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 Basma Abdel Aziz, 2013
translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette
In a modern, unnamed Middle Eastern city, a line of people has formed outside a Gate. Stretching for kilometers, the queue is filled with people trying to take care of bureaucratic needs. We meet Ines, a teacher who has been required to receive a Certificate of True Citizenship to continue teaching at her school. We meet Um Mabrouk, who starts selling tea to other members of the queue to make up for the money she is losing from abandoning her job. We meet Shalaby, whose aim is to convince everyone that his cousin is a martyr who should be revered for his actions during the Disgraceful Events. And we meet Yehya Gad el-Rab Saeed who is suffering from a bullet lodged in his pelvis during those same Events. Yehya wants nothing more than to receive a copy of his X-ray showing the bullet and permission to have it removed. Bullets are the property of state and cannot be removed without permission, so Yehya waits, with his peers, in front of a Gate that does not open.
by Elie Wiesel, 1972
translated from the French by Marion Wiesel
This is one of the most affecting pieces of literature I’ve ever read. Elie Wiesel was 15 in 1944 when the Nazis entered Hungary and he and his family were moved into concentration camps. Separated from his mother and sister, it was not long after that he and his father were moved to Auschwitz and Buchenwald, some of the most infamous concentration camps of the war. Wiesel’s treatise is, in a word, harrowing. His short, direct manner of writing (perhaps due in part to the translation) gives a stark portrait of some of the greatest evil known to mankind. Night is an exceedingly difficult book to read and, despite being barely more than 100 pages, was one that I found I could only consume in short bursts. However, it is one of the most necessary books that I have ever had the opportunity to encounter and it is imperative that we continue to read this story and hold this terror close to our hearts.
by Joanna Russ, 1975
While my original plan for the “read a classic of genre fiction” task in the Read Harder Challenge was to count my forthcoming reread of Parable of the Sower, I decided to branch out instead and pick up a book I’d been meaning to read for years. The Female Man is a classic of feminist science-fiction. Though she may not be as well-known as the likes of Octavia Butler or Ursula K. Le Guin, Russ’s work has always appeared in discussions of this particular genre. The novel involves four women – really, four iterations of the same woman in various points in time and space. Jeannine lives during the 1930s, Joanna is a 1970s feminist, Janet is from another version of earth called Whileaway that is populated only by women, and Jael, with her metal claws and teeth, hails from a future torn by war between the two genders. This is the story of what happens when they come together.
by Helen Macdonald, 2015
When Helen Macdonald suddenly lost her father, she turned to her lifelong love of falconry for comfort. She found herself dreaming of hawks, and she recalled the moment when, during her work at a bird-of-prey center, she witnessed a female goshawk being set free: “She disappeared over a hedge slant-wise into nothing. It was as if she’d found rent in the damp Gloucestershire air and slipped right through it.” It is an appropriate metaphor for Macdonald’s grief, and it is one she will turn to over and over again as she as attempts to understand this wild beast that seems untamable. H Is for Hawk is Macdonald’s account of her days with Mabel, the goshawk, and the myriad of ways in which this wild beast set her free.
by Alisha Rai, 2017
Goddamn you, Read Harder Challenge and your read “a romance by or about a person of color.” I resent you and Alisha Rai for making me have feelings. Now, I’m certainly not a convert to the romance genre, and I don’t see myself continuing this series, but there were aspects of the book that I greatly appreciated, nay, respected and I just did not expect that from a genre that I typically brush aside. I still hate love, but I don’t hate someone who has written realistically about love and all the messiness it entails.
by Attica Locke, 2012
narrated by Quincy Tyler Bernstine*
The Cutting Season is a mystery that mixes a classic whodunit with pressing social issues. Caren Gray is a manager for Belle Vie, a Louisiana plantation that serves as an event space and tourist attraction, complete with antebellum reenactments. When a woman’s body ends up on the plantation grounds with her throat slit, and a suspicious stain is found on her daughter’s clothes, Caren finds herself on a search to find out the truth about Belle Vie and the past that continues to mar its present.