It’s only my third month of being part of a virtual book club but it’s already given me an excuse to read books that I’ve always wanted to. This month’s selection is another that I’ve been interested in but would never have read off my own back. Mostly because I always thought it would be a letdown. When this was suggested as a possible book, it was picked by someone who had seen the film. Now, I enjoyed Spike Lee’s adaptation of the book as much as the next person but I also knew that a lot of the plot had been made up. The bomb plot, for example, was not part of Ron Stallworth’s story but had been added for the film. I suspected that the person who put it forward was under the impression that the film was accurate. After all, she had described it as “shocking content (of the film was anything to go by)”. When it came to the vote, I went with another choice but was outvoted. I’m not complaining, merely stating a fact. I got my copy of the book and started to read. Boy, was it a bit of a slog.
Can we all come to some sort of agreement, please? That we stop comparing contemporary crime thrillers to Agatha Christie? I know that she still has a reputation as a cosy crime writer but Christie is the type of writer that very few can live up to. She has a deep understanding of human behaviour and knows how to mislead her readers convincingly. I blame her writing for the fact that I so often guess book twists. She, and to some extent Arthur Conan Doyle, has trained me to start thinking too critically about everything I read. I’m always disappointed by modern crime books. Especially those super hyped ones that everyone loves. Like The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. I’ve heard so many people praising it but I was not blown away. I’d guessed who the victim was from the start and it was super obvious who had killed them. So, I hadn’t intended to read her follow-up The Guest List. Until the ebook was on offer. It might not be a great read but at least it would dull the boredom for a while.
June went by in a bit of a whirlwind, didn’t it? What should have been a great month where I celebrated the work of LGBTQ writers and stories, became something else entirely. The death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests made a huge impact all over the world. It’s something we’ve all experienced before but something feels different this time. Although, I say that in July when it’s apparent that the media are already changing the narrative. I hope we don’t get to the end of the month and find that we’re all back to how we were before. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Today is for looking back on the past 30 days.
One important thing to think about at times of civil unrest is how to explain the situation to young people. Parents need to find a way to make sure their children understand why people are angry and how we have reached this point. It’s all very well and good doing anti-racist reading for myself but what about anti-racist reading lists for children? How can you possibly help a child come to terms with the idea of systemic racism and how it explains the death of innocent people? You don’t want to traumatise them or make them too fearful of society. However, you need to understand that people are protesting for good reasons. That the violence of the Black Lives Matter movement is different from the violence performed by police officers. So, I decided to check out some fiction intended for a younger audience. Just to see what’s out there.
I’ve probably said this far too many times recently but I had decided that I was never going to read this book. I’d been put off by the bright pink colour and the title. I couldn’t help but imagine romantic-comedies or YA fiction. I’m not against back protagonists but I am against anything too sentimental and lovey-dovey. I don’t really do romance. I’m too cynical for hearts and flowers. However, I’ve only heard good things about this book so I had to try it for myself. And it’s just another way to add to my anti-racist reading list. The more non-white authors and protagonists I embrace the better, right?
One of the best thing about being a book blogger is that you often get the chance to read things you would normally have missed. Has Samiksha Tulika Ransom not messaged me on Instagram, then I might not have known this anthology existed. When I checked out the anthology, it sounded like exactly the kind of thing that I should be reading. I know I say it every time I review poetry but I don’t read enough poetry. Even though I studied the Romantic poets at university, I am still a little intimidated by poetry. I have much respect for anyone who writes it. I wouldn’t have confidence in myself. And if I did, I’d definitely never try and deal with such important themes.
One of the most underappreciated films at the 91st Academy Awards was Barry Jenkins’ adaption of If Beale Street Could Talk. It was nominated a measly 3 times in total. To put that in context, the boring remake of A Star is Born got 8. Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody both got 5. That’s fucking insane. Even more insane is the fact that it only won 1 of those 3. Maybe the Academy thought that they’d done Barry Jenkins enough of a favour when they gave Moonlight the award for Best Picture? Or maybe they just thought that they’d done enough to fight racism that year by giving fucking Green Book so much recognition? Whatever it was, it was a travesty. I loved the film though and, once I’d started to compile my anti-racist reading list, I knew that I had to read the original book. So, I started it this weekend and finished it just in time for this review.
I had to take a quick break from my current anti-racist reading list to read my book club’s choice for this month. I’d put it off for ages because it was only short but we’re meeting over Zoom on Thursday. That meant I only had a couple of days to get through it. Thankfully, it’s only 170 odd pages and I managed to get in a quick read of Noughts and Crosses over the weekend first. This was the book that I voted for because I really did want to read it. I can’t say that I’m a massive fan of Nora Ephron’s films. I’m not a huge romantic comedy fan. I even disliked When Harry Met Sally and that’s a film that nearly everyone has seemingly agreed to enjoy. I admit, she certainly has a way with words and it’s not necessarily the writing that I dislike. Okay, that’s not true because the story is the writing. But it’s not a matter of quality, it’s just not my thing. I am convinced that she is a great writer and, provided I could find a story that I can get on board with, I was confident I’d enjoy it. So, why not this one? After all, people have been showing off their copies on Instagram for ages now. Although I have to admit, I hate the Virago Modern Classics diamond cover. I love a cover with texture but it doesn’t wow me. I tried so hard to track down the cover I wanted but it would have taken ages thanks to bloody Coronavirus. Of course, without Coronavirus, I wouldn’t have been in the book club anyway.
I must have first read this book just after it was published but, honestly, I don’t remember much about it. I don’t think I really paid attention to it. I was a bad reader in those days. There are plenty of books series that I started but didn’t really take in. I think I was just reading for the sake of it. So, I never really had that great awakening thanks to Malorie Blackman. It’s a book that I always wanted to read again and give a better go. It also helped that the BBC adaptation was coming out and I didn’t want to watch it until I’d reread it. Of course, it got pushed back thanks to my ever-increasing TBR but the recent Black Lives Matters protests have pushed all books about race to the top. I figured this would be a relevant and quick read. As anyone who has ever read my review of The Power will know, I’m not always a fan of role reversal narratives. A lot of the time, they can be a bit cringe and heavy-handed. But this is one of those books that everyone loves. I went in expecting to enjoy it.
I, like so many people in the last few weeks, have added a lot of anti-racist books to my reading list. The majority of them were the sort of books that I should have read a long time ago but I’m really bad at reading non-fiction. Not just political or social non-fiction. There’s something about non-fiction that makes it seem so intense. It’s not the kind of reading that I think really works when you’re struggling to stay away. But, in the wake of yet another death at the hands of an American police officer, I knew that I had to do better. At the same time, I’d joined forces with some people I knew on Instagram to try and start a conversation about racism. We decided that we would all read this book and then talk about it as a group and with our followers. I know, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a lot but it’s all about making positive steps right now. Ideally, I’d be out showing my support but I can’t. So, I’ll use what small platform that I have to help spread a positive message. To help share other people’s stories. Starting with Reni Eddo-Lodge.