Saturday, January 16, 2021

A Necessary Book: A Review of How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

How to Be an AntiracistHow to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As the Trump era comes to a close and race relations, among many other things in this country, have reached a new low, especially after the summer of Black Lives Matter protests last year, people of goodwill have been looking for ways to break the country and themselves free from America’s white supremacist past and present. One of the newest paradigms shifts in thinking about achieving racial equality in America is antiracism, yet few know what exactly this means. In this wonderful book, Dr. Kendi not only illuminates the deeper meanings and workings of antiracism, but also charts his own personal development into antiracist work.

Like the book So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, Dr. Kendi talks about racism and antiracism both from experience and from deep academic research.  His previous work, Stamped from the Beginning, would be an excellent book to read before this one, along with Ms. Oluo’s.  However, what distinguishes this book from other recent works of antiracism is both the deeper insight’s and definitions Dr. Kendi explores, but this is a book anchored in his own humanity, humility, and self-reflection.  Almost every chapter has some personal anecdote that leads into his antiracist point and many of them are critical of his own faults and failings earlier in his life.  Thus, by reflecting on his own past failings, Dr. Kendi invites his readers to explore their own past failings where they have failed to treat others, particularly BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people, with equal dignity and respect.  As Dr. Kendi explored his own development towards antiracism, I even found myself reflecting on my own failings and resolving to do better in the future.

It can be too easy for people to point out racist ideas, acts, or policies, but it is much more difficult to point to our own racist thoughts and actions and work to improve ourselves.  Dr. Kendi’s excellent, well-though out and deeply reflective work, can help all of us to do so.  There is a reason why this book has been on a lot of antiracism reading lists and I have no criticisms to give this book.  For anyone who has read So You Want To Talk About Race, Stamped from the Beginning, or other antiracism works, you must read this book next.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Kicking Off 2021 With Some Changes!

Welcome to 2021 everyone!  We've made it to a new year and almost two weeks in things are already crazy, huh?  Hopefully things will get better as the new year rolls along.  

Some big changes are happening in my life.  First, in September, I got married and my wife and I moved into a new apartment where we can have our own little library and reading space.  Our Pomeranian dog, Teddy, very much enjoys our new place and the new bed he has in our home library.  The second major change I am making is in a new approach to my never-ending quest to slay my TBR.

For the past few years, I have really enjoyed taking part in Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge as it has helped me get out of my comfort zone and explore new genres and authors I didn't know about or may not have thought to actually read.  However, I have sometimes let my drive to complete the challenge overcome my desire to read books on my TBR.  So, this year I will be prioritizing books on my TBR over purchasing books or borrowing books from the library.  I will still be purchasing books for the history book club I moderate at a local indie bookstore and this year's Read Harder challenge is helping me to prioritize certain books on my TBR shelf that match the challenges, but the priority this year is to read books off the TBR shelf before purchasing or borrowing a new one.  To that end, I have taken the 2021 Reading Log from Book Riot's Tirzah Price (as always, thank you Tirzah for the putting together another great tool) and added a sheet of all the books on my TBR and will mark which ones I have completed as I read through my TBR this year.  I have updated the Reading Log page on this blog to give a view of my 2021 Reading log and I have even included links to the previous reading logs I have kept in 2018, 2019, and 2020.  If there are any mistakes in my log, please let me know as I want to keep an accurate count of both the number and type of books and authors I have read in the past.

The other major change I will be making is to this blog itself.  In the past, I have treated this blog as little more than another repository of the book reviews I write on Goodreads.  I have even tried branching out my blog and recording a running blog of my training for the Los Angeles Marathon last year.  Sadly, like a lot of personal journals I have tried to keep up with in the past, that did not last long.  This year though, I will be attempting to post more regular blogs about how my reading quest is going.  I will be posting full-length reviews on here and more shortened reviews on my Goodreads page and from there connecting to my full-length reviews on here.

Of course, this is all subject to my life circumstances.  While I (thankfully) still have a teaching job, there may be another major change to my life coming in the fall that will upend how much time I can devote to pleasure reading.  Also, being a married man now, my reading life will always come second to taking care of my wife.  So, as 2021 rolls along I hope you will continue to read and enjoy this blog.  I've already posted the reviews for the first two books I have read this year (The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold and Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi) on here.  Also, be on the lookout for my first general reading blogs.  I will aim for writing something weekly, but you never know what can get in the way.  Be sure to click the follow button on the side and send any feedback to me that would be of assistance.  

Happy new year and happy reading! 🤓📚

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Beautifully Living Between Faith and Science: A Review of Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Transcendent KingdomTranscendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Contemporary literary fiction is not typically my thing as I find it hard to relate to the plot, characters, and storylines. It also doesn’t help that I have found few very satisfying endings in recent contemporary literary fiction. That said, I was absolutely floored by this book. Ms. Gyasi has written an incredible book about faith, addiction, and grief about an African immigrant family living in the United States.

Set in the present, but also flashing back to the past, this book is told from the first-person perspective of Gifty, a young Ghanaian immigrant to the United States, and her family which includes her mother, father (known as the Chin Chin Man), and her older brother Nana. In the present, Gifty is a neuroscience researcher in California studying addiction in rats, but her story frequently flashes back to her childhood growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, and the evangelical church she and her family grew up in as well as her college days where she first experiences people who do not share her childhood beliefs. If this sounds like another version of the movie “God’s Not Dead,” don’t be afraid. Ms. Gyasi handles Gifty’s struggles over faith and science in an amazing way that doesn’t go for easy answers in favor of one side or the other. As Gifty and her family try to process an unbearable grief, Ms. Gyasi imbues her characters with a great deal of depth, humanity, and compassion. Even the ending, which often gets reduced into head-scratching or saccharine ways in other contemporary literary fiction works I have read, felt perfect for this story. It’s soft, but again does not end in an easy, black-and-white kind of way.

I honestly have nothing against the writing in this book. The characters are great, the story and inner struggles are amazing, and the ending is perfectly soft. Whether you are a fan of contemporary literary fiction or not, I highly recommend this book to you.

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