2018 The Year of Challenges?

I am not usually one to do challenges. I don’t follow rules well. I’ve tried the “bookstagram” photo challenges and just managed to scrape through and complete all of the prompts. But it wasn’t really fun. It was taxing even. And the prompts served no real purpose for me. Ok, so I put up a few extra pictures. For thirty days straight I was actually consistent. And sure, maybe I learned some cool photography techniques in the process, but it didn’t do anything at all for my reading life. That doesn’t seem to be the point. The point is to take and post pictures of all the lovely books you own. I certainly didn’t need an excuse to buy more books.  So I stopped doing those challenges. But when this year started, I wanted to push myself and attempt to read outside of my comfort zone. So, I turned to challenges. Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge had always been something

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Sing, Unburied, Sing: An “About Halfway” Review

Jesmyn Ward is a stunning writer. I learned this several months ago when I finally read her first National Award Winning novel, Salvage the Bones. It’s difficult to refrain from feeling when you read her detailed descriptions. And it’s important that you do everything you can to feel, completely. It’s the only way to attempt to know these characters and understand their plight. The first scene of this book was no different. I physically looked away from the page at this moment, only five pages in: I pull. The goat is inside out. Slime and smell everywhere, something musty and sharp, like a man who ain’t took a bath in some days. The skin peels off like a banana. It surprises me every time, how easy it comes away once you pull. The language she uses isn’t necessarily spectacular in any way, but the way she commands these otherwise simple words, makes you see the scene. In this case, a

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Her freckles, her thin pink lips, her blond hair, the stubborn milkiness of her skin; how easy had it been for her, her whole life, to make the world a friend to her?

Jesmyn Ward Wins the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction

Last night, the National Book Foundation finally announced the winners of the 2017 National Book Awards during their 68th National Book Awards Ceremony. I wasn’t able to watch the live stream because I was waiting for the start of Jay Z’s 4:44 concert at the Bridgestone Arena here in Nashville. But I was eager to know who the winner for fiction would be and was hoping it would be Jesmyn Ward. I encountered Jesmyn Ward’s writing after I decided there needed to be a shift in my reading habits. I have been a fairly consistent reader for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized just how few African American authors I had read in recent years. Sure I had been introduced to Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, and even August Wilson over the course of my high school and undergraduate literature studies. But it was rare for me to read something recent from an African American

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And yes, I’m a mess but I’m blessed
To be stuck with you.
Sometimes it gets unhealthy
We can’t be by ourselves, we
We’ll always need each other.
Yes, I’m a mess but I’m blessed
To be stuck with you.
I just want you to know that
If I could, I swear I’d go back
Make everything all better.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Nashville has changed me. In this space where liberalism excuses itself and distances itself from explicit racism, but still participates in the subtle prejudices couched in the racism they claim to disavow, it becomes very difficult to come and go. Any space you enter could be filled with people wearing masks of acceptance, secretly more comfortable with your absence and silence. And they will smile. They will engage you in debates about the issues of our day. You will avoid these conversations until you don’t and your opinion is overridden by the deep understanding they have of the ways people of color move through the world—information they have gathered within the walls of their white world. And in this same space, there will be a moment when they wear their racism around you and point it at you accusingly with no fear of retribution. And the people who witness this moment will feign surprise and create distance, but the truth

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I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background.

~ Zora Neale Hurston from How it Feels to Be Colored Me (1928)

*Image printed in Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

 

The Hate U Give

I finished reading The Hate U Give a few months ago. I’ll be honest and say I had initially decided not to read the book. But somehow I had evidently put myself on a waiting list for the audiobook at my local library. When the hold became available, I decided to give it a chance and I’m glad I did. The Hate U Give, especially in its audiobook format, is a treat. The story is very well written and is a very pleasant experience. Everything, from the characters and the use of language, is unmistakably situated in the context of black culture and makes for an enjoyable experience. Overall, I think the book is great and I have recommended it several times since reading it. However, I must admit that I left the book feeling a little bit of a void. I wanted more of something. I wanted more Khalil. For those who don’t know, The Hate U Give follows

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