Americanah

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes so passionately about love and culture in Americanah.  Ifemulu and Obinze meet as teens in Nigeria, both full of optimism for their future and love for each other. Trying to attend an university within a country under military rule becomes too difficult, Ifemulu is able to travel to America to complete her education. Obinze isn’t as lucky and tries to illegally live in Britain. Both travel roads of immigrants everywhere with varying degrees of success. They both find success, but feel that they aren’t living the life they wanted.

Years after their break-up, they reach out to one another from afar. During this love story, both have to deal with racism and being the other in another country. Adichie dives into race relations and differences from both perspectives. I feel like I learned a lot especially from Ifemulu’s time in American and her views  on American culture and racism.

Interesting, educational read. Read March 2019

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The Book of Unknown Americans

Cristina Henriquez’s The Book of Unknown Americans follows the story of a group of immigrants living in an apartment building. I read this without knowing it was a Young Adult novel, and didn’t enjoy it much. It adds a lot of details on how immigrants got to DE, the types of challenges they’re facing, and how they interact with each other and those in their communities.

While there interesting back stories, the relationships and stories that are told in current time don’t seem to have much in common until the very end. It felt like a hodgepodge of stories that are only linked because they live next door to each other. If someone thinks immigrants all have similar backstories, this novel might open their eyes on how different the experiences of immigrants can be. I don’t fall into this category and expected more than a collection of stories.

Read February 2018

An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock

Terry Shame’s An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock starts off with the grisly murder of a black family in the part of town where black families live. Several victims were shot and the the whole house was burned, leaving some of the victims bones fused together. Samuel Craddock in the new Chief of Police and this crime, while occurring in his town, falls outside of his dominion. Taking over the case is a racist Patrolman who seems to arrest the first black man that he finds any connection the the house.

Craddock has to break the silence of the justifiably stand-offish black community to try to save an innocent man from prison or an accident that often befall black men while in custody before any trial. Its an interesting look into how racism forces black communities to remain insulated even if an outsider is trying help.

Overall I really enjoyed the different layers of this novel. A lot about racism and how it can affect the criminal justice system. Also some about a reluctant police chief who cannot sit by and watch while crimes are brushed aside.

Read September 2017

 

Beloved

Beloved is so beautifully written, full of colors, and actual spoken language. Toni Morrison writes so that we can see everything. This can make it a little harder to read for some, but this was my second time reading it and the style and word choice became familiar and easier as I went through.

Beloved tells the story of the occupants of 124 Bluestone Road, a group of runaway and freed slaves connected by a man whose whereabouts couldn’t be confirmed. Within this home, Morrison shows the complexity of slaves’ lives and how it affects them well beyond the borders of the plantation. Sweet Home, the name of the plantation, was a ideal slaves home, but even with education and respect the slaves at Sweet Home realized how separate and poor their lives were and that this was neither their home, nor sweet. When a new overseer arrives, the slaves are treated worse than ever and a pregnant Selme escapes with her 3 children, but leaves her husband behind.

The story of Sweet Home is what connects Selme to her mother-in-law Baby Suggs, whose son, Halle, was able to work for her freedom. Selme and the other slaves at Sweet Home endured more that anyone should and Morrison doesn’t shy away from horrible acts of violence and the dehumanization of the men and women.

At 124 Bluestone Road, the occupants are haunted by the ghost of Selme’s little girl who died shortly after arriving at freedom. Her death and the relationship that Selme has with the surrounding free blacks is complicated and Morrison uses this to talk about the sin of pride and how easily joy can be construed as boastfulness. Its interesting that how the neighbors don’t warn Selme of the encroaching white men, and Baby Suggs believes that it was the punishment that comes from too much pride.

There’s so much in this book to enjoy and learn from. Theres a lot more to be horrified at and learn from. I read this book when I was younger, and again 20 years later. This is something that we need to remember. When you take away someone’s freedom, no matter what else you provide them with, they’ve lost too much.

Important and valuable novel.

Read August 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird

There is a reason that To Kill a Mockingbird remains one of the most recognizable titles and characters in modern literary culture. I read this when I was in high school and I didn’t remember much about it other than Boo Radley as the neighborhood ghost story. I think that I might have been too young or inexperienced with the world to understand the innate racism that pervades our country and how well Harper Lee captures it. Generation after generation were raised, especially in the south, to think of the black man as somehow separate from humanity. They were treated like chattel and it takes more than a law to change how someone feels and what they believe to be true.

Harper Lee’s choice to have the main protagonist as a young girl allowed her to explore the role of race as well as gender in a changing world. Scout’s tomboyishness is a reflection of the value she witnessed in the sexes. Its not until the end that Scout is exposed to how powerful and smart women are in their private world, so of course she would mimic the gender of the powerful.

While Scout’s struggles in her small world dominate the book, all of the characters’ struggle to understand human equality versus the racism they are witnessing are spelled out. Jem, on the verge of manhood, almost cannot bear to learn what the trial of Tom Robinson does to his small townsfolk. Atticus reached his children through his patience and his honesty. I don’t know if there will ever be a more honorable man than Atticus Finch and without his thorough teachings, I don’t think any of the children would be able to understand the significance of the events surrounding them.

Its not just Harper Lee’s grasp of the societal norms of a small southern town that makes this a great novel, its all the characters. Harper Lee created such memorable characters and her use of the southern vernacular brings the reader into this tiny world where there’s a reclusive hero down the street and a drunk stealing sips of coca cola from a bottle in a paper bag.

Beautiful, powerful story told by a great story teller. Most highly recommend this for everyone to read.

Read May 2014