Who are your favorite authors of color?

Excelsior Bev recently asked her students who their favorite African American authors were, and we thought that was a fun question, but that we’d broaden it a bit.

#1:  Alexandre Dumas (Jr) hands down– though I didn’t know he was black until recently!   He’s not so great with his female characters (who are either paper dolls or evil villains), but his books are so much fun that I forgive him.

After that I know there are a lot of worthy POC authors who write amazing award winning serious fiction (and I did like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Their Eyes Were Watching God, but as worthy books, not fun books), but I really like popcorn books.  I really do.   So that means people like Lisa Yee and Justina Chen.  I also love almost all of A. Lee Martinez’s books.

Scalzi had a post the other month talking about the “read just women and people of color” challenge someone was doing, and I asked for recommendations for fun light stuff, but the only person who replied has a very different definition of “light” than I do (pro-tip:  Stephen King is not light).  That post also indicated to me that romance novelist Courtney Milan is a POC, which I didn’t know (I like her stuff!).  Recommendations for light stuff welcome in the comments!  (I did read some Marta Acosta light vampire stuff, and it was ok, but not worth owning.) (#2 owns the first but not the second book.)

#2 ZOMG, N. K. Jemisin all day long.  Saladin Ahmed.  Justina Chen Headley (again).  Y. S. Lee.  Nnedi Okorafor.  Dia Reeves.  Michelle Sagara (her stuff sometimes makes #1 cry on airplanes).  Gene Luen Yang.  I recently read Sofia Samatar’s award-winning novel and liked it.

And, as everybody should already know, Octavia E. Butler is objectively one of the best science fiction authors of all time.  (But not light!)

Start there!

Of course, we’re of a couple of minds about these segregated lists.  Well, not really.  It’s just a nuanced stand.  We hate the need for these separate lists and we wish that people would be included on the regular lists of “best of” because many *belong* there.  However, society isn’t there yet, so these lists are a way for people to broaden their horizons so that they can come into contact with amazing authors they wouldn’t normally read.  Being on one of these segregated lists should in no way preclude someone from going on the more general lists of “best of” and we should think really hard when we make a general “best of” list about composition to make sure we’re not running into implicit biases.  A standard procedure is to think about the best POC or female etc. author not on the general list and to compare him or her to the worst person on the general list (iterating to the next underrepresented person etc.).  More often than should be the case, that person really belongs on the general list too and was not included because of subconscious biases.  Eventually, thinking about people from underrepresented groups while making the list rather than after the list is made becomes more automatic.

One place where there are plenty of authors of color is the banned books list.  Boo.

Got anyone else we should read?  Spend your tax refund on books!  Or save it and use your library.

Two funny quotations from a book about books

These are from One for the Books by Joe Queenan.

page 3:

A friend once told me that the real message Bram Stoker sought to convey in Dracula is that a human being needs to live hundreds and hundreds of years to get all his reading done; that Count Dracula, misunderstood bookworm, was draining blood from the porcelain-like necks of ten thousand hapless virgins not because he was the apotheosis of evil but because it was the only way he could live long enough to polish off his reading list.  But I have no way of knowing if this is true, as I have not yet found time in my life to read Dracula.

And page 212, something the author’s daughter said: “If you don’t want to own books, it means you are an asshole.”

The book is pretty funny, although the author’s taste in books leans heavily towards male writers.  I will probably re-read this book.

Stay tuned tomorrow for even more about books!

 

in the meantime, do you have any quotes about books or reading?  Have you read anything funny lately?  Share in the comments!

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 9 Comments »

Cool books yo

In case you were wondering, and/or wanting something to read.

Good books:

First, three YA graphic novels: I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly — amazing!–   Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol; and El Deafo by Cece Bell.

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (published in UK as Rivers of London) — I also like the sequel.

Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn. You don’t need to have read any of her other books to enjoy this delight.

Lazarus Volume 1 by Greg Rucka

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon: The Diary of a Courtesan in Tenth Century Japan

The Element of Fire by Martha Wells

The Enola Holmes series (with the caveat that they’re kind of racist towards the Roma, particularly in the last book). (and with the caveat that #1 disputes the underlying premise.)

 

 

Books I was meh on:

Jasmine Nights by S.P. Somtow (couldn’t get into it; gave up halfway through)

It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita (finished but couldn’t relate to author’s story at all)

Regeneration by Pat Barker (sausage fest; finished it; it was ok but didn’t stick with me)

 

Any recommendations for us or each other, Grumpeteers?

 

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , . 7 Comments »

On sex scenes in books

#1 and #2 have somewhat differing views on this topic.

#1 dislikes most sex scenes in most books and skips over them because they tend to be boring and gratuitous.  The book would have been better served just closing the door before the scene occurred.  #2 loves sex scenes and appreciates them way more, and never ever skips them.

However, occasionally a book will have a good sex scene in it.  What makes a good sex scene in #1’s view is that it either drives forward character development or it drives forward the plot.  A really good sex scene will not be identical for every character.  The lovers will discover something about themselves or about each other, or the reader will discover something.  It isn’t just sex!

There’s only one Georgette Heyer novel that #1 wishes had a sex scene in it, A Civil Contract.  In it they have to have had sex, but how?

Good sex scenes:  Freedom and Necessity had a fantastic true-to-life scene.  One Good Earl Deserves a Lover had three really good sex scenes in it, each different and full of character development (and steamy!)  Both of us love those two books!  There are many others that aren’t coming to mind right now (the former is the first sex scene I came across worth reading, the latter is the most recent #1 has read).  Mary Balough is pretty good at them too.  I don’t remember which book it was, but there was a great regency where the hero kept asking for consent and the heroine kept giving it… despite what the Jonathan Chaits of the world would have us believe, consent is really sexy.  #2 agrees and also thinks there are way more good sex scenes than #1 has found!  But then again, I read erotica and slashfic, neither of which #1 reads.

Bad sex scenes:  Anything non-consensual or that starts out non-consensual, especially if it starts out non-consensual (furthering the myth that she’ll like it once it gets started).  This includes characters who are not capable of consent.  Unanimous Ewwww.  Any sex scene that could be repeated with any other pair of characters is also bad to #1 (but not as bad to #2)… the generic scene written without the characters in mind.  And, of course, there are certain over-used turns of phrase that tend to make the reader giggle… that works if the sex scene is supposed to make the reader giggle (or it fits the characters’ thought processes), but usually it’s just a really badly written scene.  Turgid!  #2 wishes that men in sex scenes would quit laving everything.  Find a thesaurus.

Readers, tell us the best sex scenes in fiction!

How to write a good book for girls

Step 1:  Make a good book for kids.

Step 2: Make sure there are girls in it, at least 50%, and not in like subservient roles and crap.

Step 3: Make sure those girls are people first, and girls second (or third or fourth or whatever they are defined by besides their presentation as female).

That is all.

The Power of Habit: Book Review

Well, I am sad to say I wasn’t that impressed.  It is definitely written by a journalist rather than by an academic.

Absolutely you should read or listen to one of the author’s many interviews on how he broke his afternoon cookie habit, but once you’ve done that, you really have the substance of the worthwhile portions of the book.

Why do I not like this book that I was predisposed to like?  Well, I don’t trust or believe it.  He uses a lot of examples that I’ve seen before but that illustrate completely different concepts and were set up to illustrate different concepts and don’t actually fit in the way that he’s saying if you look at the original research (plus he’s got the simplified journalist-reported version of the marshmallow experiment based on something that doesn’t really exist rather than the original studies).  Secondly, the narrative often seems more important than the truth.  He doesn’t have a good conceptualization of the idea that correlation is not causation and will force causation where it doesn’t actually belong because that is what makes the story look good.  I suspect he’s done that in some of his reporting of people’s stories as well– they seem too simple, too uni-directional, to be true.

And he is aware of these flaws– rather than footnotes or traditional endnotes, he has chapters of notes in the back of the book sorted by page number.  They’re difficult to connect with the narrative.  But anytime I found myself going, “Wait a minute… that’s not right,” I would flip to the back and there would be an admission that no, what he was glibly saying didn’t actually pass fact-checking.  The government official in question says that yes, although the infant mortality rate decreased, he cannot take credit for it.  (But phrased in a way that makes the official sound humble, which flows with the narrative Duhigg has created about him, rather than as someone who wants to make it clear that correlation is not causation.)  There’s a huge debate about whether or not 12-step programs like AA work, with general scholarly opinion finding that they don’t, which he notes in a note.  For a reporting story about a hospital, he notes again that he’s compiled different stories and has left out the ones that disagree rather than agree with his narrative (but phrased in a way that makes it sound like those who disagree are lying).  Almost every time I thought something was too pat to be true or I knew that the actual research wasn’t so simple, I’d flip to the back and there would be a note admitting that no, it isn’t so simple.

But he didn’t let that interrupt his storylines.

So yes, I think his story about how he broke his cookie habit is useful and compelling.  You can find it in the appendix.  But the rest of the book, not so much.  More disappointing than Malcolm Gladwell.  (Interestingly, I overheard one of DH’s audible books by Doris Kearnes Goodwin while reading The Power of Habit and figured out why academic historians have problems with popular historians… so much attribution without evidence.  It hurts!)  The book is not without value, but many of its stories and conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt.

I do, however, still strongly recommend Willpower by Baumeister and Tierney.  Probably the best types of these books are collaborations with academics and reporters.  (Or occasionally there will be a great book written by an academic who also happens to be a good popular writer.)

breaking news: Books are good

You should read Love Is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson.  Just get it.

This book is so good and I stayed up way too late to finish it. Also, if you can get the hardback, do, because the design is quite beautiful.  [Note, however, that the kindle version is $2.99, so even if you don’t love it as much as #1 did, you’re not out that much.]

The book is about high schoolers dealing with race and romance at an expensive prep school in DC.  The protagonist, Emily (or “Bird” to her friends), goes to a party and wakes up in the hospital, unsure what happened.  But there’s a spy chasing her, convinced she knows something important about the pandemic virus that’s sweeping the country.  She doesn’t, but maybe the mysterious drug dealer she’s been flirting with does?  Who can she trust?  Not her parents, not her boyfriend, and probably not the government.

 

I’m not doing it justice but it’s got all kinds of goodies.  Try it out!

(#2 has not read it… it sounds too suspenseful and #2 is in the regency romance portion of her non-work reading ability right now.  The kind where she reads the last chapter after the first just to make sure it turns out ok.  Even though there’s no way it’s not going to turn out ok because it’s a @#@#ing regency romance.  But #2 can’t really handle surprises right now.)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 291 other followers