Reading Wrap Up | POCathon

POCathon is officially over and I'm a little sad, but it's been so much fun! I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone that took part. It's been great watching all your videos and hearing all about all the books you read. I'd like to say an extra special thank you to my beautiful co-hosts, MynJustinKevin and Paola, it's been wonderful getting to know you all. And Myn, thank you so much for bringing us all together. What I love most about this little corner of the internet is connecting with all of you so it's been great to get a chance to do more of that. It's also been truly amazing to see so many books by people of colour across my Instagram and Twitter feeds and on youtube too. I hope this readathon helped you diversify your reading and maybe even learn a thing or two about a different perspective. Now let's get onto the books.

Akwaeke Emezi
4 stars

There are a lot of layers in this book, but essentially, it’s about trauma, and how we respond to it. It deals with mental illness in a completely different way. Typically, we’re used to seeing mental illness narratives through a western lens, bit it this book it’s re-contextualised inIgbogbo folklore, as spiritual entities inhabiting a person's being.

It follows a young woman called Ada, who's suffering from dissociative identity disorder. She enters the world with a bunch of spiritual entities in her body. They take turns narrating the book and push Ada into a lot of self-destructive behaviour, which she uses as a coping mechanism to deal with some of the terrible things that happen to her. During each traumatic event, she goes through a sort of 'rebirth' and a new identity - or spirit is awoken. As the story goes on, we see Ada developing more of a relationship with the spirits inside her. One of them, although extremely destructive and malevolent, acts very maternal towards her. The spirit makes it their job to feel the bad things for Ada so she doesn’t have to.

I found out that this book is autobiographical. It delves into the author, Akwaeke Emezi's, identity as an "ogbanje", which is basically a malevolent Igbo spirit born into a human body.  It was believed that they would deliberately plague a family with misfortune.

At times I found it oddly comforting, reframing mental illness in this way. Self-harm is even described as making a sacrifice to the gods inside you. I realise, however, that this could rub some people the wrong way, but since the book is born from the author's own experiences, I  think gives it a strong sense of credibility.

There were a few things I didn't really like. We feel very isolated from Ada, it’s like we’re watching her from a distance and as a result, I didn't connect with her as much as I wanted to. We only get one chapter from her perspective and I would have liked to have heard more from her, especially as she gains more control of herself. Towards the end of the book, there was a little too much going on and after such a strong start, I felt that it lost its way. Overall this is a phenomenal, debut from a brilliant author. I can't wait to see more from her. 4 stars.

When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities 
Chen Chen
5 Stars

This collection is fucking brilliant. It's written from a perspective we don't usually see in poetry. Usually, male poets are the aloof white males, who've been spurned by a woman.

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be a List of Further Possibilities is a stunning debut from Chinese born, Massachusetts raised writer, Chen Chen, who shares his Asian American, immigrant, and queer perspectives.  Chen Chen writes about his personal experiences, his strained relationship with his mother - mainly due to his sexuality, his romantic desires and some of the painful and joyful moments in his life. It almost reads like an autobiography, and through the collection, we’re offered a small and very revealing window into his life.

As someone who is quite familiar with the immigrant experience, it was a little eye-opening to hear it from a perspective I don’t usually look for. Especially because I ended up finding more similarities than differences. Growing up with immigrant parents, I know their attitudes towards same-sex love can be less than ideal, and to read about how Chen's mother thought he was corrupted by western ideals was heartbreaking.

A lot of the poems in here really hit home for me in a way I didn’t think they would. I gave this a solid 5 stars and can’t wait to read more from him!

Banana Yoshimoto
3.5 - 4 stars

This book contains two stories dealing with the death of a loved one, and finding the strength to carry on. The first story, Kitchen, is about two kids called Mikage and Yuichi who’ve been through a lot. Death just seems to follow them around everywhere. It’s all about the role death plays in their lives. Mikage is obsessed with kitchens, cleaning kitchens, cooking in kitchens - even sleeping in them. They give her comfort. Yuichi might just be the nicest boy you’d ever meet, but there's something about him that feels very cold and distant. When Mikage's grandmother dies, Yuichi, who works at a flower shop her grandmother used to frequent, takes her in. Mikage develops a close bond with Yuichi's and his trans mother while she stays with them.

The second story is called Midnight Shadow, and it's about a young woman dealing with the death of her boyfriend. Banana is a very sparse storyteller, I find that’s the case with a lot of the Japanese authors I’ve read, but somehow, this book didn’t quite land for me. There were some beautiful phrases in these stories, but at times the writing felt a little off. There were a few moments of brilliance but ultimately It didn’t touch my heart in the right places. If you've ever lost someone, or you're dealing with loss, this one's for you. 4 stars.

The Night Masquerade (Binti #3) -
Nnedi Okorafor

This is the last instalment of the Binti series and I'm just going to be honest. I didn't like it.

So far all the books in the series have been about Binti restoring peace to the galaxy and this book is no exception. It's a short one, but Nnedi's packed a lot into it. There is no shortage of big revelations. We find out what the Night Masquerade is, what her Edan is and Binti goes through yet MORE transformations. Binti's character was a huge part of why I didn't enjoy this book. She's whiny, erratic and makes terrible decisions because she lets her emotions rule her - which is pretty shit for a harmoniser if you ask me. A big chunk of this book was just Binti freaking out over absolutely anything and everything. Frankly, the big reveals didn't make any sense, and the romance didn't really go anywhere. Don't get me wrong, it's a lot better than the first two books in the series but I was just hoping for a little more. In the end, I gave it 3 stars.

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