I’m keeping up my promise of reviewing every book I read this year, and so today I’m writing about three amazing books I read for Black History Month. I really, really loved every single one of them. And while they’re completely different genres, I couldn’t recommend them more…
Let’s Talk About Love (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
by Claire Kann
I picked this book up on a whim after seeing some bloggers talk about it on Twitter. It was around Valentine’s Day and I was craving something really sweet. While it wasn’t the fluffiest book I’ve read, I loved it so much! I heard that it had great asexual representation, and so reading it around the holiday, it was a great way to read more diversely and past my own experiences.
So let me tell you why I gave this hidden gem four stars!
- The main character, Alice, is so sweet and likable! She is a college student who is still trying to figure out what she wants to do with her degree. I could relate a lot with her, which made me very happy.
- So much representation! Alice is an African-American biromantic asexual young woman who is coming to terms with her identity. In the author’s note, Claire Kann writes that she is not ace or aro, but wanted to see this representation out there in bookshelves. Thank you so much!!! The representation doesn’t speak to me personally, but I love that it exists. Plus, I have read a lot of ownvoices reviews saying Alice made them feel valid.
- Best setting ever??? If you haven’t read this yet (you totally should), Alice has a summer job at a library. So she spends all day surrounded by books. I want that job!!! While books aren’t that mentioned in the book, I loved imagining the library.
- Super cute romantic interest. Takumi is such a cutie. He works at the library as well and is an all-around wholesome person. I mean, he cooks all the time for Alice, for god’s sake!!! And he’s adorable with his nieces!!! And he really cares for Alice!!!
- The only negative is Alice’s relationship with her best friend… I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to love their friendship, but Alice’s best friend is such a pain. She undermines Alice’s opinions and feelings. She acts like a spoiled brat and I don’t think she is at all redeemed by the end. It really sucked seeing Alice have to apologize for things that were 100% not on her…
💬 Favorite Quotes 💬
“Love shouldn’t hinge solely on exposing your physical body to another person. Love was intangible. Universal. It was whatever someone wanted it to be and should be respected as such. For Alice, it was staying up late and talking about nothing and everything and anything because you didn’t want to sleep—you’d miss them too much.”
“She didn’t want to be known as Alice the Asexual. She wanted to be Alice who had an (admittedly) unhealthy obsession with all things cute and ate ice cream in the winter and taught all her friends how to make a Soul Train line and, and, and…”
” ‘Asexuality isn’t something that’s black or white. There is a multitude of shades of gray in between. Being potentially sexually attracted to one particular person isn’t as outlandish as you’ve convinced yourself it is.’ “
Between the World and Me (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I was feeling a very honest, well-written, and insightful non-fiction book, hence I picked this collection of essays up. I was so devastated once I finished it. It’s one of the rawest, truthful, and real books I have ever read. Non-fiction sometimes can punch you in the gut, and that’s just what this one will do to you. Seriously, pick it up to read the most precious father-son-dedicated letter-meets-essays you will ever read.
- All the letters/essays were so well-written, I couldn’t get enough of Coates’s writing. This might be the most beautiful prose I have ever read. It is so intimate and raw and honest at the same time. It fits with the darkness of what is being discussed perfectly well. Now, I know that I have to pick up another of his books.
- What a heartbreaking account of being black in America… As the author writes in the first pages, there is no way he can give a “hopeful” account of black-white relations right now, no matter how much white people want to hear it. How could he, really? It’s impossible to sugar coat the reality of what black bodies go through in America today (and what they have dealt with in the past). Therefore, this ends up being a very honest, real, and grounded collection of essays. Ta-Nehisi has done such a great job portraying so many difficult things to talk about, and always in an endearing and bitter tone. I can’t stress enough how important this book is.
- It made me think so much about my own actions and what race relations are like in my country. While I read this, there was massive controversy going on here in Portugal over racism. In a nutshell, a lot of respected people were saying Portugal is not a racist country (and saying that it is was a stupid thing to do). I couldn’t disagree more with this, and Coates’s words highlight just how racist all Western societies really are.
- I had never read things from this point of view — this was such a refreshing and great perspective. Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses all his points by talking about “black bodies.” I had never seen it being talked about in these terms or from this point of view. Granted that I have a very limited view of African-American studies, but I’m working toward getting a better understanding of it all. And Ta-Nehisi Coates will surely be one of the writers that I will pick up constantly from here on out.
💬 Favorite Quotes 💬
“All our phrasing—race relations, race chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscles, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”
“Educated children never offered excuses—certainly not childhood itself. The world has no time for the childhoods of black boys and girls.”
“You are a black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know. Indeed, you must be responsible for the worst actions of other black bodies, which, somehow, will always be assigned to you.”
Difficult Women (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
by Roxane Gay
You know how I said a while ago that I hated short stories because they always left me craving more? And that they were pretty much pointless since I could never remember any of the plots and characters? Well, Roxane Gay came to completely disprove that. I have never read a short story collection as intriguing, satisfying, and brilliantly written as this one. And, mind you, I have read quite a few great Ali Smith ones… If you’re on the fence about short stories like I was, pick this one right away!
- All the stories are unique. This used to be one of my main qualms with short story collections. At some point, they all start to blend together to the point when I don’t even know if I’ve read that particular story or not. Gay’s short stories are all different in a variety of ways: starkly different main characters, different settings, and different emotional issues. Seriously, I felt like I was reading several books and not several stories.
- Strong and damaged female protagonists done incredibly well. It’s no wonder Roxane Gay can create characters this fleshed out and interesting. All the stories have one thing in common: they have women as their leads and they’re all incredible women in their own ways. What I loved the most was how Gay developed them. There are no weak characters in these stories or boring female leads. Every woman is given enough space to shine.
- Roxane Gay really isn’t scared to write about more complicated issues. And it shows!!! None of these stories can be classified as “fluff.” Most of them I would say are about complex issues that some writers would probably shy away from in short stories. But thank the writing gods that Gay didn’t! To give you a clearer picture of what I’m talking about, there’s one story here about a woman who is grieving the loss of her three-year-old son (I believe?) and sleeps with a man who isn’t her husband and is incredibly neglectful, immature, and sometimes dangerous. There are others about blatant abuse, done by others and done by the protagonists themselves. It was amazing to read about these complex topics.
- The prose is fantastic, something Gay has used us to by now. There’s no much to say, her prose is fantastic. It’s not flowery but also not too blunt. It’s the right mixture between straight-forwardness and literary and her voice fits perfectly with the mood of the stories.
- There’s plenty of material about race, gender, age, intersectionality, and privilege. Which is a good thing, if I have to add! Roxane Gay is one of the brightest essayists I have ever read and in this collection of short stories her beliefs about intersectionality show. All the characters face some kind of prejudice and violence, but all in their own way, as they are all different women dealing with different circumstances.
Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them? I would love to hear your thoughts! 🌼