I preferred The Mother’s more nuanced approach to it’s ending. Maybe because of so much violence in the novel, but I still enjoyed The Vanishing Half. The characters were richly developed, which is actually what kept me so intrigued as I was reading. Black twin sisters Stella and Desiree are light skinned so they can pass as white. And they run off from their rural Louisiana town to city life in New Orleans. But when one of them disappears, the other is lost. It’s not until several years after their coming of age that other characters closely linked to the twins make a discovery. The exploration of generational trauma, gender and racial identity was so impactful. While I think the characters found some relief in the end I’m not sure they could or would heal, which is what I found disheartening. Regardless, I look forward to future titles from Brit Bennet.
Reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was a wild experience for me. The US Mint announced it would stop producing pennies this year, but the characters in this semi autobiography lived on pennies in 1912. And it was so crazy to read about men’s flip commentary about their wives voting rights and several other political and religious ideas through Francie’s family and neighborhood. Aunt Sissy was so wild, I always enjoyed when she showed up. And, apparently pedophiles just roamed the streets back in the day and that was the first chapter Smith wrote when she began typing this novel. I really enjoyed Chapter 32, as Francie began writing, it was written into the novel by way of journal entries. Betty Smith crafted such a beautiful story using her own coming of age to perfectly encapsulate the period.
A book noir if you will, like a film noir, The Bluest Eye is a study of internalized white beauty standards. Set in Morrison’s actual hometown Lorain Ohio, a city east of Cleveland, after the depression, Pecola didn’t deserve anything that happened to her in this metaphor. It was heartbreaking this child believed her problems would stop if she had blue eyes. Interlocked stories starting with the kids, and moving onto Pecola’s parents really exposed how deep this unnecessary inferiority ran. Pauline became sympathetic, but Cholly and Soaphead lost my support, although the latter was intentional, to show how his black roots still impacted him. The former narration was sobering until the end. I wish one of the parents spoke to their daughters instead of one story being about vague potential “ruin” while the other was abusive. Perhaps unintentionally becoming a sign of the times, I strongly hope society has moved past not having tough conversation. Hate runs rampant, but love is stronger. This book has explicit language, but is powerful because of it.
So many people raved about The Paris Apartment and I was so amped up to read it. After reading around 40 pages though, I almost quit. I was just too curious about what happened to Ben that I picked it back up for another try. Holy guacamole people, there were so many twists and surprises after another few chapters! I was shocked at first by the final chapters, but pleasantly surprised with this novels’ ending. Since there were just a few characters, all involved with Ben, I don’t think I had an exclusive favorite. Each one had their own tale to unravel, but Jess was our steadfast heroine. If this one is on your reading list, it’s definitely worth it to be patient!
Travel to the streets of Lusaka, Zambia, and learn about walking the bowl. The authors shared that ‘a single child suffering is a tragedy, 1,000,000 is a statistic’, but I find that number to be astonishing. The authors and their team were in the field for over two years when the Ho Ho kid is murdered. It got the attention of the police, and four other orphan children were connected. It’s a miracle these authors were even able to follow this true story and come to a conclusion. They compiled 1500 hours of audio, field notes adding up to 700 pages, maps and illustrations, photos an background reports to create this book. I empathized with each kid, and found their backgrounds and futures fascinating, but Kapula was so resilient. I was pleased she found a little peace for herself.
I hope this list inspired you to try some of these titles!