Tuesday, 28 December 2021

My Year Of Reading 2021: October to December

And so we come to the end of my challenge to only read books by authors of colour for a year. Reading some longer and more heavy going books earlier in the year meant that I had to squeeze quite a few into this last quarter to meet my goal of 20 books - I know, that's a really low number to a lot of book bloggers but I'm a slow reader and I'm trying to be ok with that. So anyway, here are the books I've read in the last three months ...

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

I'd been looking forward to reading this book for ages, and at first I was a little underwhelmed. I wasn't really sure where it was going. Then halfway through it suddenly gripped me and I struggled to put it down. I think I read the second half in less than two days which is super fast for me. It's quite a light read but still really thought-provoking, especially about how we perceive others and how people can think they're being an 'ally' to black people when actually they're anything but.

Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

I borrowed this book and didn't really know what to expect from it. It's set among the Indian community in Trinidad and follows an unconventional family of a young widow, her son and their lodger who becomes a father figure. I found it very readable and it explores a lot of issues - domestic abuse, homophobia, mental illness - but somehow I didn't connect to any of the characters strongly. The descriptions of Trinidad life were really fascinating though, I feel like I know a little more about the island now.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (not pictured)

I bought this book on a Kindle deal ... and then my Kindle screen shattered. Sigh. I downloaded the app on my phone instead but as I don't have a camera other than the one on my phone that means this book gets left out of the group pic! Which is a shame as it was fantastic. I found it hard to believe it was written in the 1930s - it felt so fresh and contemporary in its voice, not to mention how surprising it is to find a novel by a black woman from that era which was successful enough to still be available today. I'd assumed that those voices would still have been silenced in that era. I read the novel quite quickly, even though it didn't feel like a lot happened in most of it I still found it really fascinating reading an account of life for black communities in that time. There are some jarring aspects, such as justification of domestic violence and discussion of colourism, but it's still a brilliant read with a strong, distinctive central character.

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

This is another one I've wanted to read for a while. I borrowed it through an inter-library loan, I love how easy it is to borrow books from any library in my city. Anyway. This book is a collection of essays by authors from BAME backgrounds (this is the term used in the book). I wish I'd read it at the start of the year in a way because it provides such a broad range of voices and experiences. Some essays were more engaging than others but every one made me more aware of what life is like for non-white people in the UK. Definitely a must-read.

Friend Of My Youth by Amit Chaudhuri

This was an impulse borrow from the library, and it's a quite unusual book. It's a novel about an author called Amit Chaudhuri - yes, you read that right. No, it isn't autobiographical, apparently. The novel charts narrator Amit's trips back to his hometown of Mumbai (or Bombay as he refers to it throughout - I confess I don't know enough about Indian politics to know why this is) and details his long-term friendship with addict Ramu. Much of the text is given over to describing the city which, while I found it fascinating, was also a bit tedious as I struggle to visualise places. I did find it interesting just how much British colonialism still hangs over the city in the names of it's streets and buildings. The novel begins in 2009 and the memory of the terrorist attack of 2008 looms large as well. I have mixed feelings about the novel - not only did I find it a bit rambling, there were also some uncomfortable moments when the narrator slips into stereotypes about other ethnic or religious groups. But I did enjoy learning more about the geography and culture of Mumbai.

What White People Can Do Next by Emma Dabiri

Ok, this wasn't what I was expecting. I took the title as read and thought this book would give me concrete actions I can take to support the work of people of colour. Instead, it's more of a long essay on how the concept of race, and therefore racism, was created to support capitalism and how we need to address this as the root of the problem and stop trying to reform a broken system. Which I agree with a lot, but I came away feeling a bit useless as I can't exactly overthrow capitalism alone. It is a really interesting read though, and one I would recommend, but the title is a bit of a red herring if you're quite literal in your interpretations. 

So there we go. I managed 20 books this year, which isn't a huge amount by most readers' standards but is about average for me, and given some of the books were very long and heavy I feel like I've done pretty well. This year has definitely been very thought-provoking and informative, and I've discovered fantastic books I might not have read if I hadn't set myself the challenge of only reading books by authors of colour. I'll definitely continue to diversify my reading, but I might go for more light reading for a while! 

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