Title: Witch Wife Author: Kiki Petrosino Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!) My Bookshelves:Contemporary, Poetry, Race Dates read: 27th June 2021 Pace: Slow, Medium, Fast Format: Collection, Poem Publisher: Sarabande Books Year: 2017 5th sentence, 74th page: Stuffed thy brain with blooms of blight:
In Witch Wife’s incantations, Kiki Petrosino summons history’s ghosts – the ancestors that reside in her blood and craft – and sings them vibrantly to life.
This collection of poems was wonderfully dark and poignant. I loved the emotions that it inspired within me throughout. I also felt like a whole heap of it went over my head, but I often feel that way with poetry until I’ve read it half a thousand times…
This poetry was wonderfully dark and engagingly written. I struggled to put it aside. And, even as I’m writing this review days after finishing it… I still get those strong emotions rushing through me.
One of my favourite things about poetry is that you can find something new with every new reading. Some of these poems I read multiple times and understood something new each and every time.
Title: Punching the Air Author: Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again) My Bookshelves:Contemporary, Poetry, Race Dates read: 4th – 5th April 2021 Pace: Slow Format: Novel Publisher: Harper Collins Year: 2020 5th sentence, 74th page: To take my mind off things for a little while, I said
The story that I thought was my life didn’t start on the day I was born
Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighbourhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.
The story that I think will be my life starts today
Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?
This is a powerful and poignant story. It is intense, impossible to look away from and the kind of tale that will honestly make you cry. There is no other way to describe it – you will have so many of the feelings that you probably won’t know what to do. Or at least, that’s how I felt when I was reading this.
I didn’t realise that this was a poetry collection when I first bought it. In fact, I was completely thrown by this fact when I first opened the novel. I was expecting prose. Which honestly ended up being amazing. There is something about poetry that feels so much more emotional to me and reading this tale through poems… it tied itself to my heart strings just that much quicker and tighter.
My heart spent the entire time that I was reading this novel just breaking. Not only because of the amazing emotions that are put forth by this story, but also just the story itself. It is based on true events to a degree, partially written by one of the boys that it happened to… how could your heart not slightly start to break while reading this?
For those who don’t know, Yusef Salaam was one of the “When They See Us” boys, and it is his emotion that I think lent an extra layer of pain and wow to this story. It’s his words that make me want to reach through the pages of the novel and just give the poor boy a gigantic hug.
This is a raw and powerful story. And one that is honestly truly horrifying. Even if it is one of my favourite recent reads.
Title: Becoming Author: Michelle Obama Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again) My Bookshelves:Memoirs, Politics, Race Dates read: 18th September – 11th October 2020 Pace: Slow Format: Novel Publisher: Penguin Viking Year: 2018 5th sentence, 74th page: She had a wide-open smile and a slight island lilt in her voice that became more pronounced anytime she was tired or a little drunk.
There’s a lot I still don’t know about America, about life, about what the future might bring. But I do know myself. My father, Fraser, taught me to work hard, laugh often, and keep my word. My mother, Marian, showed me how to think for myself and to use my voice. Together, in our cramped apartment on the South Side of Chicago, they helped me see the value in our story, in the larger story of our country. Even when it’s not pretty or perfect. Even when it’s more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.
I am just completely, totally and utterly flawed by the awesomeness that is this book. To be honest, there aren’t many books on a political figure that draw me in so completely. And ones that feature a woman? That’s pretty much unheard of for me… partly that’s my own “issue” where I just don’t enjoy politics, politicians and anything of the sort all that much. But its also often hard to find something that is just so well written…
Obviously as the wife of Barack Obama, and the First Lady to his POTUS for so long, Barack was going to take a bit of attention and centre stage in this novel. But, what I really appreciated and loved was that he didn’t take all of the spotlight. Even once Michelle gets to the part of her book in which she starts to explain their courtship and such… it’s about her, not him. Which, in my opinion, is just how it should be – after all, the book isn’t really Barack’s book (I’ve read one of them, it’s good).
Although this is fairly centred around the American political system (which, as an Aussie I just find fucking WEIRD), I loved how it talked about women and their many different hats and roles that they must juggle. Michelle is no different to many working mothers – alright, there’s extra scrutiny and security… but still. I love how she talks about that path to finding what you love. How you juggle that with two young children, an incredibly driven husband… all of the things that I think many women often come up against. I know that these are issues that I seem to be facing in my life at the moment…
As I said before, I find American politics, culture, and pretty much everything super weird. Although you could probably say that people think the same thing about Australian culture… but the way that Michelle writes her memoir makes it somehow that much more accessible. I may still have zero interest in ever setting foot in the country, but at least Michelle’s words made it feel somehow more “real”….
Title: The Help Author: Kathryn Stockett Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again) My Bookshelves:Book to Film, Historical fiction, Race, Strong women Dates read: 21st March – 2nd April 2020 Pace: Medium Format: Novel Publisher: Penguin Books Year: 2009 5th sentence, 74th page: Some dormant instinct tells me to smile, run my hand through my hair.
Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…
There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the heart caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from college, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.
Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary stroy to tell…
The Help is one of my absolute favourite movies. Not only does it star some of my favourite actors, it’s an amazing story. Filled with just the right amount of humour to top the sad parts from being too sad, but also a great message throughout. So I bought the book. And I really wasn’t sure whether it would be all that great – after all, sometimes if the movie is that good, the book isn’t, and vice versa. But, I am pleased to report. I was wrong!
Once I really got my teeth into this novel, I seriously couldn’t put it down. Not only is it phenomenally amazing, but, even though I know how it’s going to end… I STILL couldn’t put it down. Because what if I was wrong? What if it was something different to what I saw in the movie? There were all the key moments, but so many extras in the book… I couldn’t stop just wondering what would happen next!
One of the great improvements of this novel is the romance between Stuart and Skeeter. It’s a little more tragic when they have differences they can’t get over and eventually end their relationship. You feel a little sorry for Skeeter in the movie, but it’s more of a blip in the greater storyline. Yet, in the book… you actually think that there may be a chance for them. And you hope again and again. Which of course makes the come down and the break up all that much worse. Same with Skeeter’s relationships with Hilly and Elizabeth in the book – you actually feel incredibly sorry for her as all of her relationships dissolve and the consequences of her actions are so much more serious.
I absolutely adored this book. And it’s definitely going into my “reread me” pile. Yet, what I loved most about this whole story was how seriously racial relations are dealt with. How it’s not all about hate or love. Not simple. There is such an intense complexity to all of these relationships that makes you think about the relationships in your own life. Whatever shape or form they are in, the message I got from this book is that we are all people, and in particular, all women, and we don’t know each other’s stories. So maybe we should just give each other a break every once in a while?
Title: Long Walk to Freedom Author: Nelson Mandela Rating Out of 5: 3.5 (Liked this) My Bookshelves:Biographies, Politics, Race Dates read: 1st – 21st February 2020 Pace: Slow Format: Novel Publisher: Abacus Year: 1994 5th sentence, 74th page: Your father’s letter mentions nothing about a brother.
The riveting memoirs of the outstanding moral and political leader of our time, Long Walk to Freedom brilliantly re-creates the drama of the experiences that helped shape Nelson Mandela’s destiny. Emotive, compelling and uplifting, Long Walk to Freedom is the exhilarating story of an epic life; a story of hardship, resilience and ultimate triumph told with the clarity and eloquence of a born leader.
I was actually a little disappointed by this. I’m absolutely fascinated by Nelson Mandela, and I looked forward to finding out a little bit more about the man behind the power and story. I didn’t really get much of that from this story. To me, it was mostly about politics, not actually about the journey and the story of the man. Not exactly my cup of tea.
Don’t get me wrong, this entire thing was very well written. And gave fantastic insight into the challenges faced in South Africa. The political landscape, the segregation, the ways in which Mandela’s Xhosa ancestry and life was structured. Everything was so beautifully detailed and told. But I wanted to know about the people that the man loved. The people that he cared about. The emotions. You just don’t get that in this story.
Alright, I know that Mandelawas a politician, so I expected this to be mostly about politics. And law. And human rights. What I didn’t expect was it to just be about this. And that’s where I was a little disappointed. Whenever someone influential is mentioned, their characteristics aren’t discussed. It’s their political acumen and knowledge that is described. I wanted to know much more about the person behind this.
This is an interesting read, and one that I would suggest to others in the future. However, it’s not really my favourite read. I got through it all because the writing was really good, but it took me a lot longer than I had expected because I just couldn’t quite sink my teeth into it…
Title: The Autobiography of Malcolm X Author: Malcolm X Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again) My Bookshelves:Biographies, Politics, Race Dates read: 3rd – 27th January 2020 Pace: Slow Format: Novel Publisher: Ballantine Books Year: 1965 5th sentence, 74th page: Sophia could get away only a few nights a week.
One of Time’s ten most important nonfiction books of the twentieth century
In the saring pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement. His fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream, gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time. The Autobiography of Malcolm X stands as the definitive statement of a movement and a man whose work was never completed but whose message is timeless. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand America.
This is probably the single most intense book that I’ve ever read. Like I just sat there in shock not just after I finished it, but at multiple points throughout. It is intense, confronting and impossible to put down. It will also make you feel ridiculously uncomfortable. But I would still recommend that everyone read it. Even, if, like me, you’re not an American. And I’ve been talking the ear off of my poor family and friends telling them about how amazing this biography actually is.
I’ve been really interested in stories about race and discrimination, particularly over the past year. I desperately want to broaden my knowledge of this topic, and I’m slowly doing so. Actually, the past two years I’ve just been obsessed with memoirs and biographies, so this kind of falls under the topic. The Autobiography of Malcolm X is the most angry biography I’ve ever read. And I don’t say that in a bad way. It is unapologetically honest, completely forthright and doesn’t politely sugar coat the atrocities that the black man in America has had to face. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the language and words used made me feel seriously uncomfortable, but I kind of think that that’s the point… where would we be if everyone just wrote something that would make others feel comfortable?
I’m not overly interested in the politics of America, I try to focus a little more on our own home politics here… however, it is good to get a brief understanding. After all, we are still tied to them. This book gave me a far more in depth insight into these politics than I was expecting. I’m glad that I’ve read a few other books before this which touch upon the subject, and even watched some movies. Because this was seriously confronting. And it made me stop and think repeatedly about our own Indigenous peoples who are constantly facing similar issues of racism.
This is a life changing book. It is one that I will constantly think about and has seriously made me sit back and think. I’m completely floored by the experiences that Malcolm outlines in his book. And, since it is written from his own words and not sugar coated, somehow, everything that I was vaguely aware of is far more real and intense. I had to reach for a happy, innocent book when this was finished…
Title: Rosa Parks: My Story Author: Rosa Parks Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect) My Bookshelves:History, Memoirs, Race Dates read: 20th – 23rd November 2019 Pace: Slow Format: Novel Publisher: Puffin Books Year: 1948 5th sentence, 74th page: All this was to keep African Americans from being able to register.
“The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus, sparking the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott. A year later, when the boycott finally ended, segregation on buses was ruled unconstitutional, the civil rights movement was a national cause, and Rosa Parks was out of a job. Yet there is much more to Rosa Parks’s story than just one act of defiance. In straightforward, moving language, she tells of her vital role in the struggle for equality for all Americans. Her dedication is inspiring; her story is unforgettable.
I’ve known the name Rosa Parks for years. It’s just one of those well-known names that you find impossible to forget. I didn’t really know much about her beyond the fact that she was a big mover in the world of equal rights and there was something to do with a bus. So, I was incredibly intrigued to read her biography. And I’m incredibly glad that I did – not only was it an engaging read, but it was also incredibly eye opening.
For someone who knows next to nothing about American history, this certainly helped to fill me in on some of the tensions that are still occurring throughout the country. I’ve been reading a lot of biographies and memoirs lately that seem to fill in this gap, but Rosa Parks: My Story was telling the same tale with no gloss whatsoever. Somehow, her frank, open honesty was so much more intense than any of the other books I’ve read so far. The rest try to politely talk about violence and racism, Parks doesn’t do this. She’s not angry or vindictive, but there is no softening the history and her experiences. As I said, there is just this intense honesty in her writing that I haven’t had the privilege to experience of late.
Although I’m not supremely interested in American history, I would still suggest this book to anyone. It is about race and standing up for yourself. Equality and understanding that you have the same rights as everyone else. Something that effects everyone, world-wide. Some of the racism that is experienced today might be more subtle, but many of Parks’ experiences are still relevant and need to be discussed. Definitely the kind of book I’ll pick up again and again.
Beginning in America, and spilling back over memories and generations to India, Unaccustomed Earth explores the heart of family life and the immigrant experience. Eight luminous stories – longer and richer than any Jhumpa Lahiri has yet written – take us from America to Europe, India and Thailand as they follow new lives forged in the wake of loss.
This is an absolutely, freaking amazing collection of short stories. It was totally unexpected and a beautiful introduction into the world of Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing. I am completely obsessed now, and eagerly awaiting for The Namesake to arrive at my door. After all, if her short stories are this amazing, a full length novel is just going to be ten thousand times better!
I grew up in a pretty sheltered community – very few people are
not of European descent (predominately English and German). It’s a pretty
monocultural region of Southern Australia. So reading about the Bengali culture,
immigrants and the cultural experience of having your feet in two worlds was an
eye-opening experience for me. In the best, most engaging way possible. Especially
since, although this was a social and cultural group that I have no experience
with, universal issues of family and belonging were still dealt with. Realities
which many families have to deal with, but all cope with in different ways.
This story left me thinking. Hard. The themes and issues
discussed are serious and intense. The battles fought and the lives lived
something that I found completely relatable, and impossible to imagine all at
the same time. It was an amazing journey that I will probably repeat again and
again and again. After all, I read to expand my mind, and this collection did
that in the best way possible.
Title: Going Ashore Author: Jhumpa Lahiri In: Unaccustomed Earth (Jhumpa Lahiri) Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect) My Bookshelves:Contemporary, Race, Romance Dates read: 29th October 2019 Pace: Slow Format: Short story Publisher: Bloomsbury Year: 2008 5th sentence, 74th page: Then he remembered that he had not given her his e-mail address.
After years and adulthood have built their lives, Hema and Kaushik finally meet again. But will they get their happily ever after? Or will life, once again, tear them apart?
Wow this was a tragic ending to a fantastic collection. Not just a brilliant collection, but it also ties out the stories started in Once in a Lifetime and Year’s End. I wanted a happily ever after. A riding off into the sunset ending, because, let’s face it, I’m kind of a child… and always want a happily ever after. But I didn’t get that. And at first I was incredibly annoyed. But then after a little while… I accepted it, and realised that this was actually kind of brilliant. Albeit seriously sad and depressing.
Although I read a lot of stories which make me want to tear
up, there are incredibly few which actually do bring a tear to my eye… but this
was certainly not the case. I did actually weep a little. Just enough to
realise that this was incredibly potent and not the kind of story I’m ever
going to forget. And it’s not one that I ever do want to forget. It reminded me
that sometimes you have to live every day like your last. Say the things that
you need to say… because if you don’t, it could just be too late.
I really enjoyed how Going Ashore, Once in a Lifetime and Year’s End all intersected. They could be read completely separately, but worked better as a whole. Each tale had it’s own messages and storyline. But they also have one overall, heart wrenching tale that will pull at your heart strings and have you sitting at the end, staring into the abyss. Or at least, that’s what I did for a good five minutes after I finished this short story.
Title: Year’s End Author: Jhumpa Lahiri In: Unaccustomed Earth (Jhumpa Lahiri) Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!) My Bookshelves:Contemporary, Family, Race Dates read: 26th October 2019 Pace: Slow Format: Short story Publisher: Bloomsbury Year: 2008 5th sentence, 74th page: For the last two years of my mother’s life, when she was always in and out of the hospital, we had gone nowhere, taken no trips for pleasure apart from those occasional walks along the beach.
Kaushik is faced with a father that’s moving on and a new year. In the mean time he’s remembering a past that they shared. A past filled with regrets, sorrow and a handful of fond memories.
This story connects into Once in a Lifetime. It is about the boy that Hema admires from afar, and the reasons behind his weird behaviour. Actually, the whole behaviour of his family to hers. And the aftermath of his mother’s illness. It’s a haunting tale about trying to move on, but not quite being able to do it.
This tale of moving on to a new future and finding a new
place in a changing world is always difficult. When your past is haunted by
loss that is never discussed, and a separation from family and culture it just
makes it all that more difficult. It’s hard enough to move on to a new future
when things are sitting well in life. It’s far more difficult when there’s a
broken family that can’t quite be repaired.
I don’t come from a broken family (thankfully), so it’s difficult to understand what that feels like. Yet, Lahiri’swords are still haunting enough that I feel like I could begin to understand. The loss, grief, confusion and guilt leap from the pages and strike you immediately in the heart. Just like good, contemporary writing should.