Update on my #DiverseReads2017 Challenge
Three out of four of these books fit the February #DiverseReads2017 Challenge which is more a relection of my interests than the challenge so far. I think the idea of this challenge is to stretch people, and so far it has simply corresponded to my reading desires and given me incentive to reach farther. All were great reads. I hope you find something you like here! I will need to actually work a little harder to choose a book for the March challenge, but I’m sure that search will take me to more fascinating worlds.
The Beast, by Brie Spangler What an amazing book about kids who are different in appearance, kids who are different by gender identity, and the bullying and dangers that go with it. It’s lively and painful, unexpected and sensitive. It’s told through the eyes of the Beast — a 15-year-old boy who is both hirsute and oversized, sensitive and articulate, bullied yet popular [due to his friendship with the ‘popular guy’ at school] as he falls for a transgender girl with her own set of issues.
The portrayal of his mom is remarkable in its own way.
I can’t recommend this highly enough for those who want to see a good example of YA fiction today. You’ll see quickly why it’s not just YAs who are reading it.
“Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight,” by Alyssa Cole. This is either a short story or a novella, I am not sure which. It’s short but tells a full, satisfying story–although frankly I’d love to see the author expand and tell a full story in a novel that fully explores the issues and roadblocks they might have experienced.
In short, it is a story inspired by something that really happened. King James IVI of Scotland and his queen, Margaret Tudor, had a group of Africans amongst their Court, who were treated well, paid well, and have been ignored through history, because as we all know, European history is white history. [Newsflash. Not true, and the more you find out about how true it isn’t, the more fascinating tales you will find.]
Read this, enjoy this, and be sure to read the author’s note to get ‘the rest of the story.’ In the meantime, you might also find this article about the proof of historical diversity that has been right before everyone’s eyes even though nobody seemed to notice.
Second newsflash. I have a character in The Dead Shall Live that I can’t wait for you to meet — Akachi Redshanks. And yes, there is a deliberate reason I mention her here.
On January 25 I asked, is it February yet? Do I have to wait? The answers were no and no. I didn’t wait. I listened to The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo and it is amazing. I am not generally drawn to Asian stories and characters. But the description of this book drew me in, that story itself–its world, afterworld, and characters–kept me immersed until the last word.
I just copied this from her bio on Amazon, where I also now ‘follow’ her, and where I left a comment on her most recent blog entry. It seems she has been spinning her wheels writing, and I hope that the long silence isn’t an indication that she’s frozen in place. I want to read more of her work, but even more, having been in those kinds of places as a writer, I don’t wish it on anyone!
Yangsze Choo is a fourth generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. Due to a childhood spent in various countries, she can eavesdrop (badly) in several languages. After graduating from Harvard University, she worked as a management consultant and at a startup before writing her first novel. THE GHOST BRIDE, set in colonial Malaya and the elaborate Chinese world of the afterlife, is about a peculiar historic custom called a spirit marriage.
Her main character interacts in both the afterlife and her living life in Malaysia in an effort to escape the talons [using that term rather metaphorically] of the dead man who wants her to be his wife. The afterlife as described here is exotic and fascinating to this white chick here, and I would love to read more set in this universe. And now I can list it as my February read–a main character of color. Which fits three of the four books I’m sharing this post, anyway.
The Hanging Tree, by Ben Aaronovitch has been on my radar since I finished the previous book in the series. I love Peter Grant, the young London Metropolitan cop whose mom is a building cleaner from Sierra Leone and dad is a heroin-addicted white jazz trumpet player whose glory days are still part of legend. His mixed race and unusual background means we see parts of London I hadn’t seen portrayed before, along with the usual cultures and classes, uppercrust down. Oh, and the goddesses. The first book, The Rivers of London, introduces us to a world where Mama Thames [the goddess of the River Thames] and her goddesses [who have various rivers, streams and tributaries, some long diverted and vanished as London expanded]. And they are awesome.
I love this series. You might, too.