I guess my reading slump is kind of over because I feel like I flew through these next books! This time I’ll be talking about a memoir about a Black man who infiltrates the KKK, a coming-of-age story told in verse, and a whimsical classic. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.
Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Genre: Adult memoir
Trigger warnings include racism, racial slurs, and KKK imagery.
In 1978 the community of Colorado Springs, Colorado experienced a growth of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) membership. One man dared to challenge their effort and thwart attempts to take over the city, Police Detective Ron Stallworth. He launched an undercover investigation into the Klan, gained membership into the organization, briefly served as Duke’s bodyguard, and was eventually asked to be the leader of the Colorado Springs chapter. The irony of this investigation was that Stallworth is… A Black man. In the process he battled internal departmental politics to successfully pull off this “sting.” Black Klansman explains how he overcame these obstacles and accomplished this almost unbelievable unique achievement.
“Publicly he would not talk about hate but about heritage and history. He spawned a new racism for the right-wing masses, one that melded the antipathy to blacks and other minorities to general dissatisfaction with government and fear of an ever-changing complex world.”
One of the first things that struck me about this story is that it doesn’t take place in the American south. So many times we want to relegate that kind of hatred to the south but it’s everywhere; just pointing at the south is not the way to talk and think about racism. This story is particularly interesting because it gives so much insight into some of their recruitment tactics in the late 70’s as well as about the ways they tried to push their message. It wasn’t just cross burning and making themselves known by rallying; the people Stallworth was dealing with were active politically and either trying to register their members to vote or even running for office themselves. They also had a lot of ties to religion which is something interesting to consider. I also appreciated the conversations surrounding media coverage and how that gives their group a sense of validation. This was in the late 70s so just think about what the advent of social media means for them. Beyond the serious and intriguing insight this memoir gives, Stallworth finds ways to include humor to poke fun at their ideas and how others perceived them. This is a short, easy-to-understand memoir and I definitely recommend it if you’re interested in this topic.
The Poey X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Genre: YA contemporary
A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
“I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.”
I picked up the audiobook for The Poet X while I was on a walk and needed something to listen to. I was immediately drawn into Acevedo’s voice and storytelling and couldn’t stop listening even after my walk was over. This is a short story but one that packs so much into it. I remember thinking that if I’d picked this up at my local library when I was a teenager, it would have been one of those that I checked out over and over again. I really appreciated the discussion about religion and women’s bodies. Xiomara is made to see her changing body as something that will bring her trouble and something she needs to pray about. Seeing her struggle particularly with this aspect of religion was something I don’t think I’ve seen explored in a YA book before. At the end of the story, Xiomara comes to her own conclusion about religion that I think is beautiful and something that would have really stuck with me growing up in the US south.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Release Date: November 1, 1865
Genre: Children’s fantasy classic
After a tumble down the rabbit hole, Alice finds herself far away from home in the absurd world of Wonderland. As mind-bending as it is delightful, Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel is pure magic for young and old alike.
“If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.”
I picked this audiobook up because I was at a point where I needed a ton of audiobooks while I was working. This was a re-read for me as I’ve read this story countless times before but I always enjoy coming back to it. It’s probably the definition of whimsical and it’s certainly nonsensical but much like with Oz, I like seeing who or what Alice will encounter next. I particularly love the scene where she’s stuck in the house and the White Rabbit has to get Bill to help. That’s one of my favorite parts of the first Disney film, as well. My other favorite part of the film isn’t included in the book but I’ll share it below. I don’t remember having read the second part of this story before (though I might have as a small child) but I am excited to listen to it the next time I need a quick audiobook.
What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!