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In Reading Color

Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month with These Books!

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

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month! While part of me loves heritage months as celebrations of culture and opportunities for me to learn about more great books I need to add to my TBR, they aren’t without their flaws. Specifically, I feel like it’s reductive to group two very different ethnic groups together as the AAPI label does. Asia alone has so many different cultures and languages, but I at least understand categorizing them together because of the land shared. Adding Pacific Island cultures to this categorization, on the other hand, doesn’t allow the space to fully recognize either group.

The U.S. government began formally recognizing AAPI Heritage month in 1992 as a much-needed step in 1) coming to terms with its discriminatory treatment of Asians and Pacific Islanders, and 2) acknowledging and highlighting what both of these groups have contributed to the U.S. The thing is, in 2000, the label “Asian and Pacific Islander” was split into “Asian Americans” and “Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders” (NHOPI), which seems to take the differences I mentioned before into account. I would think that this would lead to different heritage month celebrations, especially as I know there are those who identify as Asian American and NHOPI who also have issues with the labelling.

With that said, I still jump at the chance to highlight books during heritage months, and will continue to highlight authors of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. I just think it’s time to reevaluate what this label means, and unflatten our views of Asians, Pacific Islanders, and all other non European ethnicities.

Now, a few books for you to get into!

Bookish Goods

Lizzo T-shirt by DAtaiskaraStore

We love this Lizzo shirt on Etsy!

New Releases

A graphic of the cover of Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

I just finished listening to Ocean Vuong narrate his latest poetry collection on audio. Ugh, it’s so incredibly beautiful, and there’s nothing like listening to a poet narrate his work. Time Is a Mother was written after Vuong’s mother passed away, and it’s full of longing for the person he loved most.

A graphic of the cover of An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X. R. Pan

An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X. R. Pan

I ADORED The Astonishing Color of After, so I’ve been waiting SO LONG to listen to this one. An Arrow to the Moon is Romeo and Juliet meets Chinese mythology, which is 100% in my wheelhouse.

Riot Recommendations

A pineapple upside down cake recipe showdown!

On defining historical fiction

The most f*cked up books ever

Stop everything you’re doing right now and find out which American Girl doll you are

Why do people say that having your book banned is good?

Oprah defends controversial book club pick

Here is an AAPI care package assembled by the Smithsonian that includes meditations, poems, and films.

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

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In Reading Color

National Poetry Month

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

How’s your relationship with poetry? I’ll admit to being one of those who was kind of scared of it— if “scared” is the right word— to being someone who is now wanting to read all of it. My previous hesitation of it was due, I think, to it just not being presented to me well. I’ve always liked it, but just used to think some of its meaning was beyond me. And I’m sure losing a poetry contest I had entered in 5th grade where one of my poems featured a chönky cat falling from the sky and hitting someone didn’t help. Yes, the memory sometimes keeps me up at night.

Awkward 5th grade poetry aside, it’s National Poetry Month, and a perfect time to get into some poetry collections!

time is a mother book cover

Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

This just came out last week and is Vuong’s follow-up to his award-winning collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds. Where Night Sky had his father shot in the back and floating in the sea, Time Is a Mother has Vuong contending with his mother’s death. Here, time, trauma, language— and sometimes the lack thereof— all converge into a perplexing and at times paradoxical experience. These poems are deeply personal, even as form is experimented with.

 Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsaw Shire  cover

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsaw Shire

Shire is a British poet born to parents who immigrated from Somalia. You may have heard of her because of Beyoncé, who featured her poetry in Lemonade. In other words, Shire is that girl. In her first full poetry collection— which also just came out last month— she draws inspiration from her own experiences and pop culture to explore motherhood, immigration, trauma, racism, sexism, and what it means to be a woman. Also make sure to pick up her chapbook Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth.

The Tradition by Jericho Brown cover

The Tradition by Jericho Brown

In Brown’s award-winning third poetry collection, Greek mythology, Christianity, science, and art are offered up to show just how vulnerable the most vulnerable are. The history of Black bodies— especially those of queer, Black men— being both belittled and abused is explored through different scenarios, some personal and others historical. Brown even invented another poetry form in the duplex, which combines the blues, a sonnet, and a ghazal.

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz cover

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

This is another recent award winner! Diaz is a queer Aha Makav woman, and with great range for poetic styles, shows how merely existing as a minority in the U.S. is an act of defiance and protest. Despite immense oppression, though, how the land, as well as Brown and Black bodies, can heal and still feel love and desire is detailed. As history, pain, and family linages are explored throughout these poems, Diaz pushes towards a future with happiness.

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

A Little Sumn Extra

The latest in censorship news

And, if you feel like these recent attacks on books sound familiar, here is a history of Nazi book burning

Danika Ellis speaks on something that plagues a lot of under represented groups (which is: “what counts as good representation?”) with this article on there being room for both dark and fluffy queer media

Do you keep up with the TikTok? Here are some fantasy books the youngins are into


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 Reading Color

There Are So Many Great New Releases!

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

I hope your weekend + Monday have treated you well. As we begin April, I again find myself babysitting a mildy ornery, yet totally adorable pit bull Blue. Last night, she seemed really pressed by something in the bushes. When I looked to see what she was barking at, I noticed something that seemed to be child/adolescent height standing in one place by the bushes. It was too dark to make out details and the thing just seemed to stay there, facing us. After I stopped mentally gagging, I realized it must be a large, semi-deflated helium balloon that somehow drifted into the yard (despite the fence, etc.) and got caught in front of the bushes. Luckily it was just that, because Blue is a big scaredy cat and if it were someone with nefarious intent, she and I would have been tripping over each other Scooby-Doo style trying to get into the house. My nerves!

In addition to questionable balloons, these April showers are making it rain… books (buh-dum-tss)! Dad jokes aside, there are so many new releases coming out today that we need to get into. Of course, this list is not exhaustive, only a starting point.

cover of Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li; photo of Asian man wearing sunglasses

Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li

Remember that scene in Black Panther where Killmonger is looking at the West African masks on display in the museum? He asks the museum “expert” if she thought her ancestors paid a fair price for the artifacts when she scoffs at his offer to take an axe “off her hands.” It raised a good question that a lot of museums in Europe and North America have conveniently not answered, which is: is it ethical to display the spoils of colonialism in museums? It’s something that I’ve been hearing about more and more, and this book takes the topic to another level, realizing a win-win scenario for marginalized people.

In it, Will Chen is the perfect embodiment of the American Dream to his Chinese parents. He’s a senior at Harvard, makes good grades, and all that good stuff. Well, a Chinese billionaire disrupts all that when he reaches out to him to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures that were taken from Beijing hundreds of years ago. To do it, he’ll need to assemble a team with a con artist, a thief, a getaway driver, and a hacker. All for a $50 million cash prize. Yes, this sounds like a typical heist scenario, but I think it turns a few things on their heads. For one, the entire crew is Chinese and contending with their dual identities as Chinese and American— sometimes feeling like neither identity truly suits them. This book also sees to it that they and Will totally upend the stereotype of “model minorities.”

cover of The Trayvon Generation by Elizabeth Alexander; photo of a young Black boy

The Trayvon Generation by Elizabeth Alexander

Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet Elizabeth Alexander wrote an essay for the New Yorker in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in 2020. In it, she focused on the challenges of Black life as it applied to her sons’ generation. Here, she furthers her points made in that essay about who she names the Trayvon Generation for their early exposure to the death brought about by racial violence. She examines America’s past and future, and its simultaneous obsession with and denial of race. Her analysis is punctuated by beautiful artwork.

cover of The Return of Faraz Ali by Aamina Ahmad

The Return of Faraz Ali by Aamina Ahmad

In the late 1960s in Pakistan, a young, midlevel police officer is called to cover up the murder of an 11-year-old girl. She was killed in the red light district of Lahore and it becomes clear she was a worker there. The cover up seems to be a common enough task that shouldn’t be too hard to carry out, and even comes with the promise of curried favor among higher-ups. Despite this, Faraz just can’t bring himself to do it. The memories of living with his mother and sister there before his politically connected father had him taken away tie him too strongly to the slain girl. Farad’s inner turmoil is juxtaposed with that of the country’s, as Bangladesh fights Pakistan for its independence.

More New Releases:

Middle Grade

Behind the Mountains by Edwidge Danticat

A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser (side note: Karina writes for Book Riot!!)

cover of a duet for home by karina yan glaser

Rabbit Chase by Elizabeth LaPensée, illustrated by K.C. Oster

Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality by Roshani Chokshi 

Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega 

It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit by Justin A. Reynolds

Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdoms by Rey Terciero, illustrated by Megan Kearney

Young Adult

Nothing Burns as Bright as You by Ashley Woodfolk

cover of Scout's Honor by Lily Anderson

Does My Body Offend You? by Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt 

Scout’s Honor by Lily Anderson

Heartbreak Symphony by Laekan Zea Kemp

Adult

Memphis by Tara Stringfellow

The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa

At Least You Have Your Health by Madi Sinha

Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments by T. L. Huchu 

cover of Song for Almeyda and Song for Anninho by Gail Jones

Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

Post-traumatic by Chantal V. Johnson

I Was the President’s Mistress!! by Miguel Syjuco 

Song for Almeyda and Song for Anninho by Gayl Jones 

Of Blood and Sweat: Black Lives and the Making of White Power and Wealth by Clyde W. Ford 

Braking Day by Adam Oyebanji 

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

A Little Sumn Extra

Find out what the stars have in store for your reading

Danika Ellis makes the case for fab and fire book covers only from here on out!

A cute lil witchy quiz is always on time

Get your fill of historical K-Dramas in book form

You’ve heard of noir, but what about sunshine noir?


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 Reading Color

Historical Romances for After Your Bridgerton Marathon

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

This year’s movie award season, y’all, phew! It’s just been… a lot. But at least we have the new season of Bridgerton to look forward to! I’ve been speaking to a couple friends and family members about it, and they are already fully immersed again in that world of extra-ness I love. I haven’t started it just yet, though, as I know I’ll want to marathon it, and may need a few days to process it all. But I’ve heard good things so far!

In the spirit of Bridgerton, I thought we could discuss a few historical romances.

An Extraordinary Union Book Cover

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

Elle Burns is a formerly enslaved Black woman living in the U.S. during the Civil War. She gives up her freedom to spy as an enslaved woman within a household of white people who appear to be living a pampered life despite those suffering around them. Malcolm McCall works for the Pinkerton Secret Service, and is also spying for the war effort. The two have a connection, but trying to maintain their covers in public may destroy their relationship. I haven’t come across many spy adventures set during the American Civil War, much less ones that are also romances with complex characters, so this is a win all around.

The Infamous Miss Rodriguez by Lydia San Andres cover

The Infamous Miss Rodriguez by Lydia San Andres

This fun little novella takes place in the Caribbean, where Graciela is determined not to marry the island’s most sought after bachelor. Even if it means tarnishing her family’s reputation. Graciela’s aunt hires Vincente to keep her together, but of course, he ends up being amused and enthralled by her antics. Side note: Talia Hibbert (author of Get a Life Chloe Brown) likes this book, so you know it’s good!

The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin  cover

The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin 

Within the Pingkang Li, beautiful courtesans, imperial scholars, and bureaucrats all intermingle. Yue-ying was forced into prostitution, but isn’t considered to be one of these beauties on account of a red birthmark on her face. She resigns to being her mistress’s maidservant when she meets Bai Huang. She chalks up the aristocratic socialite’s interest in her to drunkenness, but it proves to be much more than that. The pair’s relationship deepens once a courtesan is murdered and they both become involved in the aftermath. The mystery isn’t at the forefront of this story, though. Instead, the main focus, and what will probably appeal most to you, is how Yue-ying and Bai Huang fight insecurities and social standards to find a place where they can be together.

Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins cover

Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins

This is another book that takes place around the time of the Civil War, but this one is right after, during the Reconstruction era. Spring Lee is a Black woman has been through it. She’s been able to find some semblance of peace, though, through owning a ranch in Wyoming where she trains wild horses. When she stops to help Garrett McCray, a Black man who’s come from Washington, D.C. to interview her brother, she’s not really looking for love like that, but you can guess how that goes. This is an interesting look into a time in Black history that isn’t explored much, with a fiercely independent heroine.

The Duke Who Didn't by Courtney Milan cover

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan

This cute romance takes place in a small town, which just so happens to be owned by Jeremy, the Duke of Lansing. Now, Jeremy kind of banished himself from the town years ago when he told Chloe about his feelings for her and she told him to get serious. Ouch. Now he’s back to convince type A personality Chloe to accept him as he is, even though he’s never told her his title, and she has all these other plans for her life. This is a friends-to-lovers type of romance with lots of characters of color and a dash of the sunshine/grumpy trope.

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

A Little Sumn Extra

Tupac’s unpublished childhood poetry is up for aucton

An event that aims to help organize against censorship

In when you do clownery news, Ted Cruz drove up sales for antiracist books

The best manga for you to get into!

The Pachinko adaptation is on Apple TV now


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 Reading Color

Spring These Books into Your TBR

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

After February, while being the shortest month of the year, felt long, we are somehow in spring. But I’m not mad! I am a very in-between kind of person when it comes to seasons and weather and prefer fall and spring, anyway. And while spring isn’t quite in full force, hopefully it’ll push through soon because these half 75 degrees, half 30 degrees just weeks aren’t it.

Indecisive weather aside, these new spring releases are looking crisp! Let’s get into a few, shall we?

Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou  cover

Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou

Ingrid Yang is 29 and going through it as a PhD student. For years, she’s been researching the late Chinese poet, Xiao-Wen Cho, even though she had no interest in him prior to starting her PhD (or any interest in since having started, if we’re keeping it real). Instead, the subject of her future dissertation was chosen by her adviser, a white guy who starts off being very invested in Chinese culture, and ends up… being the opposite of that. One day she finds a note in the Chou archives that leads to a helluva discovery. With her best friend, she sets out to get to the bottom of the mystery. There are book burnings, Anti-Asian propaganda, and a reckoning with how white men factor into her life that Ingrid experiences in this funny dark academia novel.

Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q. Sutanto cover

Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q. Sutanto (March 29, 2022)

Finally, Meddy Chan’s Aunties from Dial A for Aunties are back and still just as Med-dlesome (ha!). There is a grand wedding as in the first book but this time it’s Meddy’s! They hire another Chinese-Indonesian family to handle all the particulars, and practice their British phrases in anticipation of meeting her fiancé’s family. The wedding planner family’s photographer, Staphanie, and Meddy bond until Meddy overhears her talking about assassinating someone. Bloop! Now Meddy and her aunts try to stop this mafia family from taking out one of their wedding guests. Hijinks follows, naturally.

cover of Memphis by Tara Stringfellow, featuring illustrations of four Black women sitting amongst grass and flowers

Memphis by Tara Stringfellow (April 5, 2022)

Joan is an artist who paints the women of North Memphis, where her mother moved her and her sister in order to escape domestic violence. It’s also there that Joan’s grandfather was lynched 50 years earlier. Stringfellow jumps back and forth through time to tell the story of a Black family’s continued brushes with violence, tragedy, and trauma. Only by seeing the women in her family in a new light can she hope to break free of her family’s generational curse.

cover of An Unlasting Home by Mai Al-Nakib

An Unlasting Home by Mai Al-Nakib (April 12, 2022)

This is another muligenerational tale of women in a family that spreads across Kuwait,the United States, Lebanon, Iraq, and India. Sara, after having moved back to Kuwait from California, is a professor of philosophy at Kuwait University with a complex relationship with her home country. This is made even more complex once she teaches a class on Nietzsche that brings with it a charge of blasphemy on her. As she tries to fight the charge and figure out what her future will look like, the story weaves in and out, telling the stories of Sara’s grandmothers starting in the ’20s and how their actions led to today. No matter which country they found themselves in over the years, they were, like Sara after her mother died, always tied back to Kuwait.

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

A Little Sumn Extra

New Actors Added to Cast of Anansi Boys Series

25 of the Best Murder Mystery Books

An interesting reflection on what exactly science fiction is

Books to help understand the maternal mental health crisis

The latest in censorship news


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 Reading Color

Murder, Mystery, and Magic in the 1800s

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

One of my favorite eras to read about is the 1800s. For one, the advancements in science and medicine were the direct predecessors of today’s practices. We were always moving towards progress— at least in terms of technology, social progress is another thing— so the nineteenth century having interesting technological advancements makes sense, but it’s not just that. The time was also full of major changes and contradictions. In England, in addition to advances in science, there was a great interest in the occult and new desires to eliminate cruelty clashed with the conditions needed to keep upper classes comfortable. Meanwhile, stateside, a new country struggled with staying true to its self-imposed identity of liberty and freedom from persecution.

It’s interesting to think of all the things going on and changes that took place during an era that wasn’t that long ago if you think about it (fun fact: my biological grandfather was actually born in 1899!), so I’ve chosen to highlight some books that take place in the West during this time.

cover image of The Conductors by Nicole Glover

The Conductors by Nicole Glover

In this alternate version of Philadelphia, Hetty Rhodes’ reputation as a former Underground Railroad conductor is legendary. She used her magic to bring enslaved Black people to freedom before the Reconstruction era. The Civil War is over now, but Hetty and her husband Benjy, another magic user, still have work to do. They’re on a mission to bring justice to Black people who have been murdered because they know white people won’t. When one of their friends is killed, they use their analytical skills and constellation-based magic to find out what happened. Naturally, not everyone is as they seem. Even Philly’s Black elites. Even Hetty and Benjy themselves.

NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro said that The Conductors “is a history buff’s dream fantasy novel. It is also a fantasy geek’s dream history novel.”

cover of Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang (April 5, 2022)

Daiyu’s name carries with it the tragic story of a heroine who is beautiful but cursed to be heartbroken. She starts to inhabit this narrative once her parents disappear from their small, quiet village in China, and Daiyu must flee to a calligraphy school where she is safe, for a time. She ends up becoming a victim of human trafficking and smuggled to a brothel in San Francisco,CA. She escapes and makes it to Idaho, where she begins work at a Chinese owned general store. Throughout, Daiyu always seems to narrowly escape a dark fate that seems to be chasing her, until it must be faced head on. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882— the first major law restricting immigration to the U.S.— and its anti Chinese sentiments looms over the entirety of this novel, which culminates in terrible violence.

the hacienda book cover

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas (May 3, 2022)

This books is basically Mexian Gothic + Rebecca, and I am beyond here for it. After the Mexican War of Independence, Beatriz is trying to pick up the pieces. Her father was executed and her home destroyed. That’s why, when handsome but mysterious widower Don Rodolfo  proposes to her, she accepts. She’ll have security again. Except she won’t. There’s something not quite right about her new husband’s estate, the Hacienda San Isidro. She starts getting bad dreams and feelings of being watched once Rodolfo leaves to work in the capital. Juana, her sister-in-law, says she might be losing her mind, but then why does the housekeeper refuse to work without being able to burn copal incense and write odd symbols on the kitchen door? As she begins to wonder what really happened to the late Mrs. Rodolfo, she realizes the only person she can trust is a priest: Padre Andrés, who uses his knowledge of brujeria to help Beatriz conquer what’s haunting her.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

In an alternate England that has magic, Zacharias Wythe is born to enslaved African parents. He ends up being adopted by Sir Stephen Wythe and trained in magic. Now that Sir Wythe has died, Zacharias assumes the role of Sorcerer Royal, even as other members of the Unnatural Philosophers—a respected magic organization in Britain— think his skin tone is a curse. Nevertheless, he sets out to find out why England’s magic has diminished. He comes across Prunella Gentlewoman, another person of color who possesses magical abilities, and together they try to save England’s magic, all while dodging attempts on Zacharias’ life. This fantastical traipse through England during the Napoleonic Wars manages to be fun while calling out sexism and racism. It’s been likened to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but is of course its own, wonderful thing.

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

A Little Sumn Extra

Rep. Cori Bush To Publish Memoir

What to you know of quiet YA?

The evolution of the magical girl in manga and anime

A fun quiz matching literary animals to their books

Another to see which fictional character you are

Learn about Diane Oliver, an 1960s author who wrote about the horrors of racism


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 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 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 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 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