African-American History Month Reading Recommendations

February 2, 2018

As the calendar reveals February’s focus on African-American History Month, I’m eager to recommend some thematic reading! 

Linking up today with Modern Mrs Darcy: Quick Lit February.

The Gilded Years
by Karin Tanabe

Gilded Years

Genre: historical fiction

One title that I read a few years ago that might not be on your radar is The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe.

Summary: This story shares the important and compelling experiences of Anita Hemmings and her dream of attending an exclusive school for women, Vassar College, in the late 1890s. To accomplish this extraordinary feat and pursue her chance for a better life, Anita must pass for white. It is interesting to me how her family and community support her in the implementation of her decision and work to protect her as she lives it out. At first, Anita maintains a distance from her college peers. However, as the years pass and Anita becomes friends with her socialite roommate from a prominent family in New York, the risk of discovery grows greater. Can she maintain her assumed identify? Will she graduate?

The choice: For me, the most interesting part of the story is the tension that develops between Anita and one of her dear friends who decides to live fully as an African-American, embrace her ethnic identity and heritage, and openly fight for equal rights. Which one of the young women has chosen the best path? Both decisions are difficult in their own ways and filled with sacrifices and joys. Through their two stories, the reader is presented with two viewpoints and experiences. What would you or I have done given that choice? Which choice helped further equal treatment for African-Americans? Was Anita’s choice a set back for African Americans? Or did she have every right to think of her own life first? Did her success as a student help the African-American cause by proving that an African-American can compete equally at Vassar?

Bottom Line: Although the story is compelling and emotional, the writing could be better and was the weakest part of my reading experience. For me, a lack of beautiful writing is easily overlooked for a captivating story that addresses strong themes of hope, sacrifice, betrayal, loyalty, family, taking risks, life choices, and friendship. It’s an important, inspiring, and memorable read. It would generate an excellent book club discussion and make a great movie!

Recommended? Highly recommended for readers looking for an inspirational and  interesting read in celebration of African-American History Month, for readers who enjoy compelling stories about strong, brave, independent women, for book clubs, and for readers who enjoy diverse reads and stories written from a different perspective.

Amazon Rating (February): 4.2 Stars

My Rating: 4 stars

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Gilded Years

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Karin Tanabe

Karen TanabeKarin Tanabe is a fiction writer and former Politico reporter whose writing has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and The Washington Post among many other publications. Before turning to fiction, Karin worked as a journalist covering politics and celebrities. She has made frequent appearances on Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition and CNN. A graduate of Vassar College, she lives in Washington D.C.

 

 



Additional Reading Recommendations

(links will take you to further information)

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham (historical fiction, YA)

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (historical fiction)

Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom  (historical fiction)
*This is an interesting story as it also deals with the main character passing as white.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (historical fiction, family saga)

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (historical fiction)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (contemporary fiction, YA)

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (contemporary fiction)

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M Draper (middle grade historical fiction selection)

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (nonfiction)

We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Led to Success by Sampson Davis  (middle grade, biography/memoir)

There are so many titles; these are a few that I’ve read and can highly recommend. Can you add to these recommendations in the comments?



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Looking Ahead:

I’m planning a review of this next week:
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI 
by David Grann

Amazon information here

I’m also continuing to read an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety by Michelle Balge. (review on 2/16)

A Way Out

Amazon information here (2/27/19 release date)

Also, I’m anticipating that I’ll start Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (from my 2018 TBR) some time in the next two weeks.

Prairie Fires

Amazon information here



My TBR and the BUZZ

I’m noticing lots of buzz (great reviews) lately about two books (both Book of the Month Club selections for February): The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce and The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (author of The Nightingale). I’m adding them to the top of my TBR, so look for a review soon!

Do you belong to Book of the Month Club?

I also just heard that Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache series) will be releasing a new installment in November of this year! (no title or cover yet)
#meetmeinthreepines #threepinesgeek
available for preorder

What are you reading this week?



Links

Modern Mrs Darcy published a list of  25 Must-Read Classics for Women.
How many have you read?

I appreciated this post from The Ardent Biblio: Why It’s Important to Read Diverse Books
Please check it out.

Do you plan to reread Wrinkle in Time before the movie release on March 9?
Will you be seeing the movie?



Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Let’s Discuss!

If you were an African-American, would you have made the decision to pass as white to take advantage of a path to help you pursue your dreams? If you are an African American, would you  have passed as white in the late 1890s? What do you think of individuals who made this choice?

Will you be seeking out a certain book to read during African-American History Month? Or do you have recommendations?

What are you reading this week?

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January’s Compelling Character Link Up

January 26, 2018

January Compelling Character

Link up with me today and share a post about your favorite character from your January reading! I’m hoping there will be enough interest to make this a regular last Friday of the month feature and link up opportunity. If you do not have a blog, please share your favorite character from your January reading in the comment section!

Meet Kavita


Secret Daughter

by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Secret Daughter 2

Genre/categories: adoption, cultural heritage, family life, mothers/daughters, Asian American

Meet Kavita, a young, poor mother in India traveling on foot to an orphanage in Mumbai and making a heartbreaking choice to save her newborn daughter’s life by giving her away. Her husband, who is hoping for a son, killed the first-born daughter, and Kavita is determined to save her second daughter’s life. She makes a difficult decision and risks everything to give the only gift she can give her daughter, a chance to live.

This is a compelling story of adoption from three perspectives: Kavita, the mother who gives up her newborn daughter to an orphanage in Mumbai in hopes of saving her daughter’s life; Somer, a heartbroken, newly married physician in San Francisco who, upon hearing the news she cannot have children, decides to adopt; and Asha, Somer’s adopted daughter from Mumbai, India.

Kavita

Although there is an abundance of strong women in this story, I couldn’t stop thinking about Kavita and the hardships she faced and the bravery and determination needed to put the daring plan of saving her newborn daughter into action. She risked her life, and then was faced with living with that decision for the rest of her life, wondering if she had done the right thing. What would any of us have done in similar circumstances? Giving up her infant daughter was only one of the hardships Kavita faced in her life as she struggled to care for her family and trust her husband with their future.

Grandmother

Honorable mention for incredible and admirable women in this story goes to Asha’s gracious grandmother from India who worked tirelessly to welcome and embrace Asha, to unite the family, and to help Asha appreciate and understand her birth culture. She reminded me of the important and endearing role that grandparents can play in a family.

This engaging and heartfelt story is similar in themes to Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See and highly recommended for readers who enjoy inspirational stories of strong women, for readers whose lives have been touched by adoption and would benefit from exploring it from different perspectives, for readers who appreciate how reading about a different culture can add to our understanding of the world and build compassion for the hardships that women around the world might face, and for those who are looking for a compelling page turner. This would make an excellent book club selection for its various discussion possibilities.

Amazon Rating (January): 4.5 Stars

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Buy Here

Meet the Author, Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Shilpi GowdaShilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. In college, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage, which seeded the idea for her first novel, SECRET DAUGHTER. Shilpi holds an MBA from Stanford University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain scholar. She has served on the Advisory Board of the Children’s Defense Fund, and is a Patron of Childhaven International, the organization for which she volunteered in India. She lives in California with her husband and children.

SECRET DAUGHTER, Shilpi’s debut novel published in 2010, has sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide in over 30 countries and languages. It was a New York Times bestseller, #1 International bestseller, and the screen rights have been optioned.

THE GOLDEN SON, her second novel, is a Target Book Club Pick and #1 International bestseller, being published around the world in 2016-17. The screen rights have been optioned to Conquering Lion Pictures.

http://www.shilpigowda.com



Link Up

Link up a recent post that includes a memorable character from your January reading. To join the Link Up, enter the URL to your blog post (not your blog), your name, and email (which will remain hidden). Please link back to this post with a text link. In addition, please visit at least one other link. (*please bear with me if there are problems with the link up…it’s the first one I’ve attempted)



 Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Update:

I indicated last week that I’d be reading Library at the Edge of the World (from my 2018 TBR list). I decided not to highlight it this week because I was a bit underwhelmed with the reading experience. I’ll provide a brief review here.

Library at the Edge of the World

Readers who love a character driven story with a lovely sense of place, will likely enjoy this read. I prefer a bit more plot with my reading and I found myself becoming bored and impatient by 60% with minimal plot development. I stuck with it because the writer is talented and the characters are well developed and interesting. By the end of the book, the plot picked up a bit and I was glad I stayed with it. This might be a good read if you’re looking for a gentle read for a time when you want minimal stress in your reading material….I also think readers from Ireland or those who have spent time in Ireland might enjoy this read. I do appreciate the strong themes of a community coming together for a purpose and of a woman rebuilding her life after a divorce and finding her voice. If you read and enjoy this story, there are two more books in the series. Amazon Rating (January): 4.0 

My Rating: 3 Stars.

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In the spirit of fairness, please consider these reviews from two bloggers whom I greatly respect that enjoyed the book a great deal more than me. Check out their reviews before making your reading choice.
The Loud Library Lady’s review of Library at the Edge of the World
Top Shelf Text’s review of Library at the Edge of the World

Amazon Information Here



Looking Ahead:

My library hold (since November) has finally come in, and I’ll be dropping everything this week to buddy read (with my husband) the nonfiction selection:
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

Amazon information here

I’m also reading an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety.

A Way Out

Amazon information here (2/27/19 release date)

What are you reading this week?



Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Let’s Discuss!

What are your reactions to hearing about a woman who plans to give up her newborn daughter to save her life?

Do you think it’s beneficial to read books that feature different cultures and address difficult topics such as adoption?

What are you reading this week?

If you haven’t joined the link up, I’d love to hear in a comment about the most compelling character from your January reading.

The Hate U Give

September 29, 2017

A multiple recommendations post for diverse reads!

Today I’m offering a challenge for some of us to read outside our comfort zone. Does reading from a different point of view appeal to you? Do you wish you could include more diversity in your reading life? Would reading fiction that mirrors what you sometimes see on the nightly news interest you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I urge you to consider reading The Hate U Give. All books  reviewed and recommended in this post focus on the theme of diversity, especially from the African-American perspective.

The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give

Genre/categories: YA fiction, racism, prejudice, social and family issues

Summary:

Our sixteen-year-old main character, Starr, lives in a poor inner city neighborhood and her mother drives her to an upper middle class private school miles across town for her education. Starr’s parents can afford to move out of the poorer neighborhood, but her dad, a former gang member and convict, believes it’s important to stay in the neighborhood to help solve the problems there and to be a role model and support for the young African-American males who desire to leave the gang life and pursue better options. Starr’s mother would like to move across town to the middle class more diverse neighborhood where Starr and her siblings attend a (predominately white) private school and where the family attends a “diverse” church “(she nicknames it “the diverse church). Starr manages to live between her two worlds of the Williamson private school crowd and her neighborhood friends. This causes her some stress because she feels she can’t totally be herself in either place. One night Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend by a police officer. The officer involved shooting and her friend’s death make national headlines. Starr is faced with opinions and actions from both sides. Some reporters and private school friends say that the victim was a thug and perhaps a gang member and drug dealer and deserved to die. Friends in the neighborhood, including Starr, who really knew the victim defend him. As Starr faces her role as a witness, interrogation by the DA, involvement in protests, and publicity, she and her family also endure intimidation by the local drug lord (because if she testifies, she might incriminate him). Starr summons up all her courage so that her testimony and answers are honest and truthful to the best of her ability. What she says could endanger her life and cause further protests in the community. How will she use her voice? Amazon rating (September): 4.8

My Thoughts:

This is a difficult review to write as this book is full of controversial and complex issues which require lots of thought and that combined with the circumstances (and profanity) make it a difficult read. Also, even though I enjoyed the book and was challenged by it, I had to think seriously about recommending it.

Do I recommend this book?

Absolutely YES!

In bullet format, you will discover the reasons I’m recommending this book (in no particular order):

  • The story contains likeable, memorable, and multidimensional characters. Starr’s parents’ relationship is especially encouraging and inspiring.
  • This is an unforgettable, fast paced, heartbreaking, thought-provoking, inspiring, tragic, and unputdownable story told from authentic voices.
  • I think it’s important to challenge ourselves to read diverse literature and to listen well.
  • The issues in this book occasionally appear in our nightly news.
  • Experiencing a situation from the perspective of others that are different from us and hearing their voices informs our opinions and deepens our understanding.
  • It gave me a new perspective on the allure of gangs.
  • The story presented an interesting dilemma (as presented by Starr’s father and mother): should African Americans leave their inner city neighborhood if they have that option or should they stay (and risk the consequences) to help their communities?
  • I thought the author did an exceptional job of helping the reader understand code-switching. I was challenged with accepting Starr just as she was and wondered if I would have tried to change her if she were a part of my community. Particularly, I wondered as a teacher how accepting I was of African Americans (or my other students from other cultures) who brought their unique cultural expressions into my classroom. How much code-switching did my students feel was necessary? Did I try to change them to fit my (white middle class) idea of an ideal student? Or did I promote acceptance in my classroom and among their peers for them to be their authentic selves (hairstyle, clothing, expressions, etc.) ? In Starr’s own words, code-switching is exhausting and she was an expert.
    “I should be used to my two worlds colliding, but I never know which Starr I should be. I can use some slang, but not too much slang. Some attitude but not too much attitude, so I’m not a sassy black girl. I have to watch what I say and how I say it. But I can’t sound “white.” Sh*@# is exhausting.”  ~Starr
  • The story contains important and hard-hitting themes such as responsibility to our neighborhood, bravery, finding our voice, loyalty, racism, violence, poverty, helplessness, privilege, family values, anger, and hate.
  • I think from news reports of similar situations we often are not getting the true stories from both sides. Although this story was told from Starr’s first person point of view, I thought both sides were represented. In particular, Starr has a white boyfriend and it was interesting to have his interactions and perceptions as an integral part of the story.
  • I thought religion was presented sincerely and authentically in this story and included as ordinary, natural, and meaningful in the life of the family and community. This was refreshing because often an author’s bias against religion is apparent.
  • In the story, there is an incident of a mild and offhand racist comment made to a Chinese girl, Maya. As a result, she was more sympathetic to Starr’s situation because she had been a victim of a thoughtless racist comment. This illustrated to me that if we’ve never experienced racist comments personally maybe reading about it happening to a beloved character can build empathy, understanding, and awareness. Starr’s reflection that came from that experience caused me to think about all the times I’ve heard something and said nothing:
    “We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” ~ Starr
  • This book is categorized as YA and I think it’s an important read for mature young adults, and adults of any age. It opens the door to many important discussions and hard thinking about relevant topics. I think diverse literature is a great way to build compassion, understanding, and empathy for others.
  • There will be ideas you disagree with in this book and content that’s uncomfortable and that’s ok! I still think they are ideas with which we need to wrestle. If the language doesn’t offend you, I think this would be an excellent selection for your book club. Perhaps the intent of the book is to start discussions.
  • No matter how you feel about the Black Lives Matter movement, this book remains a worthwhile read. It’s important for us to hear from the African-American community in their own voices. #dontletthestrugglersbecomeahashtag
  • Finally, it’s going to be a movie….and don’t most of us want to read the book first?!
    The Hate U Give has started production.

*Alert: language (profanity), racial tension

Although I don’t consider this great literature in a literary fiction sense, I can highly recommend this for mature young adults and for all adult readers as a discussion starter, a diverse literature pick (for many of us), and a contemporary and relevant topics/themes selection.

My Rating: 5 Stars

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The Hate You Give

Buy Here

***This post is linked up with Puppies and Pretties.

Meet the Author, Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.

Flight Picks:

Following is a sampling of other diverse literature with a focus on racism. I’ve read most of them recently and highly recommend them. If I have reviewed it here on the blog, I’ve included the link. I’ve also included the Amazon link for additional information.  To see my ratings for each book, you can visit my Goodreads page (historical fiction and/or favorite reads shelves).

Dreamland Burning by
Jennifer Latham

dreamland burning

Genre: YA historical fiction

My Review Here.

More Information Here.


Small Great Things
by Jodi Picoult

small great things

Genre: adult fiction

My Review Here.

More Information Here.


The Gilded Years
by Karin Tanabe

The Gilded Years

Genre: Women’s Historical Fiction

This important and compelling story is about the first African-American woman to attend Vassar (passing as white), and it’s written in a biographical style. It causes one to think seriously about options for African American women in the late 1890s and inspires you to consider what you might have done to follow your dream and achieve your goals.

More Information Here.


Homegoing
by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction

An ambitious multi generational story tracing the impact of slavery for 2 sisters and their families from generation to generation from Ghana to America over a period of 300+ years.

More Information Here.


Invention of Wings
by Sue Monk Kidd
(author of Secret Life of Bees)

Invention of Wings

Genre: adult historical fiction

An unputdownable story of the Grimké sisters (Sarah and Angelina) and their slave, Hetty, as the sisters wrestle with the ideas of slavery and join the early abolitionist and women’s rights movements in the North. One of my favorite reads of recent years and a great book club selection.

More Information Here.


The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House
by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House

Glory Over Everything

Genre: adult historical fiction

In The Kitchen House, a 7-year-old orphan from Ireland is placed with the slaves on a southern plantation. They become her family and she is raised in the slave culture. This gives her a unique perspective and voice. Glory Over Everything is a sequel of sorts (but it can be read as a stand alone) and it follows the life of her nephew (from her black adopted sister) as he leaves the South and passes for white.

More Information Here and Here.


Stella by Starlight
by Sharon M. Draper

Stella by Starlight

Genre: Middle School historical fiction

If you’re looking for an appropriate diverse and historical fiction selection for a middle grade readers (ages 9-12), I recommend this poignant story of Stella’s experiences with racism and finding her own voice.

More Information Here.


The Warmth of Other Suns
by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns

Genre: Adult Narrative Non Fiction

Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson shares the stories of three individuals representing the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South from 1917 to 1970 for northern and western cities in search of a better life. This is known as the Great Migration. My husband was a history major and thoroughly enjoyed this story.

More Information Here.

Extras:

Refugee

I’d like to quickly draw your attention to one more diversity read that’s getting a lot of buzz right now for Middle Grade readers….if you have a 9-12 year old, this might interest them. Keeping with our theme of diversity and hearing from authentic voices, I’d like to recommend Refugee by Alan Gratz. This is a story from the perspectives of three young people as they leave their countries of origin (Nazi Germany, Cuba, and Syria) as refugees to seek safety. Recommended for mature middle grade readers and above. Good literature can be enjoyed by all ages!

Buy Here.

 



Those of you who have read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, might enjoy this excellent review I stumbled upon this week!

Read Review Here.

Do you like polls? Book Nerd Poll just for fun!

One Last Recommendation!

Untangled

I thought Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood by Lisa Damour sounded really good for parents or guardians or mentors/teachers of teenage girls!

 

More Information Here.



Happy Reading Everyone!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J. Hughes

Looking Forward:

If you’d like to “buddy read,” next week I’m thrilled to review Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (Author of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray). In two weeks, I’ll review Little Fires Everywhere, the new release by Celeste Ng (author of Everything I Never Told You). **Schedule subject to change if my Little Fires Everywhere hold becomes available from the library sooner than expected.

Out of the Easy

 

More Information Here.

 

Little Fires Everywhere

 

More Information Here.

 

Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Let’s Discuss!

In the comments I’d love to hear your thoughtful and respectful reflections on The Hate U Give or any of the other selections. I’m always eager to hear about what you’re reading and your thoughts about diversity in your reading life! Did you add a new book to your TBR list?