Tag Archives: african americans

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

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I absolutely loved this book. I was hooked from the first page! The author tells a beautiful and emotional story while educating readers on difficult topics of racism, specifically within and between minority groups.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI, SMCM
Review Submitted by: Sarah Gleason
Rating:  Highly Recommend
Challenge: Tournament of Books

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennettra

book coverThe Vanishing Half is a multi-generational story about two twin sisters who, after leaving their small town for greener pastures, diverge on widely different paths. One decides to use her lighter skin to pass for white, while the other marries and has a dark skinned child. The story is told out of order, and has many time jumps, however this happens in chunks (rather than every chapter), so the narrative is still easy to follow. Be warned, this book has racism, colorism and abuse, so if you are looking for a lighthearted read this is not for you.

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Review Submitted by: Jo Hoppe
Rating:  Must Read
Challenge: Tournament of Books

 

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

book coverEvelyn Caldwell is at the forefront of her field… of human cloning. She has recently divorced her husband after discovering he was having an affair with a clone of herself. As Evelyn is attempting to adjust to her new life, she receives a call from Martine, the clone, asking to meet where Evelyn discovers that the clone is pregnant, something that should be impossible. Later, not knowing who else to turn to, Martine calls Evelyn asking for help disposing of her ex husband’s body.

Sarah Gailey is very good at crafting interesting, believable and flawed main characters. The Echo Wife is no exception to this and through Evelyn, Gailey explores what makes us human, our relationships and decisions, and self-actualization.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jo Hoppe
Rating:  Must Read

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

book cover(Deathless Divide is the sequel to Dread Nation.) After surviving their ordeal in the failed utopia of Summerland, Jane and Katherine have been separated and are on diverging paths. Jane, consumed by her need for revenge starts to lose herself as she hunts down the man responsible for so much death in his effort to cure the zombie outbreak. Katherine, believing Jane is dead, seeks out to start a new life in the reported zombie free California.

While I personally am not drawn to zombie books, I find myself thoroughly enjoying this series because the characters are vivid and interesting. This book is set in a post civil war America, where schools have been set up to teach Indigenous and African American children to slay the dead to keep white Americans safe. This series features diverse and lovable characters, with a dark and adventurous plot.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jo Hoppe
Rating:  Highly Recommended

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

book cover“If you don’t laugh you’ll cry” I found myself thinking with each turn of the page of You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism. These first person accounts of racism – stories that took place over the course of a woman’s life – bring to light the everyday racism people of color encounter from the overtly hostile to the laughably ignorant. Some of the stories I read and thought “yes, I can believe that happened” while others blew me away and left me thinking “I can’t believe that happened”. I think that was the author’s intent – to alert even racism-aware readers of the extent to which POC encounter these incidents on a day to day basis, as well as validate those people who have experienced similar incidents.

The book is written in a humorous fashion but don’t think that dilutes its message. It does not pull any punches when it comes to the actual stories. It is a good read for those wishing to understand more fully the extent of racism in this country. For those who do not believe racism exists, this might be a good book to introduce the subject. It is factual but not accusatory, humorous without being silly. A good conversation starter for those who need to be brought into the conversation.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Stephanie Marsich
Rating:  Must Read
Challenge: Published in 2021

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar

book coverYou’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism was a fast but difficult read. I kinda go into a downward spiral every time I think about it. I mean the US has a huge problem, but this isn’t just a US problem. Racist parties and leaders are getting voted in left and right the world over. Hungary just revoked the human rights they’d given LGBT people. I’ve heard more stories about Alexei Navalny’s health during imprisonment than Aung San Suu Kyi’s. There’s vaccine nationalism left and right and us-first politics when we all know that if we don’t stop the pandemic everywhere then it ends nowhere.

Throughout the book Amber and Lacey reassure the reader that they’re okay, they have happy lives. I’m glad they do but none of what they relate is okay and much of it is downright traumatizing. I knew that this kind of stuff went on, hell I was there when my husband got “randomly” checked five (!) times at O’Hare airport during our layover, causing us to miss our flight to DC. He told me how he’d had to stand in line with the other people of color and listen to TSA make racist jokes while waiting for all the “random” checks to be completed. I was there when they finally “randomly” checked his luggage before we got on another flight but not mine, despite the fact we were traveling together. But man I am still so naive as to how ubiquitous this is.

Read this or a similar book and do better.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Emily Nelson Ringholm, ’07
Rating:  Highly Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2201

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

book coverI found this to be a heartbreaking look into how our justice system treats people of color. In this book Stevenson, a lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, takes the reader through his legal journey to free Walter McMillian, a man sentenced to die for a murder he didn’t commit. Throughout the book Stevenson details his own encounters with racism as well as other cases in which people of color were wrongly accused of crimes. If you are looking to inform yourself on how the justice system can unfairly persecute people of color, this is a good book to start with.

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Review Submitted by:  Stephanie Marsich
Rating:  Highly Recommended

 

The Changeling by Victor LaValle.

cover artAfter Apollo and his wife welcomed their child into the world, his wife slowly becomes withdrawn and detached from the child. Slowly she becomes more unhinged and commits an unfathomable act for a mother and goes on the run. Apollo then embarks on a journey to find her. The Changeling is a modern reimagining of a fairytale using New York as a backdrop and modern technology which was interesting. Most of the book is a slow build up to a pretty quick conclusion, and probably could have been shorter.

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Submitted by: Joanne Hoppe
Rating: Recommended

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing

Homegoing is the story of two half sisters, one who is sold into slavery and one who marries a British officer, and their descendants. Each character has one chapter, so the book almost reads as a collection of short stories where some characters have a cameo. Each chapter also doesn’t have the year listed, so it is interesting to estimate when in history the character is living. Although the time which each character is short, it was easy to grow attached to each of them.

Availability: USMAI, COSMOS, SMCM
Review Submitted by:  Joanne Hoppe
Rating:  Highly Recommended

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton with Lara Love Hardin

book coverThe Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row

Books by people who have been exonerated and released from death row frustrate me. Sure, there are a few pages at the end when release day comes along and of course, thank heavens it finally did (I mark the day I got the phone call that my client’s death sentence, although not an exoneration, had been set aside as one of the most extraordinary days of my life). But what then? You can never give someone back the thirty years of their life that they lost as a result of a wrongful conviction. You can never take away the memory of living for three decades thinking that the government was going to extinguish your life soon or the smell of the burning flesh of the guy who the day before had been your neighbor on death row. They should never have been there in the first place.

I’d find it almost impossible to face that type of existence with grace. But not Anthony Ray Hinton. Initially (and understandably) angry and confused by the injustice that resulted in his arrest and conviction, Hinton made his peace with his situation and decided to use his time on the row productively; as he wrote, “Spending your days waiting to die is no way to live.” One of the first things he did was start a book club for death row inmates. He also tried to turn a collection of condemned men in individual cells into a community that supported each other and let the men going to their execution that someone cared about them. Following the evolution of Hinton’s growth into grace is the heart of this book.

Hinton’s book was a 2018 Oprah’s Book Club selection. If you liked the book and/or movie Just Mercy, you’ll like The Sun Does Shine because Bryan Stevenson was also Hinton’s attorney. Bryan wrote in his Foreward to the book that he had never represented anyone who inspired him more than Hinton – high praise indeed. The people who will likely read this book are those who are already cognizant of many of the flaws in the capital punishment system in this country. But the ones who need to read this book are people who cling to the naïve view that when it comes to the death penalty, juries do the right thing. Nope. For roughly every nine executions in this country since 1976, there’s been one exoneration from death row. As Bryan has said, if you knew that one of every nine planes was going to crash, would you ever fly again? Hinton’s book helps explain how these wrongful convictions happen.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Mary Hall
Rating:  Must Read

Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? by Mumia Abu-Jamal

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Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? is a collection of short essays written by Mumia Abu-Jamal from prison. Meant to be provocative, this book shows the raw emotion experienced in reaction to the injustice inflicted on African Americans in the United States. This book helped me better understand the outage and hurt black Americans go through every time another black person is killed at the hands of police. While this book is particularly topical now, it is definitely a must read at any point to gain a closer perspective to what is currently and has been happening. This book however does assume the reader knows the victims’ stories at times, so this is not a good choice if you would like to learn the series of events in some of these cases.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Joanne Hoppe
Rating:  Must Read

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the story of the HeLa cell line, a group of cells that can reproduce indefinitely, and the family of the woman who “donated” them. These cells have been used since they were first harvested from Henrietta Lacks, without her knowledge, in 1951 before she died from cancer at 31 years old. Since then her cell line has been replicated trillions of times, have been used to create the polio vaccine, cancer treatments, and has advanced researched into genetics, virology and many other fields. The author developed a very close relationship with the family and tells their story with empathy and in a tactful way. The science is also outlined so it’s understandable without any background knowledge.

Availability:  COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Joanne Hoppe
Rating:  Must Read