#ReadSoulLit: Poem of the Day

I am currently enjoying the most wonderful collection of African American poetry collection—and picking up bits and pieces from the internet to admire alongside—and thought perhaps I’ll briefly share what I’ve been admiring, starting today.

Today’s poem: “Africa” by Joseph Seamon Cotter

A thousand years of darkness in her face,
She turns at last from out the centurys’ blight
Of labored moan and dull oppression’s might,
To slowly mount the rugged path and trace
Her measured step unto her ancient place.
And upward, ever upward towards the light
She strains, seeing afar the day when right
Shall rule the world and justice leaven the race.

Now bare her swarthy arm and firm her sword,
She stands where Universal Freedom bleeds,
And slays in holy wrath to save the word
Of nations and their puny, boasting creeds.
Sear with the truth, O God, each doubting heart,
Of mankind’s need and Afric’s gloried part.

Wishing you a good day,
Yamini!

Review | Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

BAD FEMINIST by Roxane Gay

This is not a book of feminist essays. This is a book about a woman who just happens to be feminist and occasionally wants to share the experience of being a feminist.

I bore through almost 50% of this memoir (I refuse to call in a feminist essay collection) before setting it down for good. I’ve heard so much about Roxane Gay that when it came to picking some inspiring reads for Black History Month, I knew this would have to be read this month. But this book is nothing like what I expected.

Roxane Gay has a very strong voice, I give her that, but she seems to have nothing uniquely thought-provoking to add to any of the subjects within the wide spectrum of feminist issues. Bad Feminist is a collection of her real life experiences and stories where she observes microagressions, sexism, racism, etc., but her responses to her own discussions are transparent and blatant most of the time. If a man (or woman) treats you a certain unacceptable way, it’s sexism. That’s pretty much all she has to say about it.

The only essay I found remotely interesting is “The Careless Language of Sexual Violence,” in which she discusses rape culture and “dick culture.” This is the first time I’ve come across a discourse where feminists have started to question the effectiveness of discussing and “tackling” rape culture and want to take a closer look at “dick culture”—which is, loosely put, the cultural obsession men have with their dicks. This was the only essay in the entire first half of this book that made me pause and think.

Literally every other essay was meaningless. I kept expecting more, give me something—anything to hang on to, but in each essay she would barely scratch the surface and move on.

Wipe the title of this book, “Bad Feminist,” call it anything but that and it would reach a more appropriate audience who just want to know Roxane Gay better. As someone who knows nothing about her and was looking more for an inspiring collection of feminist essays that tackle the prevalent issues of our society, I was disappointed.

Rating – ★☆☆☆☆

Review | Go Tell It on the Mountain

GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin

This book is a hit-and-miss for me. I love Baldwin’s writing style and the way he’s ultimately formed this novel. However, the story itself failed to stir any real excitement in me. While I enjoy theological debates in a professional context and am even willing to let go of a few overly religious conversations here and there, this book suffocated me with its obsessive discussions of God and references to the Bible. The first third of the novel I was okay with it, but then my interest continued to steadily deteriorate until I just couldn’t care about the story anymore.

I also wanted to know more about John and his life more then anything else. He had the most interesting story to offer in my opinion and this book might possibly have been more tolerable if we’d just read his story. Furthermore, given the hints of its “semi-autobiographical” nature, at times, I could feel the rage on Baldwin’s part coming right off the pages. It’s a novel he said he needed to write, and I can understand why.

I did still love Baldwin’s prose and will continue to read his other works in the future.

Rating – ★★☆☆☆

Review | (RANT) Alice by Christina Henry

ALICE by Christina Henry

Welcome to my first rant review of 2016! Today’s rant is about ALICE by Christina Henry and here are the list of issues I have with this book:

-development of characters is nonexistent
The book opens in full force and while that’s sort of fun if you’re excited about adventures, Alice as the main character is never fully developed (that could be said about pretty much everyone in the novel). Admittedly since this book is a “retelling” of Alice in Wonderland, I can understand why the author would think we should already be familiar with Alice’s character but given how far away from the original character this book’s Alice is, I needed more.

-not well written
Connecting to the first problem here, the novel mostly feels like a series of “this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened” with no strong exposition, base, or point.

-Hatcher
Hatcher is a problem. For the first half, I was unconcerned with his character…until we come to a scene where Hatcher and Alice are in a room full of women being raped, tortured, and abused and Alice sees a flicker of “hunger” in Hatcher’s eyes. Now Alice seems pretty aware that Hatcher is a dangerous man (I don’t understand why she’s in a relationship with him knowing that, but that’s another issue), but the fact that she seemed more concerned with the regrets Hatcher would have if he did something about this “hunger” was a big, fat problem for me. Alice even seems somewhat concerned about what Hatcher might do to her after seeing all these girls in the room and for the life of me, I do not understand why her major concern remained that Hatcher would feel awful afterward. Fuck Hatcher. Run!

Secondly, and this was a surprise given how much I already didn’t like Hatcher at this point, something about Hatcher’s past is revealed and that “past memory” makes his “hunger” situation even worse. I honestly didn’t think it could get any worse then it was but…wow. For those of you who don’t care about being spoiled, I’ve shared what his dirty little secret is in my Goodreads review. In general, Alice keeps implying that Hatcher really does want to save people, but this “hunger” thing brings this entire book down for me.

Generally, the romanticizing of Hatcher’s character. Big. Fat. No.

-too much rape
How is this kind of society even supposed to function? All women are constantly under the terror of being raped, abducted, sold, tortured, etc. and majority of all men seem like predators (including Hatcher). What the what.

-did this need to be a “retelling”?
This is a minor issue but since I am not as familiar with retellings as others might be, I have to question whether this story really needed to be introduced as a “retelling” of Alice in Wonderland. It felt like everything that happens could’ve been used to tell a whole fantasy story of it’s own. Because of my lack of attachment to the characters and the immaturity of the novel, sometimes I was just downright irritable that the author muddled one of my favorite stories to produce a really shitty version of her own.

Rating – ★☆☆☆

Review | The Return of the Native

THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE by Thomas Hardy

I need more Hardy.

Sure, the man has the ability to rip out my heart and shove it into my palm. But damn. He does it with such elegance, it’s hard to mind.

The Return of the Native is a tale of various individuals struggling to deal with their decisions, and ultimately their fates. We have Thomasin, who we deceptively begin with as the main protagonist; Wildeve, her fiancé and the literal ‘bad boy’ of the story; Clym, the “native,”; and Eustacia, the dark-haired heroine who is barred of all love yet full of ambition.

At first it’s difficult to adjust to Eusatcia as the main protagonist of this story but once the novel is finished and we reflect back on the events of her life, truly, she is a tragic character that never had a chance. While she is selfish and thus often annoying, she is also full of ambition and often the ridiculed subject of other’s gossip. Her ultimate fault is that she is persistent in pursing her happiness—which goodness forbid should a woman dare to do.

Clym eventually just forms into a miserable character and I find now (a few days after having read the book) that there is not much I feel for him except for sympathy. I understand that the few wrong decisions he made in his life were far too dramatic for his character to suffer but alas, this is Hardy. And he hath no mercy.

What I love the most about Hardy and what brings me back to him continuously, despite my conflicts with his characters—whether they be too tame or too headstrong—, is his narration of the 20th century English countryside. His writing is pure, beautiful, and breathtaking. I love that, despite the melancholic essence of his novels, the scenery always retains a breath a fresh air and immense amounts of charm for those of us who like to travel the easier, cheaper way (via our books).

This book will likely remain as one of the most memorable Hardy novels I’ve read.

Rating – ★★★★☆

Review | Sex at Dawn

SEX AT DAWN by Christopher Ryan

It was difficult to take this book as seriously because of the snarky little tone this book has—which honestly needn’t be there. I realize this is coming from someone who already thinks of science as fascinating and doesn’t need the lighter tone to keep things interesting but honestly, this book has too much attitude. It lacks a level of professionalism that, if I’m going to read an informative book about the science of sex, needs.

Part of why I bring this is up is also because the only other book about sex that I’ve read is Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach. But the difference between the two is that while Bonk is funny, it is funny because Mary Roach is not a scholar in a scientific field and thus, her humor is a genuine commentary on the research she is doing. Authors of Sex at Dawn, however, just made me irritated when trying to joke about what is their daily work (or so I assume; I’m sure there aren’t discussion about sex at the dinner table every day). So all I kept thinking was, “why is this funny to you, sir?

In terms of content, I’ll nod along with a lot of what the other reviewers have had to say on Goodreads, which is that a lot of material in here is presented in a rather peculiar way. The authors do a decent job of presenting all the studies available, however, they fail to make any reasonable conclusions where I was looking for one, and make some rather bizarre assumptions where there wasn’t enough evidence to support a theory properly in the first place.

The book also seems to advertise itself as a very “radical” look at human sexual behavior. This is a nice way to get me to read the book, but when it comes to the bigger, juicer topics such as polygamy or monogamy, the authors conveniently avoid taking a stance. Now I’m not saying that there needs to be a straight answer for everything, but it would be kind of nice to know what the author thinks is the more reasonable conclusion to make, or just to better understand what we should be looking more into—as in, what’s next? How do we build on this?

All in all, this was entertaining. But it is most definitely pop-science. It offers some interesting cultures, behaviors, and discussions to look further into, but this is definitely not the place where we stop trying to study the human sexual nature.

Rating – ★★☆☆☆

Bout of Books 15.0 TBR

Bout of Books

Bout of Books is back! And I shall be participating as per usual. This 15th round of BoB takes place from the 4th (yes, today) till the 10th of January, 2016. The sign-up page is here, please go sign up if you would like to participate. This will be the last week at my current job so I am both excited and nervous about how my reading will play out!

My tentative TBR pile –

  1. Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan
  2. The Witches by Stacy Schiff
  3. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  4. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

As you may have noticed, half of this pile is of big books and the other half is non-fiction so I am ambitious, but not overly so. I also most certainly do not intend to finish all of these by the end of the week either, but just read as much as I can. Wish me luck and share your TBR for the week (with or without the participation in BoB 15).

Cheers!