The month of love. And Black History month! Valentine’s Day is pretty easy to understand, it’s the month where marketers get you to buy a ton of pink stuff you don’t need. Black History Month, on the other hand, is something that I’m still trying to learn about. Just a handful of years ago, I barely knew about what a big deal race was on this side of the world. Now, I’m quite aghast at how inequality can permeate every sphere of public life.
Is it just me or do you ever feel like reliving the good ol’ Harry Potter days? That’s how I’ve felt reading Nevermoor and its sequel Wundersmith. It’s not quite the best young fantasy series that I’ve read, but since I did read the sequel, I suppose there is something captivating about it. It’s hard to look past the fact that the school seems very similar to Hogwarts down to the Whinging Woods – a mashup of the Forbidden Forest and Sirius’ shrieking mum, the professors are right out of an Eva Ibbotson novel, and many descriptions sound distinctly Bartimaeus-eque. Still, it’s lovely to take a walk down memory lane again, especially as a palette cleanser to harder-to-read books like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Read it if you like…
A Day In the Life of Marlon Bundo
John Oliver. Need I say more? This book was surprisingly more beautiful and a better story than I expected, especially since I would have bought it no matter what!
It was during reading Becoming by Michelle Obama last December that I finally understood what it meant for an African-American man to become the President. Thanks, Obama (I didn’t know about the meme before) is a hilarious window into the Obama years, and though no part of this book was sad, it did leave me feeling choked up about a world that was and might have been. Obama may not have been perfect, no world leader is, but he was a leader worth having, one with a greater, kinder vision for the world, not one entrenched in old and irrelevant prejudices that stokes the worst in us rather than inspiring the best in us.
Read it if you like…
The Hate U Give
This was my official book for Black History Month. I tried reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks but gagged at the description of her tumour and found it impossible to proceed. I’m glad that I read The Hate U Give instead. It gave me more context to Becoming that I read in December and since I do enjoy coming-of-age books, it was a lovely little bildungsroman about Starr, who navigates “two worlds” – her poorer mostly black neighbourhood and her richer mostly white private school. We meet her just before her friend is shot in a police encounter, and the rest of the book describes her experience in grappling with her worlds colliding. How should a jumpy police officer be punished, if at all, for killing a teenager? Does it matter if the teen in question was a drug dealer? Are we saying that it’s acceptable to kill an innocent drug dealer over the colour of his skin? The book was heart-wrenching and made me realize how insidious and universal the experiences of the unheard are. The writing, especially towards the end of the book, left me wanting for a more beautifully crafted and nuanced story à la Exit West, but that’s a minor quibble in the face of the importance of the story that needs to be told.