by Octavia E. Butler, 1980
Wild Seed is the first book in the chronology of the Patternist series, but it’s the third book that was published (fourth, if you count Survivor, which is no longer in print). While I can see some benefit to reading these according to the series’ timeline – the setup and characters in Mind of My Mind make much more sense now – reading these according to publication date really allows you to see how Butler developed as a writer. Patternmaster and Mind of My Mind were perfectly fine books, but I found they lacked a certain nuance that attracted me to Butler when I first read her in grad school. In Kindred and now Wild Seed, it’s as if Butler has come into her own and fully realized the message she wants to convey with her science fiction. This is not just the story of two immortal beings but one of institutionalized gender and social inequality. Hell, if it weren’t for the immortal being business and the shape-shifting, this would essential be historical fiction.
by Gene Luen Yang, 2006
Jin Wang, the child of Chinese immigrants, wants nothing more than to fit in with the other American kids at his school. He is embarrassed by the food his mother packs for his lunch, he has a crush on an American girl, and he tries his best to distance himself from the only other Asians in his class. When Taiwanese immigrant Wei-Chen Sun shows up at the school, Jin is uncomfortable with how easily Wei-Sun exhibits his “Asianness” and frequently tries to withdraw from what eventually becomes a friendship. This is just one part of the triptych that is American Born Chinese, a wonderful coming-of-age graphic novel that explores what it is to be an Asian immigrant in America amidst a culture that is rife with mockery of the race.
by Noelle Stevenson, 2015
This is, perhaps, one of the loveliest little comics I’ve read. The story focuses on the shapeshifter Nimona who comes to the supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart and endeavors to be his sidekick. The two are pursued by Blackheart’s nemesis, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, who is employed by the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. This premise alone is enough to set it aside from all other stories whose protagonists are always on the side of good. What makes the story even more special is that Stevenson really makes us question whether “bad” is always bad, “good” is always good, and what it means to be a girl who knows her own strength.
by Ibram X. Kendi, 2016
Or, Everything You’ve Ever Known and Loved Is Racist and So Are You.
Seriously though, this is one of the most difficult books I’ve read in quite a while. While I don’t consider myself to be lacking in knowledge on the racist practices of America, I still received quite a shock when I read Kendi’s tome. Part of that was not realizing just how far racist ideas permeate the country’s foundation (The SAT? Racist!), and part of that was not realizing that I, too, bought into some of that (but I like Planet of the Apes…). What’s so effective about this book is not that Kendi tackles the larger aspects of racism, but that he unravels some of the tightly knit beliefs that many people espouse as a salve for said racism. It is about slavery, yes, but it also about all of the everyday things that we accept into our lives as normal that were built from the need to oppress.
by Matt Ruff, 2016
[First, a brief note: Lately I’ve been busying myself with learning Spanish and preparing to take the exam for the DELE (Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language, per the initials in Spanish). As such, I’ve been spending most of my time doing Spanish exercises, listening to Spanish podcasts, and watching Spanish shows. While that’s been a lovely challenge on its own, it’s meant that I haven’t had a whole lot of time for general reading. In fact, I doubt I’ll complete the Read Harder Challenge this year or any other of my reading goals. That said, I do hope to continue posting, as this has been a great way for me to remember every books that I do read. (The older I get, the more the mind is like a sieve!) I do have some recent reads on the back burner here, so off we go.]
I’ll admit that I was unsure how I would feel about Lovecraft Country. I’d heard that Jordan Peele announced plans to turn the collection of short stories into an HBO series, which certainly piqued my attention, but the idea of a white author writing about blacks in America left me skeptical. I feared the book would abound with stereotypes, defending racist ideas with its own hashtag-like claim that only some white people were horrifically racist, but not all white people. I was not impressed with Jodi Picoult’s try at the very same thing, so it was with much hesitation that I gave this book a shot. I’m so glad I did.
by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong, 2018
In 2008, Marie was raped. She reported the crime to the police, but because there were inconsistencies in her story and because someone close to her expressed doubt, the police told her she was lying and convinced her to recant her accusation. She was charged with filing a false report, made to explain her actions to the fellow residents who lived in the housing complex subsidized by a nonprofit that helped foster children in transition, and spent years dealing with the subsequent court case. In 2011, Marie’s photo was found on the camera of a Colorado man who was charged with raping several other women. Marie had been telling the truth.
by Richard Adams, 1972
My first question about Watership Down is, why did no one ever tell me to read this?! You see, I love bunnies. Aside from Care Bears, I was not a teddy bear kind of kid. I was also never a doll kind of kid and the only dolls I had were ones that other people bought for me and not ones that I asked for. No, I loved bunnies, and it is still one of my greatest regrets that I have yet to adopt a bunny as a pet. I also feel a pang of regret for the fact that my childhood passed without ever reading this adventure tale about a gang of bunnies looking for a new, peaceful home. Society, you have let me down!