Updated: Dec 15, 2019
"Life-transforming ideas have always come to me through books." -bell hooks.
I’m so excited to write this blog; it's been living in my head and heart for weeks! By now, I hope it's obvious that I take my book life seriously. It's not hyperbolic to say that some of my deepest relationships and certainly, all of my longest ones have been with books. They have been my most consistent teachers, accountability partners and true messengers. As I reflect on 2019 and all the small moments that made it special, more alive and me, more human, at the center, lies a book.
The list of books below represents pieces of me; some of which I am just meeting for the very first time in my 40th year. See, that's the thing about the bookish life. If you're reading the right book at the right time and you're paying attention, growth is inevitable. Suffice it to say, this year has been marked by quite a bit of shocking yet satisfying discoveries and as a result, I like myself more! Seriously Fam, the me that I am now, is a lot more diverse in interest and I love it! It's an exciting and fresh experience getting acquainted with myself all over again. And, I finally get to share which books lay at the center of it all.
I wrote an entire blog about this so, it actually feels unfair to put it on the list however; it really was one of my favorite books of 2019. I simply can’t leave it off!
How do I begin to describe this book? For me, it’s the ultimate modern Feminist collection of stories. When I say modern, I’m talking less about the substance of the stories; the trials and tribulation of womxn and their bodies has stood the test of time. Rather, I’m speaking more to the non-linear, fantastical way it’s written.
I literally had to turn something off to allow other parts of me to emerge. And once I resigned myself to this process; the act of reading outside the box, allowed for a stretching of my mind and in turn, ushered in a more visceral experience. Age old stories of transgressions against womxn's bodies landed differently inside of me; I cried and exalted from new places. It was hard and beautiful all at once.
A story about spirituality, otherness, mental health, gender-based sexual violence, gender non-conformity, “liminal spaces“ and beyond, this book is certainly complicated to work through. Many aspects of it resonated with me however; as with most things in life, the thing that continues to pulsate is the thing that I am currently working through: the urgent need for more diverse and divergent therapist.
As a social worker of color who is currently working toward the clinical license, this book affirmed my personal experience with clinicians who are unable to work outside of the confines of western, white ways of understanding and healing. Sometimes a ritual is needed, a spiritual bath or a few stones. For me, it felt like a call to action of sorts. Powerful.
Bottom Line: I feel smarter because of this book.
Of call the books I read this year, this was by far the most challenging and rewarding. The entire premise of "world building" was foreign to me; my reading brain has never been asked to work in this way. I felt inadequate and frustrated until I found the glossary! And, that was the end of that. Please know that I'm laughing now however; I wasn't then. There was a small part of me that considered giving up. In those moments, I dug in. I wanted to hear what this Black author who is slaying in the sci-fi world had to say. And although I'm unsure if she identifies this way, to me she’s the new age Black Feminist!
This book is a masterpiece in terms of infrastructure and storytelling. Every page asked me to hold multiple realities at once, associations to slavery and the violence inflicted on womxn’s bodies via mass reproduction, my own feelings of rage, sadness and love while inviting me to imagine what it would take to "make things right” in an unjust world. Clearly in Yumenes and america, it will be Black womxn’s work. I'm still sitting with my feelings because what will it take?
My 2019 most favorite read - hands down was Normal People. In fact, it has been inducted to my favorite books of all time - joining the ranks of The Bluest Eye, 100 Years of Solitude and The Good Earth. This is one of the best and bravest love stories I've read since Americanah and An American Marriage.
This book is many exceptional things however; at its core is a stark look at young love at the intersections of class, gender expectations, sexual violence and mental health. It’s a tragedy; a beautiful first love tragedy. We see two people who obviously love one another stumble and fall throughout the entire book. Even at the bitter end and on the last page, they're still trying to figure things out. As a lover of love who still hasn't cracked the code, who is still tripping and stumbling, I felt less alone the entire ride. It seems as though so many of us are still trying to figure it all out, right Ife and Celestial?
Every book on this list is smart,
complicated, and intersectional. Most importantly they inspire growth which is love in action - the best kind of partner. I look forward to a lifetime together.