Last week, I participated in a reading challenge where the focus was to read books written by authors from diverse social groups and featuring characters that identified with the same marginal/minority group. I had a lot of books to choose from and during the week, I visited the library and picked up even more qualifying books.
During the 8 day readathon that lasted from January 22-29, I read 4 books:
- Unburnable by Marie-Elena John who is an Antiguan author who now lives in USA. The novel featured a family of women in Dominica and the generational issues that plagued each one. It highlighted many little-known details of West Indian history and discussed topics like religion, poverty, obeah, generational curses and women’s issues.
- Sula by Toni Morrison who is a celebrated African American novelist born in the 1930s. The novel focused on a young black woman born in the 1920s, the factors that influence her and the impact she has on the people around her. It navigated subjects like racism, civil rights, mental disorders, poverty, women’s issues and friendship.
- The Colossus of New York by Colson Whitehead who is an African American writer. This book was a collection of vignettes about thirteen of the different aspects of New York City and read like a lyrical composition.
- Rooms Are Never Finished by the late Agha Shadid Ali who is a Kashmiri- American. He published several poetry collections before his death in 2001 and this collection centered on love and loss as he rhapsodized about the death of his mother and the different view he had of his homeland when he returned to his country after her passing.
Of the 4 books I read last week, it is hard to say I had a favorite because they all impacted me in such different ways. I had a strong reaction to the first novel I read, Unburnable, because I put myself in the novel as the main character Lillian and when she started making choices I didn’t endorse, it was hard for me to deal with the way the author chose to resolve the story. Sula was a very sad story because it was so hard to love the title character yet just when I thought I was starting to understand her and sympathize with her, the book changed and Morrison jerked me back into the cold, harsh reality of the life during the time and place being described. The Colossus of New York was a joy to read because Whitehead’s words felt like I had written them in my own ode to my adopted city and I felt, reading it, like I was seeing everything he described through a lover’s eyes. My final read for the week was Rooms Are Never Finished which gave me a lot of emotional reactions punctuated with a little history and geography lesson and I love learning new things in unexpected places.
Overall, I am thrilled to have participated in my first DiverseAThon readathon. I have attempted several readathons before and perhaps because of the laid-back nature of this one, I think it might have been my most successful to date. Now that the challenge is over, I don’t plan to stop reading Diverse OwnVoices books. I was only able to fit in these four books but I have lots more similar books on my shelf just waiting to be chosen next. Some of these books and the minority group they represent are:
- A Tale for the Time Being / Ruth Ozeki – Japanese
- Radiance for Tomorrow/ Ishmael Beah – Sierra Leone
- I’ll Give You The Sun / Jandy Nelson – African American
- Here Comes The Sun/ Nicole Dennis-Benn – Afro Caribbean (Jamaica)
- A Thousand Splendid Suns / Khaled Hosseini – Afghanistan
- A Tree Grows In Brooklyn / Betty Smith – African American
- Everything Is Illuminated / Jonathan Safran Foer – Jewish
- The Star Side of Bird Hill/ Naomi Jackson – Afro Caribbean (Barbados)
- Love And First Sight / Josh Sundquist – Disabled population
I count it as a win that I have so many diverse Own-Voices books at my disposal and I plan to continue reading from this list into February. If you have a Diverse OwnVoices book to recommend, I would love to hear about it. Please let me know in the comments below what diverse books you’re reading or have read.
Thanks for reading and please support a diverse author today.