February 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

Here is what I read for February. My standout by far was Lot by Bryan Washington which comes out in March. Its a collection of short stories, and I just loved it. I wasn’t a huge fan of I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid, but I am looking forward to discussing it on The Stacks as part of The Stacks Book Club in March.

As far as diverse reading, I read a whole bunch of books by queer men, four to be exact, I guess five if you want to included William Shakespeare, but thats a conversation for another day. I didn’t do so well reading women in February, only one book by a woman, possibly an all time low since I started keeping track. Only three of the books I read were by authors of color. I have my work cut out for me in March.

You can find my reading month by the numbers and short reviews of everything I read below.


February by the Numbers

Total Books Read: 9
Audiobooks: 1
Five Star Reads: 1
DNF Books: 0
Unread Shelf: 1
Books Acquired: 21

By Women Authors: 1
By Authors of Color: 3
By Queer Authors: 4
Nonfiction Reads: 5
Published in 2019: 4


Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes by Tony Kushner

(Photo: amazon.com)

Arguably one of the definitive plays of modern theatre, Angels in America, is a two part epic about the AIDS crisis in America in the mid 1980’s. The play has been celebrated since it was first produced in 1992, winning the Pulitzer Prize, multiple Tony Awards, and Emmy awards for the 2003 HBO adaptation of the play. The play is a behemoth of the stage and it works on the page as well.

I really enjoyed rereading part one, Millennium Approaches, and it was my first time ever reading part two, Perestroika. Kushner does an amazing job of creating a world and characters and still maintaining the magic of the theatre. The most central idea of the entire play is change over time. How do we change? Can we ever really change? What happens when we do? What happens when we don’t?

Some of the scenes and dialogue are so wild and poetic and at times nonsensical, and it all works. Even when you’re confused or annoyed it works. There is something innately human about the story Kushner tells. If you’ve not read this play, it is worth your time. Or watch the star-studded HBO film. It is a cultural cornerstone, rightfully so, learn about it. Engage with it. Enjoy it.

Four Stars | Theatre Communications Group; 20th Anniversary Edition | December 24, 2013 | 304 Pages | Paperback


Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine by Emily Bernard

The Stacks received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information click here.
(Photo: amazon.com)

A collection of essays about life in her own Black body, Emily Bernard writes about a random act of violence against her, academia, adopting her children, her relationship to her ancestors, among other things. I found this book to be inconsistent, the earlier essays (especially the first two) clearly had something to say. They were thoughtful and thought provoking. As the book went on, I lost interest in much of Bernard’s writing and couldn’t quiet find the through line.

It is worth noting this is not a book about deep trauma (aside from the first essay) and that is refreshing. Sure, racism and bias play into any work of nonfiction by a Black woman, how could it not, but Bernard is creating something more subtle, explaining a Black experience that we don’t often hear. One of a Black academic in Vermont, born and raised in the South, married to a White man, raising Ethiopian daughters. Black is the Body is the story of that truth. Bernard (and to some extent Knopf) allowing us to read these essays is, in a way, a form of resistance against the tropes of Blackness and the trauma that is associated with skin color.

I would suggest this book to readers who have read many Black nonfiction narratives and who might be interested in something a little different. Though not the best essay collection I’ve read, there is a lot to witness in this writing.

Three Stars | Knopf | January 29, 2019 | 240 Pages | Hardcover


If You’re in My Office, It’s Already Too Late: A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to Staying Together by James J. Sexton, Esq.

The Stacks received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information click here.
(Photo: amazon.com)

A divorce lawyers how-not-to be married. This book is full of advice, and whatever the opposite of advice is, for a happy marriage. Sexton is funny and charming, if not a little focused on gender roles and heteronormative ideas. In his defense (sort of), he deals in the legality of marriage, and until 2015, same sex relationships wasn’t something that he litigating.

I enjoyed If You’re in My Office, It’s Already Too Late, it isn’t ground breaking, but it is exactly what it claims to be, and that is refreshing. It had some interesting and unique advice, like splitting custody of your kids even when you’re married. He also suggests speaking up when you’re unhappy and a lot of other common sense things, that many couples forget to do. Nothing life changing, but certainly helpful. I appreciate that Sexton doesn’t try to be a guru, he just shares what he’s seen, and as far as I can tell from this book, he has seen it all. The book does run a little longer than needed, and gets repetitive by the end.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to be a better partner or spouse, or are considering getting married, I would suggest you check out this book. It is a little different than the normal relationship advice, and goes down pretty easy.

Three Stars | Henry Holt and Co. | April 10, 2018 | 288 Pages | Hardcover
Hear James Sexton on The Stacks discussing his book (Ep. 49) and Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister(Ep. 50), and find a full review of If You’re in My Office, It’s Already Too Late HERE.


I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

(Photo: amazon.com)

A psychological thriller about a relationship and theories on life and interaction. I don’t want to say much about this book for three reasons: first, we’re doing the book on podcast and we’ll be discussing it in detail, two, its a thriller so I don’t want to spoil anything, three, and most importantly, I’m not sure I understood what happened in this book.

What I will say, is there wasn’t much there for me in this book. I wasn’t wild about the depiction of the female lead, she was passive and demure in a way that was irritating. She continually deferred to the male lead (which is part of the plot) in the face of her own instincts, it wasn’t believable, it was clearly a male fantasy about a “good” woman. While the book is generally tense and a little scary, there wasn’t enough there there, and the ending fell flat for me.

I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews on this book, and it is entirely possible I missed it. If you do read this book tell me your thoughts, and be sure to tune into the episode where we talk about I’m Thinking of Ending Things, on March 27th.

Two Stars | Gallery/Scout Press; Reprint edition | March 21, 2017 | 240 Pages | Paperback
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is TSBC pick for March 27. You can hear the TSBC episode with Niccole Thurman HERE. Read a full review of I’m Thinking of Ending Things HERE.


I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter To My Daughter by David Chariandy

The Stacks received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information click here.
(Photo: amazon.com)

In this letter to his teenaged daughter, David Chariandy attempts explain the politics of race as he has experienced them. He discusses his own identity, Black and South Asian from Trinidad, and that of his ancestors in relationship to the world of his daughter. The role of family. What it means to be a person of color in Canada, and what it means to be alive in brown skin.

I most appreciated the conversation between father and daughter which is often overlooked, especially in stories from people of color. While Chariandy doesn’t really delve into gender politics in this book, there is something tender and special about him making the choice to address his daughter (and yes, he has a son, he chose to write to his daughter). Mostly he focuses on what it means to be seen as Black and to have come from so many cultures. Chariandy’s daughter is mixed, as is he, and engaging with the complexity of these truths was where the book was at its best.

While sections of the book were captivating, there were also sections where Chariandy was unable to hold my attention. I appreciated the idea behind the book, but I don’t know that I understood why it needed to be written, or that it has a particularly strong point of view.

Three Stars | Bloomsbury | March 5, 2019 | 96 Pages | Hardcover


Lot by Bryan Washington

The Stacks received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information click here.
(Photo: amazon.com)

A collection of short stories about Black and Brown life in a neighborhood in Houston, told all in the first person with differing narrators, this book is a work of creativity and true craft. Unlike most short story collections where there is no sense of progress or growth over time, in Lot, Washington uses one family as our anchor and we get to watch as their lives unfold through alternating stories. That is supplemented with other stories of people from the “lot”.

Washington’s perspective on life and sex and family and gentrification are subtle and smart and really beautiful. The stories are small and intimate. He centers queerness and cultural homophobia in a way that is honest and not preachy. I would find myself smirking at the humor and then feeling gutted a few pages later by the harsh realities of these character’s world. A well rounded collection that really illustrates a time, place, and people.

Some standout stories for me were “Lot”, “Waugh”, and “Congress”, but I would say each story enhances the next. This is a great collection, and its a debut by a 25-year-old. I can not wait for more from Bryan Washington.

Five Stars | Riverhead | March 19, 2019 | 240 Pages | Hardcover


Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen

The Stacks received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information click here.
(Photo: amazon.com)

One of my most anticipated reads of 2019, Parkland was not what I was expecting, but it was so well done, it didn’t matter. It should be said, if you’re expecting to read Columbine 2.0 you might feel a little let down. Parkland is about the children who survived the shooting at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in February 2018, and the activism work they took on, as leaders of the March for Our Lives Movement.

Cullen is an expert storyteller. His empathy drips off the page and allows you to really see the humanity in people. I have to imagine, as one of his subjects, that empathy is palpable in person as well, I think thats how he gets such in depth looks at people. To think that this book was written and published in less than a year from the date of the shooting is incredible. Cullen chronicles all that the teens went through and accomplished without being too self serious or important. He lends the correct amount of gravity to events and still maintains an air of hope and possibility.

If you’re looking for a book about the mass murder and shooter, Parkland is not your book. There hasn’t been enough time for the comprehensive story on the tragedy in Parkland to come to light, let alone be written (it wasn’t until ten years after the Columbine shooting that Cullen’s book, Columbine came out). If you’re interested in the fight for gun safety laws and the kids that have started to make a difference. Then this book is perfect for you.

Four Stars | Harper | February 12, 2019 | 400 Pages | Hardcover


The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare

(Photo: amazon.com)

One of Shakespeare’s early comedies, The Two Gentlemen of Verona tells the story of two men who love two women, and then that all changes. It is about the conflict between friendship and love and the crazy things people in love will do.

This play is just fine. It is fun to see and pretty boring to read. Neither the plot nor language is particularly exciting. Though this play is a great example of characters changing their minds, which when performed, can be pretty funny. Proteus, one of our gentlemen, falls in and out of love so quickly its hard to keep up. Something that is absolutely thrilling and deeply troubling when you see it on stage, but in writing feels a little manic. There are also two women characters who are smart and loyal and capable, which I always love seeing, especially in classic literature. Without spoiling, I will say the final scene of the play is worth the wait. It brings up ideas of female autonomy, forgiveness, and platonic male love, in a way that leaves the reader with a lot to think about. The ending of this play has been debated by scholars for decades, and there is still so much left undecided.

The Two Gentelmen of Verona is not a great play, its fine. I would say its better on the stage than the page, but if you’re working on reading Shakespeare, its a good place to start as it is an easy read and very digestible.

Three Stars | Penguin Classics; New edition | February 1, 2000 | 92 Pages | Paperback
For a complete review of The Two Gentelmen of Verona click HERE.


When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones

(Photo: amazon.com)

A memoir of a life committed to fighting for equality, When We Rise is a true ode to the power of resistance and an ode to the Gay Community. The story of San Francisco queer culture is told beautifully by Cleve Jones, a man who was there for so much of it. Jones guides us through the people and places that were pivotal in the movement, like Harvey Milk and Anne Kronenberg and the people that were footnotes of the time like Jim Jones and Anita Bryant. The book is a who’s who of San Francisco and the Gay Community.

This book isn’t all history, it is also hugely about humanity. Jones is known for creating the AIDS Quilt as a way of seeing and acknowledging those who died and making sure they were never forgotten. It is that kind of humanity that is throughout the entire book. Jones celebrates the beauty, power, creativity, and strength of the Gay community throughout this memoir. The love he has for his people is palpable in the book. He doesn’t shy away from talking about the drag queens and the sex and the freedom of the time. There is no shame, only a truthful story of what life was like, once upon a time.

I listened to this book and Jones narrates, and I loved hearing his inflections as he walked us through his life in the movement. I was especially moved as he recounted the utter devastation that AIDS had on his life and his community. If you’re interested in a story of Gay Rights, both history and humanity, told from the perspective of a man who was there, I highly recommend you check out When We Rise.

Four Stars | Hachette Audio | November 29, 2016 | 9 Hours 31 Minutes | Audiobook


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The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is one of Shakespeare earliest comedies, and was the February read for the #ShakeTheStacks Challenge. It is the story of Proteus and Valentine, two young men who are best friends and in love with two different women, Julia and Silvia. As the play goes on, things change, mostly Proteus, and the whole thing goes off the rails. There is crossdressing, a dog, some rebels, love songs, and banishments. Its a whole thing.

This play is not a great read, it is much better on stage. A lot of the humor is physical, revolving around Launce and his dog, Crab. Not to mention Proteus’ change in a allegiance makes most sense when its seen, on the page it feels manic and unfounded.

The women in this play are fiercely loyal and committed to their own happiness. They both are able to express their free will in a way that many women characters are not, even in today’s literature, especially that written by men. Both Julia and Silvia get to be a little mean, which I love. Sure, they’re also a little spoiled, but their hearts are in the right place.

The ending of the play has left scholars stumped/in debate with each other for centuries. The pay off of the complicated and morally troubling ending is really something. Seeing the play (and having been in it, as Silvia), and how each actor plays the ending is really what makes the ending so confounding.

The writing to The Two Gentlemen of Verona is very straight forward, and if you’re new to Shakespeare’s plays it is a great pick. Otherwise, I might not suggest this one. It doesn’t have a ton to say that doesn’t get said better in other plays like A Midsummers Night Dream or As You Like It. The Two Gentlemen of Verona feels like a place that Shakespeare started exploring themes like, loyalty in conflict with love, women dressing up like men, and love triangles gone wrong.

Next month for #ShakeTheStacks Challenge, I’ll be reading Love’s Labour’s Lost.


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

Nicole Chung’s story of her transracial adoption, search for her birth parents, and becoming a mother come together beautifully in this, her memoir, All You Can Ever Know. We featured Chung and her book on The Stacks podcast, you can hear Chung talk about her process on The Short Stacks, and a full discussion of the book (with spoilers) with author Vanessa McGrady for The Stacks Book Club.

What makes All You Can Ever Know special, is Chung’s willingness to be open and vulnerable with her story. She embraces the complexities of adoption and identity, and her reader is privileged to get to hear her inner most thoughts on these subjects. Chung weaves three families together, her birth family, her adoptive family, and the family she has created with her husband in the most fluid and natural way. It all makes sense. She finds the balance between the three and that allows for a much deeper understanding of who she is.

Chung was adopted by White parents into a White family and community, and is by birth Korean. This element, her transracial adoption, was what I found most interesting. I would have loved even more about this as Chung grows older and comes into her own. We hear a lot about how it effected her as a child, and her desires to be white, or more accurately, be the same as those around her. However, as the book goes on we don’t really get to revisit her relationship to her ethnicity once out of her White hometown.

I really enjoyed reading this book and learning about adoption in such an intimate way. Chung doesn’t speak for all adoptees or for anyone else in All You Can Ever Know, and yet she is able to tap into the ideas of family and belonging that feel universal. I suggest this book to lovers of memoir, people interested in adoption stories, and people who appreciate small stories.

We have so much more on All You Can Ever Know on the podcast, listen to the episodes below.


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption by Vanessa McGrady

The Stacks received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information click here.

In Rock Needs River, Vanessa McGrady shares her journey from deciding she wants to be a mother, to adopting her daughter Grace, to eventually taking in Grace’s homeless birth parents. McGrady navigates the sometimes murky boundaries of open adoption in this debut memoir. The Stacks sat down with Vanessa McGrady to discuss her book and her experiences on Episode 45, which you can listen to for more context on the book.

McGrady is amazing at connecting with her reader, from nearly the first page I was with her. Rock Needs River is, if nothing else, totally readable. There is an openness and honesty with all that comes up, even the complicated stuff, like murky boundaries, family relationships, and entitlement. McGrady doesn’t fein modesty, nor does she shy away from sharing traits that aren’t always so desirable.

The biggest challenge in Rock Needs River is that much of it feels rushed or unexamined. No characters (aside from McGrady) seem fully developed, which leaves them challenging to connect with. The same is true of the main conflict in the book, Grace’s birth parents. Their situation is glossed over and unspecific. McGrady wants to help them (and is clearly generous in letting them move in), but she doesn’t really get into anything beyond her shock and her disappointment in them not getting back on track. This part of the book could have benefited from more interrogation and introspection. It is this lack of specificity that ultimately hurts the book.

McGrady finds the time to reflective on moments throughout Rock Needs River, but comes up short when she has to fit the pieces together and bring the bigger narrative into focus. The book is a quick and easy read, but I sometimes found that it wasn’t grounded. I would recommend this book to people looking to get a glimpse of what one story of open adoption is like, though I think it would be best to pair with other adoption stories for context and perspective.

Click here to hear Vanessa McGrady on The Stacks talking about Rock Needs River and more.

  • Hardcover: 182
  • PublisherLittle A (February 1, 2019)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy onRock Needs River Amazon

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

The Stacks Book Club — February 2019 Books

Its time to announce our February books for The Stacks Book Club. We’re talking about two of the most buzzed about books from debut authors in 2018, one memoir and one short story collection.

Our first book in February is All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung. All You Can Ever Know is a memoir that explores the experience of adoption for one Korean woman. Chung shares about growing up Korean in a white family and town, discovering the truth about her adoption, and her journey to find belonging. We will discuss this book on February 13th.

Then on February 27th, we will discuss Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s short story collection, Friday Black. The stories in Friday Black are a commentary on race and the absurd and unjust circumstances that Black men and women find themselves in in the United States.

As with all our TSBC books, we want to hear from you. Don’t be shy, send over your thoughts and questions so we can be sure to include them on the podcast. You can email us at thestackswithtraci@gmail.com, comment on this post, or reach out to us through our Instagram @thestackspod.

Order your copies of our February books on Amazon:


The Stacks received Friday Black  free from the publisher. For more information on our commitment to honesty and transparency click here.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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This is the first YA book I’ve picked up since The Hunger Games. Which I read in 2011. So, it’s been a while. Going into the book I had heard a lot of really great things so I was very eager to read it.

If you’re not familiar with this book, here is a little blurb

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

This book takes a very current and complex issues and attempts to present it for the young adult audience. That is no easy task. This book is dealing with extremely nuanced and controversial topics. I give Thomas insane amounts of respect for taking the Black Lives Matter movement on.

Starr is a fantastic character. I really enjoyed her as our protagonist and our eyes into her world. She is conflicted and lovable. The characters around her are pretty wonderful too. There were moments in this book where I actually laughed to myself, and some relationships that I envied.

I was impressed by how many levels Thomas took on. This book isn’t just about a police shooting, it’s also about the repercussions a police shooting has on an individual and their community. Thomas is looking at internal, interpersonal, and communal struggles. While she doesn’t always hit it on the head, she is striving to show something that is rarely discussed.

I know this is an unpopular opinion, but this book just didn’t do it for me. I found the dialogue to be corny and very explanatory. There are moments in the book where the dialogue is cringe worthy. Thomas is demonstrating to her audience a lot more than she is allow us to uncover.

I felt that the audience for this book was not just young people, but more specifically young white people. It seemed as if Thomas was saying, “Hey, you’ve never thought much about police violence against black folks? Well here is a crash course. Let me blow your mind.” Honestly, I just don’t think that I’m the audience for this story. The book is an introduction, and I have spent a lot of time thinking and talking about these issues with adults and young people, so it felt underwhelming and over simplified. I didn’t feel like Thomas offered me a lot to think about, and I wasn’t impressed with the writing style.

And now, to contradict myself, you should read this book. You should. Really. The book moves quickly and is easy to read, and it is an attempt to talk about some stuff that is hard to talk about. Thats admirable and should be supported. It is a solid book, and the book itself has become a sort of cultural phenomenon. More importantly it is speaking to and about a much bigger and more important cultural crisis, and for that, you should read this book.

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray; First Edition Later Printing edition (February 28, 2017)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy The Hate U Give on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

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Why didn’t everyone I’ve ever known force me in a room and make me read this book? How has it taken me this long to finally pick it up? It is going to take a while for me to forgive myself for being this late to the Octavia Butler party.

Here is the blurb on this book

Dana, a modern Black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the White son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

This was the book I didn’t know I always needed. It has a Black female protagonist, time travel, slavery, interracial relationships, colorism, and so much more. It is Afrofuturist goodness. There is so much complexity and so many levels that are layered in. Butler is deliberate with her work and it pays off. A short book, that packs a huge punch.

This book is mostly set during slavery and takes those issues on head on. The events that take place on the plantation are brutal and Butler does delve into that, if you struggle with graphic descriptions of abuse be cautious with this book. (It is worth stating, that any book that is honest about slavery will have graphic language that surrounds life for Black people in that time.) The genius of this book is how Butler juxtaposes life in the present (1976) with that of the antebellum South. The book is really asking us to explore the effects of Slavery on present day Black Americans. The guilt and obligation of the Black savior. What is the role of the Black woman in relationship to the power of the White man? Is personal good more valid than collective evil? How much do Black people have to give of themselves in order to protect the systems that preserve White supremacy?

I’m not sure that in the end I felt any closer to answering those questions. I’m not sure that in the end I ever really liked the characters at all. I did appreciate them as vehicles to look deeper into what Butler is examining when it comes to race and gender power politics. The book is plot driven, and that makes for a fast-paced book, but it does leave out some of the internal struggles that would have developed more well rounded characters. As much as I enjoyed this book, I did miss having a connection with the characters.

I think this book is important for what it is, (a Black Sci-Fi book written by a Black woman in the 1970’s), and I also think this book is important for what it says and what it brings up. Now that I’ve finally read something by Octavia Butler, I can not wait to read more

Go pick up your copy of Kindred it is a classic for a reason. Enjoy!

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (2003)
  • 4/5 stars
  • Buy Kindred on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

 

This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins

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I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book. I had never heard of the author and while the subtitle was pretty clear, it also left a lot for me to wonder about. This book is one woman’s, Morgan Jerkins, insights on the intersection of Black female feminism in America.

Here is a little more about this book

From one of the fiercest critics writing today, Morgan Jerkins’ highly-anticipated collection of linked essays interweaves her incisive commentary on pop culture, feminism, black history, misogyny, and racism with her own experiences to confront the very real challenges of being a black woman today.

This collection of essays floats between specific moments from Jerkins life to historical, political, and cultural moments in the history of Black women in America. Jerkins takes us through her personal experiences and uses them to show us what they mean in the greater context of the life of Black women.

Where Jerkins shines most is with her openness about sharing the intimate details of her life. There were even moments where I felt embarrassed by how much she shares, it appears very little is off limits. Her courage when it comes to discussing the most private details of her life allows us to see Jerkins specifically, and black women in general, as more in depth and complex than they’re often presented in American culture.

Jerkins is sharing her personal observations and experiences, and they are unique to her. Like everyone else, her opinions are flawed and contradictory. I didn’t agree with sections of the book, but I did respect her writing and her thought processes. Jerkins harbors some resentment toward Black women, despite her writing this book as a champion of Blackness. Its contradictory and confusing, and ultimately something she is clearly grappling with throughout. Some of the threads in the essays, feel incomplete or in search of a point. The subject matter is complex and it feels as if Jerkins is still working through a lot of it throughout each essay. Some sections really land, and some fall short for me. This is her debut book and I’m excited for her following works.

For the most part I would suggest you read this book. Representation matters, and of course Black women are not a monolith, and that is made very clear in these essays.  Remember to take Jerkins’ work as what it is, one woman’s experience and a opinions on her life to this point. 

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Do not judge this small book by its size. It packs a major punch, it is emotional and visceral, and it is enjoyable to read. 

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The highly acclaimed, provocative New York Times bestseller—a personal, eloquently-argued essay, adapted from the much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah. Here she offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

Simple. Direct. Smart. This book is a taste of what it means to be a feminist. Adichie dips her toe into the most basic tenets of feminism, from equal treatment across the genders to calling out misogyny as it occurs in real time, as well as raising boys and girls to treat each other with mutual respect from a young age.

Adichie is conversational in tone (which makes sense since this comes from a TED talk.) and casual with her stories, yet biting as she articulates her observations of misogyny. The book doesn’t dive deep into any one thing, it doesn’t have time, its 48 pages. But it does cut to the point, women should be respected and should be treated as equal to men, and that both men and women are responsible for making the societal changes. Feminism isn’t only the responsibility of women.

Plus, excerpts of this talk/book are in Beyonce’s Flawless, therefore this book is perfect.

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Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

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I was very nervous to read this book. When it came in the mail, it was huge, and that really freaked me out. I should have expected a huge book given the fact that racist ideas in America are almost never ending, but actually seeing this book and holding it in my hands was intimidating. It sat on my shelf for about six months before I actually started it.

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In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Ibram X. Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois to legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro-civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.

This is one of the most ambitious books I’ve ever read. Kendi is taking on racist ideas in America, and that is no small task. He expertly guides the reader through debates about race taking place at any given time in the US. He presents the different sides, and exposes the thinking that has shaped American culture since its earliest days.. His ambition pays off, not only is this book detailed and expansive, it is clear and direct. Kendi won The National Book Award for Non-Fiction with Stamped from the Beginning, and it is well deserved.

At the risk of sounding cliche, and in all earnestness, this book is eye-opening and life changing. It is an academic exploration of things we’ve come to know anecdotally as residents of the United States, but have never truly grappled with. This book gives background to standardized testing, affirmative action, popular films and so much more. Kendi is relentless in his dissection of racist ideas and the cultural importance they have had. For example he spends time talking about Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Gone with the Wind, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X to illustrate how pivotal these books were in spreading ideas about Black Americans across the country and the world.

Kendi is patient with his reader and explains things in detail. Dissecting key moments in American history, both culturally and legislatively, to develop the progress of racist, assimilationist, and antiracist thoughts over time. From the start of slavery through to the presidency of Barack Obama there is never a dull moment for the reader or for racist ideas. Kendi is there to help the reader make sense of it all and give ideas their proper context and in turn show the extent of their reach.

This book was challenging to read. I struggled and reread many passages to make sure it was all sinking in. That was part of the enjoyment of this book, really being challenged to grapple with the ideas and the text.

I would highly recommend this book to everyone. Especially if you consider yourself an antiracist or an ally in the fight for equity in this country, or if you’re interested in learning more about Blackness and anti-Blackness.

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; Reprint edition (August 15, 2017)
  • 5/5 stars
  • Buy Stamped from the Beginning on Amazon

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here