So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo | Buddy Read

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So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In this breakout book, Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today’s racial landscape–from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement–offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide.

In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor at Large of The Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word. (Read more on goodreads)

Our Thoughts

Alia

I first heard about So You Want to Talk About Race from a person I follow on Twitter, who used it as part of his own anti-racism reading in the past. It is a book that addresses, chapter by chapter, common questions/concerns that people (often white people) have when it comes to talking about race. I think this book is really good because it takes the questions seriously and answers them honestly, with great detail, without forgetting BIPOC frustration that comes with having to answer these questions in real life.

Ijeoma Oluo has clearly had to deal with questions relating to race, sex, affirmative action, workplace harassment and equal opportunity in places of work. Her feelings on this topic are always clear – a mix of frustrations, exhaustion and determination – and yet she addresses issues with a level of professionalism I wish I could have when I talk about these sensitive topics in my own life.

I would recommend this book to anyone, even though it IS directed at white people more than anything. As a person of colour, reading this I was able to still learn more about BIPOC struggle and the unfairness that exists in this world. There were times when she explained some of these struggles with such eloquence that I actually felt validated because I related to them as well.

Favourite Quotes

I remember saying once that if I stopped to feel, really feel, the pain of the racism I encountered, I would start screaming and I would never stop.

If you are white, there is a good chance you may have been poor at some point in your life, you may have been sick, you may have been discriminated against for being fat or being disabled or being short or being unconventionally attractive, you may have been many things – but you have not been a person of colour.

I live in a world where if I have a ‘black sounding’ name, I’m less likely to even be called for an interview. Will I equally benefit from raising minimum wages when I can’t even get a job?

We’re still waiting. We’re still hoping. We’re still left behind.

Julia

This book is a great place to start if you want to learn about anti-racism. It’s beginner friendly, as Oluo uses tons of examples, anecdotes and straight to the point lists to effortlessly explain more “complicated” topics such as: privilege, systemic discrimination, tone policing, and affirmative action.

Even as someone who reads up on about social justice, I still learnt a lot and I will continue to reference this resource. I highlighted a lot of its passages because she just has such a way with better explaining how I feel when it comes to this discourse or my own experiences.

Favourite Quotes

The realities of race have not always been welcome in my life, but they have always been there.

There is a good chance that you, regardless of race, have tried to have these conversations in the past. There is also a good chance that they have not gone well. So “not well” that perhaps you have been afraid to ever have these conversations again.

We couldn’t talk about the ways in which race and racism impacted my life, because he was unwilling to even acknowledge the racism that was impacting my life and he was unable to prfioritize my safety over his comfort – which meant that we couldn’t talk about me.

Racial oppression should always be an emotional topic to discuss […] But it upsets us because it exists, not because we talk about it.

Discussion Questions (taken from the book)

  1. The chapter about privilege is placed right before the chapter on intersectionality. The author has stated in interviews that she placed those chapters in that order because it is impossible to fully understand intersectionality without first comprehending privilege. How do the concepts discussed in the chapter “Why am I always being told to check my privilege?” help deepen your understanding of intersectionality and help implement intersectionality into your life?
  2. The final chapter, “Talking is great, but what else can I do?,” discusses some actions you can take to battle systemic racism using the knowledge you’ve gained from this book and from your conversations on race. What are some actions you can take in your community, your schools, your workplace, and your local government? What are some local antiracism efforts in your community that you can join or support?

You can pick up a copy here.

My Riot | Book Review

If you know me by now, then you know that I love graphic novels. So when I saw My Riot was on NetGalley I knew that I had to immediately read it.

By: Julia Agris

DISCLAIMER: Thanks to NetGalley for giving us an eARC of this graphic novel, for free, to review.

If you know me by now, then you know that I love graphic novels. So when I saw My Riot was on NetGalley I knew that I had to immediately read it.

My Riot by Rick Spears

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Set in the early ’90s, My Riot is about a trio of teen girls team up to form a rock band and shake off society’s expectations of what it means to be a young woman coming of age in the modern world.

1991—Val, a teenager from a conservative family, has grown up dreaming of becoming a ballerina, but recently something has changed. She’s begun feeling pressure to conform to a specific idea of beauty, body type, and a personality that just doesn’t fit.

Trigger warnings: body image shaming, eating disorders, sexism, slut-shaming

Chapter 1, “A Riot of Our Own” opens with Val at her first job interview, revealing (too much about herself) what most teenagers feel at that age. After being told by her ballet instructor that she should start smoking to shed five pounds, she mets Kat. She seems to be the badass type, who I honestly wish we got to know more about.

Kat introduces her to Rudie and her first punk rock show. Together, the three of them end up forming an all-girl punk band named The Proper Ladies.

In Chapter 2, “A Romantic ‘Pas de Deux'”, they nailed the feeling of a mosh pit and that’s when I knew I’d really like this graphic novel. You can tell that Val is falling hard for this scene. Later on, she even mentions, “Confusing things are somehow made clear in the chaos of clashing guitars.”

This is such coming of age story where the girls get to find their own voices, writing music about body image and even birth control. The Proper Ladies ring true to the the Riot Grrrl movement – a wave of underground feminist punk music. It’s a story of female friendship, support and empowerment.

The artwork is quite simple colour-wise but I feel like this adds to the feel of 90’s zine culture.

As I said, I wish we got to learn a bit more about the other girls (Kat and Rudie) however Val’s growth had me rooting for her the entire time. I grew up as a scen/emo kid and I related to this so hard.

My Riot‘s public release date is: September 8th, 2020 and you bet you can catch me picking up a physical copy.

Top 5: LGBTQ+ Reads for Pride Month

As we reach the middle of Pride Month, it is important to highlight the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community.

By: Julia Agris

As we reach the middle of Pride Month, it is important to highlight the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community. So, I wanted to share some of my favourite fictional reads that have LGBTQ+ representation. I enjoyed, felt all kind of feels, and now want to re-read these books after writing this.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, #1)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship… (Read more on goodreads)

I definitely got major feels (see: very teary-eyed) while reading this book back in 2015 because the characters felt so real. Dante is the right amount of opinionated sass and Ari adds the needed teenage angst. Their relationship and dynamic with their families are realistic and moving.

The plot is simple: Ari and Dante are struggling to figure out who they are and learn about the important role that relationships play in finding that out.

“I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get–and never would get.”

– Benjamin alire sáenz, aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universe
LGBA 2019 – Orlando, FL
35941643

Kim Reaper Vol. 1: Grim Beginnings by Sarah Graley

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Like most university students, Kim works a part-time job to make ends meet. Unlike most university students, Kim’s job is pretty cool: she’s a grim reaper, tasked with guiding souls into the afterlife. (Read more on goodreads)

This pick is for my graphic novel fans!

I actually laughed out loud quite a lot while devouring this volume that is everything I’ve ever wanted about a cute emo reaper. You can peep my full review here.

“Girl, you can slay, but you need to get it under control.”

sarah graley, kim reaper vol. 1
LGBA 2019 – Orlando, FL
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Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. (Read more on goodreads)

This book took me on an unexpected emotional rollercoaster. Then the movie destroyed me – thanks Timothée Chalamet!

Elio’s inner thoughts (and sometimes turmoil) as he pines over Oliver are so unfiltered that I felt like I was reading his diary. It’s so personal that I felt like I was either: a) his closest friend or b) totally invading his privacy. Aciman’s writing makes this journey so beautiful but also sad as hell.

This is a dreamy coming of age story about a young boy’s sexual awakening set against an alluring Italian summer.

Back in 2018, I made a bookmix because I had too many feelings which you can view here.

“This felt special. Like showing someone your private chapel, your secret hunt, the place where, as with the berm, one comes to be alone, to dream of others. This is where I dreamed of you before you came into my life.”

andré aciman, call me by your name
LGBA 2019 – Orlando, FL
19547856

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. (Read more on goodreads)

I finished this read so quickly because it was just that enjoyable. Don’t even get me started on how much I enjoyed the movie as well!

Some parts were a bit cheesy but I guess that’s high school romance for you. It’s also realistic in the characters and their relationships. They are messy, dramatic, scared and sometimes selfish but that’s adolescence for ya.

“Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it shouldn’t be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever. I’m just saying.”

becky albertalli, simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda
LGBA 2019 – Orlando, FL
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What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it. (Read more on goodreads)

Some of the story is a bit predictable but Ben is what carried me to the end. These two are sweet, as friends and on their date do-overs, and left me smiling throughout a lot of their journey in NYC.

However, while I loved everything about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda I did not enjoy the pettiness and insecurities in The Upside of Unrequited (felt so problematic!). I feel that aspect of Albertalli’s writing really showed in the character of Arthur.

“I barely know him. I guess that is every relationship. You start with nothing and maybe end with everything.” 

– becky albertalli, what if it’s us
LGBA 2019 – Orlando, FL

Special Shout-out

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Welcome to the world of the Grisha.

Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. (Read more on goodreads)

If you haven’t read the Six of Crows duology yet… what are you HONESTLY doing?

“I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”

leigh bardugo, crooked kingdom

Once Upon a River | Book Review

I’m super late on reviewing this book but here it’s finally here!

I’m super late on reviewing this book but here it’s finally here! I read this book earlier this year when there was a lot of hype around it. It seemed like everyone on my Instagram absolutely LOVED this book and the intertwining stories of the characters.

I definitely didn’t feel that way – I thought the story dragged, the characters were unemotional and it was honestly difficult for me to tell them apart. But before we get into it, here’s the background (from Goodreads):

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.

Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless.

Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison, stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known.

When I read that I was immediately hooked. My initial impression was that this book would be some sort of supernatural mystery that would keep me turning page after page. I’d say there are two main reasons why I didn’t enjoy the books:

It Dragged.

This book took me almost three weeks to read because I just couldn’t read it beyond a couple of chapters at a time. There were so many characters and everybody got their “screen time” at the expense of a plot moving forward. A quarter of the book is a giant lead up to a disappointing “reveal”.

By the time you read the end, where interesting events actually transpire, you don’t even have the energy to feel excitement. You just want to get it over with.

I wasn’t interested in the characters.

There were a wide array of characters in this story. I just didn’t feel like I related to any of them, nor was I interested in their personal story arcs. The few that I was interested in, I felt like the book took too long to give a “reveal”. Some of them don’t even get a resolution, or you don’t really understand their background story at all. I also felt like many of the characters were indistinguishable from each other. They are all very different but when you’re reading, the content could be for any one of them.

I think part of this is due to the writing style. It doesn’t particularly lend itself to getting emotionally invested in the characters. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is beautiful but in such a way that you’re always aware that this is just a story. There’s a sort of detachment involved as if someone is telling you a story they heard from someone else. Which, given the contents of the book might have been the point but it just didn’t work for me.

This book reminds me of novels you are assigned to read in English class. I almost felt like there should have been study questions at the back, asking students to discuss overall themes and foreshadowing. It is very “literary” with that classic-y feel to it.

In the end, I rated it 1/5 stars. Better luck next time!