Sunday, 10 October 2021

My Year Of Reading 2021 - July to September

As I've mentioned in previous posts, this year I have challenged myself to read only books by authors of colour. It's been a really interesting experience so far, and I feel like I'm learning a lot about different cultures and perspectives. Here are the books I've read in the last three months and what I've thought of them.

'Homegoing' by Yaa Gyasi

I'd just started this at the end of June and I think I finished it in about a week, which for me is really fast. I found it totally gripping. It's an incredible feat of writing, encompassing three centuries of history on two different continents, tackling colonialism, the slave trade, segregation, Jim Crow, Ghanaian independence and so much more. It makes all of this personal by making each chapter about a different member of a huge Transatlantic family tree. With every character, you only find out the end of their story when you get to the next generation so it really hooks you in. I'll definitely reread this one.

'I Am Not Your Baby Mother' by Candice Brathwaite

I found this book in my local 'little free library' and found it a really interesting read. It taught me a lot about the challenges faced by the Black British community, particularly in London, and especially with regards to raising children. The writing style is very readable, akin to reading a series of connected blog posts but with lots of research thrown in as well so although it is a very personal book, it still reflects on wider issues faced by black communities. It's definitely worth a read and made me think about who I follow on social media and why.

'Sway' by Pragya Agarwal

This non-fiction book is all about unconscious bias and how it affects us even if we don't like to think it does. I'll be honest, I found this one a bit of a slog. The first 100 pages are extremely heavy-going with a lot of jargon relating to neuroscience and so I would get easily frustrated reading sentences that made no sense to me. But as I prepared it became easier to read and was really eye-opening. It deals with bias relating to race, gender, size, class and much more. It's definitely made me consider my own biases and challenge my thinking.

'The Architect's Apprentice' by Elif Shafak

I saw this book recommended on Instagram and it was on a Kindle deal, so I thought it would be a good one to read on the go. I mostly read it on holiday on my (old and battered) Kindle and I really enjoyed it. Having known nothing about the Ottoman empire before reading the book I loved learning about that period and culture. Parts of it were quite slow going, particularly the parts about construction as I find it hard to picture buildings and places, and I found the ending a bit weird, but overall I thought it was a brilliant piece of storytelling.

'Let Us Look Elsewhere' by Mona Dash

While on the aforementioned holiday I was lucky enough to hear that I'd won this book in a Twitter giveaway. I'm not usually a huge fan of short stories so, to be honest, I didn't have high hopes, but I actually loved this collection. Each story is a vignette into the complicated life of a different character, every one flawed but sympathetically created. I felt there was a strong sense of loneliness and loss binding the stories together, and each story felt like it could have been the start of a novel I would happily read, but perhaps just the glimpse I got was even better? Anyway, I'd really recommend this book and I'll be looking out for what the author does next.

'The Lightless Sky' by Gulwali Passarlay

I first heard about this book through a tweet earlier on in the year, and the awful events in Afghanistan over the summer prompted me to seek it out again. Luckily for me there was a copy in my local library. It's the incredible autobiography of an Afghan refugee who fled the country when he was just 12 and journeyed to the UK over the course of a year. It's gripping, harrowing and eye-opening. I've always felt a sympathy towards refugees but I never fully grasped the horrors many of them have been through before they reach what they hope is safety. I want to force this book into the hands of everyone who complains about our country taking in asylum seekers. It made me realise just how lucky I am to live in a safe country, as much as I often despair about what our society has become.

'Such A Fun Age' by Kiley Reid

Once again I started a book just at the end of the month so you'll have to wait another three months for my review of this. Sorry. For now I'll just say this is a slow burner that turns into a rocket halfway through. Has that got you wanting to read the next of these posts?!