425 Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay

everythingstrashby Phoebe Robinson, 2018
narrated by the author

In the fall, I found myself taking an impromptu road trip and I had to scramble to find something to occupy my ears during the day-long drive. Luckily, Phoebe Robinson’s second book of essays was available at the library, and I quickly scooped it up, eager to hear more of her thoughts on blackness and womanhood. I was quite a fan of her first memoir (which bears the title that I would have chosen for my own!). Its combination of commentary on race and feminism mixed with humor to highlight the absurdity of it all was the perfect thing to break me out of my reading slump when the world was on fire last year. Robinson’s sophomore effort is no different, bringing her signature wit to instances of racism and misogyny that would otherwise leave you in tears. Somehow, in Robinson’s voice, it all seems just a bit more bearable.

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421 How to Be an Antiracist

howtobeanantiracistby Ibram X. Kendi, 2019

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read a nonfiction book about anti-racism.

I’ve wanted to read Ibram X. Kendi’s followup to his phenomenal Stamped from the Beginning since it was published. His first work really changed the way I thought about racism in America (I argue that the book’s subtitle should be “Everything is Racist and So Are You”), particularly the theory that racism doesn’t spring from hate, but from economic greed that needed an oppressed class to thrive. We usually think of racism as an individual failing, but it’s much more of a top-down process, whereby the culture in which we live is steeped in racism and individuals have little choice but to have racist ideas implanted in their brains. Kendi’s sophomore effort tackles the work needed to liberate ourselves from these racist bonds. According to Kendi, there is no “not racist.” Either a person is a racist or an antiracist; no space exists in between.

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416 Sweet Tooth Vol. 2: In Captivity

sweettoothvol2by Jeff Lemire, 2010

After going back and forth with my library and finally convincing them that Book Two of the deluxe edition of this series was not, in fact, the same as Volume Two, and having gotten the wrong book on hold three times, I finally got to see what I missed in between Volume One and Volume Three, where Book Two picks up. This part of the series puts a lot of the focus on Jeppard, the mysterious big man who comes to save Gus after his father dies and promises to deliver him to a sanctuary with other hybrid children like him. Of course, as can be expected, that sanctuary is far from what it purports to be, and Gus remains in just as much danger as ever.

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415 Sister Outsider

bsisteroutsidery Audre Lorde, 1984

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read an LGBTQ+ history book.

I’m not certain that this book truly qualifies as a history of LGBTQ people or the movement, but as Audre Lorde was certainly one of the most outspoken voices on sexuality, race, and gender and, therefore, highly important to the movement, I feel this book fulfills the spirit of the task, if not the specifics of it. I was first introduced to Audre Lorde when I was in grad school, but I sadly remember nothing of what I read, and she has remained a blind spot in my knowledge of feminist writers. When I saw this book as a suggestion for the task on the Goodreads thread, I jumped at the chance to get to know more about this pivotal writer and what her teachings could offer us today. The book is a collection of essays and speeches, spanning from 1976 through 1984, and covering a wide range of topics that deal with blackness, womanhood, lesbianism, motherhood, classism, and the need for allyship among all who are oppressed. Much of what she says is surprisingly still relevant, as we continue to deal with the same problems of inequality that have plagued us for centuries.

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413 I Am Not Your Negro

iamnotyournegrobookby James Baldwin, edited by Raoul Peck, 2017

I Am Not Your Negro is Raoul Peck’s Academy Award-nominated documentary based on the writings of James Baldwin. In 1979, Baldwin began working on a book about America as told through the deaths of three of his friends: Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. The book was to be called Remember This House, but Baldwin never got past thirty pages of notes before his death in 1987. Twenty years later, Peck wrote to the Baldwin estate to ask for the rights to produce a film on the writer’s life and work. He wasn’t yet sure what form that film would take until Baldwin’s sister Gloria Karefa-Smart gave him the notes to her brother’s unfinished project, saying, “You’ll know what to do with these.” From this, Peck developed the idea to finish this book through the medium of film, with the three men and Baldwin serving as a means by which to tell the story of America.

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410 I, Robot

irobotby Isaac Asimov, 1950

Recently, I discovered that Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz have a podcast about science fiction, called Our Opinions Are Correct, and I’ve been binge-listening the episodes on my morning walks/runs. Science fiction is very much comfort reading for me. It’s like getting in bed under a ton of blankets on a cold night or going for a run on a cool day and coming back to a hot cup of coffee. It’s what I get lost in. Listening to the podcast has got me yearning to pick up some classic reads, and I felt that I could not go wrong with Isaac Asimov’s robot series. Now, I have already read I, Robot, and I didn’t particularly love it the first time, but I’m so glad I picked it up again and gave it another try. It was just the sort of quintessential robots-vs.-humans story I needed.

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407 Sweet Tooth, Book Two

sweettoothbooktwoby Jeff Lemire, 2010

So, apparently I messed up in my library search for this book, because Book Two of the series is not the same as Volume Two. What I put on hold is a compilation of Volumes Three and Four, which means I’m reading this out of order. That was actually a relief to find out, as I started this book unsure of how the ending of Volume One led to the events that started here, and I wondered if we were supposed to assume some sort of logical jump for the characters. Thankfully, I think I can still put the narrative thread together, even while missing several chapters (which I do have on hold now, so I’ll be able to fill in the gaps soon).

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406 Disability Visibility

disabilityvisibilityedited by Alice Wong, 2020

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read an own voices book about disability.

Alice Wong has a long history of activism for the disabled. In addition to being the founder of the Disability Visibility Project and host and co-producer of the Disability Visibility podcast, she was also appointed to the National Council on Disability by President Barack Obama. This collection of essays is a natural extension of her work, and it serves to shed light on living with a variety of disabilities in a world that largely disregards the fact that disabled people exist. I first became familiar with Wong when I saw her on a episode of United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell, and the thing that has stuck with me from that hour of TV is Bell’s assertion that disability is the one demographic to which all of us have the potential to belong, yet it is the one demographic that we routinely ignore. Disability Visibility builds on that premise, promoting the idea, which is distressing in that it can be considered revolutionary, that people with disabilities are people too.

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401 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

sevenhusbandsofevelynhugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid, 2017

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read a historical fiction with a POC or LGBTQ+ protagonist.

At the age of 79, 60s “It Girl” Evelyn Hugo has decided to auction off some of her most cherished gowns to raise money for breast cancer research. Every media outlet naturally wants access to one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, so it’s a surprise when Hugo’s team reaches out to the magazine Vivant. Not only do they want to give the magazine an exclusive interview, but Evelyn is specifically requesting one writer, Monique Grant, to do it. Monique has been at Vivant for less than a year and hasn’t exactly been given the hard-hitting stories. She’s not terribly satisfied with her writing efforts, but the opportunity to work for a media institution grabbed her. She’s shocked to know that Evelyn requested her and only her, and she’ll be even more shocked when she meets with Evelyn and finds out that she’s not interested in a magazine interview at all: she wants Monique to write her biography, in which she will reveal everything. At the top of Monique’s list of questions is the one the public has wondered for decades: Of her seven husbands, who was the love of Evelyn’s life?

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398 Blues for Mister Charlie

bluesformistercharlieby James Baldwin, 1964

Blues for Mister Charlie is Baldwin’s second play, and it’s one that draws inspiration from then-current events. In his author’s note, Baldwin explains that it is based on the case of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old black boy who was lynched for supposedly whistling at a white woman. The murderers were known—the accuser’s husband and his half-brother—but were acquitted by an all-white jury of beating, mutilating, and shooting the boy. While we know now that Till’s accuser fabricated this claim, it was certainly suspected at the time, and Baldwin gives credence to these suspicions in a story that centers around the killing of a young black man accused by a white woman of grabbing her. His murderer also goes free, the court justifying his actions of both killing an innocent man and lying on the stand when questioned about it. 

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