As the past has shown us, the voices of women of color are willfully ignored and marginalized by mainstream white media, especially when it comes to literature. For this March, The Lit Club is bringing you titles from women of color, varying in genre and length. Enjoy!
Spirit Week Showdown (The Magnificent Mya Tibbs #1) by Crystal Allen
Nine-year-old Mya Tibbs is boot-scootin’ excited for the best week of the whole school year—SPIRIT WEEK! She and her mega-popular best friend, Naomi Jackson, even made a pinky promise to be Spirit Week partners so they can win the big prize: special VIP tickets to the Fall Festival!
But when the partner picking goes horribly wrong, Mya gets paired with Mean Connie Tate—the biggest bully in school. And she can’t get out of it.
Now Naomi is friend-ending mad at Mya for breaking a promise even though Mya couldn’t help it—and everyone at school is calling Mya names. Can Mya work with Mean Connie to win the VIP tickets and get her best friend back? - Goodreads
Genre: Children’s fiction
I Know Why The Caged Bird sings by Maya Angelou
Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local "powhitetrash." At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors ("I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare") will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.
Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.
Over the Moon by Imtiaz Dharker (Poetry)
Imtiaz Dharker was born in Pakistan, grew up a Muslim Calvinist in a Lahori household in Glasgow, was adopted by India and married into Wales. Her main themes are drawn from a life of transitions: childhood, exile, journeying, home, displacement, religious strife,terror, and latterly, grief. She is also an accomplished artist, and all her collections are illustrated with her drawings, which form an integral part of her books.
Over the Moon is her fifth book from the Bloodaxe series. These are poems of joy and sadness, of mourning and celebration of music and feet, church bells, beds, café tables, bad language and sudden silence. In contrast with her previous work written amidst the hubbub of India, these new poems are mostly set in London, where she has built a new life with - and since the death of - her husband Simon Powell. - Goodreads
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
In The Namesake, Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations. Here again Lahiri displays her deft touch for the perfect detail, the fleeting moment, the turn of phrase — that opens whole worlds of emotion.
The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name.
Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves. - Goodreads
Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
Jillian Tamaki, who brought us the illustrations of Skim as well as of This One Summer, written by cousin Mariko Tamaki, finally published her own tale in the form of Supermutant Magic Academy. In 2016, Tamaki finally delivered her original comic to print, after having it posted sporadically on Tumblr. This graphic novel delivers a vast array of characters, all presented from strip to strip, set in an almost Hogwarts-like academy, if Hogwarts had threw away its prime and proper reputation for one that was more realistic, filled with angsty, strange and absurd students.
When first reading this graphic novel, I fell head over heels in love. The humour was amazing, honest and existential at times, which rung a bell in me that other comics or graphic novels hadn’t. The minimalistic/sketchbook type of art also brings another essential element to this novel, allowing the reader to highlight characters’ actions and words. A problem I felt, although it didn't hit me after first reading it, was Marsha, the protagonist of this story. She has a major crush on her straight best friend Wendy, but it’s pictured in a sort of perverted and obsessive way, as she looks under her skirt at one point and gets angry when her best friend dates a boy. Although Marsha isn’t the most extreme example of this, I felt as if Marsha’s character kind of played on the type of lesbian who is creepily and totally in love with their straight crush. This stereotype quietly furthers the belief that sapphic women will fall obsessively and aggressively in love with straight women, which isn’t helpful for the LGBTQ+ community who already have a lack of representation on TV and in literature today. Also, many of the jokes within the novel felt as if they missed their point. At first, it seemed funny, but going against the message that was being preached only a few seconds ago for a few cheap laughs seems contradictory and empty in the end.
Another downfall to the comic is the lack of story until the end. It made sense to have a collection of the webcomic as well as include unpublished content to attract readers, but it simply felt lackluster and misplaced. Not to mention the mini plot at the end felt rushed and anticlimactic. It would have been a lot more satisfying to have had it slowly inch throughout the novel, to add more anticipation for the reader.
I would recommend SuperMutant Magic Academy for anyone able to surpass the graphic novel’s flaws within its execution to relish in its ironic sometimes even satiric humor.
Adele’s rating: ⅘ stars
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
Despite its title, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty is full of ugly people and things, ranging from obnoxious teenagers and pompous academics to the raw unpleasantness of infidelity and blunt class differences. The novel is set in a fictional university town named Wellington, which may or may not be based off of Smith’s experiences as a fellow at Harvard. When you’re reading this one, watch out for the female characters: despite being set in an incredibly academic, male-dominated institution, Zadie Smith manages to create multi-faceted female characters with complex thoughts, feelings and insecurities of their own. My personal favourite is Zora - she’s a fierce feminist in her sophomore year at Wellington, and she isn’t afraid to express herself and her desire to follow her interest in creative writing, even when it leads to some very awkward situations indeed. - Cia’s rating: ⅘ stars