Social Justice Book Club: February Wrap-Up and Announcements

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First of all, my sincere apologies for the delay- life has been really getting in the way of my plans for this month. 

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In honor of Black History Month in February, we picked The Autobiography of Malcolm X. This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, and this was such a great opportunity to read it with the group. I knew very little about the life and work of Malcolm X. aside from the fact that he was a prominent activist for the civil rights of Black Americans. Even my high school education, which barely skimmed through American history, only mentioned Dr. King from that time, not Malcolm. Malcolm X. reminds me of Bhagat Singh, an Indian freedom fighter who also pushed for radical change and action, urging the people to be louder, and was pretty critical of Gandhi’s push for a non-violent movement at that time. Malcolm was far from flawed ( in fact, his opinion of women in the first half of the book made me want cringe so much), but much of what he said about the treatment of black people in America and how white people (in general) perceive the black man today is still so relevant. He learnt from a very young age that he had to hustle to survive, and that his existence had no guarantee in a world that could not see him past the color of his skin. He struggles with his identity and his roots and catches on very early to the social conditioning that black people have undergone to think that white people are superior to them, and how they’ve assimilated in order to survive. His experiences with women in his youth- oh boy. It’s also evident that his recounting of those stories as he got older is not without remorse- and I definitely believe that had he lived longer, his views would have been less sexist. A series of mistakes lead him to straight into prison, and it is during his time here that Malcolm engages in a lot of contemplation, and channels his rage and boredom into reading. (“The ability to read awoke inside of me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.” His relationship with Muhammed and conversion to Islam were fascinating, and one can see how as a disillusioned young man this was the crutch he needed, to discover himself, to have an identity, and to channel his rage about the injustices done to black people. I think it’s very easy for white people to read this book and go “oh wow he’s so angry!” or be uncomfortable with his animosity towards white people, and I think it’s important to sit with those feelings and remember that there’s so much baggage that comes with those feelings. It’s why, whether they admit it or not, white Americans will more easily celebrate Dr. King over Malcolm (King was just as revolutionary as Malcolm, but his push for non-violence is highlighted over his demand for action, casting Malcolm as “angry black man”.) There’s so much to unpack here on how Malcolm and King’s lives, messages, and legacies have been represented, and the discomfort white people experience with Malcolm’s confrontational approach, how that translates to the perception of black people in general and how nonblack people perceive movements like #BlackLivesMatter- I’m far from qualified to discuss any of these things, but these are things to think about and talk about, for sure. Malcolm never doubted that he would die violently, and he remains a contentious figure in American history. This autobiography is a crucial text to read. It is not only important as a tool to read Malcolm’s words and message, but also to be cognizant of where Malcolm’s anger comes from, the history of violence against black people, and how all of these are relevant in the movements we see today. 

Announcements:

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I’m sure you’re already aware that we’re reading Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario in March. I haven’t finished reading, but it’s been interesting to hear from those who have. We still have 11 days left in the month if you’d like to join us! Shoot me an email at theshrinkette@gmail.com to be added to the Slack if you’re not already in it. You can also use this sign-up form, if that’s your preference. Sonia Nazario has graciously agreed to answer a few questions from the group for a club Q&A, and her responses should be in by the end of this month. 

 

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Due to popular demand, we’re going to try hosting the book club on a monthly basis. For April, we will be reading Headscarves and Hymen: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy. Since each book’s discussion is being held in it’s own channel, members can opt in or out of the month’s discussion based on their personal preferences and schedules. 

 

 

-J

 

 

February 2017 Wrap-Up

Print/digital books: 12

Audiobooks: 2

Total number of books/comics: 14

Total page count: 3942

Read My Own Damn Books: 3

I’m an academic. It only takes a short to get to know me to know that I love data. I love looking at the numbers, it keeps things in perspective. It’s an objective measurement of behavior. In the year that I’ve been breaking down my reading numbers by month, this is definitely the lowest it’s ever been. I’m definitely disappointed by these numbers, but it’s good to have them. There’s a few reasons why- primarily because I’ve spent most of the month yelling on Twitter (sorry to my followers over there).

I’m going to try not to dwell on these numbers too much, and instead going to focus on actively choosing to read over doing other things when I have the time. Twitter isn’t going to stop being a trash fire, I have so many books to catch up on, blog posts to write, and we have three weeks till the big move. So, onwards and upwards. 

So friends, what did your February look like? What are you looking forward to reading in March? 

 

January 2017 Wrap-Up

Maybe it’s just me, but January felt long. As someone on twitter put it so eloquently: “Each day in January 2017 felt like there entire year of 2016.” What a friggin’ trainwreck. I’d like to take a second to applaud all of you that are fighting- with your phone calls, donations, protests, buying and supporting books by marginalized authors, allyship. Keep at it, my friends. It feels like the world is truly going up in flames and it’s been so easy off-late to give in to despair and panic (I know I have, more than once). Don’t give up, step back when you need to rest and recharge so you can keep coming back out to the frontlines.

Okay, time for some data:

Print/digital books: 17

Audiobooks: 3

Graphic novels/Comics: 3

Total number of books/comics: 23

Total page count: 5653

Read My Own Damn Books: 15

Like I’d mentioned over on Litsy, while it seems like I maintained my average reading volume, I actually had a lot more free time to devote to reading, but was just unable to lose myself in a book. I participated in three readathons, and didn’t even make it through half my TBR for two of them. I feel extra crappy about that because these were both readathons that focused on diversity. Oh well. I guess rising fascism is as good an excuse as any. 

Meanwhile, Black History Month has officially begun, and I’m fully entrenched in it, with The Fifth Season (dystopian SF), Narrative of Sojourner Truth (Serial Reader), Redefining Realness (audio), The Autobiography of Malcolm X (#SJBookClub), and Hidden Figures (nonfiction). 

Reading my own post is making me feel like the ultimate Debbie downer, so look here at this puppy rocking on it’s back: 

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How have you fared in 2017 so far? What are you looking forward to reading in February? 

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

2016: Reflections and Resolutions

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Disclaimer: Several existential crises about attaching meaning to arbitrary cycles of time occurred during the drafting of this post. 

Ahem, okay. 2016. Trashfire year, to say the least. However, there’s some good stuff once you wade through the garbage, and I’m taking the time to be grateful for the little things. 2016 is the year I joined the book community on the internet, and it still amazes me to know that there’s people out there that read, breathe, and revere books the way I do (and some even more). I made some fantastic friends, some of whom I got to know in real life, and all of whom have been absolute hearts (you know who you are). I discovered so many social justice warrior gems who inspire me everyday with their outspokenness and general badassery. I also discovered that my drug of choice is participating in readathons and reading challenges, regardless of how well I do in them. It is the year I started blogging about books, albeit sporadically, and also the year I realized the purpose of this blog. All of these things give me the warm fuzzies, and I’m taking this moment to be grateful for that. 

I’ve learnt several things about myself as a reader this year, and I’m choosing to use those things to shape my reading as we enter the next year. 2017 is going to come with a hell a lot of challenges as it is, and I’d like to make sure I keep chipping away at making my happy place a worthwhile place. 

In terms of numbers, this year has been a success. I’ll be ringing in the New Year with my 228th book, which is the most I’ve read any year ever (last year I read 53, I think). I’ll be setting a goal of 250 books next year, which I think is pretty doable. I’m woefully behind on updating my spreadsheets and the running list on my blog, but I have finally completed all my social obligations  so those should get done soon. 

I’ve talked before about wanting to read mindfully, and this is something I’d like to continue working on. While high numbers are an adrenaline rush, I’d like to be really absorb and sit with what I’m reading, and be able to look at my reading material critically.

As for reading challenges, I’m narrowing those down to a chosen few. I’ve learned that I prefer readathons, especially ones like Dewey’s where I can go full blown introvert and hole up with my books and the bookternet, so after having dabbled in a bunch of reading challenges this past year, in 2017 I will be doing the following: 

As mentioned earlier, I’m joining the wonderful Kerry in hosting Social Justice Book Club, and it’s been so great working on the behind-the-scenes stuff with her. We’re actively working on making this a meaningful experience for all our participants. We’re also working on selecting books that cover social justice intersectionally, which I’m super stoked about. The intention is to continue learning and using that knowledge to do good, and I’m working on these intentions being reflected in actual, actionable steps. 

I have several things I want to work on with blogging, and I’m trying to remember that I’m still brand new to this, so taking it slow is key. I do not want blogging to be an aversive experience, so I’m going to take a couple of things at a time and work on them. Manageable goals are less stressful, especially since there’s so many other uncertain variables in my personal life.  

I’d like to work on an actual posting schedule. It’ll help with accountability, generating content, and writing more reviews. It’ll also motivate me to chalk out time to work on these posts, rather than scramble in the wee hours of the morning in sweaty panic because that’s just unnecessary. 

Another thing I’ll be working on this year is to write better reviews. This means having something meaningful to say besides just gushing about books I love, because I think it’ll just generally help improve my writing, so two birds, one stone. I’m also going to use this as practice to critically analyze books- plot, writing style, character development, etc.- and generally have more nuanced content. 

Of course, as I’ve said earlier, the purpose of this blog is to support and promote marginalized voices. I think a part of this is also being able to discuss problematic rep. While I’ve been part of a fair number of these discussions on twitter, I think using the blog for this is equally crucial, especially since there’s very few POC/LGBTQIA+/disabled bloggers, and we need to keep having these conversations about inclusivity and representation if we hope to make a dent in publishing. 

I’d like to take this moment to thank you guys- friends, readers- for having stuck with me all through 2016. I don’t think there’s words that will adequately describe what this community means to me. It’s changed my life. I’m looking forward to all of the wonderful things you will be doing in 2017, and I will be cheering you on all the way.

Let’s kick 2017’s ass.

-J

 

 

July 2016 Wrap-Up

So July:

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I’ll just skip right ahead to book data. 

Print books: 13 books, 3924 pages.

Audiobooks: 2 book, 604 pages, approx.  15 hours

Graphic novels/Comics: 11, 1020 pages.

Total number of books/comics: 24

Total page count: 5548

Read My Own Damn Books:  19

This month is a perfect illustration of why I love data. I honestly had not been paying attention to my reading the entire month, so I started writing this post dreading how low the numbers were going to be and grumbling about moving once again. Clearly I’d read more than I remembered reading. Kind of had an audiobook lull- nothing was grabbing my interest. Also, it’s interesting how much my numbers skew when it’s a readathon month, especially since I did no reading in the last week of July. Hurray readathons! 

Do you guys have any cool audiobook suggestions? I’m all ears. 

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-J

 

 

 

June 2016 Wrap-Up

Hi there!

It is the end of June, and half a year has flown by. I don’t even understand how that happened, but I know all of us are wondering the same thing, so I’ll just let us all sit with it for a minute. Instead, let’s dive into the book data:

Print books: 9 books, 2741 pages

Audiobooks: 6 books, 1829 pages, approx. 46.28 hours

Graphic novels/Comics: None

Total number of books/comics: 15

Total page count: 4570

Read My Own Damn Books:

Read The Books You Buy: 4 out of 5 of my own damn books were ones I bought in June.

Compared to April and May, this was a relatively low month of reading. I think it’s mostly because my supposedly free weekends turned out to be unexpectedly jam-packed, so not a lot of reading happened over weekends. Also, I haven’t had the urge to pick up a comic all month, though I’ve got them all downloaded and waiting on my kindle. Maybe I’ll be inspired when Ms. Marvel Volume 5 arrives at my doorstep.

Meanwhile, I have squared away this long weekend to hibernate and read, and have even curated a stack. So many exciting books on the docket. I’m also figuring out a way to be more organized about my blogging. I have a few non-review posts about reading in mind, but have been hesitant to roll them out yet. If you guys have any tips on how to blog more effectively, and what kind of content you would like to see, I would really appreciate your thoughts. 

What’s everyone else got on their stack?

-J