Plots

I’m Still Here -Austin Channing Brown

Per my mom’s suggestion, when I read certain books I keep a pad of sticky notes inside to mark special quotes and passages. Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here held dozens of sticky notes peeking out from both ends: a testament to gorgeous prose holding deep thoughts. The rest of the title is “Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” and the narrative explores Austin’s experiences as a Black woman in America. I laughed, cried, and got chills. A lot of Austin’s experiences are familiar to me: I felt seen in her accounts of the unsolicited invasions of privacy, uncomfortable off-handed comments, and the solace of the Black church. She reminds us that racism in America will never be completely resolved here on earth but that Jesus is our ultimate hope.

I challenge every single person to read this book. I’ll leave you with a few quotes to drive home how spectacular this book is.

“White supremacy is a tradition that must be named and a religion that must be renounced, when this work has not been done, those who live in whiteness become oppressive whether intentional or not”

“The white co-worker who was walking behind me stares in shock. She has never seen me with my hair in a pineapple fro. She reaches out to touch my hair while telling me how beautiful it is. When I pull back, startled by the sudden act of intimacy, she looks hurt and isn’t sure what to do next. The message: I am different, exotic. Anyone should have the right to my body in exchange for a compliment.”

“Whiteness wants enough Blackness to affirm the goodness of whiteness, the progressiveness of whiteness, the open-heartedness of whiteness. Whiteness likes a trickle of Blackness, but only that which can be controlled.”

“But the truth is, even the monster – the Klan members, the faces in the lynch mob, the murderers who bombed churches – they all had friends and family members. Each one of them was connected to people who would testify that they had good hearts…The monster has always been well-dressed and well loved.”

“I love being a Black woman because we are demanding. We demand the right to live as fully human We demand access – the right to vote, to education, to employment, to housing, to equal treatment under the law. And we do it creatively: sit-ins and die-ins, signs and songs, writing and filmmaking. We demand because our ancestors did. We demand because we believe in our own dignity.”

Stay fly,

~Akilah

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Plots

What I Read in January

Does it feel like January lasted forever to anyone else?

Even though I didn’t set a reading goal for 2019 I still wanted to read more and rekindle the part of me that got lost in books when I was younger. I read a good amount of books in January that I wanted to share with you guys!

Perfect is Boring – Tyra Banks & Carolyn London

5/5

If you want to know all the tea on supermodel and business mogul Tyra Banks, then this is the book for you. If you love to hear mother daughter duos give great advice and love on each other, then this is the book for you. I listened to the audio version which I highly recommend because there’s nothing like hearing Tyra Banks’ mom rap in her own voice (yeah she does). This is the perfect mix between self-help and autobiography that gives you a beautiful look at the ins and outs of the model industry, and Tyra’s journey.

Finish – Jon Acuff

5/5

I read Jon Acuff’s Start in 2016 on a road trip to Minnesota and I was hooked. Jon’s writing style is so infectious: he weaves anecdotes in expertly and uses humor like a pro. In Finish he gives advice on how to follow through with goals and creative projects. But he doesn’t give a vague motivational speech, rather, he gives executable action steps, which I love. Since, I listened to this on audio I didn’t quite grasp all the nuggets of gold, so I’m excited to get the physical copy and re-delve into this book.

Solo – Kwame Alexander

3.5/5

As a fan of both Kwame Alexander’s writing and novels in verse, I was excited to give this novel a try. I have mixed feelings about Solo. It’s broken up into different parts and I loved the last part as it was the climax, but reaching the climax was slow and sometimes tedious. Some of the characters were a bit underdeveloped too like Storm the main character (Blade’s) sister. She often showed up in the narrative but I had a hard time grasping her role in the story. But as I said, the ending was truly beautiful and rich with quotes.

Little Green – Chun Yu

4/5

For some reason, I have a bit of an obsession with China’s Cultural Revolution and Mao Zedong. The communist regime of this dictator I find quite intriguing and I love reading about it from a child’s perspective. It has an innocent and romantic quality, but doesn’t shy away from the horrors and atrocities of this time period. The scenic descriptions were gorgeous and immersive. Little details about the outfit she wore to give her revolutionary speech or the revolutionary songs she sang while walking to school with her friends allowed the book to come alive.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

What books did you read in January?

Plots

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmad

I was pacing the shelves in my library a few weeks ago, ecstatic to find myself completely alone in the YA section, when I stumbled upon Down and Across. I’d seen this book on a list of YA books by authors of color, and now it’s blue-green spine was staring back at me. I decided to check it out.

Saaket Ferdowsi aka Scott hasn’t been able to stick with much of anything in his life. So, while his parents are in Iran he decides to leave his Philly internship to chase down a D.C. grit professor. What ensues is a lot of growth, some pain, and of course grit. Grit is defined as courage, resolve, and strength of character. My dad had brought up this concept to me a few years ago and recommended I watch a Ted Talk on it so I was familiar with the concept. This book dealt expertly with how grit applies to real life without making it dry or too academic.

Mostly, this was executed by our main character Saaket/Scott. He’s honestly just a normal 16 year old and the first person narrative exemplifies that, we’re in his head. We get to be first hand witnesses to his irritations and excitements. We see the internal struggles he faces as the child of immigrants and his childhood wounds. He’s witty, honest, and sometimes deep.

And it’s not just Saaket, Ahmadi shows expert character building in each member of this cast. Fiora: the fierce female lead with family wounds. Trent: the caring friend with a plot twist. And Cecily Mallard: the transformative Georgetown professor.

The only character I didn’t like was Jeanette. She’s a token Christian girl who’s a complete jerk. As a Christian, I was highly irritated with how one-note she was: racist, homophobic, clingy, irritating, the whole nine yards. I’m wondering if she stemmed from a negative experience the author had with a Christian. I hope not, but if so, I hope he and all his readers understand that not all Christians are jerks like that. Just like everyone else, we hate to be generalized about.

Stepping away from characters, I want to draw attention to a main theme in the book: crossword puzzles. I’m not a fan of crossword puzzles by any means, but I loved Ahmadi’s use of them in this book. They didn’t simply provide an activity for the characters to engage in, but they were symbolic to the narrative. The crosswords represented life and fate, the intersections of people, and the things in life we can’t control. They showed order and creativity, a set of rows and columns but with infinite possibilities.

Truly, this book was a fun read and I’m stoked for Ahmadi’s 2019 release!

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Have you read Down & Across? What stereotypical characters irritate you?

Plots

This or That {Book Edition}

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Hello guys! I was checking my email when I saw this post by Paper Fury and since hers was so good, I decided to jump in. So, here are my picks for these Bookish This or That Tag questions.

1. SERIES OR STANDALONE

Standalone. When I was younger I used to be obsessed with series, but now ya girl has too many things to do to finish a series. Exhibit A: I’ve only read the first Harry Potter book.

2. MAGIC EARNED OR MAGIC BORN

I think I prefer magic born because they have to live with it and figure it out, which causes some interesting plot situations.

3. ENEMIES-TO-LOVERS OR FRIENDS-TO-LOVERS

I actually like somewhere in-between but I guess I’ll choose friends-to-lovers.

4. HILARIOUS BANTER OR EMOTIONAL RUIN

Emotional ruin because I like to die when I read books…

5. LOVE TRIANGLE OR INSTA LOVE

Love triangle! Insta love is irritating to me but I love a good love triangle to divide the fandom.

6. KEYBOARD-SMASH FANTASY NAMES OR ALL NAMES START WITH SAME LETTER

Fantasy names, it makes the book more interesting and more memorable.

7. MEAN PARENTS OR DEAD PARENTS

Dead parents because pain again and also mean parents are usually written in an unrealistically annoying way to me.

8. SUPERMODEL LOOKS OR CONSTANTLY SAYS HOW “PLAIN” THEY ARE

Neither. But since I must choose…supermodel looks because the “plain jane” trope is overused.

9. FACE ON COVER VS TYPOGRAPHY ON COVER

TYPOGRAPHY!!! I absolutely cannot stand a model’s face on the cover of a book aghhhh!

10. VILLAIN TURNING A LITTLE GOOD OR HERO TURNING A LITTLE BAD

Hero turning a little bad. I like blurred lines and it’s interesting when you have to ask whether your heroes are actually “good” anyway.

I hope you enjoyed this random little tag, feel free to tell me some of your picks in the comments.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Plots

My Name in Books Tag

img_2766-1Today class was cancelled and I wanted to use this time to write a blog post. But I had no clue what to write about, so I googled book tags and this one seemed fun. rather than just spelling my name I thought that I would explain why I love these books, then I realized that each one of these is special to me in some way. Without further ado let’s get into this tag!

A: Around the World in 80 Days -Jules Verne

A classic, I read this in a book club when I was around 8 years old and looooved it! It’s full of adventure and when I went back to read it later I realized how well written the prose is.

K: Kira-Kira -Cynthia Kadohata

My very first blog post was a book review of this book, you can check it out here. This book gave me an irreplaceable look at Japanese-American culture and experiences in a way that I never thought about before.

I: If you Give a Mouse a Cookie -Laura Numeroff

These picture books are timeless, I still love them. I think this is also one of the books my mom used to teach me how to read.

L: Life in Motion -Misty Copeland

One of my favorite autobiographies ever! I sped through this book in les than 24 hours because it was that amazing. Misty Copeland is such an inspiration and this book is a must read.

A: Anne of Green Gables -L.M. Montgomery

Another classic that I really enjoyed reading. Anne is such an infectious character and the books never bored me.

H: Hush -Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woo is one of my favorite authors and this book was so emotionally moving. She always does an amazing job of talking about huge issues in a personal way, with one character with whom the reader can relate. This book is no exception.

Stay fly,

Akilah

Music · Plots

Hamilton Book Tag

What could be better than history, hip-hop, and books? I’m so excited to be combining these things in the Hamilton Book Tag today. I randomly found it, it’s kinda old, and I wasn’t tagged but we’re gonna do it anyway! Also I don’t know who started this so I apologize for not giving them credit but if you’re reading this and you came up with it thank you. I did however find it on a blog called Cuddle Buggery. One more thing this post contains spoilers for The Hunger Games series.

Hamilton changed my life when I heard the soundtrack and if you haven’t heard it yet you need to give it a listen because ish lit. I admire Lin Manuel Miranda’s creativity and his vision for diversity. Having black and Latina people play the founding fathers is revolutionary and “the world will never be the same”. I could fangirl about Hamilton all day but I digress, let’s get into the tag!

The Room Where It Happens: A book world you would put yourself into

I’m definitely going to say Narnia from The Chronicles of Narnia because living in that magical world, meeting those mythical creatures, and walking with the magnificent Aslan would be amazing.

The Schuyler Sisters: An underrated female character

This book series in underrated as a whole but I think as a character Petra from The Calder Game is underrated, she’s so well developed as a side character and has a distinct personality.

My Shot: A character that goes after what they want and doesn’t let anything stop them

Sophia from Sophia’s War definitely went after what she wanted. That doesn’t mean I always agreed with her though…

Stay Alive: A character you wish was still alive

There are so many characters I wish were still alive but I’d definitely say Rue and Cinna from The Hunger Games. They were my favorite characters in the book and in the movie so I was devastated when they died *cries*.

Burn: The most heartbreaking ending to a relationship you’ve ever read

I have a rather uncoventional answer for this question but I would say the relationships in The Scarlett Letter are so heartbreaking. This is rather expected because the whole book is about adultery and shame but once you read it you’ll realize that it isn’t the relationships you might expect that are most heartbreaking.

You’ll Be Back: The sassiest villain

The Mysterious Benedict Society was one of my favorite series when I was about 11 or 12 (it’s still amazing btw). And the villain is so savage and hillarious, I won’t tell you who it is but if you’ve read the book you know. Everyone in this book is lowkey sassy though which why I love it.

The Reynolds Pamphlet: A book with a twist you didn’t see coming

I’ve read a lot of books with twists but one that definitely stuck out was Traitor’s Gate by Avi, thiisss boooook! It destroyed my life with it’s web of intrigue and lies, so many lies!

Non-Stop: A series you marathoned

I don’t really marathon series anymore but when I was younger I marathoned The Left Behind Kids series (i didn’t finish them though because they’re a lot of them) but I read a good 50-60 of them in about two months.

Satisfied: Favorite book with multiple POVs

Satisfied is one of favorite Hamilton songs and one of my favorite books with multiple points of view is Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper. This story is beautiful and shows how two seemingly different lives have parallels.

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story: A book/series you feel like will be remembered throughout history

Little Women is such a timeless story and it already showed it’s longevity by lastng this long. I think the sisterhood between the March sisters will never expire.

Helpless: A relationship you were pulling for from the very start

I was definitley rooted for Matt and Love from The Boy in the Black Suit from the very beginning, they have such a sweet relationship and this book is funny but also deep.

Ten Duel Commandments: Favorite fight scene

I honestly don’t really like reading fight scenes, they usually seem to drag and the descriptions never quite thrill me but I did like a scene in The False Prince (series) it was quite dramatic.

Say No To This: A guilty pleasure read

I don’t have one because all books/articles/etc that I feel like I shouldn’t read I don’t.

What Comes Next: A book/series you wish had more books

I would love it if The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Fraizer had a sequel because I’d love to see the main characters in another setting after the duration of the book.

Right Hand Man: BroTP

A BroTP is a spin on OTP (one true pairing or a relationship you root for) only this time it’s not a romantic relationship. I’d say Logan and Philip from CandyMakers for this one because they were hilarious.

What’d I Miss: A book/series you were late to reading

Ummm Harry Potter because I’ve only readl the first one…

Wait For It: A book that was worth waiting for

I’m gonna change this up a bit and say a book that I currently can’t wait for and that is Dear Martin by Nic Stone. It’s been hyped by my favorite authors and the synopsis sounds amazing. It comes out in October and “I’m gonna wait for it, I’m willing to wait for it.”

Stay fly,

~Akilah

What book are you currently waiting for!


Plots

In Which a Ghost Runs From Himself

“And it felt good to feel like one of the teammates. Like I was there-really there-as me, but without so much scream inside.”

Castle Cranshaw, a.k.a. Ghost, can run. It’s something he’s been doing for much of his life, but now that he’s joined a track team it’s not just about running anymore. Can he let go of his anger and his past enough to be a part of the team?

Ghost is the first book in the new Track series by Jason Reynolds. Jason Reynolds is one of my favorite authors so I was excited to read this book. I haven’t reviewed any if his books on the blog yet, but my favorites are coming soon, I decided to start with this one as it was the most recent one I’ve read.

Let’s talk aesthetics first: if you’ve read any of my other book reviews then you know that I love minimalist cover designs. This yellow background with the black lettering looks so sleek. Plus, I love the rippled effect of the letters as Ghost runs by.

Written in first person point of view, this book allowed me to easily connect with Ghost’s voice. He’s hilarious, blunt, and reminds me of people I know. I definitely cringed many times because he would do stupid things, but that was part of his character arc and made for a satisfying ending.

Another character I appreciated was the coach known as…Coach. He genuinely cared about Ghost not only as a runner but as a person. Ghost’s “squad” also cared about him, their relationship started out rocky but they grew closer, and I’m hoping that in the next book there will be more of them together.

I wish there would have been more scenes with Ghost and his mom, we heard about their relationship but didn’t see much of it. A tragic event led them closer together and I would’ve loved to see the effects of it further explored. This narrative was well-written and the cast of characters were the standout piece.

Ghost’s life events are quite complicated, he often feels less than because of where he lives, who he is, and what he’s been through. Thus, this book explores whether the end justifies the means in certain scenarios in Ghost’s life. It asks hard questions about whether the wrong thing is still wrong even if the motives were right. Personally, I don’t identify with the “end justifies the means” perspective. Sin is sin and what’s illegal is illegal, end of story. Most times when we’re being honest with ourselves, the right reason we have for doing wrong can be achieved by doing right. This was the case with Ghost, as you’ll find when you read the book. I was quite satisfied with the resolution and the overall story. I definitely recommend it.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

If you liked Ghost you might like: