Tag Archives: Race

Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday

Overview

Title: Lady Sings the Blues
Author: Billie Holiday
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, Music, Race
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 1956

Thoughts

Two words reading this: HOLY CRAP. I know next to nothing about blues and jazz. In both the best and worst ways possible. I mean, the holy crap meant that it was impossible for me to put this book down. In a bad way, it was just a horrible life for someone to live. And, all that much sadder to know that Holiday passed away only a few years after this book was first published.

I loved the style and tone of voice throughout this biography. Holiday is immediately relatable and totally foreign. She has such a distinct voice and refuses to shy away from the reality of the world and herself. In fact, there are some truly and deeply horrifying moments recounted in this, but it’s not done in a woes-me way.

This is a seriously dark biography. There are very few moments throughout that I would consider to be a bright moment. It was horrifyingly dark and, even a few days later, sitting here to write a review… I’m in awe of all of the feelings this inspired. And, the strength of a woman who was able to overcome unimaginable odds.

A seriously brilliant and intense biography. One that I will pick up again in the future to totally destroy my emotions all over again.

<- An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on EarthSurviving Year Zero ->

Image source: Amazon

Island by Alexia Arthurs

Overview
How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs

Title: Island
Author: Alexia Arthurs
In: How to Love a Jamaican (Alexia Arthurs)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Race
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Year: 2018

Thoughts

There is always something difficult about going home. But that can be made far worse when that original home is in another country with some far stricter rules. That sometimes all you want to be is a tourist in a world that you know intimately in another way.

Added to all of the emotional turmoil of this story is the fact that rhe narrator is having to deal with their sexuality. Whilst she is comfortable in it, she is surrounded by people who aren’t. I found this kind of heartbreaking. I mean, these people are supposed to be friends… but they’re just… dismissive in so many ways.

An emotionally difficult story that makes you think about relationships and coming home. And how it can be difficult to navigate different realities.

<- Bad BehaviorMermaid River ->

Image source: Goodreads

Slack by Alexia Arthurs

Overview
How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs

Title: Slack
Author: Alexia Arthurs
In: How to Love a Jamaican (Alexia Arthurs)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Race
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Year: 2018

Thoughts

This story was just… tragic from beginning to end. I mean, it starts woth dead children. And honestly, there is nothing that gets better from there.

Now that I’ve read a few Alexia Arthurs stories, I’m getting used to her jumping around style. And for this story, it added to that feeling of tragedy. Not only are you talking about premature death, but there’s also the sadness and tragedies of those days before.

There is such a feeling of blame and fault throughout this tale. Not that I can pinpoint where the blame is supposed to lie. But it sits there. Incredibly uncomfortably.

<- Mash Up LoveBad Behavior ->

Image source: Goodreads

Mash Up Love by Alexia Arthurs

Overview
How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs

Title: Mash Up Love
Author: Alexia Arthurs
In: How to Love a Jamaican (Alexia Arthurs)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Race
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Year: 2018

Thoughts

It took me a little while to “click” with what was going on in this story. Mainly because the author is female, the narrator in the first story of this collection is female. But the voice of this story is male. Once the penny dropped (I mostly blame the delay on baby brain), I thoroughly enjoyed this.

I know next to nothing of Jamaica. Besides Cool Runnings, so nothing. It was fun to read a story that was set in everyday, familial life there. The simplicities of everyday life seem so simple, until you look at them from the outside. And I was intrigued.

There was such a powerful underlying pain throughout this story. It was about life and love, but there was also this feeling of being inadequate. Wondering why the good wasn’t acknowledged when the bad so often was. And how this maelstrom of emotions can combine into a complex, mash up love.

<- Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly RowlandsSlack ->

Image source: Goodreads

How to Love a Jamaican Collection by Alexia Arthurs

Overview
How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs

Title: How to Love a Jamaican
Author: Alexia Arthurs
In: How to Love a Jamaican (Alexia Arthurs)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Race, Short story collections
Pace: Slow
Format: Collection
Publisher: Picador
Year: 2018

Thoughts

Each and every one of these short stories is thought provoking. They all make you pause and just THINK about what, exactly, you are reading. About preconceptions and misconceptions. About what it means to move through the world. They’re all brilliant.

I have literally no personal experience with racism and immigration. I’m white, I’m Australian, I was born here. But, I did love the moments of immersion into this different reality that Arthurs provides. It’s… intense. And brilliant.

Normally with short story collections, I have to keep reminding myself to go back. With this collection, I didn’t want to STOP. Each and every tale felt like a revelation. Revelations that I look forward to rereading again and again.

I loved this collection. It was brilliant and intense. With a wonderful edge of satire and wit that I probably didn’t expect. Definitely one that I’ll be going back to in the future.

<- Shirley from a Small PalceLight-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands ->

Image source: Goodreads

Bad Behavior by Alexia Arthurs

Overview
How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs

Title: Bad Behavior
Author: Alexia Arthurs
In: How to Love a Jamaican (Alexia Arthurs)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Race
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Year: 2018

Thoughts

I can’t imagine the difficulties and perils of raising a daughter (I’m about to find out and I’m terrified). But adding into that mix being immigrants and having to balance different cultures? Wow. This story was a good way to show how difficult that can be.

I enjoyed the way in which the reform for the daughter didn’t come from tough love. It didn’t come from being sent back to the “homeland”. Rather, it came about because the grandmother stopped and TALKED to her granddaughter. It was such a powerful driver to end on and a reminder that communication is important.

The jumpy nature of this story was thoroughly enjoyable. The disjointed nature of the prose felt like life. After all, things aren’t exactly straight forward in life and they certainly aren’t easy. But there can always be a silver lining.

<- SlackIsland ->

Image source: Goodreads

Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands by Alexia Arthurs

Overview
How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs

Title: Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands
Author: Alexia Arthurs
In: How to Love a Jamaican (Alexia Arthurs)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Race
Dates read: 31st October 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Picador
Year: 2018
5th sentence, 74th page: I observed that every man she pointed to in school or around the city, men she joked about rebounding with, were all white.

Synopsis

Friendships are difficult. But they’re even more difficult when you come from different worlds and see everything through a different lens.

Thoughts

I found this story a little intense. In the best of ways. I’m white, so although I’m peripherally aware of my privilege, I’m not consistently aware of it. And I hadn’t even thought of privilege in terms of friendships. How simple it is for me to walk into a room and find a friend, because most people look like me.

I really loved the slightly jumpy nature of this tale. For me, it highlighted that friendships aren’t exactly a simple and linear thing. Rather, they do literally jump all over the place. Maybe not in time, but when you reflect, which is the tone of this piece, you think of different moments in a totally non linear order.

Having never thought about the impact of racism and racial identity on forming something as simple (or not so aimple) as friendships, I found this intense. And thought provoking. And yes, I will be reading this again.

<- How to Love a JamaicanMash up Love ->

Image source: Goodreads

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

Overview
Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

Title: Heart Berries
Author: Terese Marie Mailhot
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Memoirs, Mental health, Race
Dates read: 29th August – 4th September 2021
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Counterpoint
Year: 2018
5th sentence, 74th page: You were still fucking me, though.

Synopsis

Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Band in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder, Terse Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father – an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist – who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.

Thoughts

For such a short book, this is incredibly difficult to read through. It took me quite a while. Mostly because the emotions and power of Mailhot’s words were unforgettable. Powerful and filled with such rawness that I frequently had to pause and look at another story.

Mailhot is able to address issues of mental health, abuse and transgenerational trauma in a completely unforgettable way. It is, in places, physically difficult to read about this. But it is also filled with a cautious feeling of optimistic hope.

Under all of the writing and experiences, Mailhot has this overwhelming love for her children. Love for her family. And love, ultimately for herself. There is that cautious optimism throughout, but there is also a great sense of overwhelming love and attachment to those in her life.

This is one of those books that MUST be read. I will probably read this half a dozen times and find something new in it that I just wasn’t expecting. The complexity and power of this writing will most definitely give you new insight with each and every new read.

<- The Answer to the Riddle is MeTwelve Patients ->

Image source: Goodreads

The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris

Overview
The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris - Penguin Books Australia

Title: The Truths We Hold
Author: Kamala Harris
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Memoirs, Politics, Race
Dates read: 18th – 22nd August 2021
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Vintage
Year: 2019
5th sentence, 74th page: She cared a great deal about making our apartment a home, and it always felt warm and complete.

Synopsis

The extraordinary life story of one of America’s most inspiring political leaders.

The daughter of immigrants and civil rights activists, Vice President Elect Kamala Harris was raised in a California community that cared deeply about social justice. As she rose to prominence as a political leader, her experiences would become her guiding light as she grappled with an array of complex issues and learned to bring a voice to the voiceless.

Now, in The Truths We Hold, Harris reckons with the big challenges we face together. Drawing on the hard-won wisdom and insight from her own career and the work of those who have most inspired her, she communicates a vision of shared struggle, shared purpose, and shared values as we confront the great work of our day.

Thoughts

The last few years I’ve been somewhat fascinated by American politics. After all, they inform our own in some of the worst ways possible (and I’m sure in some good ways, but still…). The fact that Kamala Harris is one of the first women to not only hold such a high office but is of mixed heritage… it was fascinating.

I really enjoyed this memoir. However, it did really read like a political dossier. Each chapter discusses a different political issue and fight. And, considering this was written and published before the election… it kind of makes sense that it’s a well written and engaging drive for election.

Unlike a lot of memoirs that I’ve read, this didn’t really follow a chronological order. As I mentioned, each chapter focuses on a different political and social fight. Harris is able to bring in her own past experiences and journeys to the different topics. That way, by the time you’ve finished her book you feel like you’ve had a good autobiographical overlay, even if it was a little out of order.

I really enjoyed Harris’ approachable tone of voice throughout this. She dealt with some very heavy topics that I didn’t necessarily want to delve too far into. But she did it in a way that you didn’t get bogged down in the politics and horrors that our world is facing… she managed to walk that line beautifully.

<- The Last Black UnicornBlackout ->

Image source: Penguin Books Australia

Witch Wife by Kiki Petrosino

Overview
Amazon.com: Witch Wife (9781946448033): Petrosino, Kiki: Books

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:

Synopsis

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.

Thoughts

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.

<- More Kiki PetrosinoMore Poetry ->

Image source: Amazon