November was a hard month. On the first day of November, shortly after 5 o clock in the morning, I held my grandfather’s hand as he took and let out his last breath. That last sigh ended a chapter of my life. The chapter was filled with love, with memories, with embarrassment over my grandfather’s unabashedly blunt demeanor and sometimes caustic commentary, with hugs and smiles of pride and joy at every one of my achievements, with late night episodes of True Blood or the Borgias, but most importantly, with him. The next chapter will be without him, and that is a fact that sits like a stone on my chest everyday that I wake up to it as my new reality.
I thought it would be hard to read this month considering how it began, but life moves on, and, as I have said before, reading is one of my truest forms of therapy. Unfortunately, most of what I read this month was just bleh. I will say, though, that maybe you should take my opinion with a grain of salt right now, because I can see how I may not have been the most fair critic. It’s unsurprising that the last book I “read,” after having some space and time to recover, was the one I liked the most.
- The Girl Who Smiles Beads – Clemantine Wamariya || 🤷🏾♀️
- This “auto-biography,” written by a survivor of the Rwandan genocide and former refugee, chronicles the hurts, pains, experiences, and “homes” of Wamariya, who travelled through seven countries in Africa before finding a permanent place in America. Wamariya is still quite young, and her writing is almost as disjointed as her early life in Africa. As readers, we tend to expect folks who are writing about their adversity to have overcome it before they set pen to paper, which is not necessarily the case here, even though Wamariya has certainly become financially and physically secure. But then again, the scars on the mind that are left by war and terror are the ones we can truly never heal.
- My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me – Jennifer Teege || 🤷🏾♀️
- The premise is what drew me to this book. Written by a half-Nigerian, half-German woman raised by adoptive parents in Germany, this book follows Teege’s journey of discovery after she just so happens to open a book in a library one day only to discover that her biological grandfather was Amon Goeth, the famed psychopathic Nazi concentration camp commander of Schindler’s List. The book did not live up to the promise of the premise, unfortunately. I will definitely be writing a long post about this one.
- A Flag on the Island – V.S. Naipaul || 👍🏾
- If you set aside the titular short story, Naipaul gives us readers a clear and humorous entry into island life with his collection, A Flag on the Island. Race relations and island culture feature prominently in these stories, which are jarringly matter-of-fact about the way that biases, superstitions, and ignorance dictate our daily lives. I particularly enjoyed the shorts, “A Baker’s Story,” and “Greenie and Yellow.” However, the hot mess that is “A Flag on the Island” took up almost half the length of the book and drained so much life and energy from me just trying to get through the damn thing. I read online, after I finished the book, that Naipual wrote “A Flag on the Island” in response to a request for a script from an American director, who ended up not liking the novella and never making the movie. Thank God for that.
- All the Flowers in Shanghai – Duncan Jepson || 🤷🏾♀️
- This was a random book that I picked up in a random used bookshop and the quality of the book reflects all of those facts. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t terrible, it was just another book taking up another week of reading in my year. The story follows a young girl raised in Shanghai as a second daughter, meaning that she was an after-thought who was reared mainly to care for her parents in their old age. But, as luck would have it, her older sister dies just before her marriage to a rich man, and our protagonist is tapped to fill her spot. What ensues is a lifetime of…well, generally not great things. The book is actually kind of depressing now that I think about it. Maybe just skip this one.
- We’re Going to Need More Wine – Gabrielle Union (audiobook) || 👍🏾
- This was the first time I’ve listened to an audiobook on Audible, and I must say, I enjoyed it. Union’s voice is clear and communicative, but also imbued with personality and quirk enough to make the listening interesting and engaging. I laughed out loud at some parts, and sometimes I had to pause Union’s recitation of her thought process in a given situation just to say “whew, chile!!” To say I identified would be an understatement. I truly appreciated more than anything her ability to recognize her faults, to see her mistakes, and to discuss how she grew and is still growing. Some parts of the book rang more true than others, particularly her discussion of surviving a violent rape, but others seemed more contrived to fit with the hot topics of today (like the in-depth story of how she and Dwayne Wade’s kids almost kinda got stopped by the police in their ritzy neighborhood). Overall, it was a fun read, or listen.
Now, the last month of the year is upon us. One more month of holding true to my 2018 resolution while brainstorming on what my next challenge will be! Stay tuned to the Bookends.