Been a while since I’ve done reviews, but the good news is I have managed to get in some really good reads in between (barely) working, writing and procrastinating. I’ve gotten a hold of some good comics and zines and decided to check out books from the library rather than waiting to have the funds to buy them as I prefer. We’ll see how the job search goes before I can buy a book a month like I want this year. But for now, here are some quick reviews of a few things I read at the end of the year.
Nuthin Good Ever Happens at 4 A.M. by Avy Jetter
I have anticipated the yearly release of this comic for the past three or four years and almost missed this year’s run. However, I got a hold of this one right before Christmas. The action continues in the mysterious zombie outbreak in Oakland and a few new characters are introduced and fleshed out. What I like about this comic as opposed to other zombie apocalypse fare is that this one gives a sense of neighborhood and community. The kids involved are not only trying to figure out what’s going on but also what happened to their neighbors and who they can turn to for help. With this, Jetter makes the city as much of a character as the kids and their neighbors and I love the trajectory of the story as well as the art style for this comic. But we have to wait until next year for #6! For now, you can find this zine and others at Etsy.
Queer Indigenous Girl and Black Indigenous Boy zines by Se’mana Thompson and sons
I included the Queer Indigenous Girl zine in a previous review after getting a PDF copy. However, I was able to buy physical copies of the zines in December and started my collection. I also requested signatures from the boys and got signed copies! However, if you are not familiar with QIG zines, Thompson includes stories from POC dealing with physical and mental illness and original artwork. Issues of Black Indigenous Boy also includes biographies, interviews and other reflections on mental illness from a child’s perspective. I also enjoyed the Civil War comic and must say I admire this now 10-year-old knack for storytelling. These zines are available on Etsy when she can produce print copies. You can also find PDFs, but the physical zines are worth it.
Report from Planet Midnight Plus… by Nalo Hopkinson
I expected this one to be a short story collection as well. However, of the four pieces in this collection, two are fiction. (“Message in a Bottle” is also included in Falling in Love with Hominids.) However, the title piece is a speech given at the International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts from 2009. I can say with no exaggeration that this speech is life changing. Hopkinson addresses a pivotal moment in the speculative community that occurred before I became embedded in it: RaceFail. I don’t want to give away the point here, but for those of us who were not around when it occurred, this speech is a great primer for finding out the gist of the issue and the fallout that occurred afterward and continues to affect speculative communities. The interview at the end is also enlightening and can make Hopkinson a favorite writer before you ever read a word she wrote.
Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson
I fell in love with Falling in Love with Hominids last year, so I was thrilled to find that Skin Folk was also a short story collection. One of the things I love most about Hopkinson’s writing is that she has a great ability to extend the unique voices of her characters in a way that makes me truly hear them in that voice, not my own. I honestly cannot say this about many writers. Hopkinson includes short blurbs at the beginning of stories, sometimes explaining inspiration or how these stories fit into speculative fiction. In any case, she centers her Caribbean upbringing with no explanation or apology. I’d highly recommend this one and point to “The Glass Bottle Trick” and “Greedy Choke Puppy” as two of my favorites in this collection.
The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities edited by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
I found this book in one of the Little Free Libraries around town and finally read it a couple of months ago. While I don’t consider myself a critical part of any activist community, I do look for ways to incorporate activism into my everyday life as much as I can. With that said, I found that I understood most of the issues addressed here but also saw just how difficult it is to actually put theories and ideas into practice even for those who eschew institutions that have historically and continue to fail marginalized people. Furthermore, the book does a great job in reminding that violence is more than physical violence. Centering the work on perspectives and experiences from people marginalized even within marginalized communities gives us the opportunity to do the hard work in reform when it comes to confronting violence within our safe spaces.
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I’ve been familiar with Adichie for some time, but I must say this is the first time I’ve ever read her fiction. As a short story collection, it’s an excellent way to get acquainted with her style and tone of writing. Interestingly, the title piece of the collection felt familiar like I’ve read it before. I’m not sure if it has to do with the subject matter or because I actually had read it before I knew who Adichie was. But it is one of my favorite pieces in the book. “The American Embassy” and “The Humble Historian” are also standout pieces in my humble opinion. Adichie brings to light not only a Nigerian perspective but also an immigrant experience not often discussed in the States. This navigation of countries and cultures makes her work unique among familiar narratives of blackness.
Special Mention: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
I first read Cisneros in college, but this is the first time I read this essential collection of work from the legendary Chicana feminist. I felt such a connection with her from the introduction of the collection that I was inspired to write a zine and heal myself from a lot of what weighed me down over the past year. So yes I’m including this one as one of my healing texts along with works from the likes of Gayl Jones, Octavia Butler and Gloria Naylor (RIP). Don’t worry what it’s about. Just read it.