50 Books Challenge (update)

I committed earlier this year to reading 50 books by authors of color, with an ongoing list. Since I’ve finished 2 books (well, really 3 — but I re-read The New Jim Crow, and that was for class, anyway), I figured I’d update the list.

  1. Captured, by Beverly Jenkins
  2. The Will to Change, by bell hooks
  3. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
  4. Huntress, by Malinda Lo
  5. Kindred, by Octavia Butler
  6. Zahrah the Windseeker, by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
  7. The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn-Johnson

Captured was cool. Like I’ve said before, I’m not really a fan of romance novels, so I’m hardly in a position to critique it as an expert in the genre. It did follow the conventions of the romance novels I prefer — the formation of the relationship was prioritized over sex, and the guy was respectful of the woman and her boundaries. It was historically accurate, so far as I am aware, and I tend to be somewhat anal retentive in that area. I liked that Jenkins’ actually described the character’s skin tone (e.g. dark brown with golden undertones) as opposed to the flat, generically ethnic terms I’m used to seeing people of color described as (e.g. Mexican, Chinese, Black).

I wasn’t as much of a fan of Cisneros’ work, but that’s mostly a stylistic issue. I tend to enjoy escapist fantasy, not surrealistic literary fiction. The disconnected, ephemeral sense of place that permeated The House on Mango Street made it difficult for me to connect with the protagonist on any meaningful level. I thought her writing was objectively beautiful — very lyrical and vibrant. She painted these gorgeously evocative word pictures that floated through the text like disjointed vignettes of half-recalled childhood memories — but I didn’t leave the book with an overarching connection to the protagonist or any sense of plot, just a vague film of confusing nostalgia. Now, if that’s the experience you’re looking for in your reading, then I highly recommend Cisneros. If, like me, you prefer your reading to be fantastical, plot-driven literary escapism, then this isn’t the book for you.

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