I don’t know if it’s just me, but sometimes when I think about the number of books that I want to read, then consider the actual time that I have to read them, I get a bit overwhelmed by the sheer weight of it . Certainly in the midst of lockdown, I have felt an ever increasing pressure to use my time productively and dutifully tick off the books on my extensive reading list. The only problem is, however, whilst my list has continued to grow thanks to pesky social media marketing, my spare time and energy allocation have simply not. In fact, sometimes all I want to do after a busy day of work is pour myself some vino and mindlessly watch Sex and the City reruns. Nevertheless, lucky for you lovely lot, my bookish brain and residual issues around productivity have managed to squeeze in a few books this week.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Interestingly, I have actually been listening to this book on my daily runs (great way to multitask) and whilst the topic of systemic racism is not your usual running track, the way Reni delivers each line, with both gravitas and clarity is utterly captivating. The book itself spans seven chapters. Each chapter respectively covers an incisive history of racism in Britain; discussions on white privilege; the issues with white-washed feminism and the relationship between race and class. Although I have not yet finished this book, I have already found Reni’s prose to be both accessible and engaging. Her choice of case studies are intended to not only resonate but also to shock and exemplify the disparities that exist within our society. Ultimately it urges us to question the day-to-day systems that perpetuate imbalanced life affordances….wow, I don’t know where that fancy sentence came from.
So far, I believe Reni has raised a lot of interesting points with regards to racism being imbedded structurally within the upper echelons of company cultures and filtered down through recruitment processes. She’s certainly correct in that it is naive to assume jobs are dished out on meritocracy alone; being white is a leg up in itself. I did hesitate, however, to accept that every failure that a black applicant faces when applying for a job is down to race alone. This is not to say that the white applicant must always be the right candidate or that the various studies suggesting this race preference are wrong. But more to note that, without having heard what was said in an interview on a case by case basis, it is very difficult to accept with blind confidence that race is the only influencing factor – though it certainly may be one. The scene in Bridget Jones springs to mind “Do you like children?” “Ha! God no.”
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
I downloaded this book for free using BorrowBox (sorry Amazon). If you haven’t already heard about this app, and you’re an avid reader like myself, I suggest you download this app immediately. This app lets you borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your local library – on your phone, for free! It’s way more eco-friendly than buying new books and, as you might imagine, saves you a fair few pennies.
This title is about a woman called Maud who is sadly suffering from advanced dementia. As her memory deteriorates she becomes more and more convinced that her friend Elizabeth is missing. To her dismay, (though she quickly forgets) no one seems to take her very seriously. Relying on the notes that she has written to remind herself, Maud tasks herself with finding out what happened to her dear old friend. As she gets closer to the truth, however, her memories start to mingle with those of her childhood. We learn that when Maud was younger, her elder sister Suki went missing and that the case was never solved. Throughout the title, the present and past narratives chop and change, which serve to make Maud an incredibly unreliable narrator. It is for this reason that I found this book SO unbelievably emotional. My gran had dementia and reading this book felt like being in her head. It made me understand her a lot more and it made me sad I hadn’t read this book when she was alive. Her being an unreliable narrator keeps the intrigue piqued until the very end and I was terribly sorry when it was all over…so, I watched the BBC adaptation.
The Deep Blue Between by Ayesha Harruna Attah
This is a YA book that NetGalley kindly gifted to me last month. Set across the Golden Coast of West Africa and a post-colonised Brazil, the story itself follows two twins that have been separated by slave traders at the age of 10. I’m only 50% of the way through this book, so, a full review will come in due course, but so far I have been impressed with the diverse historical content that has been weaved into this title. Unbeknown to many, Brazil was “home” to more enslaved African citizens than any other country in the world. As such, for those reading a variety of non-fiction titles on the atrocities of slavery at the moment, I recommend titles such as this to complement your learning. At the risk of sounding overly preachy, I believe that putting ourselves in the shoes of others is vital to forming a thorough understanding of these hardships.
This title itself is a dual narrative; following the two twins Hassana and Husseina as they pursue their separate paths in the Gold Coast of West Africa and Brazil. Despite the distance between them, however, they are still connected through one another’s dreams. Although this dual narrative works pretty well for the most part, it does slow down the plot substantially. So far, I think its discussions on faith, family and identity in the aftermaths of colonialism have been incredibly educative and the subtle nuances between Hassana and Husseina have been interesting to see unfold. I feel, however, that its author has focused far more on its historical accuracy than the actual narrative itself. Although this is understandable, provided the justice one wants to give a tale such as this, characters lead plot and, right now, the motivations of these characters aren’t as focussed as I expected them to be at this point in the novel.
And that’s you’re lot! We’ll see if I can muster any energy in the next few weeks to make a further dent in my ‘to read’ list.