Dana in Colour, one of my favourite booktubers, is hosting a POC readathon from August 12th to August 19th. There are four challenges:
- Read each of the other challenges by 3 authors of different races/ethnicities
- A classic or work in translation by an author of colour
- Sci-fi or fantasy by an author of colour
- Poetry by an author of colour
A few years ago I realised how white my reading history was. The risk of a society like ours that is so entrenched in insiduous white supremecy is that facts like those can seem benign when they are in fact harmful. Having a homogenised reading history can be seen as ‘the norm’ and if you dig into why that is, you’ll understand a little more about how white supremecy works.
With that in mind (and before I even understood what I just said) I started actively seeking out writers of colour and queer writers etc. Taking away those imaginary borders around us/them in writing has opened me to some beautiful books and wonderful friends. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her TED talk, there is a danger in a single story.
All that is to say I am participating in this readathon! I hope you will too.
- Get at least one audiobook in this mix to read while you’re running errands or travelling and yes, audiobooks count as reading.
- Pick shorter books if you’re a slower reader (or even if you’re not).
- Connect with others participating and show up for discussions.
- Go to your local library and ask for suggestions
It can be harder to find some genre pieces by people of colour even now, so here are some recommendations for the challenges. I haven’t read all of these, so it’s not a recommendation based on pure quality; it’s based on options you (and I) have to read.
A classic or work in translation by an author of colour
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
If you’re into postcolonial fiction, this is a classic. It’s a story spanning from a time before Europeans came crashing into Africa to when they are exerting influence on the culture and beliefs of those in a particular village. Achebe confronts the damage done to identity when cultural genocide begins and the impact it has on everyone involved.
Not an easy read but important books often aren’t.
American Indian Stories by Zitkala-Sa
Published in 1921, this documents legends and stories from the author’s people (Sioux) alongside the struggles and experiences of indigenous people of the time. The blurb notes that it is undated because so little has changed.
Indigenous people are often refused a voice so picking up a classic emphasises the intention to change that. If you enjoy this, I recommend looking into modern indigenous authors as there are some fantastic books that get little attention.
Ponciá Vicêncio by Conceição Evaristo
This is my pick for this category. Translated from the Portuguese and set in Brazil, this follows an Afro-Brazilian woman as she moves from the land of her enslaved ancestors to the city and how she understands the new setting through her old experiences. She has inherited a psychic gift from her grandfather which she uses to make sense of things.
Sci-fi or fantasy by an author of colour
The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
You may notice this is an oft-suggested book from us booknerds. Let me tell you, friends: it is for a reason. We explore a world where things have gone terribly wrong and once in a while a fifth “season” will hit where weather becomes erratic and dangerous, leaving people to survive as best they can until the environment settles. This time, though, it looks like the season is going to last a long, long time.
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
I love this book. I’ve recommended it more than once to people and I’m considering a re-read soon. In a world aboard a ship we follow Aster through her difficult life in the lower levels where people are basically slaves for the privileged upper levels. This isn’t an easy book to read but the characters are beautifully written and vivid with a story that somehow carries hope in it, tarnished as it is by the past.
Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor
Maybe you’re familiar with Okorafor for her other books such as Binti or Akata Witch, but this has been my favourite of her books so far. It’s a quick read (albeit not as quick as Binti!) about a girl whose hair is made of vines that show her magic. The technology in th
is story is wound into the environment and it really dragged me in.
Poetry by an author of colour
Violet Energy Ingots by Hoa Nguyen
A loosely linked collection of poetry with humour, rhythm, and meaning. This book is surprisingly overlooked but full of excellent poems on such a wide variety of subjects there has to be something in there for you.
Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen
As a queer Vietnamese American man, Hieu Minh Nguyen portrays his experience in a brutal, memorable way through this collection of poetry only published this year. This is my pick for the challenge: I have had this book for a while on my kindle but have put it aside as I wasn’t in the mood for poetry. I’m excited to pick it up now.
If you have any suggestions for these categories, please share! Will you be participating?