com or tweet at me @erica_eze_. You can find me on the Hey YA podcast with the fab Tirzah Price, as well as in the In The Club newsletter.

Until next time,

-E

Categories
In The Club

Influential Ukrainian, Argentinian, and Taiwanese Women Writers

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

Since March is Women’s History Month and March 8th is International Women’s Day, I thought it would be interesting to highlight some books by women writers that have been influential in other parts of the world (this is relative, of course).

To think of how some of what these authors were writing about were controversial at the time can be both heartening and sad. For one, we’ve definitely made progress in terms of there being more women and other marginalized identities publishing (mandatory disclaimer: there should be more, of course). On the other hand, I think that a couple of these books didn’t take place that long ago, which means that these issues were happening recently. Either way, it’s cool to look back on how people were writing back then, and the books I’ve chosen below can get delightfully trippy and experimental.

On to the club!


Nibbles and Sips

apple empanadas with dulce de leech dipping sauce

You’ve had empanadas, but have you ever had apple empanadas? With a dulce de leche dipping sauce?? Yeah, you need this. Layla Pujol shows us how it’s done. I don’t think I need to tell you how dangerous these are.

Now for the books!


cover of Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex by Oksana Zabuzhko, translated by  Halyna Hryn

Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex by Oksana Zabuzhko, translated by Halyna Hryn 

This is considered to be thee most successful Ukrainian novel of the ’90s. Zabuzhko is a poet, foremost, and tells the story of another poet in a winding stream of conscious style. The narrator visits Harvard as a professor of Slavic studies and is forever changed. Suddenly, being back in Ukraine feels stifling and she beings to question her culture’s conventions. A parallel is drawn between her own subjugation at the hands of her lover and her country’s through history. There was a lot of controversy when this book came out, but that helped keep it on the bestseller’s list for more than ten years.

Book Club Bonus: Zabuzhko contends with her attraction to a domineering lover. Discuss what drew her to this subjugation.

Side note: I just wanted to say that the author did not have to call me out so early in the book on the subject of house plants: “Now both plants have the appearance of having been watered with sulfuric acid for the last three weeks.” Ma’am.

cover of Thus Were Their Faces by Silvina Ocampo

Thus Were Their Faces by Silvina Ocampo, translate by Daniel Balderston  

Argentinian Ocampo has had everyone from Jorge Luis Borges to Helen Oyeyemi singing her praises on her skill with short stories and novellas. Her stories tend to include the unsettling and grotesque, like a house of sugar that leads to possession, talking horse statues, and children locking away their mothers. She studied painting and other various forms of surrealist art, which no doubt had influence on her very original stories.

Book Club Bonus: Borges was friends with Ocampo’s husband and a great admirer of her work. He once made observations on her “strange taste for a certain kind of an innocent and oblique cruelty. I attribute this to the interest, the astonished interest, that evil inspires in a noble soul.” She grew up in a privileged household, and was, as a result, a “lady.” Discuss this need of Borges to define her often dark stories. Do you think he’s on to something, or is this an unwillingness on his part to fully identify someone like Ocampo with her stories?

cover of Notes of a Crocodile by  Notes of a Crocodile by

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin, translated by Bonnie Huie

Miaojin was Taiwan’s first openly lesbian writer, being active in the late ’80s/early ’90s. She was studying clinical psychology and feminism with French philosopher Hélène Cixous when she met a tragic end at 26. The award-winning Notes of a Crocodile was released at the height of Taiwanese media’s unhealthy obsession with lesbians. It’s about a group of queer students at a prestigious college after Taiwan came out of martial-law. The narrator Lazi (which is a slang term for “lesbian”) details the goings-on of her crew who do everything but studying with a mix of vignettes and observations on life. She’s attracted to an older women who is ambivalent towards her, but is still reveling in her new freedom and romantic ideals.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss the analogies contained within Miaojin’s crocodile fable where, once it got back from work, the crocodile “removed the sweat-soaked human suit clinging to its body.”

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

11 Ukrainian Books Available in English Translation

 Groundskeeping by Lee Cole is March’s book for Today

March’s GMA Book Club pick is The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh

Jimmy Fallon, Jennifer Lopez to write kids’ book

Roxane Gay’s book club pick for March is How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

Interesting memoirs for 2022

Interesting history on literary salons

The 2022 PEN American Literary Award winners have been announced


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next time,

-E

Categories
In Reading Color

Escaping War

Welcome to In Reading Color, a space where we focus on literature by and about people of color.

I was worried about quite a few things as we brought in 2022, but Russian invasion was definitely not one of them. Alas, here we are. The outpouring of support I’ve seen for Ukraine has been heartening, at least. Eileen Gonzalez compiled an excellent list of books to help understand how we got to this moment. So far, 400,000 Ukrainians have been able to get away from conflict, but I’ve started to see issues arising concerning African, Asian, and Middle Eastern students being able to leave the country. I hope everyone is able to get to safety soon.

As native Ukrainians and those who have chosen to make Ukraine their home continue to leave conflict, they are having to adapt to everything that comes with being in a new country. I think that regardless of country of origin, this experience involved many of the same things for many people. Because of this, I’ve made a short list of middle grade, YA, and adult books that speak from the perspective of displaced people.

cover of Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhà Lai

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhà Lai

This middle grade novel in verse shows how ten-year-old Hà must leave all she’s ever known to escape the war of Vietnam. Her family finds a sponsor in America and moves to Alabama, where Hà finds bullies, bland food, and a language that is difficult for her to pick up. There is a good amount of humor to be found in this book as Hà adjusts to her new life.

cover of We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai

We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai

There are over 68.5 million people who are displaced, and this collection of stories gives faces and names to that statistic. It starts with Yousafzai telling of how she had to leave her native Pakistan when she was just eleven. At fifteen, she was shot by the Taliban for protesting about her and other girls’ right to go to school. Here, her story takes up only a small portion of the book, with the rest being given to the stories of other girls— from Columbia to Yemen— who have been displaced.

cover of Igifu by  Scholastique Mukasonga, translated by  Jordan Stump

Igifu by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated by Jordan Stump

This takes place during the Rwandan genocide and is another collection of stories, but this time partially fiction and partially autobiographical. Hunger has such a constant presence in characters’ lives that it’s personified as Igifu, “a cruel guardian angel.” A child searches for nourishment at the bud of a flower, a woman recounts her life before the war and after, and a young man remembers his father and the wealth that cattle promised in another time. Zadie Smith has said the collection “rescues a million souls from the collective noun genocide.”

cover of Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Nadia wears a burka so men don’t notice her. Saeed is quiet. The two meet and become lovers who both try not to be noticed. They only wish to smoke their ganga and take their shrooms in peace as war begins to break out in their unnamed country. The country not having a name serves to show how it could be any country that is experiencing violent upheaval. Once Nadia and Saeed find out there are portals that can take them out of danger, they use them to flee west, first to London and then California. This move takes something from them, though, as they suddenly find themselves in a new world that lacks the happiness and warmth of their home.

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

A Little Sumn Extra

Jan. 6 Report Will Be Published as Book

Memoirs to look forward to in 2022

Goodies to celebrate Sailor Moon’s 30th anniversary

Kelly Jensen details what kind of advice vintage books offered teens

Oklahoma Attorney General drops obscenity investigation of books

Here’s a list of  horror novels and novellas written by Black women

Here are some Queer Black Romances to read

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Thanks for reading; it’s been cute! If you want to reach out and connect, email me at erica@riotnewmedia.com or tweet at me @erica_eze_. You can find me on the Hey YA podcast with the fab Tirzah Price, as well as in the In The Club newsletter.

Until next time,

-E

Categories
In The Club

The Appalachia of My Eye

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

This past weekend I got cursed out by a dog. I was babysitting this super cute pittie, Blue, who likes cheese, naps, and nibbling on my hands (I know I’m a snack, but sis!). Blue is very particular about bed time and would take herself to bed promptly at 12 am. If she found that I was also not in bed at that time, but instead downstairs doing something like, I don’t know, watching TV, she’d come down to yell at me to get to bed. Apparently even dogs have better sleep schedules than me. *my father’s disapproval hums in the background*

I like house-sitting once in a while because it kind of feels like a mini vacation and gives me a chance to reset somewhat. Before my excursions with judgmental pitbulls, the last little get away I had was my (socially distanced) trip to the Poconos for Christmas, which led to me learning that it was part of the Appalachian Mountains. Turns out I don’t know much about the Appalachian region, but I’ve been seeing more books that take place in the area lately, and got curious. First off, I just realized I’m from there. Kinda. Once I started to investigate which areas constituted the region, East Tennessee was obviously counted, but Nashville was sometimes counted and other times it wasn’t. This may be because, although Nashville doesn’t have mountains that are apart of the system, the Nashville Basin is part of the Great Appalachian Valley.

Geographical technicalities aside, the area also has its own culture. One that I used to, and I think many others, have the wrong idea about. The expansive area stretches through thirteen states, including New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and the culture has a mix of Indigenous, African, and European influences. It’s interesting to think of these states as having a similar sub culture. We know all too well about how people affect their physical environment, but what about the feedback we get from the environment? To me, the fact that Appalachian culture exists across states that are very different from each other otherwise suggests that our physical environments strongly influence our language and therefore our thought patterns, our food, how we dress, and everything else that can come to be thought of as a culture. The term “Affrilachia” refers to the ways Black people have contributed all of those things to the Appalachian way of life, and was coined by Frank X Walker to give visibility to the diversity of the area.

In today’s club, we’ll get into a few books that dispel stereotypes about the region.

Now, come on and git to the club!


Nibbles and Sips

mascarpone, mushroom, and spinach pizza

I started buying these bougie frozen pizzas from Lidl and I’m hooked! One of my favorites is a mascarpone and mushroom one, so I thought I’d try my hand at it. Alice gives some good directions on how to make one, website name notwithstanding, but I don’t think they’re too complicated overall.

For the topping: olive oil, mushrooms, spinach, red onion, mascarpone cheese (need a little less than a cup), and about 6 oz mozzarella

Instructions:

  • preheat the oven to 350 F
  • pre-cook veggies separately, but not all the way; I do this to take some of the water out of them
  • Roll the dough out to form two 11 inch pizzas and put into oiled pan (I use a cast iron skillet); go ahead and rub a lil olive oil on the edges of that bad boy
  • spread mascarpone on dough
  • add veggies and mozzarella
  • bake for 25-30 minutes, until crust is golden, etc. (you know the drill!)

Now for the books!

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

(Mostly) Affrilachian Lit

cover of Affrilachia by Frank X Walker

Affrilachia by Frank X Walker

This collection of poems is essential for a list like this. As I mentioned before, Walker came up with the label “Affrilachia” to give visibility to Black people from the region. With this collection, Walker distills his experiences as a creative growing up Black and male in Kentucky, thorough the medium of poetry, shining a light on another corner of the Black American experience.

Book Club Bonus: If you’ve read other poetry collections by Black people that are about their lives, how does this one differ? Everyone has different experiences, and we’re all our own people, but based on this collection, how do you think growing up in the region changes Black childhoods?

cover of What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte

What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte

In response to Catte’s title, I say “a lot.” Catte read Hillbilly Elegy and felt some type of way, and with good reason. In this book, the East Tennessean historian shouts down the harmful stereotypes— like the idea that the region consists solely of white people with supremacist ideologies— espoused in J.D. Vance’s book. She counters Vance’s stereotypical portrayal of the area by showing how diverse it is, and even how many of the people leading the area’s progress are young minorities (while its problems are perpetuated by corporations). She also highlights the region’s activism and how there was great support for political candidates like Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential election. (She’s not Black, but I included her here because she’s a native of the region and talks about its diversity.)

Book Club Bonus: If anyone in your book club read Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, this would be a great opportunity to discuss Catte’s criticisms of it. Also, how do Catte’s descriptions of the area make you feel about it? Why do you think stereotypical views of it are so persistent?

The Birds of Opulence  by Crystal Wilkinson cover

The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson

Wilkinson drops us into a fictional town called Opulence located in the mountains of Kentucky. There, we follow several generations of women from two families as they struggle with mental illness, secrets, coming of age, womanhood, sexuality, and assault. We also see how the town both is both blessed and cursed by its mountainous surroundings. The writing is lyrical and poetic, as can be expected from a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets group and Kentucky’s Poet Laureate since 2021.

TW: s*xual assault

Book Club Bonus: I’ve seen the question asked before about why some Black people stayed in the South during the Great Migration, while around 6 million others moved north. How does this book answer that question?

Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood by bell hooks cover

Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood by bell hooks

bell! The late iconic feminist writer bell hooks offers vignettes on what it was like growing up in the ’50s as a Black girl in the South. She tells how she realized at an early age the difference in gender roles, and how colorism and racism were enforced. She describes living in a household with a distant and sometimes physically abusive Father where she’s grappled with her own identity in relation to “… a rich magical world of southern black culture that was sometimes paradisiacal and at other times terrifying.” As a child, she was a loner but found solace in books, which, same Auntie bell, same. hooks also has a poetry collection titled Appalachian Elegy.

Book Club Bonus: bell alternates between first and third person for this book, which some might find to be odd. Discuss the choice of using third person for a memoir. What does it add and what does it take away? Do you think it’s a way to detach from the story or simply an artistic choice?

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

Looky here! Most Texans don’t even approve of politicians challenging books

Here are some of the most influential fantasy books of all time

Books to read in your 30s

Britney Spears Gets $15M for her Memoir

How Ursula Nordstrom helped make queer children’s books mainstream


Blue, the nibbling, judgmental pitbull
Dog tax: here’s Blue looking very cute with her toys everywhere

I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next time,

-E

Categories
In Reading Color

The Book That Inspired the Harlem Renaissance

Welcome to In Reading Color, a space where we focus on literature by and about people of color.

I moved around quite a bit during my time as an undergrad student in NYC. It was part of school policy that we changed dorm rooms every year, which was irritating but let me experience different neighborhoods in Manhattan. My favorite neighborhood I lived in, though, was actually the one I moved to after I had stopped living in the dorms, in my last year at school. I lived in the 140s in Harlem, just a few blocks away from a small bridge that connected to the South Bronx.

What surprised me about living in Harlem was how similar to the South it was. Physically, it was very different of course, but interacting with the people carried a pleasant familiarity with it, one that I hadn’t realized I’d been missing living in other neighborhoods in lower Manhattan. This makes sense as much of Harlem was populated by the Great Migration, when millions of Black Americans journeyed from the South in search of jobs and opportunity.

This migration was largely responsible for what would become known as the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was a period of time between the mid 1910s to the 1930s, by some accounts, that saw a great explosion of Black culture centered in Harlem.

I love the Harlem Renaissance. For all the obvious things it did for Black culture, like giving it its own stage, but also for how it contained The Black Experience. Black literature, art, music, and philosophy were explored and in conversation with each other. Differing viewpoints on ideologies were expressed and there was a thriving queer scene that had what we now know as drag balls— Langston Hughes called them “Spectacles in Color” and described them as a “ball where men dress as women and women dress as men,” where, awards were given to the most lavishly dressed.

In addition to Langston Hughes, many other authors of classic Black literature were active during this time, like W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, Claude McKay, and Marcus Garvey. But there was one author in particular who many credit as having written the book that ushered in the Harlem Renaissance, especially as it related to literature, and that was Jean Toomer.

Toomer’s Cane was written in 1923 to some critical acclaim, but wasn’t widely read. This might have been because it didn’t quite have the stereotypical portrayal of Black people that many white audiences wanted to see, nor did it drown itself in the respectability that many Black audiences wanted. Instead, it showed southern Black people as full people. Nuanced and complex. The experimental structure of Cane lent itself to this feeling of complexity, with its mixture of prose in the form of vignettes and poetry.

Penguin Classics cover of Cane by Jean Toomer

The triptych starts in the rural Black South, where it explores the vulnerability of Black women and men, with an emphasis on sexuality and self-actualization, or a lack thereof. The destructive nature of racial hatred is shown, as is self-destruction. Men fill emotional voids with sex, alcohol, and a desire for material goods, and women are “ripened too soon.”

The second part of the novel sees the move from the warm-blooded, sensual South to the North. With the move, what Black people gain in opportunity they lose in spirituality and connection to their past. The conformity deemed necessary for city living further robs them of confidence. The final section of the book is about a Black schoolteacher in the south, who recounts his previous life in New York as a distant memory. The structure is similar to a play’s, with its titular character Kabnis struggling with his racial identity.

I think of Toomer himself when I think of this character. Toomer was born into a multi-generationally mixed family of light-skinned people in D.C. and could move in and out of Black and white circles, sometimes identifying as white and other times as Black. And then there were times when he identified as neither, and said he was part of a new, truly American race. Once his work Cane came to be identified as a Negro masterpiece, he retreated somewhat from writing, resenting the label. He didn’t want his work, and by extension himself, to be seen as inherently Black.

Normally, I bristle at the practice of some lighter-skinned and mixed people donning their Black hats when it suits them, only to distance themselves at other times from Blackness. But reading a little more about Toomer’s thoughts on race has made me a bit more sympathetic. I can start to see how he felt that racial labels were way too restrictive and harmful for the individual. Having preconceived narratives projected onto people by society and themselves makes people into these simple, monolithic concepts, which takes away the complexity that being human brings with it. Among other things, this stifles creativity, the last thing a writer wants.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if Toomer hadn’t reacted so strongly to being labeled “Negro” and his subsequent withdrawal from writing if he wouldn’t have produced more works as influential as Cane. Alice Walker said of the book, “It has been reverberating in me to an astonishing degree. I love it passionately, could not possibly exist without it.” Its impact is undeniable.

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

A Little Sumn Extra

More Harlem Renaissance reading:

Other reading:

The queer revolution of children’s lit

Interesting facts about LeVar Burton

The most successful book thief in American history

A fun quiz to find out which book genre you are

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Thanks for reading; it’s been cute! If you want to reach out and connect, email me at erica@riotnewmedia.com or tweet at me @erica_eze_. You can find me on the Hey YA podcast with the fab Tirzah Price, as well as in the In The Club newsletter.

Until next week,

-E

Categories
In The Club

Black History Month, Censored

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

I never thought I’d ever experienced a Black History month where people were actively trying to undo it while it was going on. But apparently the 2020s are full of terrible surprises and here we are. How is a student group (meaning the students named themselves) called “Black and Proud” getting censored during Black history month? Are they going to censor Queer Pride during Pride month, too? I’m wondering how far and how long this is going to go before more of the general public starts protesting or we are thrown into the Middle Ages 2.0

This was entirely foreseeable if you’ve been following the extensive censorship coverage that we’ve been doing over here at Book Riot. And listen, as much as I want teachers to say eff the man and still teach these things, their jobs could very well be in danger. The Florida education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, recently said this:

“I’ve censored or fired or terminated numerous teachers,” he said. “There was an entire classroom memorialized to Black Lives Matter and we made sure she was terminated.”

The nerve. It’s quotes like these that make it seem like books like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 are nonfiction.

So, let’s get to the club and undo some of this willful unlearning of history!


Nibbles and Sips

I know I mentioned sweet potato pie last week, but have you ever had— or even heard of— sweet potato biscuits?? Me neither, but I know I need them ASAP. These have the added perk of being vegan if you’re on the look out for that, but even if you’re not vegan, I know in my heart you’ll love these. I’ve been following Sweet Potato Soul on YouTube for years and she never disappoints.

Now for the books!

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

The Fight to Learn Our History Continues On

cover of The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne

The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne

What a life! Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little in 1925, went from being the son of a preacher to a petty criminal to being a civil rights icon. Les Payne started writing this biography in the ’90s with the intention of painting an accurate picture of X that dispelled all the myths that seem to attach themselves to Black American leaders. The result is this tome, which follows X from his birth to his assassination in 1965. It shows how he was a bookish kid, set up a meeting with the KKK, and even how his death might have been connected to the CIA and FBI.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss what shocked you about Malcolm X’s life? How different is what you learned in this book from what you previously knew about him?

cover of How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, Edited by  Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, Edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor 

The Combahee River Collective was a group of Black feminist socialists that met in Boston in the mid ’70s. Their primary focus was to advocate for the rights of Black women (especially queer Black women), whose needs were not being met by the Civil Rights movement or the feminist movement because of what would later be called “intersectionality,” or the amplifying of marginalizing factors that work against the individual. This book has the organization’s major text, The Combahee River Collective Statement, interviews with founding members as well as more contemporary Black activist leaders. The focus of the book is the state of Black activism and Black feminism/womanism today compared to how it was when the Collective was first started, as well as capitalism’s role in all of this

Book Club Bonus: Discuss how do the white patriarchy and capitalism complement each other. Is it possible to have one and not the other? Specifically, is it possible to still have capitalism after having done away with sexism, racism, and classism?

cover of Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall,  Hugo Martinez (Illustrator)

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall,  Hugo Martinez (Illustrator)

Ever wondered where the women were during slave revolts? Rebecca Hall did, too. Here, she shows just how involved Black women were in rebelling against enslavement, often participating in and even leading revolts. Through research, Hall fleshes out the stories of these warrior women alongside her own story of fighting the system as a tenant rights attorney. The beautiful black and white illustrations really strengthen the text.

Book Club Bonus: There are two revolts led by women that took place in New York City that are shown here. Discuss misconceptions this graphic novel does away with concerning how the South vs. the North are perceived in terms of each region’s handling of slavery and the overall treatment of Black people.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

Here’s a light-hearted quiz for people who want a book recommendation based on discount Valentine candy

Jenna Bush Hager has a production deal for her book club

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman revealed the title and cover of her new book on Donald Trump

Here are some tips on starting your own teen book club

The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck is Oprah’s new book club pick


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next time,

-E

Categories
In Reading Color

The Case For More Black Elves, News, and New Releases

Welcome to In Reading Color, a space where we focus on literature by and about people of color.

In tired, are-you-still-on this news, there has been backlash against the diverse casting in the new Lord of the Rings series. There’s a Black dwarf princess and an Afro-Latine elf, and the racists are big madT. I have to admit my… I don’t know, maybe I should refer to it as naïveté, because I really thought people were over this. I mean, we are in the middle of a pandemic still, and there are disaster-fires of various severity still going on all over the world. People are still taking the time to be mad about a fictional world not having all white people in it, though. I can’t.

l remember years ago when the Hunger Games movies were coming out and people were mad that Rue was cast as a Black girl, even though she was Black in the books. More recently, John Boyega in Star Wars and Halle Bailey as the future Little Mermaid also ruffled racists’ feathers. The logic against diverse casting in a lot of these complaints always seems to be that these non-white characters wouldn’t have existed in middle earth/space/undersea. All of the other non-realistic elements— like the existence of mermaids, magical elves, sci-fi wars in space, etc.— are perfectly acceptable, though. Plus, these people never seem to keep that same energy for when white people are playing Black or other non-white characters. Just say you don’t want to see non-white people and go.

Another argument against swapping races for TV and movie adaptations is simply that it’s not canon, which may be tempting for some to accept as a valid argument. That is, until you start accounting for all the times white actors have played non-white characters and no one batted an eye. This article by HuffPost is a few years old, so it doesn’t have more recent examples, but the side-by-side comparisons make such a good case. Non-white erasure has been so prominent in Hollywood that giving a few actors who aren’t white the chance to play traditionally white characters is just the beginning of fixing a system that is so dangerously discriminatory.

Still, there are some people of color who think that instead of putting non-white characters where there were none before, we should just produce more works by authors and screenwriters of color. I personally think we need to do both. We need that different perspective that comes from non-white writers, but we should also continue to diversify previously non-diverse scripts and books because there is still discrimination— that has been going on for decades— concerning whose scripts get chosen. What do you think?

A Few New Books Out

Middle Grade

A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow

Rima’s Rebellion: Courage in a Time of Tyranny by Margarita Engle 

Young Adult

Cold by Mariko Tamaki

Cherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow

cover of Cherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow

Lulu and Milagro’s Search for Clarity by Angela Velez

Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie

Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions by Navdeep Singh Dhillon 

You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen

Reclaim the Stars: 17 Tales Across Realms & Space by Zoraida Cordova

The Chandler Legacies by Abdi Nazemian

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

Adult

Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James cover

God Is a Black Woman by Christena Cleveland

Homicide and Halo-Halo by Mia P. Manansala

Jawbone by Mónica Ojed

Nobody’s Magic by Destiny O. Birdsong

Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James

The Almond in the Apricot by Sara Goudarzi 

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

A Little Sumn Extra

The cast of Washington Black looks really good so far!

Take it back to the ’90s with these series you should read this year

Glory Edim Launches Well-Read Black Girl Series

Jaime Herndon reread Fahrenheit 451 and compares it to the current state of book banning and censorship that’s going on

Here are some South Asian books to read this year

Here are some Affrilachian poetry collections to get into

DC shows its lineup for 2022 movies, one of which is Black Adam, played by The Rock

ZORA NEALE HURSTON bookmark

I’m a sucker for a nice bookmark, and this one featuring Zora Neale Hurston is deliciously vintage. $12

Erika Hardison’s list of bookish Black Etsy shops has a lot of other cute things, like washi tape that has a super kawaii Meg Thee Stallion in cowboy chaps (!!).


Thanks for reading; it’s been cute! If you want to reach out and connect, email me at erica@riotnewmedia.com or tweet at me @erica_eze_. You can find me on the Hey YA podcast with the fab Tirzah Price, as well as in the In The Club newsletter.

Until next week,

-E

Categories
In The Club

🐯Year of the Tiger🐯

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

The Lunar New Year just passed February 1st, ushering us into the year of the tiger. A tiger year promises to be one in which bad stuff is driven out, and courage and strength are shown. In other words, I’m super here for this BTE (Big Tiger Energy), which I think we could all use in these trying times. I’ll be honest with y’all and say I really thought I was embodying this spirit and that my new year was off to a good start per the good Sis Credit Karma, but was quickly given a reality check by Sir Experian. You ever have a tweet that just reads you so thoroughly? Yeah.

Anyway, let’s get to these books that have that BTE we all desperately need. To the club!

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!


Nibbles and Sips

sweet potato pie with whipped cream

It’s not fall, but any time is the right time for pie. To me, anyway. Shaunda Necole gives us a classic Southern recipe for our sweet potato pie needs. Switch out the crust for a graham cracker one to get a little extra in the best way.

Now for the books!

Books for a Fierce Year

cover of Year of the Tiger- An Activist's Life by Alice Wong

Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life by Alice Wong September 6, 2022

It’ll be a little while before this one is out, but I thought it was too perfect not to include now as something to look forward to. Wong mentions how the title of the book and its release came as a result of “deliberate manifestation” and “big cat energy.” In it, Wong, the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project, shares a collection of everything from essays to graphics and art commissioned by disabled Asian American artists to show what her life has been like as a disability advocate. With humor and insight, she explores pop culture, her Asian American identity, and the various consequences of ableism.

when the tiger came down the mountain cover

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo

This novella is the second in the The Singing Hills series that started with The Empress of Salt and Fortune (one of my favorites of 2020). We find ourselves back with cleric Chih and their companion in the fantasictal world Vo has created that has elements of Asian mythology. The monk and the young lady are at the mercy of a trio of shapeshifting tiger sisters, and must tell them the legendary story of a tiger and her scholar lover. Correctly, lest they be eaten. It’s a love story within a story and features a majority of female characters who take lovers and live as fiercely as they please.

cover of Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

TW: s*exual assault

This may seem like it doesn’t fit, but I think it perfectly embodies the spirit of fierceness, bravery, and exorcising demons that the year of the tiger symbolizes. It’s the memoir of the woman that was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner on Stanford’s campus. Her victim impact statement went viral, and was viewed by over 11 million people within a matter of days and read on the Congress floor. Despite never shying away from the label of being a victim, she also doesn’t let it define her, instead offering a nuanced way of viewing victimhood and assault. She’s the epitome of bravery and resilience, in other words.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

Some lesser-own Harlem Renaissance writers

How censorship looks outside of the U.S.

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb is GMA’s February Book Club pick

Some things you may not have known about Zora Neale Hurston

The most anticipated historical fiction books coming out in 2022


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next time,

-E