Week 8: Unconventional stories about racism

Hello everyone,

Summer finally feels like it has arrived here, and I have loved every minute of it. I went on a wonderful long hike today, and feeling refreshed and energized. Being outside and getting to naturalize and observe my environment always cheers me up. I have also had time to read as well, and been really happy with the books I finished.

Books I finished this week

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March (the trilogy) by John Lewis; Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Full disclosure: This book was co-written with a white man who works for John Lewis, and illustrated by another white man. However, because of the subject matter, and the fact that the primary authors was John Lewis, I permitted myself to include this.

John Lewis is a civil rights activist and current member of the US House of Representatives, and last year, he collaborated with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell to create this three-part graphic novel about his work during the Civil Rights movement leading up to the march in Selma. I found a box set for half price at a used bookstore, and I am so happy I own it.

This is a beautifully told and beautifully illustrated story. This is not a graphic novel for children. The story takes advantage of its medium and uses its illustrations to put the reader right in the action. Usually, when something is being described, especially something like being the target of police brutality, we as a reader tend to see the action as an observer. This is not possible in this story, as the brutality and violence is often drawn with the reader as the direct target, or close in on the action, which is something I could not have gotten from words, and have trouble witnessing through video.

Other than that, I learned a lot, and I feel like I developed a more nuanced understanding of the many different organizations that were all using nonviolent methods of resistance in different ways, and were often at odds. The book illustrated the complexities in a way that felt realistic and accurate.

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The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso (on audio-book)

This book was long-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction last year, and I feel it well deserved the praise. I actually plan on finding a paper copy so I can highlight certain phrases because Omotoso writes so beautifully about so many topics.

What I do want to say is that this book is neither an “issues” book that is about racism, or old age, or any other topic she may touch on, or a funny book about two women who hate each other. It is something in between, but I think something about the blend makes it feel uniquely human and humane.

I have a hard time describing this book, because there is something subtle about it that escapes definition or explanation. I don’t think it is for everyone because it is not necessarily plot driven or exciting, but for people who like quiet novels that are a little messy and pull at your heartstrings, but still give you hope, this is a great choice! In addition, you will be reading a book about everyday life in post-apartheid South Africa.

What went well:

This week, I have been working AND reading, and I feel like I have found a balance. I finished one audio-book, and read another book and it felt really doable. I do really enjoy the books I read this week, and I started a few I hope to finish next week.

What did not go well:

I felt pretty great this week – reading a book from South Africa made me realize how limited my reading tends to be in the world, and I am going to be pushing the boundaries and trying to read a few books written and published in foreign markets, not just books about other countries edited and published in the US or England.

What I am reading next week

At work this week, I picked up a book I have never heard of called Petals of Blood by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, a well-known writer from Kenya who I had never heard of. I’m about halfway through the book, and to be honest, it is a hard book to read, but it has been interesting enough to keep reading. I am also listening to Throne of Glass, which in complete contrast is a YA fantasy novel.

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