Hello 2021. What a year 2020 was.
I’m grateful again to have had reading as my companion in this wild year. My reading did not go as I had planned or hoped: at the beginning of the year, I really wanted to do the Reading Women challenge, however a combination of factors made that pretty difficult. However, that said, I read books and many of them, at that, and I’m still happy about it.
Most notably, at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, I got involved in the world of diverse reading on Instagram and discovered Booktube (aka Youtube videos centered around reading). I made a book Instagram of my own (@reid.reads) to see even more content and enjoyed engaging with the world of reading there. I’m grateful to those communities and creators for influencing the way that I thought more intentionally this year about my reading than I have in previous years. Some of those people and creators include Seji (The Artisan Geek on Youtube and Instagram) and Ariel Bisset (Youtube and Instagram), as well as the aforementioned Reading Women (Instagram) and Diverse Spines (Instagram). If you’re looking to diversify your reading (a.k.a. reading less books written by straight cis white men), I highly recommend checking out those accounts. My life has been so enriched this last year as I slowly but surely changed what and who I was reading.
All that said! This year I read:
3 nonfiction about food
1 graphic novels
3 entire series
3 partial series
11 re-reads (ahem…Harry Potter)
38 female authors
1 non-binary author
13 male authors
I would like to humbly and highly recommend the following books:
1) The Racial Contract, by Charles Mills: This is truly a mind-blowing book about race and racism in the US and around the world. I feel a little funny recommending it because I read it for my Critical Race Theory class which I’m sure is a big reason I was able to stick it out and make sense of it as a semi-dense philosophical text. That said, I think it’s worth trying. It has given me so much language and context for understanding the world I live in and navigating and deconstructing white supremacy and my internalised racism.
2) Against the Loveless World, by Susan Abulhawa: I really believe that reading fiction set in complicated places and complicated times is one of the best ways to learn about those places and times. Abulhawa creates a stunning set of characters that really brings to light the world those characters live in. This book has brought to my mind the importance of learning about the complexities of the Middle East.
I would like to praise to high heaven the following books:
1) Death of Vivek Oji, by Akwaeke Emezi
2) Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benin
3) Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse
All three of these books have widened the scope in which I see life. As I’ll mention in my last category, reading allows me and requires me to see life fully and as it truly is. This means reading about the full scope of human experiences. Emezi writes of a teen in Nigeria exploring gender identity and sexuality. Dennis-Benin writes of an immigrant and mother trying to find happiness. Roanhorse writes a boy-god’s journey to his fate, oh, and also, a love interest. These are lives that are being lived by people who are not like me; I will never know what it is to be a Nigerian teen or Jamaican immigrant or boy-god in pre-Columbian South America. I am praising to high heaven these books because they take me out of myself and say to me, “There are people who are living a life you do not know and they are just as human as you.” Also — they are so, SO beautifully written. Please read these books and others by these authors and other fiction by and about people who don’t look like you and who are not straight white people.
I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the following book:
The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin: Reading this book was a gift to me. Baldwin writes about race and racism in the US and he writes about pity for white people. We are unable to see our lives for their actuality; we are unable to accept the fact of our inevitable death. Without an openness to suffering we are unable to suffer without placing its burden on others, as whiteness has done to Black folk. This book gave me the language to begin to see my life as I imagine Baldwin might want me to. This book feels like essential reading for these times and I’m so grateful for Baldwin’s voice in my life.