With all of the current issues in the world and the BLM movement, I found myself wondering how I could personally make a change to better the world. I felt helpless in many ways; protesting amid a pandemic while recovering from surgery scared me, I didn’t have too much money to donate to websites I wasn’t sure would do their part, and only posting to social media just felt a bit hollow. I followed new sites and accounts, felt content when my social media started to become dominated by people of color and the LGBTQ community. I spoke with my family. But I still wanted to do more. And then, I realized, there was something I could do with a hobby (and job) that I love: reading.
Sometimes I fall in and out of touch with personal reading for my own benefit. As an English teacher, I read for work. I teach the same novels and, while they are good, it’s hard to pick up another book when over the course of the entire school year, I read up to 20 novels and other texts. While video chatting a friend the other day I realized that, before modern technology and the stress of adulthood, I always had a book in my hand. My personality was developed by the novels I read. I read in the car, I read at school, I read at lunch, and I read into the early hours of the morning. Where was that passion? And, with everything that is happening with teachers, I realized I needed to find that passion again, especially for my mental health.
Then I thought about another problem – most of the authors I was familiar with were white or focused on a white view of societal problems. While I adore the books I grew up with, I knew that it was time for a change. These are the six novels on my nightstand right now:
Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha (1)) Book 1 of 2: Legacy of Orïsha by Tomi Adeyemi
I’m so excited to read this one! Tomi Adeyemi is a Bestselling Nigerian-American novelist. The novel follows protagonist “Zélie Adebola as she attempts to restore magic to the kingdom of Orïsha, following the ruling class kosidáns’ brutal suppression of the class of magic practitioners Zélie belongs to, the maji.”
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
This one was too right on the nose to not read. “Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.”
Jewell Parker Rhodes is an American novelist. Ghost Boys was published in 2018 and, even though that is only two years ago, it just proves that the BLM movement isn’t based on anything new. I think I’m going to need to have my tissues close.
Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas) by Zoraida Córdova
Zoraida Córdova is an American author of many fantasy novels for kids and teens. More magic! “Labyrinth Lost follows a girl named Alex who, on her death day, decides to flip the usual tradition and give up her powers. However, she does so without knowing that it will cause a lot of problems.”
From the reviews I’ve read, the main character is also in the LGBTQ community and there is a love triangle. Yes, please!
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
I’ve actually started reading this one and – omg, is it beautiful. The prose and insight . . . I think I’m becoming a Baldwinite. I remember back in the day when someone mentioned Baldwin, I would want to roll my eyes. I had associated his essays with stress and work and never read them with the mindset of enjoyment and learning. Well, I started his novel, Giovanni’s Room (kind of thanks to Damon Dominique from Shut Up and Go), and I’m in love, though I know that I may need tissues for this one as well.
Set mostly in Paris, David struggles with childhood trauma and his sexuality. James Baldwin was born in Harlem and was gay himself.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
I picked this book up in Target one day, read the first sentence, and knew I had to have it. “Julia Reyes, a smart, brash, and rebellious teen who lives in a gritty Chicago neighborhood with her parents and her stay-at-home sister, Olga, who never gives her parents any trouble. But after Olga is killed in an accident, Julia discovers that her sister may not have been as saintly as everyone believed.”
Erika L. Sánchez is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. There’s the sense of mystery, the struggle of loss, and something so personally human about the summary that makes me so excited to read it.
Internment by Samira Ahmed
This one scares me, so I know that I need to read it. This is recently published too in 2019. Samira Ahmed was a high school English teacher, but now writes and is a New York Times Bestselling Author. Set in a not-so-distant future “Internment centers on 17-year-old Layla Amin, who, according to government decree, is sent with her parents to an internment camp for Muslim-Americans.”
While this book is technically labeled as dystopian, it’s impossible not to see how history is, unfortunately, repeating itself.
Follow for more posts about reading and to see how I’m changing up my class required reading lists this year. Change has to start somewhere and, as a teacher, I have the power to hopefully influence new ways of thinking and open-mindedness.
Have any recommendations for new POC/LGBTQ books and/or writers? Please let me know! I always love to add more to my TBR!