The Year of Unpredictability

This year started off promising. I was gearing up to celebrating my 2nd and last child’s 1st birthday in March, with a small group of friends and family, and then COVID happened, they all canceled (except my Brother and his family) and we hunkered down for months on end inside the house.

Being that we had nowhere to go and were close to rationing toilet paper squares and food (not really but for real, why was the toilet paper scarce??) I had time on my hands to read.

I had already created my first ever reading challenge that I created on Instagram and I was pacing myself to read 26 books, which was ambitious for me at the time because I was a breastfeeding mom with a 1 year old toddler who had just learned to walk a few months prior to her first birthday. I knew I was going to be busy. However, what I wasn’t expecting was to be holed up inside for the rest of the year (and still going through the new year).

Book buying became a sport because the libraries had closed temporarily. So as I shuffled through Goodreads and posts on Instagram I started hoarding books like never before.

My 26 ambitious book goal exploded to 62 and counting. So here’s what I read, thanks to “stay-at-home orders” due to the ‘Rona.

*26 book prompts are in parentheses.

1. A Cry Among Men by C. Erskine Brown ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (An author I like but never read)

2. The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (A NY Times Bestseller)

3. A Yellow Sonnet for Black Rebels by Cassandra Powell ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Poetry)

4. The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

5. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Read it again)

6. Cries from the Darkside of the Moon by Lauren M. White ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

7. Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️(YA novel)

8. The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Native American author)

9. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

10. Woman on the Edge by Samantha M. Bailey ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

11. Black Man: The Poetic Experience by D. Coleman ⭐️⭐️⭐️

12. The Deep by Rivers Solomon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️(#bookstagrammademedoit)

13. Missing the Gift by Traci Wooden-Carlisle ⭐️⭐️⭐️

14. Salvation: Black People and Love by bell hooks ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Book written by woman of color)

15. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Book from a celebrity Bookclub)

16. Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Debut Novel)

17. Our Time by Savanna Malveaux ⭐️⭐️⭐️

18. The Rumor by Lesley Kara ⭐️⭐️⭐️

19. What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Nonfiction)

20. Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

21. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones ⭐️⭐️⭐️

22. Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Biography/Memoir of someone who doesn’t look like me)

23. Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

24. Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spears ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

25. Sula by Toni Morrison ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

26. Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

27. Just Above My Head by James Baldwin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (oldest book on my TBR)

28. Sprint Dreams by Faith Dismuke ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (indie/self-published author)

29. N*gga Theory by Jody Armor ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

30. Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Tretheway ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (book published in 2020)

31. Ready, Set, Never by Widley Oge ⭐️⭐️⭐️

32. This is My America by Kim Johnson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

33. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (a book I like because of the cover)

34. Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (West Indian/Caribbean author)

35. We are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (a book in the mood to read)

36. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

37. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Asian author)

38. You Ought to do a Story About Me: Addiction, an Unlikely Friendship, and Endless Quest for Redemption by Ted Jackson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

39. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

40. A Girl is a Body of Water by Jennifer N. Makumbi ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (African author)

41. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

42. Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

43. Smash It by Francina Simone ⭐️⭐️⭐️

44. The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Daré ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

45. The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi by Ngugi wa Thiong’o ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

46. Come on in by Adi Alsaid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

47. My Sister’s Lies by S. D. Robertson ⭐️⭐️⭐️

48. This is Only a Test Chris-Tia Donaldson ⭐️⭐️⭐️

49. The Black Traveler’s Guide to Incheon, South Korea by The Blerd Explorer ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

50. When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

51. The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo VillaVicencio ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Latino/Latina/Latinx author)

52. American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson ⭐️⭐️ (Thrifted, gifted, recommended)

53. Wild Seed by Octavia Butler ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Book published year I was born)

54. The Autobiography of Gucci Mane ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Celebrity memoir)

55. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (banned/challenged)

56. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (intimidated to read)

57. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Reid Jenkins ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Goodreads Winner)

58. Unapologetically: I am a Man by Cornelius J. Maxwell ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

59. The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans ⭐️⭐️

60. One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

61. Kindred by Octavia Butler ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

62. Soulful Words by Cheryl Ingram ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Next year I’ve planned to read just 40 books. We shall see what happens! Happy New Year everyone! Happy reading!

Soulful Words: The Testimonies of Black Students on the Manifestation of Institutional Discrimination in Higher Education by Cheryl Ingram

Soulful Words: The Testimonies of Black Students’ on the Manifestation of Institutional Discrimination in Higher Education

Soulful Words: The Testimonies of Black Students’ on the Manifestation of Institutional Discrimination in Higher Education by Cheryl Ingram

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dr. Cheryl Ingram has written a book based on research that discusses how racism affects Black students in predominantly white institutions (PWI).

When I was student at a PWI I was aware of the racism that I encountered. Many white students and faculty thought I was there for athletic reasons, as if the only reasons Black people come to school is for sports. I was glad to let them know that, “no I’m here on an academic scholarship.” Usually that raised a few eyebrows and downturned smiles, but I enjoyed setting the white people straight about my presence there on campus.

Based on the research from Dr. Ingram, Black students face extraordinary challenges when enrolled in PWIs. From the administration to the faculty, Black students have to navigate harsh waters from being stigmatized, profiled, diminished, cast off, neglected, de-prioritized, and ignored at these institutions. Not only do Black students face discrimination at the PWI, but their lives have already had a considerable amount of obstacles that constantly try to circumvent their success in just staying alive on a daily basis.

We do not start off at the same place in life as a white student. While having education gives Black students some footing, it does not equate in success the same as a white student with the same education from the same school. Black students will have an obscene amount of pushback from employers, versus little to no barriers for whites who vie for the same job with the same exact education. Let’s be honest here, white institutions are very problematic in establishing any protocols to help retain their Black student population. They are hesitant to go above and beyond to ensure Black student success. Many of these PWIs believe in the myth of meritocracy. However, as I’ve stated before, we do not all start at the same point. Meritocracy is a myth.

Even though I, a 4.0+ GPA high school student, was able to obtain an academic scholarship, I was still seen as not having been able to be accepted on my own merits, but that I was an affirmative action case. This book, and all the research which illuminates 9 cases of African American students who have had to face obstacles while attending or attempting to rejoin the PWI that they want to graduate from, is very significant. Especially in current day, where BLM seems to be trending and white people believe we are living in a post-racial world. We are not living in a post-racial society. With COVID-19 devastating our “normal way of life,” the racial disparities have only increased in visibility. Police brutality has been at an all-time high, and many organizations that have went out of their way to promote #BLM, have only treated it as a trend that look good in hashtags, and have not translated their actions into actually caring for Black Lives.

Soulful Words is a heavy research driven work that delves into several facets of the manifestations of discrimination in higher education. Personally, this book feels like I am reading a dissertation, but it is packed full with data and the personal anecdotes of real life Black students who have faced discrimination at PWIs. Although I personally experienced discrimination at a PWI, I couldn’t really connect with this book entirely because it was too heavy on the data. I really felt like I was reading a dissertation that was published. As a recreational reader, I got bogged down while reading the statistics, and the data is not as current as I would have liked; however, the underlying purpose of this book is very valid, and very necessary. While many white institutions are now jumping on the bandwagon of supporting #blacklivesmatter, I hope that Black students are not lost in the hubbub of the institutions’ mission and purpose of them trying to appeal to the masses that they are (all of a sudden) promoting inclusion, but really are not trying to be inclusive when the rubber meets the road. All of these diversity classes are great; but, Black people have literally been demanding this type of diversity from these institutions from the very beginning. It seems really skeptical that now that #blacklivesmatter is trending that they all of sudden want to show how inclusive they are. The matter isn’t really how inclusive they are, although that is important, but really the issue is how are Black students going to be treated from here on out? How are they going to be prioritized? How are they going to be handled by faculty, the registrar, the administration, the Dean? That’s the real question! Soulful Words definitely starts the important conversations.

Thank you to Dr. Cheryl Ingram for providing me with her book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite; Maritza Moulite

One of the Good Ones

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Keziah Smith, a young, up and coming YouTuber, who is a social justice crusader, dies in police custody after being arrested while attending a protest for an innocent Black man who was killed at the hands of the police. Her family speaks out about Kezi’s death, and her remaining sisters, Genny, Happi, and two closest friends, Ximena and Derek, embark on Kezi’s pre-planned road trip, using a gifted copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book, in her honor to commemorate her life and the work she was doing for social justice. Incorporating flash backs to the past, we learn about the Smith family, and how Black trauma has been passed down through generations in their family.

The title, “One of the Good Ones,” is a recurring theme in this book. The book discusses how Black people are deemed either “one of the good ones” or someone who doesn’t deserve anything. Damon Young called this phenomenon, “the magical negro.” What white people call and think of Black people who remain “neutral” on race, or those who don’t rock the boat about racism, pull the race card, or get in trouble with the law.

“I know that existing as a human being on this earth should be enough to deserve respect and justice. But it isn’t. Instead, we focus on those we deem worthy, for whom we allow ourselves to feel the weight of their loss.”

This book pulls on so many areas:
– Generational trauma in the Black community
– Missing Black people
– Police brutality
– Death in police custody
– Social justice
– Racism
– Familial ties/bonds
– Friendship
– Normalizing therapy for the Black family
– Birth Order & personality traits
– Humanizing Blackness

This book gave me all sorts of vibes. There are a host of acknowledgements to past atrocities done to members of the Black community in the recent past, and I felt the collective grief and palpable fear that Black people have when we see yet again senseless violence that impacts our community.

I really enjoyed reading this novel, as there is a crazy twist in the plot that keeps you moving throughout the book. Overall, the pace was good, the plot development was decent, the character development was good, but the ending felt a bit rushed, and I wished that some of the plot lines were flushed out completely prior to the end. However, this book is a book to watch for 2021. Definitely timely, and needed, as the BLM movement has gained momentum in recent events, with the passing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and a host of others who have not been forgotten, like Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Philando Castille, and Trayvon Martin.

This book is definitely a must read for young adults, and I would rate this book a solid 4.

Thank you to Net Galley, Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite, and Inkyard Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories

The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories by Danielle Evans

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So a little back story…

I read her debut short story book, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self” and I felt punk’d by the reviews I had seen of the book. I couldn’t even force myself to finish her first book. I believe in second chances, and so I chalked the first one up to it being debut. The second book should have a slight bump up in everything to solidify the newcomer as a writer in the field. However, listening to this book made me feel suffocated and I didn’t like that at all.

There is not enough balance in these short stories to make it cohesive for me. I got lost honestly, and didn’t know where these stories were going. I listened to this book and for the life of me, I only kept going because it became background noise while I was working. I couldn’t really pay attention to what was being said because the stories did not grab me one iota to keep me interested. To me, this book is a reflection of the current culture and presented a deep introspection that left me out of the loop. I felt like an observer who had no permission to enter the conversation or experience.

The way she writes makes me confirm the reason why I do not like short stories. This is not in any way meant to be a negative critique to her writing, as she writes well, its just not in a way that allows me to have an experience with her work. I literally got nothing from this book, and that truly sucks as a book reader, who wants to have an experience with Black women’s work.

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Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones & The Six

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can I say about this book? AWESOME! Just absolutely brilliant!

Daisy Jones & the Six is loosely based on the rock band Fleetwood Mac, but this oral history novel really made you feel like this was a real band and you were there, in the room, as people were telling you about the good ol’ rock & roll days. I was totally immersed, and completely smitten by Billy and Daisy, as they, and the rest of the band, laid out bare what happened in the creation and deterioration of the band.

Daisy Jones is the free-spirited songwriter who is portrayed as a front runner in this “behind the scenes” rock documentary type of novel. The author focuses primarily on Daisy, who refuses to play in the shadows and wants to be seen and heard, and who becomes famous when she hooks up with The Six.

“Daisy: I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse.
I am not a muse.
I am the somebody.
End of fucking story.”

Billy, the lead singer of The Six, hates Daisy, but agrees to work with her and sing with her to help the band become the greatest band in rock history. Along the way, we see Billy struggle with addiction, relationships, power, family, and life in general. He is wanting more for his band, and seeing that the only way to level up in the rock world is to partner with Daisy, you journey along with him and the band as they climb the charts of the rock & roll world during the 70s.

This book was simply unforgettable, mesmerizing, addictive, and incredible. Reid creates fantastic, realistic, and authentic characters that settle in your heart and doesn’t let you go. There are a plethora of hard hitting topics she covers in this book, but the way she unfolds the story of this fictional band, you don’t even realize that you just had a lesson.

Topics covered in this book:
– Feminism
– Drug addiction
– Abortion
– Substance abuse
– Grief
– Recovery/Rehab/Relapse
– Fame/Celebrity Status

I loved how Reid developed each woman in this book. All of the women in this book were bad ass, as they didn’t take anyone’s shit, and they refused to play second fiddle to anyone. I just simply adored all of the female empowering that went on here.

This book also taught you about confidence, romance, hardships, relationships, family, empowerment, struggle, sacrifice, overcoming, faith, hope, love, and loss.

I could literally read this book over and over and never tire from the story. This book is definitely worth the read if you love music, the 70s, empowered women, and great character development. Reid pieces the oral history account of a legendary rock band in such superb detail that I was obsessed with this book. I couldn’t put it down! After initially finishing the book, I had no words. Such an emotional roller coaster ride, and full of quotable wisdom; this book is a 5 for me. I can’t wait to see the TV/film adaptation.

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Unapologetically: I Am a Man by Cornelius J. Maxwell

Unapologetically: I Am a Man

Unapologetically: I Am a Man by Cornelius J. Maxwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book of poetry on the heels of “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge. This book of poetry came at the perfect time for me because as I was sorting out my feelings and emotions about race and white people, this book of poetry allowed those thoughts and feelings to go deeper and manifest into a clearer picture for me to marinate on.

Race is a constant thought in my brain. It’s always something I think about and it’s something that is unseeable when you look at me. Being Black in a world of whiteness, makes you look at your surroundings in a different manner than being the universal standard of being white. As Reni says, “the whole of humanity is coded as white.” (Eddo-Lodge, Reni, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, p. 85) I notice when I’m the only Black person in a store, in a room, in a checkout line, in a classroom, in a meeting, at my child’s school, at church, in an elevator, etc. My skin is the first thing people see about me. They judge me off of what I look like FIRST before anything else. Do they switch their purses to the other arm, shuffle away from me in an elevator, walk around me while on a sidewalk, decide to not get behind me in a line, roll their eyes when they have to ring me up, decide how much conversation they will give me when they were just a babbling brook with the white person before me? This book of poetry shares those frustrations, emotions, and thoughts. The poetry in this book talks about the experiences that Black people face in America that is glaringly obvious. We are all created in God’s image; yet, we are treated like the scum of the earth by people who have pledged allegiance to a flag and constitution that deems ALL PEOPLE ARE CREATED EQUAL, all while claiming to love their neighbors, but shun Black people in the same breath.

America is living in a state of hypocrisy, and this book of poetry gives those thoughts, feelings, and emotions words and actions (feet and hands). Black people are not responsible for racism, but yet, we are always the ones trying to eradicate racism, fight for justice, be proactive, fight the good fight, and being necessary troublemakers for the good of all. This book is passionate, thought-provoking, powerful, and necessary. Overcoming racism, discrimination, and social inequality is a constant struggle for our people. This book of poetry articulates what it means to not only be a Black man in America, but what it is like to be a Black person here, who has served their country with the life, all to be slapped in the face with discrimination and racism that has permeated its way through life, where it feels inescapable. However, it is not all doom and gloom. Poems in this book also shares hopes, dreams, aspirations, and commitment to living life in truth, word and deed, and understanding that work is still needed on a daily basis to enlighten people of the plight of the Black man in America. Very well done!

I especially liked the poems:
– Oh, How Have We Served Thee
– What is it to be Black?
– I See a Vision
– Unseeded History
– Say It Loud
– Unapologetically: I AM A MAN

Thank you to the author Cornelius J. Maxwell for providing me with this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I googled Reni Eddo-Lodge to see how old she is… She must be a wise sage older person who has lived several lives with the amount of wisdom and knowledge she is bestowing in these pages. I was SHOCKED to find out she was only 31 years of age, today! She was 28 years old when the book was originally published! Wow!

I’m grateful to Reni for laying out what I couldn’t say or have the vocabulary to say to the white people in my life that have frustrated me, aggravated me, and betrayed me. This book is required reading. It’s required reading for ALL. Black people and other people of color will finally feel seen and heard of all the things they wish they had the words to say, but could not articulate the pain and frustration they feel by the whiteness that has permeated all facets of our lives. White people can now be educated on what Black people have been wanting to say all of their lives but have been censoring themselves because of your whiteness and all that it means for their lives.

Though this book is written primarily for the people living and working in Britain, this book could have easily come from any country in the world, including the US. Racism is a global issue. However, racism does not go both ways. Racism is a white issue. Let me say that again; RACISM IS A WHITE ISSUE.

In the aftermath of so much Black blood being spilled caused by police brutality that ruins our people, and all other horrific racist and terrorist acts that impact our people, this book could not come at a better time. This book discusses and gives voice to so much pain that Black people and people of color have had to choke down because of the institution of whiteness. “It’s truly a lifetime of self-censorship that people of color have to live. The options are: speak your truth and face the reprisal, or bite your tongue and get ahead in life.” (p. xvi)

We do not come into this conversation about race and racism as equals. I have felt resentment due to whiteness’s ability to be able to have the option to turn away from, close their eyes to, or show disinterest in the violence put upon Black people. To me I don’t feel that is an experience white people can opt out of. You must see. You must watch. You must feel. Black people EVERYWHERE have been punished for our mere existence, and we don’t have the luxury to tune out the violence that has been set on us since colonization. We live it everyday. We are playing a rigged game. No matter how hard we work, succeed, excel, or assimilate, we cannot overcome structural racism. It is engrained in every aspect that touches our lives. From the implicit bias, the micro/macro-aggressions, snap judgments, hostile workplace culture, and misogynoir that plagues us, we cannot overcome structural racism.

“But white privilege is the fact that if you’re white, your race will almost certainly positively impact your life’s trajectory in some way. And you probably won’t even notice it.” (p. 87)

Reni Eddo-Lodge also discusses feminism, and the ills of feminism when it comes to white women. Intersectionality, coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, and how race and gender intersect to create obstacles to equality, especially to the black woman. She also talks about white guilt, and how it’s not needed or wanted. “No useful movements for change have ever sprung out of fervent guilt.” (p. 221) Reni also provides useful ways in which white people, who want to do something, can partake in, and how to have conversations about race with other white people. Reni makes it extremely clear in this book: Racism is a white problem. Until white people realize how much of a problem for them it is, nothing is going to change. Black people cannot overcome structural racism. We didn’t design it, and we cannot dismantle it. It’s up to white people to destroy racism, and until then, the conversation about race is at a standstill. Performative solidarity is unwelcome. DO SOMETHING! I recommend this book to everyone, but especially white people. If you get offended by anything that was written in this book, you are apart of the problem, and this is why racism is still here. 5 stars.

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