So, if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know I do not do readathons. Historically I’ve never finished one out, and as a chronic mood reader, readathons—long, short, and in between—have been the bane of my blogging existence. I also have a bit of a rebel streak when it comes to what feels like required reading, and regardless of the structure of most readathons, my brain always defaults to ‘nope, not gonna do it.’
However, as a 90’s kid who’s easily susceptible to nostalgia, I would only be doing myself a disservice for not participating in the PopCulture Readathon. Hosted by Whitney (a damn delight on the TL with her reading live Tweets and overall Book Badass) and Lorryn (sweetest of beans and co-founder of the Pages & Prose Book Club) the PopCulture Readathon brings together a love of iconic 90’s movies, bingo boards, and books. Featuring four themed boards, of which you can read the prompts from one, some, or all, it makes for a good excuse to reconnect with some old faves while trekking through those July TBRs.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve blogged properly. Given the current state of the world I’ve fallen off reading, writing about reading, and writing in general. It’s hard to find time that doesn’t involve being mentally exhausted and emotionally drained, and even reading tends to take a lot out of me these days.
That said, I’m in a certain place of flux where I need something to focus on in addition to keeping myself aware of the things happening around me and continuing to help, donate, and make others aware where I can. I miss reading, discussing books, and throwing my thoughts out into the ether and unfortunately, Twitter (where I spend the bulk of my online time) hasn’t been cutting it. I find Twitter a drain on my energy and mental health. It’s frustrating because Twitter is a place where I can find a lot of information and disseminate it quickly, but it’s the place where conversations go to die and I’m realizing more and more that that’s a truth about the book community.
Besides. I’ve always been the best at expressing myself in long-form writing so it’s time to get back to the tried and true.
Twitter is my main platform, and the one thus far that I’ve been using to find and share resources and speak out about the racial injustices that not only lead to the death of George Floyd, but the deaths of hundreds of other Black lives at the hands of police. However, not speaking here, especially if I’m going to continue to use this blog as a place to talk about books and eventually be visible as a writer myself, is irresponsible at best and negligent at worst, and only furthering harm through silence, complacency, and a lack of self-awareness regardless of the visibility of this platform versus the visibility of others that I use.
Black lives matter. This is a statement that shouldn’t be controversial, but apparently, in the book community, it is. Simply Tweeting the phrase, sharing a picture to Instagram, with even the faint hint that you think Black people shouldn’t be killed for existing is deemed political, rocking the boat, and too much of a break from our escapist platforms to ignore the conformity and say something. When this is pointed out, largely by Black people within the book community who have faced racism not only in ‘the real world,’ but in the online spaces that are supposed to be safe and welcome them, Black people have been met with tears, anger, and excuses. Black people have been called bullies. Black people have been labeled aggressors.
All the things the boy will do, I promise to do better. In all the ways he can love you, I promise to love you better.
Ijeoma is eleven years old when the Nigerian Civil War breaks out. Eleven, when her father dies in the subsequent bombings that ravage her Igbo village. Eleven, when her mother sends her away to live with a grammar school teacher and his barren wife—whether for Ijeoma’s safety or out of the grief her mother has yet to cope with, Ijeoma herself cannot say. And she is eleven, living at the grammar school teacher’s, cleaning up and tending his home, when Ijeoma first finds love in the young Hausa girl that comes to live with them.
Under the Udala Trees is a subtle, slow burn that pays off emotionally in every conceivable way. From the onset of the Nigerian Civil War to Under the Udala Trees’ quiet and satisfying ending, we are dropped into and left to ruminate on Ijeoma’s world where the expectations of an only child—a girl child, at that—are monumental and the future she sees for herself as an independent woman freely living with her female lover, is inherently antithetical to how those around her would see her: dutiful student, dutiful daughter, dutiful Christian, dutifully working her way to being an equally dutiful wife. The constant push and pull of these warring ideas creates a beautifully, sometimes painfully, layered experience.
“About 1 in 1,000 black men and boys in America can expect to die at the hands of police… That makes them 2.5 times more likely than white men and boys to die during an encounter with cops.”
The above statistic is an opening line in a report run by the LA Times in August of 2019, detailing the realities of police violence against communities of color, particularly against black boys and men. This statistic is just a number to many young Americans but a dangerous reality for black and brown boys living in the United States.
Justyce, a soon-to-be graduate and honor roll student, lives this reality in Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, a book that explores what it means to be a young man forced grapple with and question how not only authority figures see him and boys like him, but how his peers see him, too.
This self-perception is tested from the moment Dear Martin begins—a simple attempt at helping his currently drunk and bumbling ex-girlfriend get home safely turning into a violent and unprovoked encounter with a police officer. This encounter, a first for Justyce, springboards vivid political discussions in his debate classes, with his peers, even the adults in his life, and leads to one escalation after another that leaves Justyce questioning his own humanity, and questioning whether or not it even matters when others’ judgement can mean the difference between life and death?