I read eight books in January. Five non-fiction, three fiction. Five in print, three on the Kindle. Four were by writers of color – meeting my 50% goal!
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle (2015).
A middle grades memoir in verse about the Cuban-American poet and novelist’s childhood split between California and Cuba – and the abrupt end of her time in Cuba when the U.S. severed relations. If you liked Brown Girl Dreaming, definitely pick this one up.
The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892).
I read this for the Read Harder 2016 challenge (Task 11: A book under 100 pages), and it was definitely short – more short story than novella. It was also really good. A feminist classic/spooky story about a woman forced by her husband to take a “rest cure” and increasingly tormented by the seemingly possessed yellow wallpaper in her bedroom.
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell (2015).
Sarah Vowell turns her historian/humorous commentary lens to our founding fathers and their very best French friend the Marquis de Lafayette. While I don’t think I will love any Sarah Vowell book as much as I loved Assassination Vacation, this is definitely my second favorite. And so well-timed with nation’s obsession with Hamilton.
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (2014).
Poetry, verse, and art piece about the black experience in America. Really powerful, so worth reading.
Victory: Resistance Book 3 written by Carla Jablonski, illustrated by Leland Purvis (2012).
Third in a YA graphic novel series about the French Resistance during World War II. Worth reading the whole trilogy if you like graphic novels and history.
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson (2015).
Jenny Lawson’s second book is also very funny, but much more explicit about her struggles with mental illness. I am counting this for Read Harder as well (Task 24: a book with a main character that has a mental illness).
A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family by Cheryl Lu-lien Tan (2011).
I love a food memoir, so I was psyched to see Read Harder’s Task 22 (food memoir). I checked a few different “best food memoir” lists and A Tiger in the Kitchen was the one food memoir by a writer of color listed on multiple that I hadn’t already read. I really enjoyed it. Tan is from Singapore, which has a particularly strong food culture, but one with which I’m not super familiar, so it was interesting to read about all the dishes she learned to cook from her various family members.
Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai (2015).
This book is SO good. 12-year-old Mai is a typical California preteen, and she is less than thrilled to be sent to Vietnam for the summer to help her grandmother determine what happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai starts off hoping to get everything resolved and back to Laguna Beach ASAP, but as the summer drags on, she begins to adjust, make friends, and embrace her opportunity to help her grandmother. Lai gets the almost-teenage Californian voice so right. It’s perfect.