Another #Diverseathon has come and gone and somehow to my surprise the books I finished were not the ones I’d planned to read. I only read two books that count for #Diverseathon, neither of them Brown despite my claims that I’d be reading that one.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia has been gaining a lot of attention and praise recently for Signal to Noise and her latest novel Certain Dark Things. And although I haven’t read her novels yet (they’re on my enormous TBR), I do think this collection of short stories deserves a lot more attention that its been getting. This Strange Way of Dying is a beautiful little collection full of strangeness, blood, gore, magic and the supernatural. It’s some of the most original stories I’ve read in a while and brings to life the streets of Mexico City, teeming with magic, aliens, superstition, fairytales and folklore. Moreno-Garcia’s prose has a way of just drawing you into to a space of dreaming, where young women get their hearts stolen by Death, bejewelled living beetles are ornaments of the wealthy, men transform into scorpions, aliens do a brisk business of trade, and revolutionaries continue to fight.
This is actually my third or fourth reread of Kushiel’s Dart and every time I read it I’m a little more critical of it. The tsingani people in the world of Terre D’Ange draw very close parallels to stereotypes about Romani people, all the more noticeable since Terre D’Ange is an alternate version of Europe. Tsingani are characterized as a race of darker skinned people who are card players, cheats, thieves and have a perchance towards fortune telling. I’ve never actually seen a nuanced discussion about these representations and would love to have one.
But at the same time I love this book. Every time I read it I’m brought back to the summer I was 19, working two jobs and fell so headfirst into the Kushiel’s Legacy Series that I read the first two trilogies in two weeks, averaging a 700 page book every two and a half days. It was a visceral, uncontrolled response and until I read the first page, I didn’t know how badly I needed to see a character like Phedre and what she meant to me.
Although I didn’t finish the books I set out to read I did get a fair amount of reading done since Kushiel’s Dart is 701 pages. Plus with school picking up I’ve been busy and have been having a hard time sticking to one book. But I’ve currently got six beautiful diverse reads on the go that I’ve been reading on and off over the week and will continue with tomorrow. There’s a heavy SFF element because that’s my preferred genres, but there’s also some historical fiction and non-fiction in there to balance it out, as well as two excellent short story collections. There’s (hopefully) reviews coming for these books once I finish them so I won’t go into terribly big detail.
- Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam. This is a SFF short story collection that I’d marked as read ages ago, forgot about it and then only discovered it when doing research for an award winning book for r/fantasy bingo 2016. It’s a massive shame that this collection isn’t talked about more, it won the 2010 James Triptree Jr. Award for heaven’s sake. I’ve barely started but Salaam’s writing blew me away from the first sentence. I’m so excited to see where this collection goes.
- Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji. Another book for r/fantasy bingo 2016. I’m not super far in yet but I love a good novel about memory alteration and ethics in a future world where people don’t want their memories.
- Filter House by Nisi Shawl. Nisi Shawl has been getting a lot of attention with the release of her first novel Everfair, but before that she was primarily known as an excellent writer of short fiction. Filter House is another one of my picks for r/fantasy bingo 2016 (I sense a theme in my reading habits). It hasn’t started as strong as Ancient, Ancient for me but I’ve barely started so there’s plenty of stories for me to be impressed by.
- Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone) by Kamal Al-Solaylee. This was the one book I was planning on reading for #Diverseathon and I only to a few chapters in. To be fair I was busy, had other library books due earlier and got very distracted by shiny SFF. But I want to up my non-fiction reads, although it doesn’t look like I’m make my goal of a book a month. And with everything that’s currently happening due to the Trump administration, books like this are a necessity.
- The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levi. I love good translated fiction and this is a book that’s critically under acclaimed. I’m in love with the characters and Yishai-Levi’s prose. Her words are so easy to fall into, yet also terribly dense so I’m never making as much progress as I think I am.
- Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler. I am ashamed to say that I’ve never read a book by Octavia E. Butler before, I’d actually never heard of her work until I was in my early 20s. This is something I really needed to rectify so I grabbed Wild Seed from the library, primarily because there were less holds on it than others. It’s actually interesting reading Butler’s work after having read books by a number of authors who she inspired, you can really see the threads of inspiration and the worlds that her word opened up.
As final points for a big subject that’s far too large to be contained in one wrap up, these books are needed more than ever now. And it’s my job as a critical reader to read them, support them, review them and talk about them. #Diverseathon is only the beginning, what happens after matters too.