The Week in Books #35

The week in books! Lots of booky things happening around here, including TWO books I finished and also a book haul because I can’t stop. New titles are: How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi, and The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. I’m very excited for Gingerbread, I have really enjoyed the weird and wonderful writing of Helen Oyeyemi and have all of her other books. The Marrow Thieves has been on my list for a long time and I finally grabbed a copy that I’m excited to dig into. And of course, the popular and super important book, How to be an Antiracist. This title and also White Fragility have been backordered at Indigo and it took weeks to get a copy, haha. Good!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my pledge to read more diverse books from back in 2015 and how many amazing authors and stories I have been exposed to by expanding my literary horizons since then. At first I thought I had already been reading a fairly diverse selection of books but when I sat down and did the math I discovered I was still gravitating towards primarily white authors. That’s boring, so I really stepped it up and actively sought out stories and books written by BIPOC writers, eventually introducing myself to some of my favourite authors; Octavia E. Butler, Zadie Smith, Helen Oyeyemi, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Roxane Gay, Ta-Nahesi Coates, and so many more. This week I added Desmond Cole and Maisy Card to that long list of excellent writers I will come back to again and again.

The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power by Desmond Cole. First off, this book is most exciting to me because it is about Canadian politics and racism in Canada, and not the USA. So much of what we hear is about the Unites States, and it can leave us Canadians feeling pretty powerless as we peek over the fence to our American neighbours. This book writes of the fight against racism here at home and it made me feel so much more invigorated about making change. It is also very current, which always helps, and discusses issues taking place in Canada right now like the fight to remove armed police in schools in Toronto, Black Lives Matter demanding an end to police participation in the pride parade, and the assault of Dafonte Miller. The verdict actually just came in on this case a couple days ago, and the off-duty officer that viciously beat 19-year-old Dafonte with a metal pipe bursting his left eye, among other injuries, was found guilty of assault. His brother, who also participated in the beating, was acquitted. What makes this case even more messed up than the fact that two white men, one a police officer, chased down a Black teenager and beat him until he was permanently disfigured, was that their father, also with the Toronto Police, attempted to cover up the crime. The incident was not reported to the SIU as required (Special Investigations Unit, an independent police watchdog) despite the fact that it involved an officer. The conviction was also not for the more serious charge of aggravated assault, even though the victim was permanently maimed and/or disfigured, which is part of the definition of an aggravated assault charge. No one was charged with obstruction either, despite efforts made from within the force to cover up the crime and protect the brothers. This case is the perfect example of systemic racism involving the police and courts right here in Canada.

Desmond Cole is a journalist so the writing, presented in 12 short essays, one for each month of the year, is really accessible and informative as well as written in a very engaging way. I learned a lot from this collection and am recommending it to everyone!

Go Fund Me for Dafonte Miller is here.

Also this week I read a very compelling story of family told through many different characters; These Ghosts are Family by Maisy Card. The story starts with Abel finally ready to share the secret he’s been keeping; he stole the identity of his friend after a workplace accident and let his family believe he was dead. Abel is about to meet the daughter he abandoned as a baby, now a home care aide, and reveal the truth. The novel then weaves many different stories together into an intricate family tree dating back to slavery era Jamaica. It was so well put together, I really, really enjoyed it. Highly recommended!

Started this week, after a million years of staring at the spine on my bookshelf; The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. This is a huge Canadian book (winner of the 2007 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and was also the winning selection for CBC Radio’s Canada Reads 2009) with a very strong female protagonist that I’m very interested to read about. More on this next week!

What is everyone else reading right now??

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