Category Archives: Reading Challenge

February TBR and Book List: #ReadYourResistance and Black History Month

I decided a while back to do some mini themed reading challenges in 2017 that I create for myself in order to make it easier to pick what to read next out of a few hundred titles on my TBR. These challenges follow various history, heritage, and awareness months in the U.S. Though this decision predates and wasn’t inspired by #ReadYourResistance, it ties in neatly with that hashtag, which symbolizes a commitment to reading books by marginalized voices to challenge the dominant narratives that dehumanize them and to fight the increase in persecution of marginalized people under Trump’s regime.

February is Black History Month, so most of my TBR will be books by Black authors. Aside from the books I want to read for the month of February, I’m also listing January and February releases by Black authors, some already released books by Black authors on my 2017 TBR that I won’t get to in February, and books featuring Black characters (mostly #ownvoices) that are coming out later this year. And lastly, I’ll list a few February releases by non-black authors that I’m looking forward to.

(Note: Release dates are U.S. release dates.)

Books by Black Authors I Plan to Read in February

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Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

This book is a sort-of Snow White retelling that tackles the complex issue of mixed race identity and “passing” for white, with critical attention to racialized beauty standards. I’d already seen it here and there, and when Barnes & Noble was selling a copy at a reduced price a few months ago, I snatched it up. I’ve heard that there is some problematic content, so I’ll be on the lookout for that so I can discuss it in my review.

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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

I was first introduced to her through two different TED talks, one on feminism, the other on the “danger of a single story” and stereotyping. I read We Should All Be Feminists about a year or two ago and have been meaning to read the rest of her work. Americanah shall be that first step toward that goal. It’s a story of race, romance, and immigration that spans three continents, Africa (Lagos, Nigeria), North America, and Europe (London, England).

All of Nnedi Okorafor’s books, aside from Akata Witch, which I read in December last year.

She writes both YA and adult SFF and has won multiple awards (the Hugo, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Awards, among others) for her books. She’s Nigerian (Igbo) American and draws on her Nigerian heritage and West African cultures for her work.

  •  Zahrah the Windseeker – YA, fantasy, in the kingdom of Ooni, those born with the dadalocks are feared for their powers. Zahrah is one such person, and when her friend Dari is endangered, she is forced to confront the things that make her different
  • The Shadow Speaker – YA, science fiction, in 2070 Niger, a young woman seeks revenge for her father’s murder and finds herself on a trans-Saharan quest to save her people from a force that threatens to annihilate them all
  • Binti – Science fiction, when Binti becomes the first of her people to be accepted at the prestigious Oomza, the best university in the galaxy, she must leave her family and travel among people who neither understand nor respect her culture
  • Binti: Home (Sequel to Binti)
  • Kabu-Kabu – Anthology, SFF, a collection of short stories that take you to far-flung places of magic, adventure, and danger
  • Who Fears Death – Science fiction, as a biracial child of rape, Onyesonwu (“Who Fears Death?”) faces prejudice wherever she goes. However, she has great powers and an even greater destiny
  • The Book of Phoenix (Who Fears Death #2)
  • Lagoon – Science fiction – after a large object crashes into the sea on the coast of Lagos, Nigeria, three people from different walks of life must work together to save the country they love

All of N.K. Jemisin’s books.

Also a multi-award-winning author (the Hugo and the Locus). She has three different adult SFF series so far.

The Inheritance Trilogy:

  1. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – Yeine Darr hails from the north, and when her mother dies, she is summoned to the city of Sky, ruled by the Arameri family and named an heir to the king. However, her ascendance isn’t a given, and she must compete for the throne with many cousins.
  2. The Broken Kingdoms
  3. The Kingdom of Gods

The Dreamblood Duology:

  1. The Killing Moon – In the city of Gujaareh, the Gatherers maintain order by harnessing the power of sleeping minds to heal and kill those deemed corrupt. Peace reigns until Ehiru, the most famous of these Gatherers, realizes that someone is killing innocents in the name of the Goddess.
  2. The Shadowed Sun

The Broken Earth Trilogy:

  1. The Fifth Season – Chaos has struck in just one day. An empire falls, a continent rends in two, spewing ash to blacken the sky, and in a small town, a woman named Essun loses her son to murder and her daughter to kidnapping at the hands of her own husband. Resources are scarce, everyone is fighting for their survival, and Essun will do anything to save her daughter, even if it means breaking the world itself.
  2. The Obelisk Gate
  3. Book 3 is not out yet, but it’s called The Stone Sky and is releasing later this year on August 17th!

Two books by Octavia Butler.

Octavia Butler is one of the most well-known Black women in science fiction. Her books are considered classics by some and overlooked by many because of racism/misogynoir, of course. Here are my two picks:

  • Kindred – Described as a “combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction,” this book is about an African American woman who travels backward in time in order to save her own ancestor.
  • Parable of the Sower Given the current state of affairs in U.S. politics, it feels appropriate for me to read a dystopian novel by a Black woman.

Parable of the Sower is the #DSFFBookClub (Diverse Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club, hosted by Naz at Read Diverse Books) pick for February, so if you want to read and participate in a discussion at the end of the month, definitely join us. 😀

January Releases and February Releases by Black Authors

  • Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson – MG, historical fiction, a fictionalized account of the Emmett Till case through the perspective of a young black girl in Jim Crow era Mississippi
  • Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson – YA, contemporary, tackles systemic racism in the American justice system through the story of a Black teen girl in the foster care system who allegedly murdered a baby (note: I’ve seen reviews/comments from diverse book bloggers about problematic content re: homophobia, rape apologism, anti-Indian racism, etc., so be careful if you are planning to read this)
  • The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley – MG, contemporary, three kids, Elvin, Jin, and Alex, work together to solve the mystery of what happened to Elvin’s grandfather, only to stumble on priceless artworks that might just save their neighborhood from gentrification by a wealthy politician
  • Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson (out Feb. 14th) – YA, contemporary, addresses the intersections of racism, classism, sexism, sizeism/fatphobia and more through the story of a Black girl who attends an elite, mostly white school
  • American Street by Ibi Zoboi (out Feb. 14th) – YA, contemporary, focuses on a Haitian American immigrant girl trying to fit in and her mother’s undocumented immigration experience
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (out Feb. 28th) – YA, contemporary, a novel inspired by Black Lives Matter that addresses police brutality and systemic antiblack racism through the story of a girl who witnesses an unarmed friend’s fatal shooting at the hands of police

Later 2017 Releases by Black Authors

  • One Shadow on the Wall by Leah Henderson (out June 6th; Black author) – MG, magical realism, the story of a Senegalese boy dealing with the difficulty of keeping his family together and honoring a promise to his deceased father after he and his sisters are orphaned
  • Solo by Kwame Alexander (out July 25th; Black Author) – YA, contemporary, a novel-in-verse about a Black teen whose father is a famous musician with an addiction problem as he explores family secrets and forbidden love
  • Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert (out Aug. 8th; Black author) – YA, contemporary, a Black Jewish girl moves back home to L.A., helps her brother with his bipolar disorder, and falls in love with the same girl he loves
  • Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi (out Sep. 26th; Nigerian American author) – YA, fantasy, a debut novel featuring a talented young sin-eater who is called upon to eat the sin-beast of a royal, only to find himself caught in a web of political intrigue that puts the life of the princess he loves at stake
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone (out Oct. 17th; Black author) – YA, contemporary, a incisive story about police brutality from the perspective of a Black teen whose status at the top of his elite prep school doesn’t prevent him from being racially profiled
  • My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi (release date TBA; Haitian American author) – MG, historical fiction, a young Black scifi geek girl tries to find a place to belong in the 80s hip-hop explosion in Harlem
  • Akata Warrior (Sequel to Akata Witch) by Nnedi Okorafor (release date TBA; Nigerian American author) – MG/YA, fantasy, no blurb yet, but I’m sure Sunny and her friends return for another juju-filled adventure

Already Released Books by Black Authors I’d Like to Read in 2017

  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – MG, memoir, novel-in-verse, tells the story of the author’s experience growing up as a Black girl in the Civil Rights era of the 60s and 70s and the joy she found in words and writing
  • Pointe by Brandy Colbert – YA, contemporary, a story of a Black ballerina that addresses heavy topics like eating disorders and child sexual abuse
  • The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds – YA, contemporary, a young Black teen deals with the loss of his mother and his absent father’s alcoholism while working at a funeral home and meets a girl who gives him hope
  • This Side of Home by Renée Watson – YA, contemporary, identical twins Nikki and Maya start to diverge when they go off to attend college at a historically black college and develop different opinions on the importance of home and their ethnicity and culture
  • Endangered by Lamar Giles – YA, contemporary, a Black teen runs an anonymous blog on her high school’s scandals and ends up drawn into a deadly game by someone who threatens to expose her identity
  • Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin – YA, contemporary, a Haitian American girl struggles to live a normal life and change her situation for the better after her abusive father is taken away
  • All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds – YA, contemporary, a Black teen, Rashad, is beaten by the police for supposedly stealing when he didn’t, a white teen, Quinn, witnesses it, and when the incident becomes national news and the center of a debate on police brutality and systemic racism, all of a sudden Quinn’s silence is no longer just a personal choice
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander – MG, contemporary, this novel-in-verse tells the tale of twins Josh and Jordan as they play basketball and learn lessons about life both on and off the court
  • Perfect Liars by Kimberly Reid – YA, contemporary, interracial romance (Black girl, Korean boy), when Drea’s parents disappear, her perfect girl facade as junior class valedictorian begins to crumble and she finds herself in the company of delinquents from her school who share more in common with her than one might expect

Nonfiction Books About Black Women

  • Redefining Realness by Janet Mock: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More – in this memoir, Janet Mock, a Black trans woman activist, talks about her transition and the struggles to live her life as her authentic self
  • Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland – in her memoir, ballet prodigy Misty Copeland recounts her path from living in a motel room to becoming a successful professional dancer and the first Black principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly – in this historical biography, Margot Lee Shetterly tells the stories of four extraordinary Black women (Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden), who worked at NASA during the height of the Space Race and an era of segregation and Jim Crow laws and made monumental contributions to their field
  • Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles – Gymnastics champion and Olympian Simone Biles shares the story of her journey to becoming a gymnast with the help of faith and family
  • Black Girl Dangerous on Race, Queerness, Class and Gender by Mia Mckenzie – in this honest, humorous, and accessible essay anthology, popular blogger and activist Mia McKenzie shares stories about intersectionality, identity, activism, and allyship from the perspective of a queer Black woman

Some Highly Anticipated February Book Releases by Non-Black Authors

  • Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones (out Feb. 7th; Korean American author) – YA, fantasy, An atmospheric retelling that chronicles the life of a girl after she trades her life to save her sister’s and binds herself to the Goblin King in marriage
  • Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza (out Feb. 7th; Filipina American author) – YA, SFF, an intergalactic adventure of political intrigue, war, and vengeance that brings together two people from very different walks of life, one a princess, the other a war refugee turned superstar
  • The Education of Margot Sanchez (out Feb. 21st; Puerto Rican author) – YA, contemporary, a Puerto Rican girl in the Bronx learns a lesson about privilege and gentrification when she gets into trouble borrowing her dad’s credit card
  • The Ship Beyond Time (Sequel to The Girl from Everywhere) by Heidi Heilig (out Feb. 28th; biracial white/Chinese American author) – YA, fantasy, Nix and the diverse crew of the Temptation are back for another time-traveling adventure

#DiverseAThon TBR

I decided to join the #DiverseAThon initiative. It’s a low-stress reading initiative where you read diverse books from January 22nd to January 29th. There are no reading prompts or minimum requirements. You get to pick how many and which books you’d like to read. The point is to diversify your reading and participate in discussions and/or Instagram prompts to share your progress and experiences. You can find more information about the schedule for discussions on Twitter by checking out @DiverseAThon/#DiverseAThon.

Since I failed at my most recent bookish goals (didn’t quite get blackout on #DiversityDecBingo, only read half of the 7 books for #DAReadathon), I’ve decided to take it easy this time and not stress myself out setting overly ambitious goals. Thus, I’m focusing mostly on shorter books for MG and younger YA audiences.

I picked these out based on the idea of diversity within diversity. Five of these books feature South Asian characters, but they’re from a variety of cultural, linguistic, regional, and/or religious backgrounds.

In addition, I decided to read some older diverse books, published a few years ago (or even longer). The diversity in publishing movement only blossomed in the past two years, so older books tend to slip between the cracks, overshadowed by the hype of newer/upcoming releases.

the-abyss-surrounds-usThe Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (2016) – YA, science fiction

This book has been on my TBR forever, so I decided to bump it up, just in time for the upcoming release of the sequel. It’s a science fiction pirate adventure with sea monsters and f/f romance and a Chinese protagonist.

god-smites-and-other-muslim-girl-problemsGod Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems by Ishara Deen (2017) – YA, mystery

A Bengali Canadian Muslim girl deals with teenage growing pains while trying to solve a murder mystery. I just interviewed the author a week ago. You can read the interview here!

child-of-springChild of Spring by Farhana Zia (2016) – MG, contemporary

A middle grade contemporary set in a small village in India, this book explores class privilege through the perspective of a young girl who is a servant to a rich girl.

paris-pan-takes-the-dareParis Pan Takes the Dare by Cynthea Liu (2009) – MG, Contemporary

A middle grade story about a Chinese American girl who’s new to town and is put to the test by her peers exploring the mystery of the supposedly haunted shed in her backyard.

the-not-so-star-spangled-life-of-sunita-senThe Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen by Mitali Perkins (1993, 2005) – YA, contemporary

A second generation teen struggles to find her place in between two cultures, American and Indian/Bengali. I found this book at a used bookstore and snatched it up since it was only $2.50. It was originally published under a different title in 1993, meaning it’s as old as I am (wowzers), and was republished in 2005.

shine-coconut-moonShine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger (2009) – YA, contemporary

This book features a Punjabi Sikh American girl who learns more about her heritage when her estranged uncle shows up in her life in the aftermath of 9/11.

swimming-in-the-monsoon-seaSwimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai (2005) – YA, contemporary

During monsoon season of 1980, an orphaned Sri Lankan boy grapples with his sexuality when his cousin arrives from Canada. There aren’t nearly enough queer South Asian books out there, so I’m excited to read this one. The author is gay and mixed Sinhalese/Tamil.

#DiversityBingo2017 TBR and Book Suggestions

With a new year on its way, I’m renewing my commitment to reading diverse books. Here’s one of the reading challenges that I’ll be tackling. The goal is to fill all of the squares on the board by reading a book that corresponds to the square. You can show your participation and track other people’s progress with the hashtag #diversitybingo2017 on Twitter. Aside from being a year-long challenge as opposed to a month-long one like #DiversityDecBingo, #DiversityBingo2017 encourages reading #ownvoices books (books where the author shares the same marginalization[s] as the main character).

Although not all of the squares are marked as #ownvoices, I’m striving to read #ownvoices for as many as possible. Below is the board, plus my picks for my bingo TBR and some suggestions for people who are looking for books to read. For books that are being released in 2017 and have set release dates, I have put the [U.S.] release month/date in parentheses. Books listed under categories that aren’t designated as #ownvoices on the board will be labeled with #ownvoices where applicable. For books that I’ve reviewed, I’ve linked my review.

In the case where I couldn’t find [m]any #ownvoices books, I’ve included some non-#ownvoices books that I’ve done my best to curate based on recommendations and reviews by people who belong to the community/identity represented.

If I am mistaken about any book being #ownvoices or you have seen (from your own reading or from reviews calling out) problematic representation in any of these books,  or you have more detailed info on any MC’s ethnic background (I tried to be as specific as possible based on the information I could find), or any other errors, please let me know so I can correct and update my list! Thanks!

I did my best to include books across different genres, media, and target age group, so hopefully there’s something for everyone here. If you are looking for more places to find books for the challenge, I recommend checking out the links on my Resources page.

Hope you join the challenge, and happy reading! 🙂

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Continue reading #DiversityBingo2017 TBR and Book Suggestions

Dumbledore’s Army Readathon TBR

I’m planning to participate in a Harry Potter themed readathon for the first two weeks of January, from the 1st to the 15th. It’s being hosted by Aentee at Read at Midnight. Basically, you join a Hogwarts House, pick your books based on the seven different spell prompts, and then read the books to earn points for your House. There are ways to earn extra points that are listed in the link above.

My Hogwarts House is Ravenclaw!

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My Book Picks for Each Prompt

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My Pick: Lightspeed Magazine’s People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy! Special Issue, Guest Edited by Daniel Jose Older

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My favorite genre is fantasy, no competition. It’s so hard to find SFF by POC that I’m super excited to read an entire anthology dedicated to fantasy by POC. I actually backed the original Kickstarter campaign to make it (as well as POC Destroy Science Fiction! and POC Destroy Horror!) happen, and the original goal was to fund the SciFi issue with the Fantasy issue as a stretch goal. I’m glad that the Fantasy stretch goal was reached because now I have two speculative fiction anthologies to read. 🙂

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My Pick: In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

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This book takes place during the Cambodian civil war and genocide. It’s not often you see Cambodian characters in fiction. Cambodian Americans are among the most marginalized ethnic groups under the Asian American umbrella. Because the majority of first generation Cambodian Americans were refugees, they did not have the elite backgrounds of the Asian immigrants who came under the provisions of the 1965 Immigration Act that gave preference to highly educated immigrants. On average, Cambodian Americans have lower rates of higher education completion, higher rates of poverty, etc. Most of what I know about Cambodian history is from my Asian American studies classes, plus documentaries I watched in 2015 and 2016: The Killing Fields of Haing S. Ngor, directed by Arthur Dong and New Year Baby, directed by Socheata Poeuv. This will be my first #ownvoices book by a Cambodian author.

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My Pick: When Fox is a Thousand by Larissa Lai

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Larissa Lai is a Chinese Canadian author, and I’ve had her two novels, Salt Fish Girl and When Fox is a Thousand, on my TBR forever. I bought them in summer of 2015, but my TBR pile is so enormous that I just never got around to them. When Fox Is A Thousand features a fox spirit, and since I love the mythology surrounding fox spirits in Chinese folklore, I knew I had to read this book.

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My Pick: Dove Arising by Karen Bao

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This is another book I’ve had sitting on my TBR forever. It’s a YA scifi novel set in the future, when humans have colonized the moon. The main character is of Chinese descent, but the story isn’t about her being Chinese, which is cool. Her mother gets arrested, and all of a sudden her plans for the future get thrown into disarray.

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My Pick: Song of the Cuckoo Bird by Amulya Malladi

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Also had this on my TBR for a while. It’s a historical fiction novel that begins in the 1940s and spans decades, telling the story of a young Indian girl who chooses to flee her marriage and begin a life at an ashram (a monastery). There, she becomes a part of a family of women who are outcasts.

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My Pick: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

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I just bought this book a week or two ago. I can’t wait to actually read it since it’s been on my radar a long time. It’s a fantasy book set in an alternate Regency era England where there’s a society dedicated to maintaining the magic of the kingdom. It features POC as main characters, which is great because a lot of people seem to think POC sprang up circa 1965 when we’ve been around forever.

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My Pick: Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios

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I’ve found out about the existence of this anthology a while back but forgot about it for some time until Glaiza recommended one of the short stories included in it, Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon by Ken Liu. It’s a lesbian retelling of a Chinese myth. The 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese calendar is the Qixi Festival, also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day, which marks the reunion of the Cowherd and the Weaver (Altair and Vega), who were placed in the sky as constellations and separated by the Silver River (The Milky Way) as a punishment for their forbidden love.

#DiversityDecBingo TBR List

So I’m participating in a month-long event that focuses on reading diversely, and the goal is to fill one row (horizontally, vertically, diagonally) on the bingo sheet (see below) by reading one book per prompt on during the month of December. Winners will get entered in a giveaway for a free book. You can learn more here and follow the buzz on this event by looking at the #DiversityDecBingo hashtag on Twitter. Below is the Bingo Board and my list of books I’ll be reading for each prompt. I’m feeling ambitious, so I’m aiming to get a blackout, or as close as possible. I’ll link my review for each book on this post once I post it.

If you need help finding books for this challenge, check out the books in my review index and my TBR list because basically all of them fulfill one or more of the prompts.

diversity-december-bingo

Non-Western Cultural Fantasy

Non-binary Main Character

  • Pantomime by Laura Lam

Refugee Main Character

POC Superheroes

Chronic Pain Sufferers

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Demisexual Main Character

  • Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Muslim Main Character

Trans Main Character

Diverse Non-fiction

  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

POC or Interracial M/M

Mental Health Awareness

Asian Main Character (might as well be a free space for me lol)

Free Space

  • Exo by Fonda Lee

Own Voices

Non-Western (Real World) Setting

POC on Book Covers

POC with Natural Hair

Disabled Main Character

SFF w/ LGBTQIA+ Main Character

Pansexual Main Character

Indigenous Main Character

F/F Romance

Biracial Main Character

Neurodiversity

Asexual or Aromantic Main Character

  • Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore