Book Babble || Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Published 2018 by Saga Press
285 pages
ISBN: 978-1-5344-1350-4

This is San Francisco Public Library’s On The Same Page book for January/February. One of my unofficial reading goals for this year is to read every OTSP book for 2019.

Synopsis

via Goodreads
While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine. Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.
Welcome to the Sixth World.

Rating
★★★★☆

Thoughts

It’s taken me a while since reading this book to formulate my thoughts about it. On one hand, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the slow world-building, the character development, and the majority of Roanhorse’s writing style, occasionally the story read a little bit too YAish for me. I loved the emergence of the magic system and how Roanhorse draws lines between tradition and mythology. It’s beautifully done.

One of my favorite things is how realistic Maggie is as a character. Roanhorse inserts you inside Maggie’s mind and her thoughts, emotions, and actions are all things that match what she’s been through. I don’t want to give too much away, but I do want to give Roanhorse major props for showcasing the aftermath of subtle emotional abuse and survivor guilt. Maggie goes through an incredibly traumatic event when she’s sixteen and that’s how her powers awaken. It’s at the moment of her “rebirth”, that she encounters exactly the wrong type of person whose main desire is the mold her into something that they want her to be. Her growth throughout the novel is slow, but it’s a realistic type of slow and one that I can appreciate.

My main hangup with this novel was the pacing of the plot. This is the first book in a series, so of course, I don’t expect for everything to be nicely tied up. With that being said, I felt as if the speed of the first half of the novel was perfect, while the second half was far too rushed and missed out on far too many opportunities to further develop the characters and the world. There were events that occurred during the first half that I felt sure would be further explored in the second but alas, they just fell to the wayside. I actually wouldn’t have minded for the end of this book to be the beginning of the second in the series if it meant that things could have been more flushed out.

All in all, I do plan on reading the next book in this series. I’m now emotionally invested in Maggie, and the medicine man Kai, along with several of the other characters. I’m also going to be on the lookout for more fantasy by Native American authors (especially women!).

I Would Recommend This To…

  • people who want to transition from young adult to adult fiction
  • people interested in Native American culture and tradition
  • fans of urban fantasy
  • fans of post-apocalyptic fantasy
  • people who enjoy Neil Gaiman’s”American Gods” and/or “Anansi Boys”
What culture’s mythology and traditions do you admire the most and love seeing in works of fantasy? Personally, I love seeing Chinese, Egyptian, and Native American mythologies in works of fantasy as written by authors from that background.

___

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Book Babble || White Lines by Tracy Brown

White Lines by Tracy Brown
Published 2007 by St. Martin’s Press
497 pages
ISBN: 978-0-312-33648-6

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to read and review at least one Urban Fiction book a month. Obviously, this is January’s Urban Fiction pick.

Synopsis

via back cover of novel:
Jada left home at the age of sixteen, running from her own demons and the horrors of physical abuse inflicted by her mother’s boyfriend. She parties hard, and life seems good when she is with Born, the neighborhood kingpin whose name is synonymous with money, power, and respect. But all his love couldn’t save her from a crack addiction. Jada goes from crack addict and prostitute to survivor and back again before she finds the strength to live for herself and come out on top. And her stormy romance with one of the fiercest hustlers on the streets makes White Lines one of the most unforgettable urban loves stories of the year.

Rating
★★★★★

Thoughts:

This was actually a reread for me. I read this book back in 2007 when I was 16 and when it was first published. Whenever someone mentions that they want to read Urban Fiction I always recommend this book because of how much I loved it when I was a teenager. I figured that since I’m an ‘adult’ now I should give it a reread and make sure that its withstood the test of time. Thankfully it has.

Brown is one hell of a writer and it shows in how much time and thought she puts into the creation of her characters. I admire authors who take the time to explain the backstory of supporting characters and Brown does that excellently. Every one of her characters exists in the story for a reason, which (on my hippie chick vibe) mirrors my attitude toward the people who I encounter in my life so perfectly so it’s a bonus to me when I see that reflected in a story.

“White Lines” is a story about drugs (both from the addict and the pushers perspective), redemption, self-love, and perseverance. The majority of the story takes place in the ’90s, the emergence of the crack era, and goes through several New York boroughs primarily following the lives of Jada (addict) and Born (pusher). One of my favorite things about this story is how deeply it examines the causes behind why Jada and Born move through life the way they do. The situations that they both go through and the way how they handle those things was so realistic that occasionally I felt like I was reading someone’s reflection of their life. I also appreciated that Brown focused on the importance of change being effective and positive when one truly wants to change for themselves and how important self-love is in that process.

I Would Recommend This To…

  • People who want to start reading urban fiction but have their reservationsPeople who want to transition from urban fiction to mainstream but, also, have their reservations
  • Fans of urban fiction
  • People who want to read a book featuring strong female characters
  • People who have an interest in fiction that covers topics such as drug use and ‘hood’ life

Do you have a favorite Urban Fiction book or author, let me know who! Also, if you’ve read this before let me know what you thought about it!

___

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Book Babble || She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore
Published 2018, Greywolf Press
294 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55597-817-4

Synopsis:

In the West African village of Lai, red-haired Gbessa is cursed at birth and exiled on suspicion of being a witch. Bitten by a viper and left for dead, she nevertheless survives. On a plantation in Virginia, June Dey hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. And in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Norman Aragon, the child of white British colonizer and a Maroon slave, can fade from sight at will, just as his mother could.
Gbessa, misunderstood by her own people, finds a new life with a group of African American settlers in the colony of Monrovia. When she meets June Dey and Norman Aragon, it isn’t long before they realize that they are all cursed – or perhaps, uniquely gifted, but only Gbessa can salvage the tense relationship between the settlers and the indigenous tribes. The all-seeing spirit of the wind weaves together their extraordinary stories. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.”
In her transcendent debt, Wayetu Moore illuminates the tumultuous roots of Liberia, a country whose history is inextricably bound to the United States. A spectacular blend of history and magical realism, She Would Be King is a novel of profound depts from a major new author.

Rating:
★★★★☆

Thoughts:

One of my favorite things about this book was that it reminded me of a spiritual mixed with “survival music” (essentially songs that helped those enslaved and those living through Jim Crow survive and continue to move forward). Moore’s writing style was so smooth and flowy that she makes magical realism feel as if it’s a part of everyday life and history seem as if it’s the fairytale.

The layers to this story were absolutely mesmerizing as it was told from the perspective of a wind spirit watching over the three main characters who each have different, yet similar, experiences with colonization and slavery. I thought it was a fantastic way to grapple with how widespread and connected the ideas of colonization and slavery are/were. The story travels from Africa, to America, to Jamaica and back to Africa showcasing each character’s experience and journey.

I was fascinated with the portion that covered Liberia since I hardly know anything about Liberia outside of it being set up by the American Colonization Society so that free blacks could have a better chance at life. It was fascinating reading about the ‘society women’ in Monrovia and how much of their livestyle and the way in which they carried themselves were similar to how Southern woman carried themselves. It was also interesting realizing that the free blacks who helped the ACS colonize Liberia were also colonizers by extension; that the land had one belonged to other tribes/people and was being taken from them by people who both looked like them and didn’t look like them. It was just an emotional trip.

Who Should Read This?

  • fans of magical realism
  • people looking to read historical fiction about Liberia
  • people who want to read magical realism but are unsure if they’d like it or not

What do you think of magical realism and what’s your favorite book from the genre? Also, if you’ve read this before let me know what you thought!

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Book Babble || Passing by Nella Larsen

Passing by Nella Larsen
Originally published 1929 by Alfred A. Knopf
Edition read published 2004 by Dover Publications
94 pages
ISBN: 978-0-486-43713-2

Synopsis:

(from back cover)
Married to a successful physician and prominently ensconced in Harlem’s vibrant society of the 1920s, Irene Redfield leads a charmed existence – until she is shaken out of it by a chance encounter with a childhood friend. Clare Kendry has been “passing for white,” hiding her true identity from everyone, including her racist husband. Clare and her dangerous secret pose an increasingly powerful threat to Irene’s security, forcing both women to confront the hazards of public and private deception.

Thoughts:

The concept of “passing” is one of those things that I’ve always been intrigued by and is honestly a concept that I could dedicate an entire blog post about concerning myself, my own biracialness, and what it’s like to “pass for respectable” in modern American society.

With all that being said…

I couldn’t find myself actively enjoying this novel (which sucks for a first read of 2019). There was something lacking in terms of the characters’ depth and reading about how Larsen had a half-sister who was white and who shunned Larsen when she tried to connect her made me look too deeply into (and expect too much from) the relationship between Irene and Clare.

The dynamic between Irene and Clare was intense. I loved how vividly Larsen wrote about Irene’s feelings toward Clare and I loved how deep into Irene’s mind she let the reader wander. The undertone of obsessiveness, insecurity, and jealousy that wove through Irene’s story made her actions seems plausible and to a certain extent, relatable. However, I felt as if Irene’s motives were only understandable through her reactions to Clare and I wonder as to what type of woman Irene was without those emotions driving her.

As for Clare, you never truly get to delve into her mind. You get to see her as Irene sees her and get her story as it’s given to Irene which drove me slightly mad. I would have loved to read a chapter or section that focused on Clare and examined what it felt like to constantly deny a part of yourself for the sake of external comfort.

There was a part of this short novel though that made me cock my head to the side as I read it and made me think about it for essentially the remainder of the novel. Irene is addressing a man named Hugh who’s been admiring Clare at a benefit that Irene organized.

“[…] It’s easy for a Negro to ‘pass’ for white. But I don’t think it would be so simple for a white person to ‘pass’ for coloured.”
“Never thought of that.”
“No, you wouldn’t. Why should you?”

Today, white people attempt to ‘pass’ as biracial, black, or ‘colored’ almost all the damn time and it was only a few months ago where us PoC actually were confronted with the evidence that average white women were pretending to be PoC. You should give this article a quick glance if you have not the slightest clue what I’m talking about.

I mean…how crazy is it that 90 years after this book was written that instead of black people trying to pass as white we got white people trying to pass for black but the actual relations between the two races is still insanely tumultuous?! It’s one of those things that constantly has me scratching my head.

Rating:
★★★☆☆

Who Might Enjoy This?

  • people interested in reading about racial identify
  • fans of literature written during the Harlem Renaissance
  • people who want to read “classical” literature that goes beyond “To Kill a Mockingbird” and other famous white authors.

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2019 Reading Goals

Daaaaamn, it’s already that time of year where I start thinking about what my goals are going to be for 2019 (I started writing this post on Dec. 23rd). The only goals that I set by the New Year are my reading, and adventure goals (which is going to potentially get their own blog post). All of my other goals I set by my birthday (Feb. 27th) because that’s my “new year”.

My 2019 reading goals are far less extreme than the ones that I’ve set for myself in the past. I’m focusing more on the goals that I actually want to accomplish instead of the goals that seem easy/popular (read “x” number of books, finish series, read “x” number of classics, reread series etc). I’m not knocking anybody who does have those reading goals though! It’s just taken me a while to realize that those aren’t my goals or even goals that I’ve ever wanted to accomplish. Occasionally I feel like the bookish community causes one to get caught up in setting particular goals because it feels like damn near everyone is setting those goals.

This year my goals are definitely my own and they are as follows;

I. Read, and review, at least one urban fiction book a month.

Y’all, when I was a teenager I absolutely loved Urban Fiction. It was my jaaaaaaam. I learned more about sex, inner strength, drug addiction, and how to not deal with bullshit from those books than I ever did from anything else. I don’t know at which point in life I started to feel ashamed for reading Urban Fiction, but I do remember leaving it behind and pretending that I had never even set foot in the genre. I want to attack the stigma surrounding Urban Fiction so my goal is to read at least one Urban Fiction book a month and review it on this blog, my channel, and BiblioCommons (a library catalog service). I’m actually really excited about jumping back into this genre and I’m looking forward to seeing if it’s changed since my abrupt departure. 

II. Read my way through my AncestryDNA results.

I did the AncestryDNA test around this time last year and now I actually feel like doing something with that information. Since I first took the test my results have changed; apparently, AncestryDNA has been adding more regions and improving the precision of their results.  I want to read one fiction and one non-fiction book about each of the areas where I’m potentially from. I’m probably going to skip the England, Wales & Northwestern Europe portion along with the France portion; just because I’ve read so much about those areas already. No disrespect, I just spent my entire undergraduate history career focusing on those regions.

III. Read Black history and Black stories as told by Black authors.

Not even gonna lie, I’m insanely tired of reading stories about Black men and woman told through the eyes of white people. It’s been leaving a sour taste in my mouth and I’m just not going to do it anymore. I’ve always felt as if there’s something missing from those stories; almost like the soul of the story isn’t even there. The closest I can come to describing the feeling is if you were to imagine a robot playing a beautiful piece of music, it sounds great, but in its perfection its utterly lacking the humanistic value. There’s just something off about reading a white author attempt to understand and rely the inner struggles of being Black; especially during slavery and in America.

As for the history, it always starts and ends with how white people saved the day and I’m just not interested in that. There tends to be a level of blame as to how African cultures lost their history and how thankful Afrcian cultures should be that white people are coming along and regifting their traditions and stories to them, but never a mention of how those cultures truly got “lost” in the first place *cough colonialism/slave trade/genocide*. There’s something deeply upsetting about that to me. I want to support the reclaiming of Black history and stories by supporting more of the Black authors who’ve dedicated themselves to reclaiming those parts of our collective past and heritage. 

Do you have any reading goals, and if so what are they? Also, if you’re an Urban Fiction reader – leave me some recommendations! 

Book Babble |Black Faces, White Spaces

(If you read my Nonfiction November post you already know that Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimaging the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney was on my TBR list under the wander/wonder portion of the themed challenges.)

Thoughts:

18640643Finney, in six brilliantly written chapters, examines why African Americans are so underrepresented in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism and the relationship that African Americans have with the environment vs white Americans.

She draws upon; collective memories of slavery and Jim Crow, the timing of the creation and passing of the Wilderness Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, how African Americans are often personified as being animals, and how hard it is for African Americans to see images of themselves engaging with outdoor recreation that goes beyond sports.

One of my favorite portions of this book, and the one that resonated with me the most, is when Finney goes into detail about how more often than not, in flyers or brochures that market outdoor activities African Americans are either not present, pictured terrified of an experience, or working while whites are pictured happily having fun in leisurely recreational activities. It’s something that I’ve actually noticed a lot during my own hikes and travels and it’s nice to see that I wasn’t going crazy or making a big deal out of nothing.

I absolutely loved this book and I loved every second of reading it. Finney’s writing style is incredibly academic and there were a few moments where I did have to pause and actually think about what it was that I just read; which is fantastic.

Let me know if you’ve read this book before, what your thoughts are on nature and the great outdoors, or what some of your biases are concerning outdoor recreation!

Read This Book If:

  • You are a PoC and curious about either other’s aversion to nature or your own.
  • Curious about the role that race plays in environmentalism.
  • Looking to diversify your environmental studies reading selection

Book Information:

Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimaging the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors | by Carolyn Finney | Published by The University of North Carolina Press, 2014 |138 pages (173 counting bibliography + index) | ISBN: 9781469614489

Purchase from: Book Depository (affiliate link) or University of North Carolina Press

Author Information

Carolyn Finney, PH.D (black effin’ excellence right thurr), is a writer, performer, and cultural geographer. She’s a professor of Geography at the University of Kentucky and serves on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board. Black Faces, White Spaces is her first book.

Nonfiction November TBR

Guess who’s late to the Nonfiction November party? MEEEEE, as per usual.

If you have not the slightest clue what Nonfiction November is; it’s essentially a nonfiction reading “challenge” hosted by Olive (abookolive) and Jemma (Non Fic Books). Make sure you check out their YouTube channels and follow the Goodreads Group and Twitter page!

All you have to do to participate is read a nonfiction book! It’s seriously that easy. However, if you want to make it a bit of a challenge Olive and Jemma came up with some pretty interesting themes for this year. They are as follows *drumroll*

  • Past time/Pastime
  • Self/Shelf
  • Wander/Wonder
  • Micro/Macro

These are all sorts of open to interpretation and both Olive and Jemma have TBR/Recommendation videos for each of the themes if you’re feeling stuck. (Olive’s TBR | Jemma’s TBR)

This year my Nonfiction November TBR is *futher drumroll*

I. Past time/Pastime

Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave Ona Judge | by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Synopsis (via Goodreads):

30753748A startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family, Never Caught is the powerful narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave who risked it all to escape the nation’s capital and reach freedom.

When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital, after a brief stay in New York. In setting up his household he took Tobias Lear, his celebrated secretary, and nine slaves, including Ona Judge, about which little has been written. As he grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t get his arms around: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.

Though Ona Judge lived a life of relative comfort, the few pleasantries she was afforded were nothing compared to freedom, a glimpse of which she encountered first-hand in Philadelphia. So, when the opportunity presented itself one clear and pleasant spring day in Philadelphia, Judge left everything she knew to escape to New England. Yet freedom would not come without its costs.

At just twenty-two-years-old, Ona became the subject of an intense manhunt led by George Washington, who used his political and personal contacts to recapture his property.

Impeccably researched, historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar weaves a powerful tale and offers fascinating new scholarship on how one young woman risked it all to gain freedom from the famous founding father.

I’m choosing to focus on the past time half of this section. I’ve always had a slight interest in and curiosity about the founding fathers and slavery (I mean, I still think they were the original “not ALL men” sayers when they come up with the Constitution). I remember reading about the Washingtons’ cook Hercules earlier on this year and Ona was briefly mentioned so this seemed like the perfect book to grab for this challenge because a) it’s a past event & b) it reminded me of something that I read in the past.

II. Self/Shelf

Forgiveness is Really Strange by Masi Noor & Marina Cantacuzino – art by Sophie Standing

Synopsis via Goodreads

31702463What is forgiveness? What enables people to forgive? Why do we even choose to forgive those who have harmed us? What can the latest psychological research tell us about the nature of forgiveness, its benefits and risks?

This imaginative comic explores the key aspects of forgiveness, asking what it means to forgive and to be forgiven. Witty and intelligent, it answers questions about the health benefits and restorative potential of forgiveness and explains, in easy-to-understand terms, what happens in our brains, bodies and communities when we choose to forgive.

Humans are weird. We are weird, weird creatures with weird emotions and weird chemistry that makes or doesn’t make those weird emotions. Forgiveness is something that I struggle with and I want to know why.  This book seemed like a really easy way to figure that out without hurting my brain – it’s essentially a graphic novel.

III. Wander/Wonder

Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney

Synopsis via Goodreads

18640643Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism? In this thought-provoking study, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both white and black Americans. Bridging the fields of environmental history, cultural studies, critical race studies, and geography, Finney argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the “great outdoors” and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces. 

Drawing on a variety of sources from film, literature, and popular culture, and analyzing different historical moments, including the establishment of the Wilderness Act in 1964 and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Finney reveals the perceived and real ways in which nature and the environment are racialized in America. Looking toward the future, she also highlights the work of African Americans who are opening doors to greater participation in environmental and conservation concerns.

If you follow my Instagram, it’s no big secret that I wander around a lot. I’m a nature junkie in the simplest of ways. One of the things that I’m always noticing is that there certainly aren’t a lot of African-American’s out there wandering with me and I’ve wondered about why that is. I have my own speculations, but I want to see what somebody who’s actually taken the time to research and write a book says about the why that is.

IV. Micro/Macro

Hadrian’s Wall by Adrian Goldsworthy

Synopsis via Goodreads

35960093Stretching eighty miles from coast to coast across northern England, Hadrian’s Wall is the largest Roman artifact known today. It is commonly viewed as a defiant barrier, the end of the empire, a place where civilization stopped and barbarism began. In fact, the massive structure remains shrouded in mystery. Was the wall intended to keep out the Picts, who inhabited the North? Or was it merely a symbol of Roman power and wealth? What was life like for soldiers stationed along its expanse? How was the extraordinary structure built–with what technology, skills, and materials?

In Hadrian’s Wall, Adrian Goldsworthy embarks on a historical and archaeological investigation, sifting fact from legend while simultaneously situating the wall in the wider scene of Roman Britain. The result is a concise and enthralling history of a great architectural marvel of the ancient world.

I’ve been slacking on my history reading. In fact, I know almost nothing about the new findings in medieval or ancient history because I’ve been so focused on my damn MLIS degree.  Hadrian’s Wall is a huge thing we honestly don’t know too much about, therefore, I felt like it would fit into this category perfectly.

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And there we have it! Those are my Nonfiction November goals! I’ll also be attempting to vlog all month long so make sure that you’re subscribed to my YouTube channel if you’re interested in seeing how I manage to make time for reading and adventuring along with being a part-time employee and a part-time grad student. My boyfriend might also occasionally make a few appearances.

Let me know what you plan on reading this month and/or if you’re taking part in Nonfiction November!