Boooooks. This week I finished this stack plus two collections of poetry that were both absolutely gorgeous. Let’s get to it!
1. The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson. This was a pretty solid finale to the Rosewater trilogy. It felt a bit scattered in places but picked up on most of the threads that started in the previous two novels and the conclusion was great. It almost had an Enders Game vibe towards the end, which I wasn’t mad about! Overall a fabulous and unique trilogy set in Nigeria featuring aliens, mind-readers, mutants, killer plant life, politicians, secret societies, robots, ghosts, time travel and so much more. It covered all the bases. Two thumbs up.
Life in the newly independent city-state of Rosewater isn’t everything its citizens were expecting.
The Mayor finds that debts incurred during the insurrection are coming back to haunt him. Nigeria isn’t willing to let Rosewater go without a fight. And the city’s alien inhabitants are threatening mass murder for their own sinister ends… Operating across spacetime, the xenosphere, and international borders, it is up to a small group of hackers and criminals to prevent the extra-terrestrial advance.
The fugitive known as Bicycle Girl, Kaaro, and his former handler Femi may be humanity’s last line of defense.Amazon
2. His Only Wife by Peace Adze Medie. This novel gives an interesting look into what life and relationships in Ghana are like. Afi agrees to marry Eli, a man she has not met and who doesn’t even show up at the wedding, at the behest of his mother, who is attempting to break up Eli’s current relationship with a Liberian woman she doesn’t like. Once Afi becomes his wife he moves her into a flat by herself and doesn’t visit because he remains involved with the Liberian woman. Afi tries to win him over and convince him to move her, his wife, into the home he actually lives in for a good portion of the story… overall a pretty weird situation by North American standards. Not a lot happens as the story is focused largely on Afi’s efforts to make her marriage to Eli work. I liked the glimpse into life and culture in Ghana, especially learning about the significance of Schnapps; at the wedding the groom’s family presents all these bottles of Schnapps to their new in-laws along with crates of soda and beer, and later when Afi is frustrated with Eli she says she wants a divorce and returns all the Schnapps, and her in laws are all How dare she return the Schnapps! Disrespect! I did a search for Ghana Schnapps and found this advertisement:
Afi Tekple is a young seamstress in Ghana. She is smart; she is pretty; and she has been convinced by her mother to marry a man she does not know. Afi knows who he is, of course–Elikem is a wealthy businessman whose mother has chosen Afi in the hopes that she will distract him from his relationship with a woman his family claims is inappropriate. But Afi is not prepared for the shift her life takes when she is moved from her small hometown of Ho to live in Accra, Ghana”s gleaming capital, a place of wealth and sophistication where she has days of nothing to do but cook meals for a man who may or may not show up to eat them. She has agreed to this marriage in order to give her mother the financial security she desperately needs, and so she must see it through. Or maybe not?
His Only Wife is a witty, smart, and moving debut novel about a brave young woman traversing the minefield of modern life with its taboos and injustices, living in a world of men who want their wives to be beautiful, to be good cooks and mothers, to be women who respect their husbands and grant them forbearance. And in Afi, Peace Medie has created a delightfully spunky and relatable heroine who just may break all the rules.Indigo
3. Surviving the White Gaze by Rebecca Carroll. This is a very well written account of Rebecca’s life growing up as the bi-racial child of a white woman who gives her up for adoption to a white couple. Rebecca grows up the only Black girl in her town and struggles to learn about Black culture while surrounded by white people. She reunites with her birth mother at age 11, who is horrible by the way, and attempts to find her Black father to learn more about her racial identity. This must have been a very disorienting and traumatizing way to grow up, completely disconnected from her culture but simultaneously forced to deal with the racism of her family, friends, classmates and teachers. Oh man, her mother Tess was just the worst. Very intimate and brave memoir.
Rebecca Carroll grew up the only black person in her rural New Hampshire town. Adopted at birth by artistic parents who believed in peace, love, and zero population growth, her early childhood was loving and idyllic—and yet she couldn’t articulate the deep sense of isolation she increasingly felt as she grew older.
Everything changed when she met her birth mother, a young white woman, who consistently undermined Carroll’s sense of her blackness and self-esteem. Carroll’s childhood became harrowing, and her memoir explores the tension between the aching desire for her birth mother’s acceptance, the loyalty she feels toward her adoptive parents, and the search for her racial identity. As an adult, Carroll forged a path from city to city, struggling along the way with difficult boyfriends, depression, eating disorders, and excessive drinking. Ultimately, through the support of her chosen black family, she was able to heal.
Intimate and illuminating, Surviving the White Gaze is a timely examination of racism and racial identity in America today, and an extraordinarily moving portrait of resilience.Simon and Schuster
4. Letters in a Bruised Cosmos by Liz Howard. I loved Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent, her first poetry collection, and this one was also very strong. Hard to describe her work, you just need to read it.
“The danger and necessity of living with each other is at the core of Liz Howard’s daring and intimate second collection. Letters in a Bruised Cosmos asks who do we become after the worst has happened? Invoking the knowledge histories of Western and Indigenous astrophysical science, Howard takes us on a breakneck river course of radiant and perilous survival in which we are invited to “reforge [ourselves] inside tomorrow’s humidex”. Everyday observation, family history, and personal tragedy are sublimated here in a propulsive verse that is relentlessly its own. Part autobiography, part philosophical puzzlement, part love song, Letters in a Bruised Cosmos is a book that once read will not soon be forgotten.” – Penguin Randomhouse
5. Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen. I loved this collection. If I had to pick a favourite it would probably be Ode to the Pubic Hair Stuck in my Throat because I enjoyed the comedy and the surprisingly gorgeous words about such a minor, random occurrence. I also really liked the lines from B. F. F. that read:
I even took her to the winter formal
watched, in the green glow of the gymnasium
at how I – she danced, chiffon willow
Chiffon willow silk mystic. So pretty! Very moving and heavy on the emotional, Nguyen writes about his mother, his youth as a queer Vietnamese boy, and his experiences at school which appears to include abuse at the hands of one of his teachers. Very vulnerable and stunningly beautiful.
Not Here is a flight plan for escape and a map for navigating home; a queer Vietnamese American body in confrontation with whiteness, trauma, family, and nostalgia; and a big beating heart of a book. Nguyen’s poems ache with loneliness and desire and the giddy terrors of allowing yourself to hope for love, and revel in moments of connection achieved.Amazon
New stack new stack! I’ve already readThe Prophets ahead of schedule, so I feel like I’m winning already. First book I’m diving into is Gutter Child because I’ve been waiting so patiently for it to be next.
I built a monster stack of books that have been waiting on my shelf… it’s pretty ambitious and there’s still a lot of books left that I didn’t fit in… I’ll never be able to read all the books I want to hahaha.