Book Review: Black Enough

Black EnoughBlack Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America
Edited by Ibi Zoboi
Young Adult/Anthology/Contemporary Fiction
400 pages
Published January 2019

I’m not sure how to write this review or even if I SHOULD be writing this review. Black Enough is an anthology of stories about being young and black in America. (As the subtitle says.) I’m white. I don’t identify with these stories, but I wanted to read it to be exposed to other experiences. That’s WHY I try to read a lot of minority voices.

The problem is – I didn’t care for a decent portion of the book. But should that matter in writing a review of an #ownvoices book when I’m not part of the demographic? There are two authors I have previous problems with – Justina Ireland (author of Dread Nation, read my review for my issues with her) and Nic Stone, who wrote Odd One Out which I HAAAATED. Their short stories here had none of the issues their respective books did, but I tend not to separate art from artist, so I’m still side-eyeing their inclusion in this anthology. I also strongly disliked the editor’s own story, the last one in the book. But should that matter? There were stories I loved – Jay Coles’ Wild Horses, Wild Hearts, Lamar Giles’ Black. Nerd. Problems. and Leah Henderson’s Warning: Color May Fade were all amazing. But again, how much does that matter? I can’t speak for how real these stories are, or how well the authors capture these feelings because I don’t know. (Which is part of WHY I read these. To learn.)

I toyed with the idea of just not writing a review. But books like these are important, and need to be talked about and lifted up so more people can find them. Being one more white person refusing to talk about the subject ALSO isn’t the right call.

What I finally decided I can do is link to some #ownvoices reviews of the book. Don’t take my opinion on this book. Take theirs! (And, spoiler, they all loved it!)

Rich In Color’s review

Black Nerd Problems’ review (and I’m totally following this site now)

Crafty Scribbles’ review (okay, so I’m following all three of these sites now, and you should too!)

 

From the cover of Black Enough:

BLACK IS . . . sisters navigating their relationship at summer camp in Portland, Oregon, as written by Renee Watson.

BLACK IS . . . three friends walking back from the community pool talking about nothing and everything, in a story by Jason Reynolds.

BLACK IS . . . Nic Stone’s bougie debutante dating a boy her momma would never approve of.

BLACK IS . . . two girls kissing, in Justina Ireland’s story set in Maryland.

BLACK IS . . . urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more – because there are countless ways to be Black enough. 

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Library Loot Wednesday

 

OH MY GOD I GOT KINGDOM OF COPPER ON RELEASE DAY (last Thursday) FROM THE LIBRARY! I AM SO EXCITED! I LOVED City of Brass, so to get this one on release day, when they normally take a couple of months to get to me, is AMAZING.

I also got The Winter of the Witch, third in the Winternight Trilogy, so I am SUPER excited about that one, too.

My third one this week is Lost Boi, which is apparently a queer retelling of Peter Pan, which pits his lost bois against leather daddy pirates. I am – intrigued.

Book Review: Slayer

slayerSlayer
by Kiersten White
Young Adult/Urban Fantasy
404 pages
Published January 2019

I am a Buffy fan. I’m not the biggest Buffy fan I know – that honor goes to a friend of mine, who I just gave a giant box of Buffy comic to, since we’re downsizing in preparation for the move to the new house. I haven’t seen anyone that happy in a while, and it made my day. (And hers, judging from the bouncing and squeeeeing and hugging!) But I am still a Buffy fan. I own DVDs of the entire show, plus Angel, plus the original movie. The box of comics I just gave away was Season 8 and some spin offs. Slayer takes place after all of that.

First I’m going to say, if you’re not a Buffy fan, seriously don’t bother with this book. You won’t understand a lot of what goes on, and while there are cursory explanations given in the book, it’s really not meant for people that haven’t watched/read the rest of the world. You’d be okay not knowing much about Angel, but you really do need to have watched the TV show of Buffy, especially that last season. While the book takes place after the comics, they’re not necessary to understand the plot as that, at least, is explained.

So, for the rest of us Buffy fans, this is a great continuation of the Buffy-verse. Nina is the daughter of Watchers – in fact the daughter of Buffy’s first watcher, the one before Giles. Given what befell the Watchers, the ones that are left are kind of antagonistic towards Slayers in general and Buffy in particular. So when Nina becomes a Slayer, her world goes sideways.

The world is mostly the same, but with a twist due to events in the comics. (It’s explained. You don’t need to have read them.) The book expands on how Slayer powers work, a bit, especially their dreams now that there’s more than one of them alive at a time. We do see mentions of familiar characters, with one notable scene where an old favorite appears briefly.

I really enjoyed the book, and I’m eager to read the second half of the duology when it comes out. I need to know how Nina’s story ends! The book ended on a subtle cliffhanger; the main conflict has been resolved, and the characters think it’s over, but we know it’s not. Similar to how many episodes of Buffy ended, actually.

So yeah. If you’re a Buffy fan, pick up this book, it’s pretty great. If you’re not – take a pass. Or start with the TV show and get yourself a new fandom if you’re feeling bored!

From the cover of Slayer:

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watchers Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers – girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watchers Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead, she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One – she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams . . .

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested – because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

Friday 56 – Slayer

slayerThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

This week’s quote is from Slayer by Kiersten White. Slayer is set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, after the events of the comic book season that came after the TV show. (I’m a bit of a fan.)

Artemis had been even more affected by the test. When she had come back, she’d looked . . . haunted. “I don’t want to be a Watcher,” she had said. But being a Watcher was what she had always wanted. I couldn’t wrap my head around her not being on the Council someday in the distant future. In my mind, she already was.

When I tried to talk to her about the test, she refused. For the last four years she had been there for me, but I didn’t know how to offer her the same support, so I pretended like nothing was different. She let me. It was easiest for both of us.

On a side note, WE ARE CLOSING ON THE HOUSE TODAY. IN A FEW HOURS I WILL BE A HOMEOWNER!!!!

Book Review: You Have The Right To Remain Fat

right to remain fatYou Have The Right To Remain Fat
by Virgie Tovar
Nonfiction
128 pages
Published 2018

You Have The Right To Remain Fat is a short manifesto on why society needs to change the way it treats fat people, and that we don’t need to lose weight to fit into society. Tovar talks about the sexism, classism, and racism that is often behind fatphobia and discrimination, the way culture has shifted around looks, and feeling comfortable in your own skin. She rips diet culture to shreds, shining a spotlight on the gaslighting technique that is heavy in dieting language. (You’re not losing weight because you’re not doing it right. You don’t have enough willpower to deprive yourself of essential nutrients? Shame on you.)

I could understand people being offended by this book – she basically says if you’re trying to lose weight for the sake of losing weight, you’re wrong. But if you really look at it, if that really is all you’re losing weight for, to be thin, shouldn’t society accept you as you are? If you need to lose weight for actual, valid health reasons, that’s different. But if it’s just for the sake of being thin – maybe rethink your reasons.

I’m going back on the Auto Immune Protocol as soon as we settle in to the new house – and while losing weight is a nice side effect, I’m doing it to control autoimmune symptoms. And in all the literature around AIP, it’s about not feeling fatigued or nauseous. It’s about getting your digestive system back on track and reducing the chronic pain. It’s NOT about losing weight, though people often do lose weight on it because it boosts the metabolism and cuts sugar. (Although it’s also used for hyperthyroid people, who often have unhealthy weight loss, so really it’s about stabilizing your weight!)

One of the most interesting parts of the book was when she discussed a conference she’d gone to and talked to women about fatphobia and inferiority complexes. First she asked if anyone there felt inferior. Of course, no one did. But then she asked a series of follow-up questions that pointed out behaviors born of feelings of inferiority. Things like: “Are you wearing something physically uncomfortable because you believe it makes you look better? Today did you refuse to do something you wanted to do because you were worried how it would make you look to someone?”

Out of curiosity, I read all the questions (there were eight or so) to my husband. He’d done exactly one of them. I have done all of them in the past, and still do some. (I’m currently a housewife. I don’t wear uncomfortable clothes.) It was rather eye-opening.

You Have The Right To Remain Fat is a quick, thought-provoking read that is uncomfortable at times but also makes you want to shout HELL YES at other times. I definitely recommend it.

From the cover of You Have The Right To Remain Fat:

Growing up as a fat girl, Virgie Tovar believed that her body was something to be fixed. But after two decades of dieting and constant guilt, she was over it―and gave herself the freedom to trust her own body again. Ever since, she’s been helping others to do the same. Tovar is hungry for a world where bodies are valued equally, food is free from moral judgment, and you can jiggle through life with respect. In concise and candid language, she delves into unlearning fatphobia, dismantling sexist notions of fashion, and how to reject diet culture’s greatest lie: that fat people need to wait before beginning their best lives.

Library Loot Wednesday

Only picked up two books this week – I haven’t put anything new on hold, I’m just getting New Releases that I’ve had on hold since before they came out, at this point. I need to go get a library card for my new library so I can get holds on some of the books that are coming out soon!

This week I got The Gutter Prayer, a city fantasy whose description reminds me of Six of Crows,  and Here and Now and Then, a time-traveling fantasy for my Year of the Asian Reading Challenge.

I’ve spent the last couple of days relaxing and catching up on my reading, after packing a TON last weekend. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to these two soon!