When I started my holiday this week, I had all sorts of grand plans to read loads of my unread books and get ahead with the blog. We’re only halfway through but it’s becoming clear that I’m not going to achieve a great deal with this week. I spent Sunday and Monday playing with my niece, which was admittedly a fantastic use of my time. It just meant that the closest I got to reading was the first page of That’s Not My Kitten and I’m not entirely sure that would count towards my yearly reading count. It didn’t help that my desperation to finish Those People in time for my Monday review had left me not wanting to read anything else on Sunday night. So, in order to get something finished for my Wednesday review, I needed to play strategically. I wanted a small book from my TBR pile. Thankfully, this James Baldwin book has been near the top for a few weeks now and it seemed perfect. Much heavier going than my previous book but that was a welcome change.
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.
I’m not normally much of a documentary watcher. If you ask me why I’d probably give you the excuse that I don’t have the time. That I have so many other films to watch and so many books to read. This is clearly nonsense. What I’ve discovered over the past few weeks is that I’m not as great an activist as I’d like to believe. It’s not that I don’t believe in the causes that I go on and on about. It’s more that I’m often too afraid of putting my money where my mouth is. Not watching documentaries like this is just another way to shield myself from real life. It helps me stay inside my little bubble where I can pretend that the world isn’t as bad as it actually is. So, as part of my vow to live a more non-racist lifestyle, I’m making sure that I watch all of the films that I let pass me by. As I’d already read James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk this week, it only seemed right to start here.
Did you see the super cringe “I Take Responsibility” video that the NACCP made starring several Hollywood actors. It was well-meaning, yes, but another kind of mis-judged entry to the “we’re all in this together” folder. The video is just tone-deaf and completely misunderstands what people need to hear right now. This is a time when a lot of people are angry and they don’t need a bunch of actors showcasing their white guilt for all to see. God knows, Hollywood has an awful lot to do to make up for their lack of representation for Black actors. It’s going to take more than just Stanley Tucci and Julianne Moore getting all actory in a black and white video. Thankfully, to counter this, several films have been made free to stream in the US. One of them is this 2019 film that lays bare the prejudice that exists at the heart of American law enforcement. It only felt right to watch it for my review this week.
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.
Over the last few days, we’ve seen a few films being made free to stream in the US. These included Selma and Just Mercy. Both films should help educate people about the role of race in their society. It’s a great thing to do because there will be plenty of people who won’t have previously had access to them. Of course, Hollywood films that depict the difficulties faced by black people in America are all well and good but it’s facts that are needed in this fight. Which is why Netflix’s decision to make Ava DuVarney’s documentary 13th free to non-subscribers is so important. There’s a reason that it has appeared on so many lists of ways you can educate yourself. It’s a great place to start if you’re the type who is unconvinced by the idea that society has been engineered to make black lives difficult. If you go in with an open mind, it’ll definitely have the power to shock you.
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.
I was drawn into Such a Fun Age as soon as I read the concept. Emira Tucker works as a babysitter for a rich white family. Her employees are Peter and Alix Chamberlain. He is a local news anchor in Philadelphia and she is a lifestyle blogger who writes letters. One evening, Emira is asked to take their three-year-old daughter Briar out. While at a nearby grocery store, the babysitter is stopped and accused of kidnapping her young charge. I thought I knew where this novel was going but it kind of pulled the rug out from under me. We’ve seen this kind of thing going viral. With police officers or authority figures unnecessarily stopping young black people for crimes they didn’t commit. This novel could easily have drawn on those viral videos but it went deeper than that.
So, we’re here. The last film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. I was supposed to be writing this review when I got home from work yesterday but I was absolutely exhausted. I figured future Laura could deal with it tonight. Well, future Laura isn’t happy now. Especially because, after a rough day, a work friend and I were in desperate need of a drink to unwind. So, I got home late and am madly trying to finish this. Which is a shame because I still haven’t quite worked out how I feel about Green Book. It was something I was really looking forward to but didn’t really know much about. It sounded a bit like Driving Miss Daisy which didn’t appeal but, let’s be honest, Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali were enough to get me interested. Both are very interesting actors and I imaged they would work well together. But then I watched it. And I had a lot of thoughts. So many that, earlier tonight, I couldn’t explain it to my drinking buddy. God knows what that means for this post.
It seems appropriate to start my review about this YA novel discussing prejudices by talking about my own. I openly admit to you all here that I’m prejudiced against YA fiction. I’ve always been disappointed by the simplistic narratives and underwhelming writing on offer in so many popular YA books. I know there are some really good ones out there but the majority are just so obvious, repetitive and dull. I’ve always found it a little hard to accept that so many adults these days are reading Young Adult fiction. I think YA books are great… as long as they’re read by Young Adults. The thing is, a lot of the people who read YA these days aren’t of that demographic. They’re adults. And maybe it’s because they don’t have the time or energy for something more advanced or maybe they just don’t see the appeal of other fiction? I don’t know but I find something a little bit sad about anyone over the age of 20 who reads only or primarily YA fiction. I just haven’t enjoyed very many YA books that I’ve read in recent years. It’s all so immature and simplistic. The use of language just isn’t on par to anything I’d normally read. Still, every so often there comes along a book that I can’t ignore. This was one of those books.