“I found that I almost envied his pain. He hurt because he remembered.” page 74
Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler.
Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2005, my edition 2007.
Modern vampire fantasy, 310 pages.
Lexile: 730L .
AR Level: Not leveled.
NOTE: This book is recommended for adults only.
Shori wakes up in the woods with a ravenous hunger and a taste for blood. She doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or even what she is, but after she bites Wright, he’s willing to help her find out. The only clues they have to start with are a burnt property and Shori’s own instincts and half-remembering.
I came across this novel because Butler was recommended to me as a major speculative fiction author of color. Science fiction and fantasy are two of my favorites, although I’ll read any genre but horror. It was continually bothering me that I hadn’t read any speculative fiction by PoCs, so I wanted to try one of her books.
This incredibly challenging but worthwhile read is for grown-ups only.
Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan.
Back Bay Books; Little, Brown, and Co.; Hachette Book Group; 2008, expanded edition 2009.
Adult short story collection, realistic fiction, 369 pages including extras.
Selected for Oprah’s book club in 2009.
NOTE: THIS BOOK IS FOR ADULTS ONLY. NOT FOR CHILDREN OR TEENS.
Further Note: This is a work of fiction although I am not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
This collection of short stories deals with the children of Africa. Specifically, children who are individually dealing with a variety of horrific circumstances, many of which do not have happy endings. The author is a Nigerian priest but took care to set his stories in several countries in Africa. There is a handy map in the front of the book for Americans or the geographically challenged.
Before I go any further, EVERY TRIGGER WARNING YOU CAN THINK OF for this book. If you are sensitive to bad things happening to children, you might not be able to read this book or even this review. But, on the other hand, I think every adult should read this book at least once. Because these are real things happening to children, and if we ignore this then it will just keep happening.
“They would prove themselves equal or better, having internalized the Negro theorem of needing to be twice as good to get half as far.” p. 48
Hidden Figures:The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly.
William Morrow Imprint, HarperCollins, New York, 2016.
Adult non-fiction, 346 pages including notes and index.
New York Times Bestseller.
Lexile: not yet leveled
AR Level: 9.7 (worth 18.0 points)
In 1969, a human being set foot on the moon for the first time. Although you wouldn’t know it from the all-white, mostly-male camera coverage, the calculations of a black woman helped him get there. But this story starts much earlier, when the labor shortage of WWII allowed highly qualified, extremely intelligent, and very respectable female African-American mathematicians a chance at a job with pay and work closer to what they deserved.
They came in droves to Langley, in Hampton, Virginia, for a unprecedented opportunity in the midst of a heavily segregated community. Those who stayed, and their white female counterparts, spent decades breaking barriers and proving their value to aeronautics over and over again, so that when John Glenn needed the numbers for his first spaceflight checked, Katherine Johnson would be in the right place to be able to perform those and other calculations.
This book is so superb you should run out and get it right now.
“Her skin was all cream and light in comparison to her father’s and very dark when she held her wrist against her mother’s.” p. 35
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.
Harper Perennial, HaperCollins, 2012.
Adult fiction, 353 pages plus extras.
New York Times Bestseller
Best book of the year 2011 from ten different news sources
AR Level: 6.7 (worth 21.0 points)
Dr. Marina Singh has no interest in going to Brazil. She’s quite happy sitting in her small windowless lab running pharmacological tests, and her lab partner Anders Eckman was happy to go into the Amazon as long as he could take some side trips to photograph rare and unusual birds. But Marina’s plain, comfortable world shatters when a letter arrives relating his death. The company wants to know what happened, and so does his widow.
This was a free book from the library that I grabbed after forgetting my bag so I couldn’t read Hidden Figures on my break. It was surprisingly gripping! There are so many points to discuss which are major spoilers, but I’m going to limit the spoilers here as much as possible.
A unique perspective on youth involvement in the civil rights movement, particularly in relation to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A Child Shall Lead Them: Martin Luther King Jr., Young People, and the Movement by Rufus Burrow Jr.
Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2014.
Academic non-fiction, 331 pages (including index).
In six chapters, this accessible academic work conveys the history of youth involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, with a special focus on youth interactions with Martin Luther King, Jr.
As soon as I saw this at the library, I had to check it out. Children, MLK, and the Civil Rights movement? All favorite reading topics for me. But when it came to writing this review, I dithered. For weeks months I have been thinking about this book, rereading sections, and trying to decide if I’ll write about it here. I’m simply not knowledgeable enough in this field to assess the author’s arguments and write what I would think of as a proper review. In the end, I am reviewing it as an interested layperson, since that’s how I read this book.
“I never forgot my Indian mother and family – and I never will – but being separated from them didn’t create a block that somehow prevented me from pursuing a full and happy life. I’d learned quickly, as a matter of survival, that I needed to take opportunities as they came – if they came – and to look forward to the future.” p. 154
Lion by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose.
New American Library imprint, Penguin Random House, 2013.
Adult memoir, 273 pages + photo inserts.
NOTE: Previously published under the title A Long Way Home.
Born into an impoverished but loving family in rural India, Saroo accompanied his brother to a nearby train station and got lost, ending up asleep on a train which took him to Calcutta. Six emotional months later, he was adopted into an Australian family, the Brierleys. Along the way, he told many people his story. Some didn’t believe him, others tried to take advantage of him, but none were able to find his family based on his five-year old recollections.
As an adult with the help of Google Earth, he began an obsessive search to find his home town. Twenty-five years after he got lost, he came home again. But is any of his family still there?
Tale of a mixed-race South African childhood is a surprisingly gripping and fast read.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah.
Spiegel & Grau, Imprint of Random House, 2016.
Autobiography, 285 pages.
Purposefully born to a Xhosa mother and a Swiss/German father in South Africa, the act of Trevor Noah’s very birth was a crime in apartheid South Africa, so he spent the first five years of his life inside except for the occasional carefully orchestrated outing. Visibly lighter skinned than his family, but not quite white either, Trevor holds a unique, insider/outsider perspective on the South Africa of his childhood.
I bought this book at Target thanks to my new policy. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t have chosen it on my own. I actually flipped through this book previously and then found a children’s book instead. It was presented like a comedy book, not something I would seek given my unusual taste in humor.