I stepped outside of my box when it came to my book selections in 2010. I really wanted get out of the rut of reading the same types of books by the same types of authors and I think I achieved that goal. I read quite a few books last year and surprisingly my favorite books were the ones that weren’t the type that I usually read.
Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo
When I feel like I’ve read everything there is to read I log in to Amazon to look for books that are far away from the sites recommendations and my comfort zone. After that I log in to my library search engine and place books on hold get it poppin’. This book was one of those random finds. The story centers around Mala Ramchandin, her sister, Asha, and the other inhabitants of the fictional Caribbean island of Lantanacamara. We are introduced to Mala when she is admitted to an elderly home among suspicions of her being a murderer and all out crazy. Tyler, the first male nurse in Lantanacamara is the only nurse who’ll take care of Mala and is also the narrator for the story. The story centers around their unconventional friendship, while attempting to make sense of Mala’s sordid childhood, alcoholic father and missing mother and sister. It took me a while to get into this book because I had no idea what was going on the first couple chapters, but, once I realized who was narrating the story and that the author refers to the character Asha by different names I couldn’t put the book down. The sights and smells were so vivid that I can still remember them months later while writing this review.
River Cross My Heart by Breena Clarke An Oprah’s book club recommendation; this is the story of Johnnie Mae, a young African American woman living in the Jim Crow South who must deal with the tragic loss of her younger sister Clara, for which she feels responsible, and the racist town she lives in all while trying to make it through adolescence. This is one of those stories that really doesn’t have much of a storyline but is still good because the writing is amazing…if that even makes sense. It focuses on the many impacts of racism, some that I had never even realized. And while the novel was hard for me to read at times because of the depressing subject matter, I think the death of Clara was added to the story to for the reader to ponder if the racist society they lived in inadvertently caused her death. Thanks O!
The Six Liter Club by Harry Kraus The Six Liter Club is about the life of Dr. Camille Weller, the first African-American woman trauma surgeon of the Medical College of Virginia. “Six Liter Club” refers to the illustrious club for those few surgeons that are able to save a patient who has lost six liters of blood and Camille becomes a member of the club within the first few days of her residency. Camille must fight racism and sexism in her career and also struggles to fight the demons of a past that she has a hard time remembering but still manages to haunt her daily. This book was written by a white author about a African-American woman and centers around themes unfamiliar to those outside of the medical community like myself, so I wasn’t really sure about this book. I think most of us can relate to Camille’s plight on some level, though, and if not, you should at least get a kick out of some of the drama in the novel because there is plenty from start to finish.
Girls Of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea
Like a Saudi Arabian Sex And The City, Girls of Riyadh follows the lives of Gamrah, Lamees, Michelle and Sadeem, four upper-class women who have more drama than a little bit. This book was a Dollar Tree find. When I picked it up, I had no idea this book was banned in Saudi Arabia because of the risqué subject matter (which would be considered tame here) about sex, love and the freedom to marry who we choose. The book is told from the perspective of a mystery woman who is familiar with all of the ladies but never reveals herself and tells stories of the ladies lives from a Yahoo chat group weekly. I love that the author was able to teach those of us on the outside about her culture while also managing to provide an entertaining read. So glad I had the chance to read this novel.
Some Sing, Some Cry by Ntozake Shange & Ifa Bayeza
I have to pat myself on the back for finishing this book. I’m a fast reader and I’ve read some big books but this book was huge. Not just huge in size but huge also in the amount of characters the reader is introduced to as well. Some Sing, Some Cry starts off on an island in South Carolina where freed slave Mah Bette and her granddaughter, Eudora, are forced from their home in the wetlands and move into the city. The story centers around Mah Bette, a freed slave and her influence on seven generations of family. The novel travels from Charleston to New York to Chicago to Paris but the second biggest theme next to Mah Bette is music and how it brings the family together, while also ripping it apart. I enjoyed Eudora, the headstrong granddaughter of Mah Bette, who set out to start her own business as a dressmaker and was later viciously raped by white men. resulting in the birth of her daughter, Elma. I also liked Lizzie, the wild-child second daughter of Eudora who fought like hell to make her dream of becoming a star come true even at the sake of the relationship with her own daughter, Cinnamon. Written by Ntozake Shange (For Colored Girls) and her sister Ifa Bayeza (award winning playwright), this is an epic novel in every sense of the word. The sisters take turns writing the novel with different writing styles and dialects, and along with the millions of characters, it got a little confusing. But, just breathe, give yourself about a week or two to read this book, and you’ll be glad when you finish.