In the beautiful wisdom of of the Reading Rainbow theme song, I’d like to invite you all to take a look, because it’s in a book. A reading rainbow.
Something magical happened that will change my life for the better ever after.
I learned that I can borrow audiobooks from the San Francisco library from an app on my phone. Everyone: This is revolutionary for an audiobook fiend like myself. Like a junky, I have spent nearly a year trying to get by on my one measly Audible audiobook a month subscription plan (that I used my adult money to finally subscribe too) and filled in the rest of my days with podcasts (not the worst, but just sayin’). When I discovered that I could borrow audiobooks from the library digitally, I was beside myself with joy. I’ve told nearly everyone I’ve met about it even though they don’t really care. I can get nearly all the books I want directly into my hearing holes! ::TEARS::. (I have already read 10 books since January 1).
The very first book I checked out? Between the World and Me—they had it! It’s been on my to-read list for over a year now and I was so excited. This is a beautiful, beautiful book that should be on everyone’s to-read. It reads like poetry and I’m so glad I got to hear his story. If you only read one book this year (why would you do that though?), this might be it.
When I finished, it happened to be February 1st and my app was recommending a bunch of other similar books…oh wait, it was Black History Month. As a terrible human who doesn’t do nearly enough to help others on this unforgiving planet, I thought maybe one small way I could understand someone else’s life was to read books by black authors this month (although it took a little longer to finish them). I realized that I have been reading so many non-fiction science/psychology books lately and haven’t really dove into stories in a while.
Every bookworm will tell you, books are window into another life. It’s one of the few ways to immerse yourself in another’s experiences and feelings. It’s really incredible how powerful books can be. I haven’t read a huge diversity of authors besides White Dudes so I thought this was the perfect nudge in that direction. I have this belief that if you read and feel for another person’s experience it just has to change how you act in the world. I wonder what kind of story needs to be told in order to change someone’s mind. Statistics are great and help us make hard decisions. But the humanities keep us human.
Here are the books I read:
I’ll continue by struggling to describe these books adequately…and still failing:
I already gushed about Between the World and Me. This book is a letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates to his son about the history of black lives who have shaped race in America. He maybe doesn’t offer hard advice on how to deal with it, but surveys what his son’s experience will be like. (this is pitiful, please just read the book).
Negroland by Margo Jefferson. I think I saw someone tumblr about this and coyly added it to my to-read list. It was a good book, but honestly it was a little hard to follow Coates. In this memoir, Jefferson details all the different unspoken rules she had to follow in Negroland, the parallel experience she and the other upper-crust black.
12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup. This book is so sad to read (#understatement). If you’ve seen the movie, you can imagine a little bit about how awful the things described in this book are. If you’re like me, while reading you will periodically re-remember this slave story is an honest-to-goodness real memoir and you will despair forever.
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable. Ok, so I actually wanted to read his autobiography but they didn’t have it or I had to wait for it so I listened to this instead. I don’t regret it, I think if/when I do read his autobiography later, it was great to first get this more subjective background on his experiences and details of what was happening in his life that might not come out in his autobiography.
You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson. I listen to 2 Dope Queens so this had been on my list for a bit as well. As I was explaining to some of my friends, this probably had too much pop culture and general side noise for my tastes, but I really appreciated the book overall and did learn some stuff. I am doubly happy I listened her reading it on audiobook because I suspected I’d be super confused if I tried to read all her jokes in plain text. Plus she reads it hilariously.
And I’ll sneak this one even though I finished this in November 2016: Katie lent me Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay while I was in New York last. It was a good refresher for all the resisting we will have to to do for the next four years. While I believe in equality, I did not think that I would ever be the sort of person who would be political or read a book about feminism, even though I do really enjoy having with discussion with people about different social issues. It was a refreshing, honest read about both feminism and race and would love to read her other books as well.
Alright, so that’s that little thing I did and I hope you consider reading a more diverse selection of books in 2017. I’m embarrassed at my inability to better describe the stories despite just reading them and being an English major, but I’m going to go with: feelings are hard to describe.