July 13, 2020

I’m just going to get right to it – I have a lot of really good books to review today. Linking up with Steph and Jana.

1. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This is the best book I have read all year. Stella and Desiree are twins who grow up in a town in the south. In their small Black community, the goal has always been to marry someone light-skinned, so that your children will be lighter than you, and their children even lighter.

“But even here, where nobody married dark, you were still colored and that meant that white men could kill you for refusing to die. The Vignes twins were reminders of this, tiny girls in funeral dresses who grew up without a daddy because white men decided that it would be so.”

The twins run away from home at the age of 16 and eventually separate. One goes on to pass for white, the other returns to her hometown. The book focuses on how these decisions affect their lives and the lives of their daughters, whose lives intersect.

There were so many characters in this book that I fell in love with. This was an incredibly powerful, poignant, and relevant novel. A must read.

2. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

“How can I say that if you are white, your opinions on racism are most likely ignorant, when I don’t even know you? I can say so because nothing in mainstream US culture gives us the information we need to have the nuanced understanding of arguable the most complex and enduring social dynamic of the last several hundred years.”

I read somewhere recently that it is a privilege to read and learn about racism instead of experiencing it your whole life. That sentence really shook me and was a huge wake up call for me. This book made me look inward and made me realize the ways that my white privilege has affected every aspect of my life. I think that one of the biggest things that I took from this book was how not talking about race keeps the system going.

“I was co-leading a workshop with an African American man. A white participant said to him, “I don’t see race; I don’t see you as black.” My co-trainer’s response was, “Then how will you see racism?” He then explained to her that he was black, he was confident that she could see this, and that his race meant that he had a very different experience in life than she did. If she were ever going to understand or challenge racism, she would need to acknowledge this difference. Pretending that she did not noticed that he was black was not helpful to him in any way, as it denied his reality – indeed, it refused his reality – and kept hers insular and unchallenged. This pretense that she did not notice his race assumed that he was “just like her,” and in so doing, she projected her reality onto him. For example, I feel welcome at work so you must too; I have never felt that my race mattered, so you must feel that yours doesn’t either. But of course, we do see the race of other people, and race holds deep social meaning for us.”

If you are a white person who is looking to understand more about racism, about your own racism, and about how you can work to become anti-racist, this book is the perfect place to start. DiAngelo covers so much in this book that it’s hard to summarize.

3. All Adults Here by Emma Straub

From the cover, this looks like it will be a light, cute book. It begins with a 68-year old widow, Astrid, who sees a woman her age get hit by a bus right in front of her. This sparks Astrid to turn inward, to think about her life and what she wants out of it. She decides to come out to her family.

The book is told from the perspective of many different members of her family – her children and her granddaughter, all of whom are battling something. I absolutely loved Astrid and her granddaughter. Her children’s stories also sucked me in.

I’ve read a lot of criticism for this book that says the book tries to cover too many hot-topic issues. But I disagree. I think that, in any family, you will have many different issues. 4 stars.

4. A Burning by Megha Majumdar

I am having such a difficult time processing this book. It is told from the perspective of three characters whose stories are interconnected, to say the least.

Jivan is a Muslim girl who lives in the slums. She is put on trial for a terrorist attack she didn’t commit. Lovely is an aspiring actress, who is Jivan’s alibi. But as Jivan’s trial becomes more and more polarizing, with the public wanting to see her convicted, she becomes torn between helpin Jivan and finally getting everything she wants.

And finally, PT Sir is Jivan’s gym teacher who finds himself moving up in the ranks of a right-wing political party. Because of his connection to Jivan, he can also make or break her fate.

I found this book so heartbreaking, I still can’t get it out of my head, weeks later. Urgent, captivating, and fast-paced, I think its a very important book and I highly recommend it. After much debate, and some distance from the book, I gave it 4 stars.

5. Normal People by Sally Rooney

This book is very polarizing! My virtual book club read it and we all seemed to love it or hate it. I got this book from my book swap last year from a friend who hated it. I absolutely loved this book. I felt like I could relate to it on so many levels and it really resonated with me.

Marianne and Connell are in high school. Connell is very popular, where Marianne is the complete opposite. Connell’s mom cleans Marianne’s house. When Connell comes to pick her up, they often talk. Soon, they begin hooking up, but no one at school knows. Despite the hurt they cause each other, they develop a deep connection. The book follows them through high school and college as they move towards and around each other, as they fight their own internal demons.

This book resonated so much with me. The book alternated from the perspective between Marianne and Connell. There are so many times where they don’t communicate properly, where they are afraid to tell each other how they truly feel, and to see these miscommunications play out through each of their perspectives was gut-wrenching.

The book deals with some pretty heavy topics – suicide, depression, mental health, and abuse. There are a lot of devastating events. But I think that these issues are dealt with beautifully. This is a heartbreaking, kick you in the gut book.

I felt like I could really relate to Marianne, because in high school I was a lot like her. I felt like I could relate to the way Marianne and Connell help each other and affect each other’s most formative years. I also really loved the series on Hulu. Definitely give this book a try – and watch the show.

What are you reading lately?

8 responses to “Recent Reads”

  1. kristen says:

    normal people was so weird and months later i still don’t know how i felt about it lol. i think i liked it overall. my book club were all meh about it, but they seem to hate it more now lol (like when the show gets brought up). i also read white fragility and the vanishing half, so good! a burning is on my list!

  2. Nadine says:

    I have The Vanishing Half on my list. So many people have read it the last month!

  3. SMD says:

    I was in the hate it category on Normal People.

    I think everyone should start with White Fragility. It is so direct and points stuff out in a way that is undeniable.

    And of course The Vanishing Half was tremendous.

  4. Jana says:

    White Fragility is a must-read. And The Vanishing Half was excellent.

  5. Normal People really does seem to be hit or miss for people! lol

    Glad you had some nice reads though.


  6. Julie says:

    I can’t wait to get my hands on the Vanishing Act. Glad it was good!

  7. Audrey says:

    I’m currently working on White Fragility and this month’s link-up has me putting The Vanishing Half on my tbr list! I will have to check out All Adults Here, too. It sounds really interesting!

  8. What a great set of reads! I really want to try The Vanishing Half. I read The Revolution of Birdie Randolph lately and loved it.

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