Catching Up: What I’ve Been Reading

Currently slogging my way through about two books on the tablet. Slow going because it’s hard for me to focus on a screen for too long. Also, it’s more difficult when the print is small with my poor eyesight. Nevertheless, I have gotten through some other good reads since the last time I’ve written. Hopefully, with Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Haven dropping, I’ll get some more soon.

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Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

I borrowed a worn copy of Midnight Robber from the library along with a couple of other books by Hopkinson a couple of months ago and eventually got around to finishing Midnight Robber. What I thought was to be a fantasy about a young girl turned out to be much more. In fact, nothing in this book went the way I thought. And this isn’t a bad thing. Except I must say there may be some trigger warnings necessary for instances of sexual assault and abuse. These instances are never described graphically but are essential to the plot for the protagonist Tan Tan. However, what I found most fascinating about this work is how effortlessly Hopkinson blended fantasy with a real-world scenario. Hopkinson’s world-building skills are unmatched and her transition between Toussaint and New Half-Way Tree is one of the best narratives of legend and myth I’ve ever read. The development of Carnival places you right in the middle of the celebration in a way respectful of its traditions, not as an outsider looking in. But as I stated, the protagonist is a young girl, but this is not a story for children. If you have any sensitivity to sexual assault or abuse, then you want to approach this one with caution.

revolutionary_mothering

Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines edited by Pauline Alexis Gumbs, China Martens and Mai’a Williams

I love reading nonfiction that not only opens my eyes but also inspires me. I got my hands on a copy of this before the end of last year and finally got around to reading it. Revolutionary Mothering is one of those books I did not want to put down. There are so many different perspectives on motherhood and the work (physical, mental, emotional, etc.) that goes into mothering as well as the resolve it takes to see it through when motherhood is so undervalued. These works center marginalized mothers, particularly WOC, QUILTBAG and disability mothers in various intersections. Even though I’m not a mother, I am an aunt and I often think of ways to support mothers, particularly Black mothers. In any case, this is one of the best in radical thought and shows us ways motherhood can be an impetus or launching pad for radical action and activism. This is one of my favorite books next to The Revolution Starts at Home when it comes to transformative action to bring about real change.

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The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

I’d been intending to read Nguyen’s work ever since I had the pleasure of attending a reading at our local book festival last year. I finally had to borrow The Sympathizer from the library and see why he won the Pulitzer. Nguyen is one of those writers whose style it takes a moment to adapt to, but once you do, you get so deep into it that it feels familiar. It didn’t hurt that I actually tended to read it in his voice. I found myself reading the first half slowly but approaching the second half voraciously. His style fits the type of literature I like, narrative not told as a simple point by point movement from event to event. Admittedly, his writing requires a bit more attention, much like Toni Morrison, but it’s worth the effort. By the way, The Sympathizer is not a typical spy novel but those who enjoy the likes of John le Carre will like it as le Carre was an influence on Nguyen’s work (it shows even if you’re only familiar with adaptations of le Carre’s work.) While enjoyable, The Sympathizer is not a light read neither in its subject matter or style. The war in Vietnam follows the unnamed narrator and confronts the reader with the roots of repercussions still felt today. Having said this, I’d highly recommend.

Catching Up: What I’ve Been Reading

While I suddenly find myself with some unexpected time on my hands, I think I can do a couple of short reviews for a few things I’ve had the chance to read over the past couple of weeks. I’ve had the pleasure of reacquainting myself with a favorite comic that comes out once a year each fall and a one shot of a series I hadn’t previously read. I also have some thoughts on a couple of books that have opened my eyes as well as entertained me in unexpected ways. So if your interest is piqued by anything I write here, please support these artists and their work.

Avy Jetter – Nuthin’ Good Ever Happens at 4 a.m.

If you follow the blog, then you know that I have previously reviewed the first three comics in this series. Well, I finally got my hands on the fourth installment. As expected, the story continues and we find out how our young adult protagonists are faring as they search for a missing family member. Also, we are introduced to some additional characters, adding to the diversity in representation in the zombie apocalyptic Oakland.

Jetter returns to the black and white color scheme of her first two comics, which quite frankly adds to the creepiness of the comic’s atmosphere. The ambiance is still a bit surreal and disorienting as if you are in the place of the characters in the story. I appreciate the continuation of the series and understand how demands may keep this run limited to one comic per year, but I want more! Seriously, this is a great series if you love indie comics and want to support a Black woman bringing POC to the SF/F landscape. You can find it on Etsy here.

mai’a williams – No God But Ghosts and Monsters and Other Silent Creatures

“Tell me how mighty the pen is when the hand is in chains…”

Sometimes you know something will stick with you for the rest of your life the first time you lay eyes on it. This happened a few times as I read lines of poetry such as the one above from mai’a williams two collections No God But Ghosts and Monsters and Other Silent Creatures. I’ve followed her on social media for quite some time and this is the first time I’ve picked up any of her work. Both collections serve as an excellent primer to her style and eloquence as a poet and brings to life the experiences of an American-born expatriate.

Monsters and Other Silent creatures is williams’ response to the now infamous wikileaks video in which soldiers in an Apache helicopter fired upon civilians. Her vantage point is one of a civilian living in Cairo at the time when she notices one of the voices sounded familiar, like home. Such incidents make us confront everyday monsters and how they forever change the lives of the innocent. No Gods But Ghosts appears to come from a more personal point of view, making sense of the uprisings then taking place in Cairo that eventually spread to the many areas of the Middle East. Her voice falls in a long tradition of poets like Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez but feels completely unique. You can find her work on Etsy here.

Mikki Kendall – Swords of Sorrow

I had never heard of Swords of Sorrow before this year and, to be honest, I wouldn’t have given the series a second thought if Kendall had not authored this issue. However, I love to support Black women in their art and this is her first time writing a comic, so I hunted down a physical copy of the issue.

I was not disappointed. The Miss Fury and Lady Rawhide one shot has a very interesting concept that effectively uses time travel and a fish out of water premise. Furthermore, the protagonists (and primary antagonist in the comic) are women. There’s action, beautiful illustrations and a compelling storyline for those of us who love our swords and sorcery. And don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with the series. This one-shot stands on its own, but I do warn you that you will want more of this story since it ends far too soon. You can find a physical copy of the comic here and a digital copy here.

Nalo Hopkinson – Brown Girl in the Ring

I must confess that I am very late to this one. Brown Girl in the Ring came out in 1998, but with the recent crowdfunding efforts of the prequel film, I’m sure interest has put this book back into the conscious of many scifi fans. I first heard of Hopkinson when I picked up a copy of Whispers of the Cotton Tree Root, the anthology she edited, some years ago when I still lived in Ann Arbor. I’d intended to read her work since then but never got around to it. Fortunately, due to my new exposure to writers of color in SF/F, I was once again compelled to find the book.

Brown Girl in the Ring is a beautifully written book on an ugly subject matter. She creates a dystopian Toronto filled with Afro-Caribbean culture and customs. We follow a few days in the life of the protagonist Ti-Jeanne, a young woman who lives with her grandmother along with her infant son. Their lives are disrupted when the father of her child comes to them for help but brings along some bad dealings from the local kingpin. I’ll let you see how the folklore and depressive state of the world come to a head when you read the book 😉

However, I want to mention how Hopkinson’s Toronto seems to have foreshadowed the state of many American cities not even 20 years later. As we see San Francisco become unaffordable due to gentrification and Detroit shutting off water access from the poor, this once future Toronto has already become a reality for so many. Yet there is some light in the bleakness if you know how to look for it. I’ll definitely have to get her other works Midnight Robber and Falling in Love with Hominids. If you can’t find it at your local bookstore, look for it here.