Thursday, July 16, 2020

Book Reviews - Books with Presence and Power

Y'all these books don't need an introduction other than these three words: Read. These. Books. Oh, and three more - Discuss. With Others. 

So, let's get to sharing!

This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell was an intentionally designed exploration of what anti-racism means and how to make that actionable. While it's written for the YA crowd, I find great value in it as an OA (old adult). Each chapter explores a different word/topic/idea within anti-racism work. It explains what the term means and what it looks like. In addition to that, it has reflective questions and activities to help you as the reader identify how this shows up for you. I really like the reflective piece of this book as it had built in that next step beyond consuming content. I also liked that this helped you explore things you might not think were a thing in your life, but oh wait, they are. This is a book that I could see myself going back to and referencing as I continue to explore different aspects of anti-racism work. If you're new to these topics, this is a book that's a good place to start. If you're more experienced, this also provides some good opportunities to reflect and continue to grow.

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert is a bit of a love story built around an especially important issue. Marva and Duke are teens voting for the first time. Marva is excited to finally have this opportunity, while Duke is just in it as a responsibility before he moves onto the stuff he wants to do. Marva sees Duke turned away from his polling place, and she decides to help figure out what's going on, so he can vote. What was supposed to be a quick process turns into an all day ordeal. Along the way, they learn this is all way more complicated than it needs to be. However, they keep with it, and as they make their way through town, they also learn about each other while discussing identity, current events, and life in general. I dug that this was a YA romance that built in important topics throughout! Thanks to NetGalley for look at this recent July release!

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram was a book that I've had on my to-read list for some time, and y'all, WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO READ THIS?!?! Darius' story is absolutely outstanding. What makes it outstanding is the honesty and authenticity of Darius as a character. Specifically, Darius struggles with depression, and this book displays that in the realest of ways. Darius is also bullied at school, and he struggles to find social connection. Then, Darius and his parents go to Iran where his grandparents live. Darius is far from an expert in this part of his identity. Once there, he makes friends with a neighbor named Sohrab - For the first time in ages, he has a real, actual friend. He's still hesitant and full of self-doubt, but Sohrab continues to show that he is a true friend, and Darius starts to really embrace their connection. This is just a beautiful, wonderful book. Darius is navigating so much, and this book so rawly portrays what that experience is like for him. I was so emotionally drawn into this one, and I am thrilled there is going to be a sequel because I need more Darius in my life - and Sohrab, too. This was just so, so good in its relationships, in its emotion, and again, in portraying an amazing main character in Darius.

This is My America by Kim Johnson was a phenomenal read. It's odd to start with the end of the book, but I have to note that once I read the author's note I so appreciated the intentionality with which she wrote this story. Don't read this until the end and also make sure to read this when you get there, as when you do you'll understand and appreciate the story she tells so much more. So, what is that story? I'm glad you asked because I want to talk about this one! The story focuses on Tracy. Each week, Tracy writes a letter to Innocence X asking them to help her father who is on death row. Time is running out, and Tracy is doing all she can to help. Then, Tracy's brother, Jamal, is accused of killing his girlfriend. Jamal is now on the run, and Tracy wants to also do what she can to prove his innocence as well. Y'all, this was a powerful piece. It's an emotional read, but its power and impact is also in the way it explores the systemic nature of issues. It peels back the layers as Tracy does all she can to help her dad and brother and encounters obstacles, lies and hard truths. This is one I devoured both reading slowly to take the story in, while also reading in a day because I was so drawn in. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this late July release. Add this to your lists now y'all. This is one you need to read, discuss with others, and process how this shows up in real life.

Onto the next ones!