Beautifully entwining the folklore of two cultures, The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker takes place in turn of the 19th century New York City. Immigrants of different backgrounds pour into the city every day, bringing their customs and magic with them. A gentle golem named Chava and a listless jinni named Ahmad each find themselves unexpectedly in the same part of the world. How long until their paths cross and what will happen when they do? Continue reading “Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker”
Six months into 2018, I am well on track to meet my reading goal: making sure one third of all books I read this year represent diverse perspectives. For the sake of definitions, that means books that feature religious, racial, differently-abled, gender, or sexual-orientation minorities as major, multi-faceted characters and/or were were written by authors of color. So far, I’ve read 35 books,17 of which (49%! ) meet my diversity criteria. Here are some of my favorites:
Move over, Middle Earth and Westeros—make way for Feng Lu, the epic East Asian-inspired fantasy kingdom of Julie C. Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. In this first installment of the Rise of the Empress series, beautiful Xifeng chases her destiny through the Great Forest and into the halls of the imperial palace, with all its schemes and machinations, ready to do what it takes to come out on top. The reader soon learns that this may not be the story of a hero, after all, but rather the origin of a villain.
Lula Mortiz always thought her story would be a love story. What she gets instead is a zombie story. Except the zombies are actually casimuertos—they eat hearts instead of brains and are usually raised by a grieving lover. Bruja Born is the second installment of Zoraida Córdova’s Brooklyn Brujas series, focusing on Lula Mortiz, older sister to Alex, who championed the first book in the series, Labyrinth Lost.
The Belles was the talk of book twitter preceding its debut in February, and I must say, it lived up to the hype! Exquisite imagery dances off every page, immersing us in the world of Orléans, where a gifted few have the ability to magically alter the dull, gray appearances of their countrymen into something vivid and beautiful. The Belles control beauty. But who controls the Belles?
An arranged marriage is the last thing Dimple Shah wants. Like many second-generation Americans, Dimple sometimes has trouble seeing eye to eye with her Indian-born parents and marriage is an issue on which she certainly won’t budge. That’s why her parents don’t tell her that sending her to coding camp is really an excuse to introduce her to the son of a family friend. When Dimple finds out, she’s furious. But she also can’t help being intrigued by handsome, earnest Rishi Patel.
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty is a YA/New Adult fantasy novel that takes place in the Middle East, in a distinctly Muslim setting, depicting with magic and wonder a region too often viewed with suspicion and contempt here in the U.S. I love this book for its epic world-building; Chakraborty takes the concept of djinn (a.k.a. genies), and explodes it into a complex society with its own history, prejudices, and machinations. Let me tell you all about it!
To continue my series highlighting diverse authors I’ve seen speak, I would like to introduce the Nigerian feminist writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Known for her novels (Americanah, etc.), essays (Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions), and TEDTalks (We Should All Be Feminists), Adichie brings a necessary international perspective to discussions in race, gender, storytelling, and feminism.
Last autumn, I was lucky enough to attend a book signing by Amy Tan, promoting her new book Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir. As one of the big names writing about Asian American experiences, you may know her as the author of The Joy Luck Club, The Valley of Amazement, or even Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat. I use this “author spotlight” heading to profile authors I’ve met, new authors, diverse authors, or authors I just think everyone should know about. Below I will discuss some of the themes in Tan’s books and life that relate to diversity as well as some fun facts to paint a picture of her as more than just “that second-generation Chinese American who writes about moms and daughters.”
Every year, inspired by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, I strive to read as many books as possible that support and represent minority groups traditionally left out of the publishing industry. In 2017, although I did not set any numerical reading goals, I did make an active effort to seek out works with LGBT representation, disabilities representation, and/or by authors of color. These works ended up comprising one quarter of all the books I read last year – a much heftier proportion than in previous years. Below is a list of some of the books I read. Feel free to use it as inspiration for your own diverse reading! Continue reading “Diverse Reads of 2017”