A while ago I put Minor Feelings: An Asian-American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong on hold at the library. While traveling it showed up and I downloaded it.
It’s a collection of essays (and I have great love for short story and essay collections). I’ll admit it was a tough one for me to get into. I think that is probably because I don’t read a lot of Asian-American authors. One of the reasons I think I read a lot of white women is that I am a white woman. Their writing tends to be pretty comfortable and accessible for me. Finding a book difficult to get into is something I try to be thoughtful about. I pushed on with this collection and really enjoyed it. I gained some understanding, I think, of the complicated history and current reality for Asian-Americans in this county. Hong is brutally honest and exceptionally transparent in these essays. It can’t have been an easy book to write.
While I read Minor Feelings I wanted something light to read as well. So, again thanks to my sister, I downloaded You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar. Ruffin and Lamar are sisters and Black women who grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. Ruffin lives in New York and is a writer for Late Night with Seth Meyers and now has her own show. Lamar has remained in Omaha and has some serious stories to tell. And they are serious but they are told, in this book, in hilarious ways.
While I was occasionally surprised, I was not ever shocked by these stories. I’ve tried to search out and listen to Black people in the U.S. and learn about their experiences in our society. Hearing stories about people touching Lamar’s hair or mistaking her for the one other Black woman in the office did not surprise me. Ruffin and Lamar’s voices do tell these stories exceptionally well. They are funny and the book reads like they’re talking to you. I greatly enjoyed it, maybe a bit too much. I got to the end and wanted more before realizing how awful it was to want more stories of racism. That said, I’m certain they have many, many more stories than could fit in one book.
Next up, a young adult mystery novel, Dead, Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia. This is the first in a series, the Harlem Renaissance Mysteries. That gives you a pretty clear idea of the setting.
I loved the setting and the characters. Loved them so much. The main character and her best friend are more than friends, something that is clear but only lightly addressed. It’ll be interesting to see where that goes in future books. The history seems pretty solid, no small thing I think. To write strong Black female characters in a time when there were so many obstacles in their way and to keep things accurate to that time has got to be a challenge. Afia handled it well. The actual mystery and some of the writing felt underdeveloped to me. I didn’t really buy the ending or the villain. So I’m not completely sold on this one. I’m sold enough on the setting and characters to try the next one in the series when it comes out though.
Alright, this group of books brings me lots of joy. They brought me joy when I read them and, now looking back, they bring me joy because there are two nonfiction out of three and they are all authors of color. Most of my reading is not super deliberate, it’s whatever books have caught my eye and showed up on hold at the library. It’s helpful, for me, to reflect on how well my actual reading is fitting my aspirations for my reading life. So far this summer, not perfect, but not bad.