The Spook Who Sat by the Door by Sam Greenlee

The Spook Who Sat by the Door

The Spook Who Sat by the Door by Sam Greenlee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have I been living under a rock??? Like, why haven’t I read this book before?? Wow. This book is mind-blowing and deeply engaging all at the same time. I was initially interested in this book after a number of friends had nothing but great things to say for this book. I prioritized it this year after I made my reading challenge this year. This book was published before I was born, and it immediately put me into a mindframe like I was talking to my dad about ‘back in the day.’ There are some late 60’s/70’s vibe to it in regards to the vernacular used in the dialogues between some characters. I feel like I’ve just heard a story from my dad and his brothers, and it was an amazing experience to live in and read about in this racial climate we have going on right now.

This book has undertones of Black Panthers, Garveyites, Martin vs. Malcolm approach to violence, Black bourgeoise, Vietnam era, and NAACP all rolled together.

This book satiricalizes some ideals from the Civil Rights era, and the continued fight towards equality of Black Americans.

Major themes in this book discuss:
– Capitalism
– Colonial theft
– Imperialism
– Socialism
– Anti-Black sentiment
– Integration

Last year, I read a book titled, N*gga Theory, that kind of relates to this book, but in a nonfictional way. However, the premise is that Black people are not a monolith, we are victims of white supremacy, and the continued oppression to our people contributes to the demise of our communities and population. The Spook Who Sat by the Door, spins a similar view of the actual problems the Black community face on a daily basis and satiricalizes it in such a brilliant way that you cannot ignore the messages and gems that are left in its wake. The truth is being shared here in 100% authenticity, in between the satirical fiction that laces this book. Although for 1969, this was satire, in 2021, well, this could definitely be a possibility. It’s definitely not far from the truth.

Sam Greenlee shares the frustrations Black people have with the government, and with white supremacy. The constant need for Black people to have to appease ‘the white man’ or stay true to self and struggle. The never-ending terrorism from police brutality. The constant harassment in corporate America from macro/micro-aggressions. While Greenlee builds tension and mystery in this book, it poses as a metaphor as to how the pressure is building up in our community, sending us closer and closer to a boiling point. Ready to strike back and put pressure on systems that continue to create and perpetuate systemic racism.

“I dig being Black and the only thing I don’t dig about being Black is white folks messing with me.”

This book is timely and a classic. Unfortunately, this book is still relevant and the reader can truly understand the past as it relates to our current present day. Although some progress has been made, it is clear that we are still far away from our ultimate goal. In our current racial posture, and with Black Lives Matter as our emerging national movement, this book is a great compliment to ponder on while you think about the present day racial tension that still exists.

This book will be on my most recommended book list from now on. Great read. 5 stars.

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Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Notes on Grief

Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a very intimate look into Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s family life and her relationships with her immediate family, specifically her father. She details the passing of her beloved father in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how she is processing the grief associated with his passing. She provides some advise, some humor, some sadness, some longing, and some memories as she shares this very personal experience with us, her readers.

Notes on Grief is more than just a recounting of her father’s passing or how she’s processing the grief, she is also sharing advise and anecdotal stories to help ease anyone else that might be going through a death of a loved one. Though this may not be the intention of this book, to help ease grief, her writing puts you in a place where you can relate wholeheartedly and take something away that can be applied immediately. Reading this book automatically stirred emotions inside of me, as I’ve also lost a beloved father, and her writing soothed a place inside of me that made me want to share and relive the memories of my father, instead of being consumed by near-constant sadness that was normal for me.

It took 7 years to finally confront my grief from the loss of my father. I had previously denied the fact that my dad was no longer here. Although I had my memories, they were not enough to ease my pain in the loss of my dad. I was utterly undone in my pain.

I had always, for some odd childhood reason, believed my parents would live forever. I was not ready to experience the loss of a parent at 20 years old. I was just at the age where their adult advise would have gladly been received at a more highly receptive rate than in my teenage years. I had never really seen my dad get sick in ways that debilitated him, ever, in life. This man, who never took sick days off, was being taken to the hospital and never to return home. He spent 4 months in the hospital before he died, and 3 of those months I spent in Marine Corps bootcamp. The last time I had seen him was a few days before I was expected to report to bootcamp. He had looked unwell. My mother had taken him to the emergency room. She called later that night to say that they were keeping him for observation. He never came back home.

This book provides the language I wish I had at the time of my father’s death. This book explains so much about the grieving process in ways that totally relate to me, and it helps me process a bit more through this lifelong adjustment of missing my father. I believe that grief never leaves. We just adjust to it. There will always be a void where that person used to fit, but CNA assures us that there is no ‘right way’ to grieve. You just do. No two persons are the same, and you should have grace with yourself during this process.

“It is an act of resistance and refusal: grief telling you it is over and your heart saying it is not; grief trying to shrink your love to the past and your heart saying it is present.”

I really enjoyed a small peek into CNA’s life and relationship with her father. This memoir of sorts will always ring loud in my mind as I continue to process through the loss of my own father. This is a book that you could read in a matter of minutes, hours, to days, to weeks if you wanted. Her writing pulls you inside, allows you to observe, motivates you to look within yourself, pulls on your memories and experiences and then ties everything together in a thoughtful package to ponder on for days. This short piece of work showcases CNA’s impeccable writing, and her very thoughtful care she allows us to witness in this memoir of her time with her father prior to his passing.

I would recommend this book to others who have lost a parent or loved one and would like something that could help them relate to the emotions they may be experiencing. 5 stars.

Thank you to Emily at Alfred A. Knopf and to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for my gifted copy.

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How to Become a Planet by Nicole Melleby

How to Become a Planet

How to Become a Planet by Nicole Melleby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this beautiful story, we see a young teenage girl who is struggling with debilitating depression and anxiety. She recently is diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and the diagnoses are putting her into a mental space that she has not been able to reckon with just yet, and needs assistance in navigating this new world she’s in. Her mother, fraught with worry, is trying everything she can to hold on to her dear daughter, and also give her what she needs in order to be ‘ok’ with this new self.

Pluto, a 13 year old girl is learning all about how depression is affecting her life. She sees life as pre-diagosis and after-diagnosis. However, with some help from her tutor, therapist and new friend, she is learning to see herself as Pluto, period, and not just before or after her diagnosis.

The book also shares Pluto’s love of science and space, that she and her mother loves, which also helps Pluto come to understand how she is her, regardless of her diagnosis. She still has the same properties inside of her to be Pluto, she just needs a bit of assistance in learning how to cope with her feelings and how to manage her depression in ways that are constructive, nurturing, and healthy.

This book also introduces a teenager who is coming to terms with her identity. Fallon, Pluto’s new friend, is also gathering up the courage she needs in order to tell her family how she feels about herself and her identity. The author doesn’t specifically state that Fallon is non-binary/gender fluid, but it seems that this is what Fallon is learning about herself. Fallon wants to feel like their self, neither boy, but neither girl, just them. As Fallon shares what they want to accomplish, they also are there for Pluto to lean on and share feelings that may or may not get communicated effectively to others.

I really enjoyed the science facts that were shared in this book, Pluto’s love for science as a young girl breaks lots of stigma’s and I’m really appreciative to the author for highlighting that girls can love science and space as well. I thoroughly enjoyed Fallon’s story and how she came along to assist Pluto when she needed it the most, but also how they both helped each other find the best parts of themselves throughout this journey in the summer before 8th grade.

On a different note: This book is much needed as a whole, but this type of book needs to be written by a person of color as well. The minority community, especially the Black community needs a story like this, as mental health has had such a stigma in our community for so long. Black children have historically not been allowed to explore the full spectrum of emotions the way Pluto has. Even though Pluto has some difficulties, she also has a host of resources at her fingertips that many Black children do not have access to. The author does attempt at letting us see this story play out with a single mother, with a thoughtful and caring co-parenting father, but Black children get left out of this type of story all the time. As a child growing up in the 80’s, I wasn’t allowed to have meltdowns, tantrums, depressive episodes, unprovoked violence, anxiety, chronic sleep issues, etc. There was no conversations about going to “see someone to talk to” in my childhood. Never were those words thought or uttered by my parents. I cheered on one hand about Pluto being able to explore this diagnosis and all that it meant for her, but I was also saddened that Black children don’t get this at all. We are disciplined out of these emotions. We are punished for feeling/not feeling certain things. We are isolated and left alone to fend for ourselves about how this makes us feel on the inside. Our parents do not have the words, knowledge, or resources to help us. White kids get to be depressed. Black kids do not. Our emotions are seen as threatening. Violent. Out of place. Absurd. Crazy. All that being said, I would love more stories like this from BIPOC authors. I believe this book has really great intentions and I enjoyed the story from an objective viewpoint, but this book also showed a ton of white privilege, which can exclude a whole community from being able to relate to this book entirely. 3.75/4 stars.

white privilege examples:
– family owned business passed down
– friends with other people who owns businesses
– tutor (not having to go to school)
– therapist
– father who lives in NYC who makes more money
– the only Black person(s) in the book was hired help
– friends who get to hang out at amusement parks/beaches/boardwalks all summer
– her friends are all white

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers and Nicole Melleby for this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

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