On James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room and Staying in my Lane

I recently reread Jame’s Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, a novel that even though I know how it ends, always brings me to tears. I wanted to write this long post talking about bi-sexuality and homosexual and it’s relation to blackness and alienation. While David, in Giovanni’s Room is a white blonde American man and Giovanni is Italian, Giovanni’s Room is inexplicitly tied to the blackness and sexuality of James Baldwin.

This book always leaves me with so many questions, will David forever be wracked with guilt over his abandonment of Giovanni?

Will he ever find happiness and his true-self?

I always come back to critiques that declare David wholly a homosexual male. We know from David’s life that he’s had many sexual encounters with women, that he plans to marry Hella, that he was, until meeting Giovanni, happy(ish) with Hella.

But then I sit here, neither a homosexual male or bisexual male and am reminded that while this is an important conversation to be had, it’s not one that I as a black woman should be leading. I can talk to you about the need to feel acceptance. How toxic masculinity is a recurring theme in this book in how it impacts men with the idea that they are supposed to marry women and have babies and anything outside of that is the norm. This is a book about social alienation and while I can write about that from my perspective as a black woman – it’s not the same experience Baldwin had when he wrote the book.

So I’m going to post this as a “conversations I’d like to participate in, but not lead” because sometimes as a blogger, you need to know when to stay in your lane. Who knows, you might get a guest blog from someone more educated on the subject.


2015 In Review

2015 has been an amazing year – even if it hasn’t been as well reflected in my blog. I’ve almost, ALMOST hit my goal of 50 non-school related reads for the year, but with only a few weeks remaining I decided I should start my year in review post now.

The Personal:

Big news for those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Livejournal, I got engaged on July 4th! So a lot of the time I would have spent updating this blog has been spent wedding planning. Who am I kidding, I’m terrible at keeping this thing updated. Maybe my goal for next year will be fifty blog posts in a year.

Blogging for me is a multi-fold sneaky hate spiral, full of “why am I writing about this, no one cares” and “you should really be doing something like homework, or housework”. I think my goal for 2016 should be to blog for the same reasons I read, personal fulfillment. Anyways, on to the books!

The Books:

I read books differently now, it’s very evident that my year of reading books by authors of color really impacted how I select books to read and how representation really does matter to me in my enjoyment of a book. While I still don’t read a lot of non-fiction, the non-fiction I did read was thought provoking.

I’m also a member of several book clubs, the student group that I’m president of has a monthly book club, a Facebook based one called Bookretorts, and Reading Between the Wines, which have also impacted the books I’ve read this year.

Next year my friend Alana and I are doing Survivor: An Octavia E. Butler Book Club (message me for details).

Best Books:

Americanah by Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie

While the book focuses on the relationship between Ifemelu and Obinze what I loved about it was the fact that it was unapologetically black. Ifemelu has relationships like I’ve had, goes to the hair salon and has similar experiences to what I have, and writes a blog that I’d read in a heartbeat. I’ve recommended this book to so many women (especially black women) because in addition to being well written it really has a level of heart, soul and passion that I related to.

Earlier this year I’d read Purple Hibiscus and I was amazed at how the dialog and verbiage changes so drastically between the books. It made me realize how skilled an author Adichie is, in Purple Hibiscus  the dialog seems stilted because the characters are, Americanah is silk because Ifemelu and Obinze are.

Overall Rating: 5/5

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

I joke that one day when my life has settled down I’m going to read nothing for a year but Margaret Atwood books. The Heart Goes Last reminds me of why I say that. The characters are engaging, even if they aren’t always likable (I’m looking at you Stan)  – but Atwood manages to make characters that are like that so well. You root for them to win, but also to get knocked down a few pegs.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by John Krakauer

One of my favorite things about Krakauer is that his non-fiction books still read as a novel – a depressing novel – but I knew that going into it. This is a hard book to read especially when you realize that Missoula isn’t an oddity, it’s the norm. In December of 2014 the Department of Justice released a report that estimates 110,000 women between the ages of 18 and 24 are raped each year, Krakauer explores a few cases in Missoula that I feel demonstrate why women can be so hesitant to step forward.

Stephen King – Finders Keepers and The Library Policeman

I like Stephen King as a person, and I honestly liked this book more than Mr. Mercedes. The writing is strong, the characters are likable. Though I feel like Jerome and his alter-ego “Tyrone Feelgood Delite” is the unfortunate result of someone showing Stephen King the Urban Dictionary entry for Code-Switching. I’m not saying that young black men don’t code-switch , I’m just saying it didn’t ring true to me, a person who actually does code-switch.

The Library Policeman however is King in the creepy-zone. It’s an older work, from his Three Past Midnight collection but I hadn’t read it before. Just ok, not my favorite but I think that when I want creepy I’m more likely to turn to King’s son, Joe Hill and stick to King for his sagas like The Dark Tower series.

Coming Up:

Christmas with the soon to be in-laws! Nostalgia Reads: My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews, and “books I missed when I was a kid” featuring Alanna: The First Adventure.


2013 In Review

I think I can easily consider 2013 to have been the year of the re-read. It’s not that I didn’t read a lot of things, it’s just that most of them were either things I had read before, or Library Science related journal articles. While interesting, I don’t think anyone would want to read about me dissecting the intricate details of virtual reference services. I did however read some very good (and very bad) things in 2013 so here’s the breakdown.

The Great:

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

The conclusion to Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, following Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, we rejoin the remaining humans and the Crakers. You get a lot of back-story when at the same time it progresses the “main” story. These books have been some of my favorites and I recommend them whenever I can to anyone who I think would like them. While I was really, really excited for MaddAddam to come out I knew it would be the final book in the series and as I was reading it, I didn’t want it to be over.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve put time and effort into other series only to be disappointed or disgusted with the endings (namely The Dark Tower) but I feel like Atwood gives the readers an ending they deserve. Not to say that the book is without criticisms, there are some characters whose changes I absolutely loathe. Overall thought I think that Atwood knows how to deliver an ending that gives the reader a sense of completion.

The Good:

Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff

A friend recommended the movie to me and I enjoyed it so much I decided I needed to read the book. This is not a happy book, but if you’ve read my blog or if you know me, you know I don’t tend to read happy books. This book touched on a family’s inner darkness while telling a beautifully heartbreaking story.

The Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth

I got sucked into the amazing PBS/BBC drama Call the Midwife. These three books follow young Jenny as she serves as nurse and midwife in post-WWII London’s East End. The stories are not only compelling they’re  interesting look at medicine during a time period that seems like forever ago.

Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson

Ethiopian born, Swedish raised Samuelsson currently run The Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem and can be seen on this season of The Taste on ABC.  It’s the story of Samuelsson’s adoption to Swedish parents and his eventual re-connection with his Ethiopian roots. It gets a little big headed at times but I think all memoirs about a rise to fame can be like that. Overall pretty good.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I got this as an audiobook and I’m glad I did. It’s narrated by Wil Wheaton, Wil freakin’ Wheaton! Do you like video games? Do you like Easter Eggs in video games? If you answered yes to either of those questions you should read this book. It’s full of nostalgic gaming. I think the audience is really people who are slightly older than me but I still thought it was great.

The Bad:

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis.

I didn’t hate Bud, Not Buddy, but this book made me seriously reconsider why I read a lot of children’s books. I know I like children’s books where the children are likable, but that is so not the case in this book. 

The Ugly:

The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

It’s not so much that The Wind Through the Keyhole is horrible, it just has a lot of thing that I don’t like. The first is the assumption that if you haven’t read any of The Dark Tower books. I mean, you can, but it’s not going to make a lot of sense. It’s good world building. The second is the story within a story. It didn’t need to be  a story within the story of Roland Deschain’s ka-tet. It could have easily been listed as a Dark Tower Universe book and it would have been great.

Honorable Mentions:

Lilith’s Brood – By Octavia Butler

I am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced – Nujood Ali

Black Girl , White Girl – Joyce Carol Oates

Mom & Me & Mom – Maya Angelou

First World Problems

So I’m kind of back. Did I mention that I started Graduate school? So not only have I done my usual procrastinating, but I have school work to do, so this poor blog gets neglected horribly.

BUT I had to post because I am having the most ultimate of First World Problems that only other book people will understand.

My hold on MaddAddam is in the system, but it’s listed as being in transit so it won’t be checked in until after 2:30.


This is seriously me right now.

Whatever, Whatever, I Read What I Want

So I failed at my goal of 75 books last year, and I could post a bunch of excuses about how real life got in my way, how my sister had a baby, blah, blah, blah, but I won’t. I actually did come pretty close, I think I hit about fifty but I didn’t come close to blogging about all of the books that I read.

But it’s 2013, a new year and a new blog, 2011 brought you 50 Books by People of Color, which completely changed how I look at not only what I consider to be “literature” but what types of books that I grab for my casual reading. 2013 was Reading the Rainbow, in which I read books by Authors of Color as well as Gay, Lesbian and Transgender authors.

2013, is going to be different. This year is going to be the year of Cartman.

Well, sort of. In the past I tried to pick books that I wouldn’t be ashamed to be reading in public. This year, I’m saying to hell with it and thus Whatever, Whatever, I Read What I Want. Granted a lot of the books will be the same type I’ve been reading and posting about, some, as you’ll soon see, will be different.

Some other changes:

When I read multiple books in a series I might group them together in one entry.

I added the GoodReads widget so you can get a preview of what will be reviewed and track my progress.

I might update the look of the blog, I might not, whatever, whatever I do what I want.

I know, I know

I’ve been really terrible about blogging this year and I plan on remedying that soon, but that said, I feel compelled to post right now!
Last night, several weeks ago now, with my friend Jenny, I attended Margaret Atwood giving a lecture at Butler University. That’s right, the Margaret Atwood. Author of such works of literature as The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake and my personal favorite The Year of The Flood. Originally scheduled in the Reilly Room at Butler, due to the amount of press the event received Butler made the very wise decision to move the event to Clowes Auditorium. A good thing, because the first level of the auditorium was almost completely full.

As the lights dimmed a hush fell over the auditorium, it was as if a collective realization that we were about to witness not just a feminist icon, but a living legend. For the first time in my going to an event all cell phones were actually turned off or muted and a reverent silence captivated the audience. Margaret Atwood didn’t get the memo that it was supposed to be a serious evening.She took the stage with her characteristic wit and charm and throughout her entire lecture had periods of time where she had the audience roaring with laughter.

The lecture was divided into three parts. The first: “What is the Future” an interesting and complex subject that Atwood tackled easily and jovially. The second part:”How do you Write About the Future” in which she discussed the history of science fiction and speculative fiction. Finally the third part: “How I Write about Science Fiction” where she discussed some of her inspirations for writing The Handmaid’s Tale. Needless to say it was an evening I’ll remember always.

And next time I promise to remember to hit publish and not save as draft. Gah!

The Great Big Catch Up Post!

11. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Rating 1/5 and giving anyone (especially white women over 40) who say they loved this book the side eye eternally.

12. Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia

Not bad, I mean, it’s a book where you don’t like any of the characters because they all have (kind of realistic) character flaws.

Rating 3/5


14. The Secret Life of Bees by Susan Monk Kidd

Not as horrible as The Help but I think that’s only because Lily gets more of a pass than Skeeter because Lily is a kid and Skeeter is a grown college educated woman.

Rating 2/5

15. Bloodchild and other Stories by Octavia E. Butler

Male Pregnancy is always a weird concept but Butler does it well in one of the short stories. It’s an interesting combination of horror, science fiction and what Margaret Atwood would call speculative fiction.

Rating 4/5

16. Finding Miracles by Julia Alvarez

I love Alvarez, at least once every few years I reread In the Time of the Butterflies and Yo!, but this book, I don’t know, Milly is pretty much the type of person that people who are against transracial adoptions want to use as the poster child. It’s well written but the fact that they never actually say which country Milly is from is pretty annoying.

Rating 3/5

17. Going Bovine by Libba Bray

I don’t care if she was going for a modern retelling of Don Quixote, the magical negro trop needs to die.

Rating 2/5

18. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

My friend gave me $20 bucks to read it; I don’t think it was worth it. Considering that the plot doesn’t start until 3/4’s of the book it just drags and drags about those crazy kids Edward and Jacob.

Rating: No Stars Ever

19. Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti

It’s a good into guide to feminism, Valenti is a good author however her online presence and her unwillingness to delve more into the intersectionality of race and gender in the marginalization of women of color leaves much to be desired.

Rating 4/5

20. Voices From the Other Side edited by Brandon Massey

I wasn’t expecting the amount of what I would consider science fiction in this book, but that makes me glad. I’m not the biggest fan of horror, and while I didn’t find all of the stories great, it was a solid collection.

Rating 4/5

21. Cinder by Melissa Meyer

This was a bookclub book and I enjoyed it. Cinder is a modern retelling of Cinderella without the Disney happiness. Cinder has character flaws but it smart and someone I think young girls can relate with.

Rating: 4/5

22. Dead to You by Lisa McMann

What can I say about Dead To You without spoilers? If you watch enough Law and Order: SVU or Nick Stahl movies this one won’t surprise you at all.

Rating 3/5

23. Illegal by Bettina Restrepo

Nora is a hardworking teenage girl living in Mexico with her mother and grandmother. Her father left several years before for work in the United States. Suddenly one day, her father stops sending money and Nora and her mother venture to the United States in search of him. This book combines the fears and worries associated with being an illegal immigrant, the constant fear and tension, without being a woe is me narrative. Nora acknowledges their situation and continues to learn and grow.

Rating: 4/5

24. Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

Super short book about a young girl named Green. Green’s family is killed in a brutal attack on the city when she is left at home. Green and her natural ability to heal and grow things, survives but eventually must re-learn how to live.

Rating 3/5

25. Green Witch by Alice Hoffman

Super short sequel to Green Angel and it follows Green on her search for a missing friend (or two). It’s awkwardly rife with mysticism, but I mean, this is the same woman who wrote Practical Magic so I kind of expected it.

Rating 3/5

26. In Love and Trouble by Alice Walker

This collection of short fiction contains the classic Everyday Use which I had read several times before, and a few other stories that I had read before. One of the new ones, We Drink The Wine in Paris was really beautiful and unexpectedly moving.

Rating 3/5

27.Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Aria has lived her entire life in the protected city of Reverie, safe from the danger of the dangerous aether storms and the outsiders Aria knows only to be savages. It’s kind of like Pure by Julianna Baggott, but less disturbing. Everyone in Under the Never Sky is pretty, and there are absolutely no doll-heads as hands.  If the reader were looking for something dark and serious, I’d recommend Pure over Under the Never Sky, but if the reader were say, thirteen and just wanted a dystopia mixed with a romance, then Under The Never Sky is a good read.

Rating 2/5

28. Hold Still by Nina Lacour

Following the unexpected suicide of her best friend Ingrid, Caitlin tries to return to a normal life, but without Ingrid, nothing is normal. When she finds Ingrid’s journal hidden under her bed, Caitlin is forced to realize that Ingrid’s death is hard to everyone to deal with.

Rating 4/5

29. The Stoning of Soraya M. by Freidoune Sahebjam

The film version of this book was recommended to me by Netflix, after watching it I decided that 1) I need to watch more happy movies so that Netflix doesn’t give me categories like “Emotional Foreign Dramas” and “Tearjerking Political Films” and 2) that I needed to read the book. Granted it took me almost a year to get around to it, I’m glad I finally got around to it. Written in the formal of a novel, Sahebjam takes some literary license into his inferences into certain characters thoughts that he couldn’t have known, but it gives the book a more well-rounded feeling. It fills in the gaps that otherwise would be unanswerable questions, like why.

Rating: 3/5 it’s a book about a stoning, it’s tragic, gross and really happened.

30. Keesha’s House by Helen Frost

I managed to get a copy of this book from last year’s Indiana Author’s Awards, Frost was a finalist.  It’ll remind readers of Ellen Hopkins  (Identical, Crank, Tricks) with its poetry/prose mash up. Frost made me to a time warp back to my AP English Literature classes where we learned about sestinas, sonnets and about a dozen other poetic forms that Frost uses. This still manages to not take away from the actual story too much, but I do think that Frost’s book might have too many characters.

Rating: 3/5

Okay, wow, that took me a while to finish up. Here’s a summary:

Fiction Books Read: 28

Non Fiction books read: 2

Books that don’t count towards total read: 9

And for kicks, here’s what else I’ve read.

  1. Remember Me2: The Return by Christopher Pike
  2. Under the Dome by Stephen King
  3. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
  4. Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip K. Dick
  5. The Minority Report and Other Stories by Phillip K. Dick
  6. Habibi by Craig Thompson
  7. Uglies: Shay’s Story by Scott Westerfield
  8. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (read it last year)
  9. Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler (read it last year)

My original goal was to read 75 books, so we’ll see how it do. Wish me luck!

P.S. This post gets ALL of the tags