African American

Book Review: Passing

Author
Larsen, Nella
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Passing by Nella Larsen is a classic novel following Irene Redfield and Clare Bellew. The novel follows the timeline of the Harlem Renaissance and delves into themes of 'white-passing' amongst the black community.
Irene, the narrator of the novel considers herself to be a very levelheaded, calm, thoughtful woman, who looks out for her children and is a perfectly attentive wife. Clare Bellew on the other hand is Irene's childhood friend, and her personality is much more colorful than Irene's. When Irene and Clare reunite after many years, we delve into their complicated relationship and clashing personalities.
Passing is a novel that illustrates what the standards of beauty really are and educates readers on the logistics of what passing of as white can mean for a black woman back in the 1920s.
I really enjoyed reading this novel, as 'white-passing' was something I wasn't super aware of, and barely even knew it was a phenomenon in the 1900s. Larsen also created a very interesting dynamic between Irene and Clare and crafted very realistic characters. I enjoyed reading Irene's inner monologues, as it's pretty rare to see an author build up very dynamic characters, that are also painfully human. I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone, as it contained lots of powerful messages and themes, without coming off as cliche or overdone.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Michelle

Book Review: Hell of a Book

Author
Mott, Jason
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The premise of the book Hell of a Book by Jason Mott is as follows: an African American author has written a book and is touring the country to promote it. On his tour, he keeps encountering the same small child everywhere he goes. I can't say much beyond that without giving too much away.

This book recently won the 2021 National Book Award for fiction and I just don't think my review of it will do it justice. Not only that, but I hate writing overly exuberant reviews of books that are this unusual, because not everybody is going to love this book. Or understand it. But, that's the whole point, I think.

It's unusual. It's transcendent. It's elusive. It's ironic. It's deep. It's moving. It gives you tons to think about but very little to grasp onto.

I absolutely loved it. And I already want to read it again.

Reviewer's Name
Marika G.

Book Review: The Skin I'm In

Author
Flake, Sharon G.
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake is a realistic fiction novel from the point of view of seventh grade Maleeka. Maleeka has low self-esteem and poor body image because of people teasing her for being too black and too tall. When Maleeka meets Miss Saunders, the new English teacher, who has messed up skin from a rare skin condition, Miss Saunders is taunted by the children. But, she never lets it get to her. Throughout the book, Maleeka rethinks her biases and her insecurities. This book's story is powerful, and there is a lesson to be learned through Maleeka's experience about overcoming low self-esteem. The author illustrates the problems of this century perfectly and guides the reader through a rollercoaster of emotions.

Reviewer's Name
Lucia

Book Review: The Stone Sky

Author
Jemisin, N. K.
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with The Stone Sky. It took me some time to get used to the way the author wrote the Broken Earth trilogy, but by the end of the second book, The Obelisk Gate , I had bought into the premise. The fact that this book had a lot to live up to with the foreshadowing presented in the second book might be why I’m disappointed with the result. After all, I was looking forward to some epic moments involving the moon, which didn’t seem to materialize for me. Now that I’ve finished this trilogy, I’m starting to wonder if the reason it didn’t quite fully click for me was because I was reading it via audiobook. There seemed to be a lot that I missed that would leave me confused about who the characters were, what they were doing, and why they were doing it. Perhaps if I had dedicated time to focusing on these audiobooks instead of listening while I was doing other things, I would have liked the series more. As it stands though, I probably couldn’t tell you what the point of this book was without going back and rereading it.

Ultimately, the Broken Earth trilogy is well written. The language might be a little too poetic at times and the fantasy setting introduces a lot of terminology that was difficult to keep track of, but I can see the appeal of it. The magic system is truly unique, even if the explanation for its origins made less sense than if it was just an unexplainable magic force. I do appreciate that most of the loose ends were wrapped up and either explained or made into moot points by the series’ conclusion. And while the resolution of this trilogy felt a little cliché, at least it provided an ending that most would come to expect from this type of sub-genre.

A pretty good trilogy wrap-up that might need a second read-through, I give The Stone Sky 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Transcendent Kingdom

Author
Gyasi, Yaa
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

There was no sophomore slump for author Yaa Gyasi, who lit the literary world ablaze with her searing debut novel, Homegoing (2016). That work of historical fiction was deeply personal and her exceptional contemporary follow-up Transcendent Kingdom (2020) draws upon her experiences growing up with Ghanaian parents in in northern Alabama. This powerful and emotionally raw novel centers on Giffy, a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the connections between depression and addiction. Her brother was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal, deeply religious mother is bedridden. Dad left long ago. Giffy hopes science will find the why behind the suffering. But she still hungers for her childhood faith and struggles to find a balance between religion and science, hope and despair, living and inertia. It’s a personal journey with a conclusion that will leave you with hope, if not a clear answer.

Reviewer's Name
Joe P.

Book Review: The Color Purple

Author
Walker, Alice
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

I loved this book. Celie, Shug, Nettie, and Sofia were such strong women, facing a hard life and rising above it. Celie in particular has cemented herself in my mind as one of the great female protagonists in all of literature. I love how she didn't let her circumstances squash her spirit. I learned so much about a wide variety of things in this book. I learned a lot about Africa in the 30s leading up to WWII and the desecration of the tribal land by the English. I learned about the treatment of African American women by African American men and about their resilience and bravery. I loved the ending. Perfect.

Reviewer's Name
vfranklyn

Book Review: The Hate U Give

Author
Thomas, Angie
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is about Starr Carter who is constantly switching between her Garden Heights self and Williamson Prep self. She switches her speech, personality, and behavior to match where she is at. After a shooting with her childhood friend, Starr finds it increasingly difficult for both Starrs’ to remain separated. Angie Thomas does a wonderful job at making you love some characters, hate others, and at times make you feel genuinely uncomfortable along with an ending that will make you feel satisfied. All in all, I loved this book and at times could not set it down and would recommend this book with a 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name
Lucia

Book Review: The Hate U Give

Author
Thomas, Angie
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Starr is a sixteen-year-old Black teen living in Garden Heights. Although she lives in a poor neighborhood, Starr attends a private school in a predominately white affluent neighborhood. While Starr is at a party in her neighborhood, a shooting forces her to leave with her friend, Khalil. On their way back, they're pulled over by police, and when Khalil is asked to step out of the car, he's shot and killed. Following his death, Starr finds it increasingly more difficult to balance her two lives, and gains attention when she takes getting justice for Khalil into her own hands.

I loved this book! Besdies the fact that it addresses a real world issue, it was also full of the everyday and the mundane, which was a good balance to the overall conflict in the story. I also liked how the ending was realistic, even if it was sad. Starr is my favorite character because her story is an important example of how each of us has a voice that is valuable, and she also shows that advocacy doesn't always have to be through demonstrations or riots.

Reviewer's Name
Nneoma

Book Review: The Book of Lost Friends

Author
Wingate, Lisa
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This book was not necessarily easy to read but it was so well done:it juxtaposes the two time lines and the main characters with aplomb and great sustained suspense. 1888 vs 1988 racism and the differences and the shameful similarities. Fascinating characters, great plotting and page turning suspense. Thought provoking and a really good read. Really glad I read this.

Reviewer's Name
Susan I.

Book Review: All American Boys

Author
Reynolds, Jason and Kiely, Brendan
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

My friends told me about the tv show All American, so I decided to read the book All American Boys first. I thought it was the same thing at first, just one as a book and the other as a movie, but it isn't. Both have different plots and stories even though they both talk about racism.This book is about police brutality and racism from the eyes and perspectives of two young high school boys. It's a very emotional and sad book even though it could be and was very true in the past and still in the present. This book strongly mixes up your emotions into a twist but overall, is a really good book. The book starts with Rashad getting beaten up by cops and Quinn seeing the whole thing, starting their fight for justice.

Reviewer's Name
Trisha