We have a special guest post today from Courtney on my team. She’s an avid reader and has been making intentional effort in the past couple years to learn more about worlds outside of what she knows which I love and respect so much. I’ve ask her to share some of her latest reads with you. -Joy
Hey friends! Courtney here – I’m Joy’s assistant and new business manager and have been part of the Oh Joy! team for the past six years. Lately, I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort to read more books and consume more art and media by BIPOC voices that often differ from my own perspective (as a white woman raised in Texas) and offer insights and new ways of thinking. This round-up is made up of novels that I have read (I LOVE fiction) in the past few months written by BIPOC, and they’re also all women or non-binary. Some of the novels focus on history and the pain of racism, some focus on current problems in our society, and some are not focused on “teaching” at all, but are merely set in scenes you might not get from a white author or a heteronormative male author.
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton – This novel is about two generations of women finding love in the midst of turmoil and corruption in Cuba. Cleeton is a Cuban-American who drew on the experiences and stories of her family to create the Perez family of the book. You’ll learn lots about Cuban history, the continued fight for equality and freedom there, and be entranced by the beauty of the country and her people.
The Truth About Awiti by CP Patrick (Christine Platt) – Awiti is a spirit causing destruction and haunting plantations in the slave-owning south for centuries. Awiti comes back generation after generation full of rage for the life she lost as a slave and the lives of her family as well. The book is heavy, full of very true stories of mistreatment, cruelty, torture and murder on plantations and her efforts to bring devastation on the land. Platt does an amazing job of sucking you in to the story and keeps you on the edge of your seat to see if Awiti will ever be satisfied and find peace.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – This book is so fun and scary and dark and exciting! I’ve never really read a gothic novel before, so all the twists and turns were thrilling. Noemí’s cousin marries an English husband and writes a strange letter asking for help. She arrives at the estate and things are immediately weird and wrong – the village is deserted, the mine on the property is haunted, the walls talk…it’s a trip! The book is pure fiction and full of scary fun, so there’s not too much teaching about real-world issues. However, it was so interesting to read Moreno-Garcia’s book as she uses lots of Mexican cultural references and landmarks throughout – a mini education on some topics and places I had never heard of before.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel – This novel tells the story of a Columbian family split between living in the United States and Columbia and working tirelessly to be back together again. Talia, the youngest daughter of the family, has grown up in Columbia with her father and grandmother, while her mother, sister and brother live in the U.S. The book outlines the struggles of so many who are taken advantage of and live in constant fear simply because of their immigration status. For me, the book opened my eyes to how scary it must be to think at any minute your entire life could be stripped away and you would have to go to a country you’ve never lived in or visited, simply because you don’t have proper paperwork. I have recommended this book to everyone, and especially those who know people who have immigrated to the U.S. but don’t really understand the struggle and fear and the incredible hope it takes to do that.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi – This book was so beautiful and so challenging – I confess I cried at the end. The book opens with Vivek Oji dead, killed and left at his parents’ door. The book then outlines Vivek’s childhood and adolescence alongside the current day struggle of his mother trying to find answers and understand what happened. Emezi explores themes not only of race and racial struggle in the Nigerian community but also the struggles and triumphs of non-binary and non-cis people living in very rigid and traditional families and societies. The bittersweet ending of this books leaves you heart-broken and so happy at the same time. Emezi really did a spectacular job writing this story.
I hope you take the time to check these books out and expand outside of your usual comfort zone. And if you’re already doing that (congrats!), share with us some of your favorite novels by BIPOC authors. We don’t see enough advocacy for these types of books, and we can (and should) be part of that change.