logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: reading-women-of-color-2016
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
review 2017-06-15 20:38
Black White Jewish
Black White & Jewish - Rebecca Walker

Never before has a book so completely spoken to my heart. I originally found this last year when I was looking around for around for women's memoirs to be put into my Diverse Books Tag focused on that genre (a book with a biracial protagonist). I recommended it to my library but got quickly absorbed in a number of other books while I waited for it to be available or for the right time to pop up. At last, my library purchased it and I was the first one to get it when it came out.

I have to say that waiting for the right time worked out fantastically. Some books just seem to know when you need them. As I said, this one just spoke right to my heart. That's not to suggest that I "know" what it was like for Rebecca Walker to navigate her life or what it's like to be black and white and Jewish all at the same time. What I do know is that I am quite familiar with that sense of not quite belonging to anyone, but maybe belonging enough to be claimed here and there for this or that trait. I have drifted from one home to another within my family or neighborhood or group of friends and felt that change that Walker describes as "switching radio stations". I've felt the sting of being in one group while people denigrate the other part of you, the part that they don't claim, while they insist that it's not you but you know that it is, even if only in part. I've felt it on both sides of me.

We've lived vastly different lives in different times within this country and I couldn't possibly relate to all of Walker's experiences, but I had never known anyone to describe this being and not being so well, so beautifully. The idea of being a "movement baby" sounds terrifying, like for too much to live up to. Later, I found it far easier to relate to what happened when the ideas of the movement were gone and she was treated like her existence was half-oppressor and half-oppressed, when people asked her navigate those waters and explain what it felt like. I was never able to explain what it was like to be fragmented this way and now I have someone to turn to for that.

I loved Walker's style of writing and relating everything back to memory and the way that memory shifts, that way that it can be wrong and right at the same time and the way it shapes us and perceptions of us without ever asking for permission. I loved the poetic feel that accompanies most of the book. I peaked at some other reviews and it's not the kind of book that everyone loves, but I still find it an important book to read and discuss. Perhaps it would make a great book club memoir because it does bring in questions of race on several fronts and it could open conversations about sex in adolescence, the effect of divorce and/or neglect on a child's upbringing and other important issues that Walker goes through that still plague us.

The downside to that, of course, is that using the book that way invites criticism of Walker and her parents as people who were theoretically doing the best they could. I don't mean to sound like I doubt that anyone was doing their best but I also don't want to make it sound like I'm making assumptions about what could/should have been done. The point is simply that getting judgey about someone's life and story like this would miss the point of reading the book.

Despite what others might think, I found this book engaging, even at it's lowest moments. I appreciated the way it was a little episodic, moving through periods in her life and only stopping to fit in the moments that best sums up the time-frame for her rather than dwelling on incidentals. As mentioned above, what I loved the most was the way she relates what it is like to not fit succinctly into any single category of race, to be a part of something and not a part of it at the same time, close and yet removed from it. I have felt these things so many times in life when I am in Hispanic or not Hispanic depending on the way whoever I'm talking to feels about it and it rarely seems up to me to let them know who I am and how I fit into these categories and whether or not I even want to.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2017-06-15 20:37
Written in the Stars
Written in the Stars - Aisha Saeed

This is my Letter W for the Litsy A to Z challenge this year. I picked it because of that cover. Isn't it gorgeous?

This is also one of those books that I had read the synopsis for when I first chose it and just trusted my earlier judgement, having put it on a challenge list and all. Then I promptly forgot what it was actually about, which is always fun for me because I know its about something I'm interested in but still get to be surprised.

Let me say that I enjoyed a lot about this book but it was greatly helped by the fact that I had finished Dear Zari directly before it which provided me with great information on the realities of life for Afghan women. Though our protagonist in this book is Pakistani-American, the understanding of cultural traditions is similar enough to be helpful in this book and not see that none of the characters who live in Pakistan are behaving unusually, nor are they written in a way to be seen as villainous. They are doing what they know to do for the situation they are in.

Naila, our protagonist, is born and raised in American and her parents try to hold her the cultural expectations of their extended family back in Pakistan. They want her to be a good Pakistani girl and she can't begin to comprehend what is wrong with being a good American girl instead. Her general attitude about these traditions while in the US reminded me a little of Ms. Marvel too. When her world turns upside down in Pakistan, the story really turns.

I spent the rest of the book unsure of which direction the resolution to Naila's issue the author was gonna go until close to the end. I felt pretty sure that a happy end was coming though. 

Overall, I really enjoyed it. Its a great YA that fits in a rather underrepresented demographic, those teens whose lives fall somewhere between the US and the Middle East. It also falls solidly into chick lit, in my opinion, which is part of the fun here. The characters aren't exactly well rounded, but I don't think that was the point anyway. Its enough that they are entirely different manifestations of familiar archetypes in YA or chick lit. It made them a little unpredictable for me, which is always fun. I think anyone who reads either of those genres would enjoy this.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2017-01-27 15:02
Sister Outsider
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches - Audre Lorde

his book is everything. It's been slow going to figure out how to review it or just talk about it. It just has everything in here from systemic issues in government and society to systemic issues within feminism itself.

I'd been meaning to read Sister Outsider for a while but kept putting it off until I made it my Letter S read for Litsy A to Z. That's the beauty of reading challenges, they make you actually sit down and decide that now is when I'm going to read this or that book that I'd been meaning to pick up.

I was a little underwhelmed by the first essay, which is mostly about a visit to Russia. What I did appreciate about this was the acknowledgement that communism isn't the answer either. Capitalism has many issues, but I'm hardpressed to consider them lesser problems to communism, but maybe that just where I lean right.

After the essay on Russia, every essay got me more pumped. It was the perfect book to be reading while gearing up for the women's march last weekend. There were so many lines and paragraphs that have given language to things I was seeing but not quite able to fully digest, like this one:

Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you, we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dying.

It is so powerful. And it's like this over and over again with different topics.

The essay about raising a son echoed many of my own concerns about my son, who is only 6 now. I took him with me to the women's march and I hope that he's glad he went when he's old enough to understand what we were doing there. It's a concern that he'll not see it when he gets older (unless we've somehow reached equality by then but I don't see it as likely) but I am certainly less worried about the things that she is. It's a contrast that must be remembered when we choose what to take a stand.

Much of the book brings about questions about how the treatment women of color. It makes me more aware of the fact that sometimes I could hurt things when I'm trying to help. It's a reminder not to speak for women of color but to find ways to propel their voices.

It did tweak me a bit that Lorde consistently neglected to capitalize America, but I get it. By tweak, I do not mean annoy. It's a style choice and it makes it's own statement. It did it's job to demonstrate the demotion in importance of the country as opposed to the black population, as she consistently capitalized Black when talking about the population. I understand it, though you can see that I can't quite bring myself to do it. It is one of the subtleties of an essay written by a poet.

As mentioned in my TTT on Tuesday, I already know that this is one of those books whose sentiments will not leave me any time soon. Since the first time I poked a toe into the world of what feminist politics mean and what they mean to me, the divide between white feminists and black feminists has been a point of contemplation and discussion. The terms perturb me and I more often call myself an intersectional feminist, since I am neither black nor completely white and my ideals don't completely line up with either. As Lorde indicates, though, we do not have to completely agree on all problems, how to handle them, or how to prioritize them in order for us all to work together as feminists. But we do need to remember both our differences and our similarities to do this adequately.

It's hard to have a "favorite part" in a book like this, but it is this paragraph that my mind keeps coming back to as the sentiment that I've seen in many places about integrating the rest of the population with the white feminists that seem to so often forget everyone else in their climb to parity with men:

You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other. I do not have to be you to recognize that our wars are the same. What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities. And in order to do this, we must allow each other our differences at the same time as we recognize our sameness.

Given the many women of color that I saw in DC on Saturday, I hope that we are already doing that. But I know in herstory that women of color help to propel the voice for the cause and then get shut out of it once the men are at the table to negotiate. We must not let it happen again.

This is one of those books that all feminists must read, that women in general should read, and that would be a great addition to any course, conference, or book club or anything on social justice in general or feminism specifically.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2016-10-13 18:03
In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park
In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom - Yeonmi Park

I appreciate Park telling her story and including how hard it was for her to do so. It can be something that we miss sometimes when people write memoirs that not everyone has a story that they are comfortable with everyone knowing. Sometimes we have things that we'd rather keep hidden about ourselves and Park definitely relates that feeling. She includes the shame she felt at different times and her paths to overcoming it and the times when she didn't. She gives us her story so that we can understand the plight of those who share her circumstances but that often go unheard. 

I appreciate that she didn't get into the gory details. She discusses being raped and beaten (sexual violence being the most prominent trigger in this book), but she doesn't go into detail about how it happened. It's selfish of me to appreciate that but I do. This is not a comfortable book to read, but it's a necessary one and I get the impression that she didn't want to relive the details any more than I wanted to hear about them. But this didn't keep her from sharing what happened, she just laid it out there.

The other thing to appreciate about this is that when we hear the way violence happens, we sometimes miss what it is. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's possible to describe a beating or rape without using those two words and I feel like books that do that can miss something very important. They miss that these terms are used for actions that happen in a multitude of circumstances and are not designed for use for the perpetrator. Park says that she was raped and we don't miss it underneath the coercion that was used against her. The ability to name what has happened to you and not just describe the way it happened instead is powerful. It erases any idea that it could have been something else. It makes it clear to the reader that there is no question as to what happened and that the way it happened is less important than that it happened. To me, it was pretty powerful way to approach discussing that part of her story. 

I appreciate that she doesn't out others or tell their stories.

I appreciate that she admits to having mixed feelings about people in her life, even those that trafficked or helped her. 

I appreciate describing the unusual relationship she has with religion between her North Korean upbringing and the missionaries she met. 

I appreciate the in-depth description of what it was like to live in North Korea as a child and all the ways that she was taught to think and to be a loyal subject.

It's odd to say that I liked a book about such topics but Park made it easy to read and relate to. While it would be better to live in a world where these things didn't happen anymore, I appreciate that this book is out there to give an understanding of what it is like to go through all of this, to have to live with it and to try to get beyond it. It is essential for us to understand that this happens and how it happens in order to begin to work to eradicate it. Park knows this and even explains that this was a driving force behind her writing the book. So, yeah, I like the book. It's written well and it's important for us to read.

I wouldn't recommend it for high school or young adults because of the content, despite that she was in this age group during most of the book. I'd recommend it for anyone at or above college age, especially those who are working to understand the way the world around them works. In Order to Live is for feminists who wish to reach out internationally and for aspiring human rights activists. It is for missionaries and aid workers who will probably run into women and girls who have been trafficked. 

Like Reblog Comment
review 2016-10-03 22:58
A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
A Torch Against the Night - Sabaa Tahir

In this book, Helene becomes a point of view character, her chapters read by Katharine McEwan. Given her position in the government, she introduces the wide view of the world that the story takes place in and allows the reader to keep tabs on what's happening inside the empire. Meanwhile, Elias and Laia show us more of the world that Tahir built. I love the mysticism and the supernatural creatures in these stories.

As before, the world building is magnificent and now it has simply expanded to include new elements. The three point of view characters progress nicely along with many of the secondary characters. Tahir has mastered the ability to make it clear that every character has their own ambitions that interact with the path of the main characters without making it all about them. That's part of what makes it brilliant to read. Everyone had their own interests and they happened to clash, but not everyone is after the same thing. The writing is beautiful and the plot moves at a great pace.

This is one of those YA series that has a broad appeal to more than just the YA age group. I can't wait for the next installment to come out! 

 

My review of the first one is here

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?