Social Justice Book Club: Wrap Up and Announcements

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Hey friends,

First of all, thank you so much for participating in our edition of Social Justice Book Club. I’m floored by the responses and the discussions that have taken place as a result of our new format, and just the sheer number of people that have joined the group. The internet is constantly amazing me with how it can bring people together. 

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While Hope In The Dark wasn’t my most favorite SJBC pick, I think it’s one that we all needed in some capacity or the other. This book was a calculated choice for the club, given all of the recent (and ongoing) unrest and radical shifts happening in our current political climate worldwide, and I hope it served up in some capacity to everyone that participated in SJBC. I thought it started off well, felt a little disjointed and repetitive in the middle, and towards the end I was drawn in. Some of her stances felt like it came from a place of white privilege. However, I appreciated the overall message of the book, particularly the part about keeping perspective during the fight for social change. Something I’ve observed in the last few weeks is how easy it is for us to give in to the chaos, which I think is a part of the current administration’s agenda. Panicked people are too distraught to fight back. However, it is safe to say that a lot of things happening in America have been happening for a very long time, and now it’s broadened to impact a significant number of groups. So I’m working on picking out specific actionables, some as an in-group advocate, and some as an ally to other marginalized groups, focusing on those, and trying to remain hopeful and not give in to despair. Like Solnit said, “Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win. Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.

If you enjoyed or were intrigued by Hope In The Dark, here are some titles we suggest for further reading:

A few announcements:

  1. As mentioned over on Slack, we will be having a Black History Month edition of SJBC in the month of February. We will be reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X As Told To Alex Haley. Once again, this is completely optional and a low-pressure book club, since all book discussions will be happening in it’s own channel and you are free to mute notifications as needed. For those people that are comfortable with a fairly loose schedule:
    Introduction to Chapter 6: Detroit Red
    Chapter 7: Hustler to Chapter 13: Minister Malcolm X
    Chapter 14: Black Muslims to Epilogue

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  2. If you are new to this space and our interested in joining our Slack discussion, you can sign up here and we’ll add you as soon as possible! Unsure how to use Slack? We’ve got you covered.

  3. Lastly, we’d love to hear about your experience with SJBC on Slack. Kerry and I are looking to continue honing the club format to provide the best experience for participants, so any feedback you have for us is greatly appreciated. 

Thanks for sticking with me till the end, and I look forward to continuing our thoughtful discussions over on Slack!

-J

Cover Reveal: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

Gather around booknerds, I have an exciting announcement to make!

Behold, the cover of Tristina Wright’s highly anticipated debut novel 27 Hours (The Nightshade Sage, #1), is finally ready to be revealed! Gird your loins, friends.

*drumroll please*

AAAAAANNNNNDDDDD HERE IT IS!

 

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Title: 27 Hours (The Nightside Saga. #1)
Author: Tristina Wright
Release Date: October 3, 2017
 

Book Description: Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

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Isn’t it goddamn gorgeous?

Oh, by the way, in case you don’t know who Tristina is: 

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Author Bio: Tristina Wright is a blue-haired bisexual with anxiety and opinions. She’s also possibly a mermaid, but no one can get confirmation. She fell in love with science fiction and fantasy at a young age and frequently got caught writing in class instead of paying attention. She enjoys worlds with monsters and kissing and monsters kissing. She married a nerd who can build computers and make the sun shine with his smile. Most days, she can be found drinking coffee from her favorite chipped mug and making up more stories for her wombfruit, who keep life exciting and unpredictable. Still trying to figure out the mermaid thing.

If you’re like me and are dying to read about space teenagers saving their world (who are hella queer, might I add), then you can go ahead and pre-order this beauty on Amazon (US),  Amazon (UK), Amazon (CA)Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, or Book Depository. Feel free to add it to your Goodreads while you’re at it. 

You can also check out Tristina’s website, like her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, and if you’re wondering how she achieves that mermaid look you can check out her Snapchat (@tristinawright) for sneak peaks to her every-changing do. 

Suffice to say I’m super excited to read this book, and I hope you are too! Tristina is one of the kindest people I follow on Twitter, and is a hell of an ally to POC. I’m really glad to be able to support her with this cover reveal. Congratulations Tristina, and I wish you all the best!

-J

Books By South Asian Authors On My 2017 TBR: The Nonfiction Edition

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First of all, thank you so much for sharing my fiction TBR from yesterday. I love that so many people were interested and excited to read some of those books. As promised, here’s my South Asian nonfiction TBR this year. Again, I’ll probably end up reading more, these are just the books I definitely want to read by the end of the year. 

 

Walking Towards Ourselves: Indian Women Tell Their Stories by Catriona Mitchell: A compilation of essays by Indian women writers examining the gender revolution taking place in India. Issues covered include love, marriage, gender, sexuality, career choices, literacy and motherhood. 

New South Asian Feminisms: Paradoxes and Possibilities edited by Srila Roy: A thorough exploration of South Asian feminism, addressing issues like disability, Internet technologies, queer subjectivities and violence as everyday life across national boundaries. (Reading this for #DivStGr hosted by Bina)

Field Notes On Democracy: Listening To Grasshoppers by Arundhati Roy: I’ve followed a fair bit of Roy’s activism, but haven’t actually read a lot of her nonfiction. Rectifying that now. (Given the dumpster fire US President and his goddamn executive orders, this book is super timely for anyone sighing with relief about not being Muslim/Refugee/POC that lives in/needs to go to the US. Our own democracy could use plenty of work.)

Capitalism: A Ghost Story by Arundhati Roy: This book shows how the demands of globalized capitalism has subjugated billions of people to the highest and most intense forms of racism and exploitation. (Pulled this straight out of GR because it felt like the most apt description)

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee: Starting from the earliest documented cases of cancer to recent discoveries, intertwined with accounts from cancer patients. (I really enjoyed the author’s penchant for scientific research from The Gene, so I’m hoping this book lives up to my expectations.

Love, Loss, And What We Ate: A Memoir by Padma Lakshmi: A food memoir highlighting Padma Lakshmi journey from being the child of immigrants to becoming a judge on Top Chef, while sharing with the audience the fierce women that shaped her along the way. (I’ll be honest, I’ve never watched Top Chef, but my nosy ass just wants to know what it’s like being married to Salman Rushdie.)

In an Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler’s Tale by Amitav Ghosh: This book covers Ghosh’s journey to find an Indian slave who had traveled to the Middle East around 700 years ago. 

Writing Pakistan: Conversations on Identity, Nationhood, and Fiction by  Mushtaq Bilal: A collection of interviews with Pakistani writers that write in English. 

Footprints of Partition: Narratives of Four generations of Pakistanis and Indians by Anam Zakaria: The author is a Pakistani researcher who interview four generations of people, mostly Pakistani, on their perception of Partition and the evolving outlook of “the other.” (I’ve read a fair amount of Partition history, but all of it told from only the Indian POV. Let’s be honest, nothing about history books is unbiased, so it serves us well to read multiple POVs and multiple accounts.)

We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future by Deepa Iyer: The political, racial, and social justice ramifications of being South Asian in America. 

Because I Have A Voice: Queer Politics In India by Arvind Narrain and Gautam Bhan: An anthology confronting the “compulsory “nature to pass and present as heterosexual in India. 

Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai: This is a book chock-full of translated works from a plethora of experiences, citing evidence of the existence of queerness and homosexuality since the ancient times. 

Gandhi’s Tiger And Sita’s Smile: Essays On Gender, Sexuality And Culture by Ruth Vanita: A collection of essay demanding for more complex discourse on gender and sexuality in India. 

Disability and Difference in Global Contexts: Enabling a Transformative Body Politic by Nirmala Erevelles: This book explores the possibilities and limitations re-theorizing disability using historical materialism in the interdisciplinary contexts of social theory, cultural studies, social and education policy, feminist ethics, and theories of citizenship. 

 

As always, if you have any recommendations, or are planning to read any of these titles, drop me a line in the comments! I’m never one to turn down a buddy read. 

Books By South Asian Authors On My 2017 TBR: The Fiction Edition

 

SOUTH ASIAN REPRESENTATION.jpg(Disclaimer: I originally threw the entirety of my list into this post, but I don’t think anyone would’ve made it to the end. As a kindness, I’ll post the nonfiction list separately tomorrow)

Ever since I started paying attention to what I was reading, I’ve found a ridiculous number of gaps. So after flailing and beating myself up about it (as one does), in my quest to read mindfully, I’ve decided to tackle specific gaps each year. I’d talked about this to a few of my book club friends, and ever since my reading has shifted to reading mostly diverse voices, challenges like the Read Harder one from Book Riot are no longer intimidating. So I decided this was the best opportunity to start focusing on some of those gaps.

Something I’ve been painfully aware about for the longest time is that I’ve read very few books by South Asian (and diaspora) authors or set in South Asia. If I want to see more South Asian books published, then as a reader I need to actively seek these books out, read them, and talk about them. So, here are some of the books on my 2017 TBR. It’s a mix of frontlist and backlist titles, and I hope people are able to find things that fall in their wheelhouse. 

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: YA contemporary romance, Indian-American MCs whose parents have arranged for them to be married. Comedy ensues. 

A Time To Dance by Padma Venkatraman: YA realistic fiction, MC is a bharatanatyam prodigy who is struggling to regain her passion after an accident leaves her a below-the-knee amputee. Disability rep. (As a bharatanatyam dancer myself I am ashamed I’ve never read this before. Also, the premise seems to be inspired by the life of Sudha Chandran, or maybe that’s just me.)

Step Up To The Plate, Maria Singh by Uma Krishnaswami: MG novel set during World War II, 9-year old MC wants to play softball while simultaneously dealing with prejudice and discriminatory laws. Biracial rep, immigrant story. 

No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal: Contemporary adult fiction. Multigenerational. MCs are Indian immigrants in their mid-forties, each facing their individual crises, until their paths cross and an unusual friendship blossoms. 

Stained by Abda Khan: Contemporary adult fiction, Pakistani-British MC, struggles to cope with loss of her father, becomes a victim of sexual abuse by a trusted family friend. Explores cultural identity conflict and their impact on dealing with traumatic events. TW: rape.

Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera: Contemporary adult fiction, immigrant story, Punjabi MC is forced to take over the family business after the unexpected death of his father, reevaluates his life, and attempts to reconcile his family’s story and legacy with his  London life.

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota: Thirteen young men living in a house in Sheffield, all having run from India for a fresh start and a new life. 

Sea Of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh: Historical fiction, set during the time just before the Opium Wars, is about a diverse cast of characters on board the Ibis, a schooner on a journey from Baltimore to Calcutta. (I love Amitav Ghosh and this book was nominated for the Man Booker, so, I’m hoping it lives up to the hype. I’m increasingly wary these days of POC representation even by authors of color, so I’m really really really hoping this one isn’t problematic because it would be a real disappointment.)

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai: This Man Booker winner is a historical fiction novel, set in Nepal during a rising insurgency, a cranky old judge who can’t stop thinking about his son who’s an illegal immigrant in the States, instead of his orphaned granddaughter left in his care. Amidst political tensions is also a budding romance between the granddaughter and her Nepali tutor. Chaos ensues.

The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad: Historical fiction, a young couple who are refugees from tribes in FATA, have to escape to avoid punishment as a result of life events. Their son, descended from both chiefs and outlaws, travels throughout remote tribal areas. (I picked this up out of curiosity, because the author was 79 when he wrote this, his first novel, and I admire his tenacity already.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri: Historical fiction set in Calcutta, two brothers who are total opposites, including in their political inclinations. One of them joins the Naxalite movement, and when something happens to him, the other returns from the States to piece the family back together. 

What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera: Contemporary fiction, a young girl growing up in Sri Lanka has to immigrate to the States with her mother following a tragedy, and start over. 

The Gospel of Yudas by K. R. Meera: Set during the Naxalite period in Kerala, Prema is drawn to the Naxalite ideology, and is infatuated with Yudas, who she believes was tortured by her tyrannical father in his prison camp. Yudas has got secrets of his own. (I’m a little worried about the narrative verging on the former prisoner romance area, but also need to read up on the Naxalite group in detail for some context.)

A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam: A young widow must do what she must to keep her family safe during the Bangladesh War of Independence.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri: Short story collection, Pulitzer winner. (Also she’s one of my favourite authors, so maybe it’s about time I read this.)

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin: Short story collection set in Pakistan. 

Moth Smoke: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid: Contemporary fiction, MC gets involved in a life of crime after getting fired, and is then caught and on trial for a murder he may or may not have committed. 

The Immortals by Amit Chaudhari: MC is a classically trained musician who enjoys teaching popular music and covets a modern life, accepts a student who only wants to study Indian classical music. Story follows their evolving relationship and their families. 

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie: Fantasy fiction. I’m still unclear on the premise, and GR isn’t particularly illuminating. But it is Rushdie so I expect good storytelling and general weirdness. 

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: Fantasy fiction, Mahabharata retelling from Draupadi’s POV. 

Sunbolt Chronicles by Intisar Khanani: YA fantasy, MC is orphaned at an early age and is forced to keep her magical abilities, the identity of her parents, and her role in an underground revolutionary movement a secret. While on a mission, she’s captured by the baddies and must escape. (ICYMI, I loved Thorn by the same author, so I’m really looking forward to this series.)

Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal: Coming-of-age story of a queer preteen boy who is also a second generation immigrant, and how he deals with being different and being a social outcast. 

God Loves Hair by Vivek Shraya: A short story collection that follows a child navigating society, race, gender, sexuality, and religion. 

Marriage of A Thousand Lies by S. J. Sindu: A Srilankan married couple pretend to be heterosexual to their parents and date people of their actual gender/sexual preference on the side. 

Some notes about this list: It goes without saying that it is by no means an exhaustive list. These are just the books I would definitely like to read this year. This list does not include any books with South Asian rep that I’ve read in the past. Two, a lot of these authors are firmly South Asian, as are the MCs, so I’d love to get recommendations of more authors from the diaspora. Third, I was unable to find a lot of queer/disability fiction books by South Asian authors, which makes me feel terrible. So again, if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. 

Let me know if you’ve read any of these, or if you have any recommendations, and keep an eye out for the nonfiction list tomorrow!

-J

 

Review: Thorn by Intisar Khanani

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Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Pub. date: January 2014
Publisher: Intisar Khanani
Format: Ebook
Author’s website: http://booksbyintisar.com/

 

 

Princess Alyrra does not see the appeal of being royalty. Deprived of the luxury of making choices, with no power to stand up against her cruel brother, calculating mother, and a contemptuous court, she has spent her life avoiding the spotlight. THen she is forced to marry someone she doesn’t even know (for political reasons), and is being shipped off to a foreign land with very little hope that things are going to get better for her. On her journey there though, her party is attacked, and a magical spell switches her identity with another woman. Once she reaches her destination, she is assigned the lowly station of a goose girl, and for the first time in her life, has the freedom to make her own choices: either fight for her rightful identity and subsequent future with this prince she’s never met, or start off fresh in this new life, as Thorn. However, she becomes increasingly aware that there are some dark forces in play in this new kingdom, and becomes acquainted with the prince, and the choice she needs to make is tied to some serious consequences. 

Here’s the first reason I loved this book, it’s a retelling of The Goose Girl by the Grimm’s Brothers. I love retellings, particularly fairy tale retellings. There’s so much beauty in playing around with them, especially since a lot of them are written by white dudes, and let’s face it, could use some color. 

The second reason I loved this book, and why I also love retellings, is that it is an opportunity to flesh the characters out and give them more dimension. Which is exactly what Intisar does. Alyrra doesn’t just carry out her duties as the goose girl, but she becomes involved in the lives of the other servants she has to live with. Intisar does a phenomenal job describing the political and social unrest, using many scenes to depict issues of classism, how people who didn’t grow up in palaces had so many other odds to contend with. There is a scene where one of her new friends is assaulted, and despite her friendship with the prince and seeking his help, Alyrra is unable to get help from them. Meanwhile, the locals dealt with the attackers by implementing their own form of justice, because they had no expectations that the law would care for those that were underprivileged. The power dynamics and imbalance between Alyrra/Thorn and the prince are also explored in multiple scenes and interactions between them.

Another relationship that gave me both joy and crushed me was Thorn’s relationship with Falada, a strong-willed talking horse (though nobody other than Thorn knows about the talking part). Another character that was just a caricature in the original, Initisar portrays Falada as a loyal companion and dispenser of sagely advice, and the bond between the two of them is strong.

As for the writing itself, the prose is beautiful, even though world building is slow and took me a little while to comprehend. It all flows together. The magical and sorcery aspect isn’t something that leaps out of the page as bizarre, because it is woven into the world and belongs there. Alyrra’s character is a beautiful example of nature vs. nurture, of a victim that ultimately saves herself, as a result of her very best qualities which are the ones that were developed and not inherited.

Here’s my third and probably most favorite thing, the relationship between Alyrra/Thorn and Prince Kestrin. You can watch it develop through their interactions. It’s pretty obvious that he knows she’s the princess, even though he hasn’t quite worked out how her identity was switched. Given all that has happened, it is only natural that Alyrra/Thorn is extremely wary of the prince and basically everyone in the court, which is why she is extremely reluctant to accept help from him, and he doesn’t push her. There’s various points in the story where we get to see Kestrin’s POV, where instead of trying to save her, he tries to guide her to save herself. This relationship between two strangers isn’t one of immediate romance, but one that is a combination of mutual understanding and slowly developing trust. Even in the end, it’s not all neatly tied up, as evidenced by these lines:

“I take a step forward, so that I am barely a handspan away from him, and rest my other hand on his chest, feeling the rise and fall of each breath. “I have no doubt of it,” I say, because I cannot yet tell him I love him, because we need more time without games and deceit between us to find such love.”

This book left my heart singing, so I’m immensely grateful to both Jenny and Memory for recommending it to me. Thank you, friends. I’m of course now an absolute fan of Intisar Khanani and will of course be devouring everything she’s ever written in the near future. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 23rd, 2017: It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme currently hosted by The Book Date. It’s a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week, and add to that ever-growing TBR stack.

Hey friends! I hope everyone had a great time participating in #24in48. I managed to read a fair bit, mostly YA, and it was fun participating on Litsy for the first time! ICYMI, #DiverseAThon started yesterday, and will go on till the 29th. Here’s what I plan to read this week for it: 

Not much else on my end, hope everyone else is doing well. As always, I’d love to know what you’re reading!

Until later,

-J

Diverse-A-Thon is Back!

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Hey ho, it’s that time again! So remember a few months ago when that trashfire video resulted in a weeklong readathon dedicated to boosting marginalized voices? Well, they’re back! That’s right, Diverse-A-Thon is happening from January 22nd to the 29th, which means I get to spend this weekend participating in two readathons. My body is ready. 

This ‘thon is hosted by the wonderful Joce, Christina Marie, Monica Watson, and Simon Savidge. They are all booktubers, but there are participants from all over all varieties of social media. For example, I learned from Joce’s announcement video that Naz and Mara will be joining the hosts to promote Diverse-A-Thon across both Instagram and the blogging platforms. 

The great thing about this ‘thon is that it’s a super low stress one- there are no reading challenges or specific prompts involved. Participants can read one, two, or ten books within the space of the week. There will be daily twitter chats, which are very interesting, and give you an opportunity to discuss a lot of key issues surrounding diversity in publishing, as well as get a ton more books recommendations. The group book selected this time is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. This is one hundred percent optional, and will not detract from your readathon participation if you don’t choose to read it. 

Personal note: I’m not sure if the challenge specifies this, but I’d like everyone to keep in mind that promoting diversity in reading is about boosting marginalized voices and experiences. So if you’re choosing to only read books by white/cis/het/able authors who’ve included marginalized characters in their story, then that isn’t really the same thing. If we are to change the landscape of publishing, then we need to support authors and experiences that are of a wide range and a variety of intersections. I don’t intend to police anyone’s reading choices, but I’d just like to gently remind everyone why these events are being organized in the first place. 

If you need more incentive: Naz is letting everyone that participates and creates a sign-up post with a TBR submit that post to earn 1 point towards a badge for #ReadDiverse2017 (Yes yes that definitely motivated me to create one instead of simply participating in the ‘thon). 

Alrighty, since I’m still in my YA/light books zone, here’s potentially what I’d like to read during the week: 

Meanwhile, let me know in the comments if you’re participating. This is such a cool initiative and I’m glad to be participating. Know that I’m a social media junkie that will be cheerleading you through the week if you need a boost. I am also linking the announcement videos by Joce, Simon, and Christina Marie if you’re looking for more information, or just really cool booktubers. Be sure to follow the official Diverse-A-Thon twitter account for the latest updates!

-J