Summer Reading, Part I

The first week or so of summer has been prime reading time for me since I started teaching 23 years ago. The end of the year is often so busy and exhausting that I don’t get much reading done in those final weeks. So as soon as my room is packed up, I start devouring books.

This summer was no different. In some ways, it was intensified. I got the chance to travel which made for some great reading time at multiple airports and on multiple airplanes. The end of the school year coincided with a good number of books I’d had on hold showing up at the library, both in physical form and for the kindle. Also, part of the travel was visiting my sister and she recommended a number of books that I immediately checked out on the kindle and got to reading. Lots of things just came together for some really great reading to happen.

That said, it wasn’t super purposeful reading. I just created a list of books I want to read in the next month, before school gets going again. This list was created deliberately so that I will focus my reading energy rather than just grabbing whatever showed up from the library. The first month of the summer was more random. I did read some great things, though.

The first book I read was Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia.


I picked this book up for my youngest when it first came out because it felt like a good fit for them. I was right. They loved it. It’s been sitting in my room since they finished it because they wanted me to read it. As library books always get priority from me, thanks to their pending due dates, this book kept getting put off. Now that the sequel is out, I figured I should really get on this one. For the record, my kid was right. The book is fabulous and I will read the sequel sooner, rather than later. I thought the book would be a good fit because my kids both love Rick Riordan’s myth-based series. Tristan Strong is one of the Rick Riordan Presents books, other books that are based on mythologies. In this instance characters and stories from African American and West African folklore.

Tristan’s personal and family histories are wrapped up in how he copes and what he learns in the world he has entered. The need for him to be a hero, when he feels so desperately unsuited for that role, is an ongoing challenge for him. The other characters, the ones from folklore and the ones not, are all well-developed and fabulously fun. I’ll admit I didn’t see the final twist coming, which was quite a treat. (This book was one more reminder that when my youngest tells me to read a book, I should listen. The other recent read that comes to mind was Pet by Akwaeke Emezi, another one I had passed to them and then delayed reading for too long.)

My next read was Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw, a collection of short stories.

I have no idea where I learned about this book (and I hate that because I’d love to know for my consideration of future reads as whoever recommended this is brilliant) but I’m so glad I read it. I frequently love short story collections. This one was exceptional. I began reading it at a water park with my two kids and my mom. I was in the midst of the third story when my mom left the water and came back to sit with me. I immediately began talking about it and passed it to her to show her. She started reading. I didn’t get the book back for two days. And now my sister is reading it because my mom and I loved it so. Philyaw is definitely an author I will be keeping on my radar for future reading. One quick note, this is a fairly mature collection as there are a lot of storylines that revolve significantly around sex.

With my ongoing goal to not read white male authors, I am reassured to look back and see that I started my summer with two Black authors. I think, too often, I read white women and I’m trying to get myself to read more widely.

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