Diversifying and Decolonizing Your Summer Reading List

By Book Moon

By Book Moon

Heart of Darkness, The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, The Grapes of Wrath, Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird. I'm sure a lot of us were assigned these books as required reading in school. And maybe into adulthood we didn't pay as much attention to which authors got the most attention (especially if you're a white reader), won the most of the prizes, got the most press. When you look at your bookshelf now, and look at the names of the authors on the spines, how many authors of color do you see? How many queer authors do you see? How many female authors? How many indigenous authors do you see? 

 

This is just a small, small list of authors and stories to get your bookshelf a little more diverse, expand your notions of the traditional literary canon, and get your imagination working from different perspectives compared to the narrative you were likely taught and constantly exposed to throughout most of your life.*

 

*I've listed mostly novels, but there's also a lot of great non-fiction reading to add to your bookshelf. I would start with the first book listed here (An Indigenous People's History) but there are many more. Perhaps for another list! 

 

Here's a great, short article on decolonizing your bookshelf if you'd like to read more about the subject: https://medium.com/@AestheticDistance/decolonize-your-bookshelves-699cc5e48b63

https://bound2books.co/2019/03/20/10-ways-to-decolonise-your-bookshelf/

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

$16.00 $14.72

"Ortiz doesn’t ignore the darker sides of Indian life and history, including Indian ownership of black slaves before the Civil War, but for the most part she points an accusatory finger at the settlers, soldiers and U.S. presidents who waged what she describes as genocidal warfare against foes labeled 'savages' and 'barbarians'."--Publishers Weekly

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name: A Biomythography

Geraldine Audre Lorde

$16.98 $15.62

Lorde describes this story as a "mythobiography" which I just love. It is mostly biography with some fiction thrown in. "We share her growing awareness of her attraction toward her own sex; her first affairs with women; a longed-for trip alone to Mexico at 19-feeling-like-35, on one of those journeys that serve as routes for psychic discovery; and life as a ''gay-girl'' in the Greenwich Village of the 50's."--Rosemary Danielle for NYT

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston

$17.99 $16.55

A must-read in the canon of African American Literature. ‟There is no book more important to me than this one.”– Alice Walker

Parable of the Sower

Octavia E. Butler

$16.98 $15.62

One of my favorite sci-fi/dystopian books of all time. "In the ongoing contest over which dystopian classic is most applicable to our time, Octavia Butler's 'Parable' books may be unmatched."--New Yorker

Abandon Me: Memoirs

Melissa Febos

$17.00 $15.64

An important addition to the historical queer archive. Febos discusses her Native American heritage and history of addiction as well as the story of her life as a lesbian/queer woman. Incredible memoir. "Erotic and dark, the book is a courageous exploration of love as the ultimate form of plenitude and annihilation. A lyrically visceral memoir of love and loss." - Kirkus Reviews

Days of Distraction

Alexandra Chang

$26.99 $24.29

I can't wait to read this novel, especially because it takes place in Ithaca, NY. "Startlingly original and deeply moving.... Chang here establishes herself as one of the most important of the new generation of American writers." -- George Saunders

The Poet X

Elizabeth Acevedo

$12.99 $11.95

"Themes as diverse as growing up first-generation American, Latinx culture, sizeism, music, burgeoning sexuality, and the power of the written and spoken word are all explored with nuance. Poignant and real, beautiful and intense."--Kirkus Reviews

There There

Tommy Orange

$16.00 $14.72

"With a literary authority rare in a debut novel, it places Native American voices front and center before readers' eyes." --NPR

Homegoing

Yaa Gyasi

$16.95 $15.59

""Thanks to Ms. Gyasi's instinctive storytelling gifts, the book leaves the reader with a visceral understanding of both the savage realities of slavery and the emotional damage that is handed down, over the centuries. . . . By its conclusion, the characters' tales of loss and resilience have acquired an inexorable and cumulative emotional weight." --The New York Times" "[Toni Morrison's] influence is palpable in Gyasi's historicity and lyricism; she shares Morrison's uncanny ability to crystalize, in a single event, slavery's moral and emotional fallout. . . . No novel has better illustrated the way in which racism became institutionalized in this country." --Vogue

Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe

$13.00 $11.96

"A true classic of world literature...A masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world." -- Barack Obama

Ways of Dying

Zakes Mda

$18.00 $16.56

My favorite novel in the South African canon, incredibly moving. "[A] marvelous picaresque . . . Mda's purpose comes through clearly: to show how many ways of dying there are in the transition to a new South Africa, whether through the brutality of white overseers and policemen or that of black gangsters . . . Reflecting the startling contrasts in such a world, tender humor and brutal violence vie with each other in Mda's pages, as do vibrant life and sudden death. The struggle between them creates an energetic and refreshing literature for a country still coming to terms with both the new and the old." --Tony Eprile, The New York Times Book Review

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist)

Min Jin Lee

$16.98 $15.62

"Pachinko is a historical novel that follows four generations of a Korean family that migrates to Japan, following a large ensemble of characters who must deal with the legal and social discrimination they face as immigrants. In order to move up in society, the family opens up pachinko parlor, a slot machine style game popular in Japan, from which the book takes its name. Beautifully written and captivating, Pachinko was named one of the 10 best books of 2017 by The New York Times and was a finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction."--Mental Floss

Internment

Samira Ahmed

$10.99 $10.11

"Internment is a scathing indictment of our current political times. Ahmed has gifted us Layla, a courageous young revolutionary who fights against all boundaries of hate and ignorance. A must read for activists who continue to push back against the big What-Ifs."--National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi

Go Tell It on the Mountain

James Baldwin

$7.99 $7.35

Semi-autobiographical, Go Tell It on the Mountain is considered one of the best American novels ever written. "Go back to where you started," James Baldwin wrote, "or as far back as you can, examine all of it, travel your road again and tell the truth about it. Sing or shout or testify or keep it to yourself: but know whence you came." Baldwin was the son of a preacher and the grandson of a slave, and his voice continues to resonate 50 years after the publication of his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)"--Douglas Field, The Gaurdian

Queenie

Candice Carty-Williams

$16.00 $14.72

"Queenie as a tragicomic story of womanhood, updated for the Tinder age perhaps, with a black body occupying a space already familiar to its white predecessors. But that would be to profoundly underestimate this debut novel, which tells a far deeper story than the one it has been compared to. Candice Carty-Williams, a young Londoner, has a flair for story-telling that appears effortlessly authentic. Her title character is a woman you both know and cannot forget."--Kate Saunders for The Times

Night Sky with Exit Wounds

Ocean Vuong

$16.00 $14.72

"[Vuong] grew up listening to his grandmother’s stories and folk songs, and his poetry takes the musicality of that oral tradition and weds it, brilliantly, with his love of the English language. The poems in Mr. Vuong’s new collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds possess a tensile precision reminiscent of Emily Dickinson’s work, combined with a Gerard Manley Hopkins-like appreciation for the sound and rhythms of words. Mr. Vuong can create startling images (a black piano in a field, a wedding-cake couple preserved under glass, a shepherd stepping out of a Caravaggio painting) and make the silences and elisions in his verse speak as potently as his words."--Diana Whitney for The SF Chronicle

Children of Blood and Bone

Tomi Adeyemi

$18.98 $17.46

"... Adeyemi keeps it fresh with an all-black cast of characters, a meaningful emphasis on fighting for justice, a complex heroine saving her own people, and a brand of magic made more powerful by the strength of heritage and ancestry. Perfect for fans of the expansive fantasy worlds of Leigh Bardugo, Daniel Jose´ Older, and Sabaa Tahir." --Booklist

The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy

$17.00 $15.64

"The quality of Ms. Roy's narration is so extraordinary--at once so morally strenuous and so imaginatively supple--that the reader remains enthralled all the way through."--The New York Times Book Review

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Marjane Satrapi

$15.95 $14.67

"Like Spiegelman's Maus, Satrapi's book combines political history and memoir, portraying a country's 20th-century upheavals through the story of one family. Her protagonist is Marji, a tough, sassy little Iranian girl, bent on prying from her evasive elders if not truth, at least a credible explanation of the travails they are living through."--Sandip Roy, SF Chronicle

The Underground Railroad

Colson Whitehead

$16.95 $15.59

"...a potent, almost hallucinatory novel that leaves the reader with a devastating understanding of the terrible human costs of slavery. It possesses the chilling matter-of-fact power of the slave narratives collected by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s, with echoes of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and brush strokes borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka and Jonathan Swift."--Michael Schaub for NPR

Many moons ago, Amanda first worked as a bookseller at Buffalo Street Books Co-Op in Ithaca, NY. She’s thrilled to be back among the books, especially here in Easthampton where she’s lived for two years. Amanda holds a B.M. in Music Composition and a minor in English Lit. from Ithaca College. She enjoys all kinds of books but is especially partial to anything involving science fiction, speculative fiction, feminist/LGBTQ themes, and writers of color. She’s a nerd’s nerd and loves being a part of this amazing community of book lovers. Come talk to her about her strange taste in music (jazz fusion, anyone?), books, artsy films, and the Fermi Paradox.