I didn't quite make my Goodreads reading goal last year but what can you do? I read lots more books by POCs though, as I kept tally of it this time around and thought "Dang, what was up with me not reading as diversely as I had thought I was?" Anywho, here are the gems of the year that I heartily recommend. Gonna keep it short & sweet y'all:
Digest by Greg Pardlo (2014): Digest won the Pulitzer for Poetry this year. I happened to be at a great reading organized before the Brooklyn Book Festival and Greg read from it. His pieces are fantastic. Poetry as a form tends to be incredibly visceral and Greg's was that in addition to having bits of humor, history, and also elements of expedition into the narrator's mindset for each poem none completely the same. Fantastic. Savor each piece carefully.
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy (2015): Angela happened to also be at the same reading Greg was at pre-BKBF. And I was lucky enough to be in a reading with Angela over the summer where I snagged a copy and got it signed. I had been hearing about Turner House all year as a book to watch out for. And the accolades (congrats Angela!) are absolutely worth it. This is a fantastic piece looking at a Black family in Detroit simply struggling with themselves and their continuous growth dealing with their demons. The emphasis is on characters and family and also community. I couldn't get enough of this book when I was on my makeshift residency in fall.
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina (2014): This was a hyped book and winner of the Pura Belpre Award last year for Young Adult fiction and so well deserved. I adored this book, not just because it took parts in places of Queens I had lived in but the whole story being about Piddy's growth in a new situation and how bullying affects this for her to really come to terms with who she is and wants to be. The struggle, y'all.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (2009): As you can imagine this is not a feel-good book. The statistics are not something you can ignore nor are they something you should ignore. The fact of the matter is that systemic racism has it's grips in so many aspects of society that Black males in particularly are targeting for incarceration at ridiculously high rates. This is necessary reading for anyone in politics, social justice, law, in general really. I'd encourage you to sit with what Alexander presents in harrowing chapter after harrowing chapter of real life instances and data. Like I said, it won't be an easy read (great selling point, I know) but it's a highly enlightening one.
Tiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton & Sona Charaipotra (2015): Drama, dancers, diversity. Nailed it! This was a quick read that I enjoyed for the tension and mystery of what would happen and also who could or couldn't be trusted in the end. The sequel comes out later this year so if you haven't read TPT definitely do so now in preparation for Shiny Broken Pieces.
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu (2014): Another hyped book and a longlist for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature last year. This was one of the many books discussed by the disabled community as being a great and solid representation of autism. So I had to delve in and was amazed at the fantasy world Ursu created as well as how the hero of Oscar can be a hero without being "cured." The cool twist is that those who seem the most pristine are the most broken. Loved it.
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae (2015): There's a hole in my heart where Issa Rae's web show Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl should be. I miss that show terribly. So obviously I jumped all over the book once it came out. It's a funny and quick read of vignettes from Issa Rae's actual life and childhood as well as adulthood. One of the best chapters is her breakdown of the different types of co-workers. I had to make copies for my own co-workers of these groups. It comes in handy.
Native Guard by Natasha Tretheway (2006): Another Pulitzer Prize winner! I aimed to read more poetry this year and read 4 so I need to up the ante next year. But I enjoyed much of what I read and the poetry I read was by all POCs. Native Guard is expressly historical and looks at race. It is pretty damn heartbreaking but so, so clearly seen. Tretheway knew her topic and the story she wanted to convey over the course of the entire book to tie themes together so you could see a full trajectory of the enslaved, soldiers, constant fighting and colonization.
Endangered by Lamar Giles (2015): I enjoyed Giles' debut Fake ID and felt he nailed the voice of Panda in his second book. What I like most about this book and his other one and why I often recommend his books is because of the confidence & strength of the voice of his narrators. In this one Panda is out for revenge to try and even the score when it comes to those who bully others. But from the beginning we learn that perhaps she's in over her head this time and what makes Panda that much different in terms of what is considered a bully?
Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple (2012): When I was in a slump this was one of the first books I really liked early in the year and I was glad to find this one. It's a best-seller and what I heard most often about this was about the style and structure in terms of it being from different perspectives in emails, text messages, telegrams, memories, and so on. It helped move the story along and give so much variation and levity yet balance to the overall story that held me from beginning to end. Bernadette is a bit of a mess but there's a method to her madness that I enjoyed and had me side with her for much of the book in terms of feeling like she was misunderstood more so than a whack job.
Other books I'd recommend that I read are Blue Talk & Love by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan and Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due.
Here's to another year of some amazing books! Always a lot of books but never enough time.