Update on Reading List 2016-2017

How am I doing on my reading list? 

Well, it’s not always easy to read when you are a full-time student, but I’m finding that ironically I am reading more books from my reading list this year than I have in past years.

What have I read so far?

I’ve read:

Ladivine by Marie N’Diaye. It is a french-novel, which is set in Europe. I read the English- translated version of it. It’s a classic story of a mixed-race woman, who must come to terms with her African heritage, but she keeps running away from it. She denies part of who she is an in essence, she keeps her identity hidden from everyone, including her husband and daughter. Eventually, her double life becomes suffocating and unbearable, not only for her, but for those around her, who love her. An ongoing symbol within the novel is that of an abandoned dog and it is up to the reader to decide what that symbol represents. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s definitely very well-done.

The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac. It’s is a story inspired by a true story. It is about a young man who rolls with the Subterranean crowd. The subterraneans are an artsy, beatnik type of group. It is sets in the 1950s. He develops a relationship with a Black woman, named Mardou Fox. She is a mysterious character and the protagonist often seems to take her for granted (not unlike how many Black women are taken for granted in the present day). Overall, I enjoyed it. Some of the writing is very erotic and enticing, if you like that.

I’ve also read Souls of Black Folk, which I wrote about in this post.

I’ve also read Citizen, which I wrote about in this post.

I’ve also read Cutting for Stone, which I wrote about in this post.

I’m halfway through From Poor Law to Welfare State and I’ll write what I took away from that book when I am finished.

Now, I am reading I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, next is Go Set a Watchmen, then Parable of the Sower, then the Jungle by Upton Sinclair, then finally Americanah (which I’ve been putting off for years), then I have to read the Bible in entirety and then Anna Karenina.

This many not seem like I’ve been reading as much as I should, but the truth is, I love to read. I always read excerpts and go on amazon to find books, but i get distracted by technology. I’ll be laying on my bed, reading a book, then suddenly my email will buzz and I’ll put the book down to check and next thing I know, it’s 2am in the morning. This is how I end up not reading.

But, I’ve tried to make a habit of reading at least 15- 30 pages every night. I’ve realized that although the internet is a gift in a lot of ways, it can stifle your learning because you are continuously looking for stuff that you already know and you don’t know how to search for what you don’t know because you don’t know what to search for!

It’s like running on a hamster wheel, but with books, I am learning so much more  in the past few months than I ever thought I would. I am realizing how far behind on my reading I am, but thanks to Abagond, I am being inspired to read nightly. I still have so much more to do.

My motivations for reading more include my desire to improve my writing,  my desire to indulge my reading hobby and also my desire to stand against the ignorance that has so permeated the political atmosphere. The more you read and learn from a multitude of viewpoints, the more empathy you have, the more you understand history and society and the more your mind opens. I want my mind to be open.


Citizen by Claudia Rankine

I read another book from my reading list over a month ago and I wanted to share my thoughts on it.

The book Citizen by Claudia Rankine is a book or prose, which tells the story of what it’s like to be Black in modern America. Rankine covers everyday micro aggressions, that are often experienced by African-Americans in the 21st century, like being followed in your own neighborhood, or being reported to the police, when you are housesitting for a friend in the suburbs. She also writes of major injustices, like police brutality and shootings of Black people.

What I enjoyed was that she discussed the experiences of Black women, like Serena Williams, who despite their talent and class, have been demeaned and made into caricatures by white society. It is a very relatable book. I read this book right after I finished reading Souls of Black Folk by DuBois and I found that much of the injustices that Rankine writes about have been ongoing. For example the police brutality that she describes through her lyrics harkens back to what DuBois wrote about in Souls of Black Folk:

” The police system of the South was originally designed to keep track of all the Negroes, not simply of criminals; and when the Negroes were freed and the whole South was convinced of the impossibility of free Negro labor, the first and almost universal device was to use the courts as a means of re-enslaving the blacks” (Souls of Black Folk, p. 108)

I find this quote very relevant in the present day.

Overall, I recommend this book for every Black person, especially Black women. It is a short read, but very poignant.

My Favorite Excerpt from Citizen:

“The man doesn’t acknowledge you as you sit down because the man knows more about the unoccupied seat than you do. For him, you imagine, it is more like breath than wonder; he has had to think about it so much you wouldn’t call it thought.

When another passenger leaves his seat and the standing woman sits, you glance over at the man. He is gazing out the window into what looks like darkness. 

You sit next to the man on the train, bus, in the plane, waiting room, anywhere he could be forsaken. You put your body there in proximity to, adjacent to, alongside, within” (Citizen, p. 131)

I thought that passage was pretty thought-provoking.




The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois

I read this book, which was on my reading list, more than a month ago. I am now posting about it.

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B Dubois was written in 1903. It was a landmark piece of literature, which presented a counter narrative to the stereotypes of African Americans, at that time. At the turn of the Century, many African-Americans faced prejudices and atrocities, such as dehumanization in minstrel shows, denial of education, voter suppression, peonage, Jim Crow, systemic rape, police brutality and lynching. In addition, many African-Americans, who had never been adequately restituted for slavery, lived in poverty throughout the South.

However, DuBois writes, not only of the destitute position that many African-Americans were forced to live in during this time, but writes of the resilience and tenacity that many African-Americans displayed, in the face of great obstacle and adversity. He writes of how in a single generation, from the time of legal slavery to the turn of the century, many African-Americans had become teachers, doctors, artisans and merchants. He writes of the beauty of African-American spirituals, a unique facet of culture, which was born in the “foster land,” of America, but comes from the sorrows and hopes of African-descended peoples. He tells the story of Alexander Crummell and other notable African-Americans of that time.

My Favorite Quotes:

” The police system of the South was originally designed to keep track of all the Negroes, not simply of criminals; and when the Negroes were freed and the whole South was convinced of the impossibility of free Negro labor, the first and almost universal device was to use the courts as a means of re-enslaving the blacks” (Souls of Black Folk, p. 108)

“The chief problem in any community cursed with crime is not the punishment of the criminals, but the preventing of the young from being trained in crime. And here again, the peculiar conditions of the South have prevented proper precautions. I have seen twelve year old boys working in chains on the public streets of Atlanta, directly in front of the schools, in company with old and hardened criminals” (Souls of Black Folk, 108)

“We must not forget that most Americans answer all queries regarding the Negro a priori and that the least that human courtesy can do is to listen to evidence” (Souls of Black Folk, p.61)

” This was the gift of New England to the freed Negro: not alms, but a friend; not cash, but character. It was not and is not money these seething millions want, but love and sympathy, the pulse of hearts beating with red blood” (Souls of Black Folk, p. 62).

“Even so is the hope that sang in the songs of my fathers well sung. If somewhere in this whirl and chaos of things there dwells Eternal Good, pitiful yet masterful, then anon in His good time America shall rend the Veil and the prisoned shall go free” (Souls of Black Folk, p. 163).

Reading this book, which is over 100 years old, has showed me that in a lot of ways, not much has changed with America. The same stereotypes persists, the same fears, the same systems of injustice, but by another name.I also took away that, throughout history, there have always been people, both white and black, who have stood against prejudice, like those at the Freedmen’s Bureau, who did try to right the wrongs of slavery, but failed, due to policy and Congressional oversight. This book gave me both a mixture of sadness and hope, but at this point I realize that racism is not going anywhere in America.


Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

I have finished another book on my reading list. The book I read was Cutting for Stone and I very much enjoyed it.

What is it about? Without giving away too much, the story is set in Ethiopia, in the 1950s-1980s, at a fictional hospital called Missing. It centers around the story of twin brothers, who are born conjoined. The circumstances related to their birth are scandalous. Their mother was an Indian nun and their father an English surgeon. As a result of their scandalous birth circumstances, they grow up with in a mysterious atmosphere. They have a nice life in Ethiopia, their caregivers are respected expatriates, who work at a hospital. Both brothers are very interested in medicine and it becomes somewhat of an anchor, in the midst of their curious birth circumstances. The two brothers have very different personalities, one brother, Shiva, is suave and seems to attract people with ease, the other brother is more traditional, reserved and it takes people longer to get to know him. The reserved brother, Marion, loves an Eritrean girl, who grows up in the same household as him, but she has a very different life. Ultimately, the story travels all over the world, from India to Ethiopia to New York to Italy and back to Ethiopia. All the while, the boys maintain a sense of mystery, surrounding their birth, until one of the brothers goes to America, then the brothers’  world is changed drastically.

What I learned:

I learned some things about the political history of Ethiopia, such as the Occupation of Ethiopia by Italy, the occupation of parts of Eritrea by Ethiopia, I learned about Emperor Haile Selaisse and a military coup that occurred in Ethiopia.

I learned about some medical terminology, like what a fistula is.

This book made me want to learn more about Ethiopia/Eritrea, one book mentioned in the acknowledgements was the novel, To Asamara, by Thomas Keneally. I would like to read this novel and I would also like to read Ethiopia at Bay, another book mentioned in the acknowledgments, which tells about Ethiopia, under the reign of Emperor Selaisse.

Overall: The book was well-written, it was emotional, it was educational. They use many medical terms, but it only enriches the novel. I recommend it.