The Midnight Library: A Review

You see, doing one thing differently is very often the same as doing everything differently. Actions can’t be reversed within a lifetime, however much we try . . . [t]he only way to learn is to live.”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Nora Seed is deeply depressed about both her life and the numerous regretful mistake she has made along the way. Saddened by how her choices have affected just about every relationship in her life, Nora decides that the best way to solve everything is to self-destruct and leave this world for good. Yet, she finds herself stuck between life and death in a bizarre library with infinite numbers of books, detailing a completely different version of her life. Nora must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

As The Midnight Library is a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fiction, I am almost certain you have either heard or have already read this stunning book. Yet, despite its popularity in the book community, I wasn’t all that interested in reading it at first. Thanks to a friend of mine who, too, was eager to devour this novel, persuading me to purchase my copy for our next No Name Bookclub read, and I decided to give it a try. Yes, I was secretly dreading to start this book since it’s totally out of my comfort zone, yet, I am happy to admit that this publication is so worth the hype!

This book has a philosophical tone about existence and choosing a lifestyle that’s meaningful, and provides true happiness to oneself – but with a creative twist. Matt Haig reminds us that although most of us might not be battling with severe depression, we all have a considerable amount of regrets that we wish we could change. However, the interesting question Haig poses in this novel is not whether we would correct our mistakes if we had the chance to, but instead, whether the outcome would be any different. Like many of us, Nora Seeds regrets many decisions she has made in her life. She strongly believes she is a major disappointment to both her friends and family. With an extraordinary opportunity to experience different versions of her life, Nora teaches us that we try our best to choose the right choices, but we can never choose the outcome.

In the end, Haig encourages readers that life, itself, is a gift and that instead of worrying about past mistakes or regrets, we should focus on the fact that we are all full of infinite potential. Life is worth living regardless of our flaws. We should never give up on ourselves.

Happy reading, friends!

A Song Below Water By Bethany C. Morrow: A Review

“Sirens, the say and anyone listening knows it’s a dirty word. Danger, they report and they’re talking about the danger she posed, never the danger we face.”

In her debut novel, Morrow tackles a plethora of black experiences in America such as racism, sexism, and the stigmatism of black hair, while simultaneously providing a colorful and deeply moving modern fantasy of two sisters navigating self-discovery and friendship. The story begins with the murder trial of an African American woman named Rhoda Taylor who was suspected to be a siren. Tavia, along with the rest of her family, is nervous about her safety as she sees Rhoda as herself: a black woman who is seen as a threat rather than a victim of violence. While Effie is determined to protect her sister’s secret, she too is secretly dealing with unexplainable magic of her own that is slowly threatening to reveal her true identity of which her family has prevented her from knowing since birth. Together, Tavia and Effie rely on each other more than ever as their community seeks justice for the many killings of unarmed black victims.

In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that incorporates Greek mythology, European mythology, fantasy, and American history all in one. Morrow took it upon herself to tell a very unique story that combines both mythical and supernatural creatures while weaving together real-life black experiences. She transports her readers to an unusual world with sprites and sirens, but she also adds very familiar issues. While effectively delivering an irresistible story of friendship and power, Morrow masterfully blends issues like the lack of media coverage of black female victims and the pervasiveness of racial profiling by police officers so as to educate her readers in a mild approach while still entertaining them. Her writing is powerful and the message is eternal. There were countless moments throughout this book where I was deeply moved and inspired.

“We’ve got a secret, and as far as my dad’s concerned, everything threatens to give us away.”

Along with her creative storytelling, Morrow uses alternating points of view which not only allows her readers to get a deeper insight into Tavia and Effie’s complicated issues but also highlights the world they live in, which mirrors our very own.

All in all, not only is this book timely, but I would also say it’s the first step to understanding a few important issues about black struggles for those who aren’t quite ready to dive headfirst into America’s complicated relationship with her African American citizens. It’s irresistibly compelling without shying away from the many painful truths within the black community.

Happy Reading!

Resurrecting the Truth: Why I Celebrate July 4th

The Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776

With his back turned, he posed for the camera and exposed his scourged back. Drenched in thick snake welts, you could almost hear the sounds of large, angry whips crackling against his black flesh. With tightly coiled hair covered in mud and dirt, he sat there with an absent stare as his gangly left arm rested on his hip. Noosed firmly with our nation’s flag, he remained emotionless. His eyes weren’t wide with fear and his hands weren’t grasping at his throat. No, he sat there gallantly while revealing no signs of a broken spirit. The horrible scars on his back bear testimony to his endurance and the diabolical treatment he received at the hands of his malicious overseer, who without a doubt did not possess an ounce of mercy or humanity in him, and perhaps delighted in fulfilling the wishes of the plantation owner. Was he a father or a husband? Were his children waiting up for him? Neither his name nor his story was important on July 4, 2018. In fact, because the photo depicted him as a brutally beaten slave, it was posted online by numerous bloggers, and quickly became an awful trend on social media like a herpes virus outbreak. These bloggers made this image viral in order to justify why African Americans should not celebrate the birth of our nation. Unfortunately, many African Americans operate under the misguided notion that our ancestors weren’t involved in securing America her independence, or that we did not contribute significantly to building this nation. On the contrary, there are ample facts that cannot be ignored and prove that this holiday is more than just a white man’s independence day. It is our birthright as fellow Americans.

Here in the United States, we celebrate the birth of our great nation on the Fourth of July of each year. A plethora of red, white, and blue flags flap proudly against the patriotic breeze; children shrilly chant in parades; sauce-smeared drumsticks, homemade hamburgers, and slippery wieners sizzle on open grills—recipe for a perfect birthday celebration. Yet, the Fourth of July reminds a vast majority of African Americans of America’s sordid racial past. Case in point, one blogger insisted, “[t]ell me again why black people are celebrating July 4th? Your ancestors weren’t even fighting and weren’t even freed from the brutal slavery almost 100 years after. If you think this day includes you, you’re wrong. Happy Fourth of You Lie!” Yes, a majority of our ancestors were slaves, but they were also fearless soldiers, sailors, and captains.

Although the United States abolished the slave trade within her borders in 1807, our ancestors were domestic slaves both during and after the American Revolutionary War. However, how do you incite slaves to fight in a war on your behalf with nothing in return? You give them what they want most—you promise them freedom. Consequently, due to the shirking number of able-bodied white men, both the British and the patriots saw the potential benefits of allowing black slaves to help fight for their cause. Take George Washington as an example. Desperate for manpower, Washington reluctantly submitted to the idea of recruiting both free and enslaved African Americans into the army. The result? Approximately 5,000 freedmen and slaves enlisted in the Continental Army during the war, and more than 140 African Americans served in the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, otherwise known as the “Black Regiment.” How dare we sit quietly and forget that the first casualty of the American Revolution was an African American named Crispus Attucks during the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770? Or how could we forget Peter Salem who shot and killed notorious British Major John Pitcairn of the British Marines at the battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, and Salem Poor who purchased his freedom, fought with distinction and killed British Lieutenant-Colonel James Abercrombie? Yes, hunched down on dewy grass, our ancestors stealthily gripped their muskets with frigid hands, ignoring the effluvium that warned them of death. Their request was simple—freedom. Yes, our ancestors so valiantly and honorably fought alongside the revolutionists and displayed incredible valor. Whether free or enslaved, our ancestors sacrificed their lives in the hope for liberty; a dream that would blossom into reality only at death.

Instead of honoring our ancestors who fought not only for our liberty, but also for the liberty of this foreign country, infected bloggers prefer to spread their ignorance about our ancestors’ freedom and sacrifice. One blogger boldly argues, “What were your ancestors doing on July 4, 1776? Oh, that’s right! They were picking cotton. Black people look really stupid today celebrating white peoples’ independence. Instead of today, why not celebrate January 1, 1863, the day our ancestors became free when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation? Juneteenth was our ancestors’ independence.” Uh, absolutely wrong! Reading ignorant comments like this can cause a recurrent chlamydia outbreak. Inaccurate, blister facts and painful cold sore comments about our ancestors’ freedom can only be cured with an acyclovir cream of truth. Remember, old honest Abe wasn’t so honest like many would like to believe. First, the Emancipation Proclamation served for only two purposes: to threaten the Southern states to cease their rebellion action by January 1, 1863, and second, as a war strategy in order to defeat the Confederacy. Therefore, just as the patriots recognized the need of having both free and enslaved men to fight in the Revolutionary War, Abraham Lincoln also recognized the need of African Americans in order to preserve the Union Army. Once again, in the name of freedom, over 200,000 of our ancestors enlisted both in the Union army and in the navy. The Emancipation Proclamation was not written to help eradicate the overflowing misery of our ancestors’ plight. Lincoln unintentionally revealed the inclination of his heart when drafting the Emancipation Proclamation in a letter to Hon. Horace Greeley during the Civil War. Lincoln confessed, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves I would do it.” So, how did our ancestors gain their freedom if the Emancipation Proclamation was just a strategic plan? Great question! While slave owners were out fighting in the war, slaves gained their own freedom by abandoning their owner’s plantation entirely.

James Armistead Lafayette was an African American slave who served the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War as a spy under the Marquis de Lafayette. Pretending to be a runaway slave, Armistead infiltrated British camps and gained valuable intelligence

Overall, it saddens me when a great deal of African Americans know so little, if not any, about the investment our ancestors made since the founding of this nation. We are and have always been a vital aspect of American history. Regrettably, young African Americans aren’t taught the truth about their ancestors. They are taught in length about our nation’s founding fathers, however, it takes a lousy twenty-nine days to honor America’s most loyal citizens. Therefore, African Americans must remember the bloodshed of our ancestors whether they were free or enslaved. We should always remember the cold moonlit night of March 5, 1770, where Crispus Attucks unselfishly offered his blood on behalf of many. Fourth of July is very much so our holiday, and we should rejoice with pride and dignity. I know I will.

Happy 4th of July!

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes: A Review

Framed. Bullied. Disliked. But I know I can still be the best.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In this book, Rhodes tackles the all too real pain of racial injustice, colorism, and prejudice faced by people of color in schooling systems, along with the common act of whitewashing in history. 12-years-old Donte Ellison is falsely accused by the captain of the fencing team, “King” Alan, of disrupting class by throwing a pencil at a fellow student. He is later arrested and suspended for his conduct. Though Donte is angry at the fact that no one would believe he’s innocent, instead of sulking about his situation, he seeks the help of a former fencing olympian, so as to confront his bully and the blatant racism that exists in his nearly all-white prep middle school in their own turf: fencing.

Although this book was written for a much younger audience, I am completely shocked at Rhodes’ ability to confront a very painful topic with such simplicity and grace. In addition to confronting issues like racial injustice, colorism, economic privilege, and prejudice, Rhodes mentions the fatal shooting of twelve years old Tamir Rice to also highlight police brutality against the black community, along with systemic racism and the school-to-prison pipeline. Such topics are often considered inappropriate for young children, yet Rhodes held nothing back. She uses Donte Ellison’s experiences as an example to show young readers the power in fighting for what you believe and surrounding yourself with people who will fight with you.

“Sitting, I stare at the black specks on the white linoleum. A metaphor? That’s what they’re teaching me in English. Metaphor. Except I won’t believe I’m just a black speck. I’m bigger, more than that. Though sometimes I feel like I’m swimming in whiteness. “

The other reason why I enjoyed this book immensely was the fact that Rhodes mentioned my favorite book: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. Rhodes took the opportunity to educate her young readers about General Alex Dumas and his heroic sacrifice. Like Dumas, she uses and gives voice to the many black athletes that are almost forgotten from the pages of our history.

In the end, this heartbreaking story is a must-read for anyone who would like a simpler understanding regarding the issues that have haunted the black community for centuries.

Happy reading!

What Makes Me Pick Up a Book Tag

I have never participated in a book tag! I’m not sure why that’s the case since I love watching bookish tags on either YouTube or reading them on blogs. The questions are very interesting and, of course, the themes are always fun and exciting. Yet, for some reason, participating in one has never crossed my mind. Well, that all changed after seeing the following tag on Kristin Krave’s Books—who have also seen this done on Becky’s Book Blog. So here we go!

Do you judge a book by its cover?

Not necessarily. Although I do appreciate beautiful, vibrant covers, the title usually does it for me. Something interesting with a hint of historical fact will often tug at my curiosity. I am also a firm believer that a compelling title will often have an alluring cover. Take for example The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. From all the adaptation films that I’ve watched, the count is always portrayed as a white man. However, in this book, he’s black with a strong, handsome feature. He is adorned in a 1700s French general uniform and seated on a shiny black horse. Knowing that blacks at the time seldomly held a high rank in any army, along with the title stating “the real count,” caused me to have so many questions that I wanted answers to. I devoured this book in a couple of days. Interesting titles equal to an even more interesting cover.

Focusing on a cover, what attracts you to pick it up?

Just as a movie score should be able to tell its own story while simultaneously providing depth and emotions to the overall film, so does the illustration of a book cover. For me, the cover should tell its own story with a unique visual explanation, while catering to the emotions and curiosities of its potential readers.

Do you read the synopsis first, or prefer to go in knowing nothing about the book?

I commend those who are able to pick up a book without knowing anything about it. I understand the excitement one gets by doing that, but I rarely pick up or purchase a book without knowing anything about it. I want my little library to house books that I want to read, so it’s important for me to know a bit about the book. A good synopsis almost serves as a motivational factor. When I know I have a book sitting on my shelf with a juicy outline, I get this sheer excitement to start it as soon as possible. This is actually a quick way to get over a reading slump, too.

Do you have any auto-buy authors?

I most surely do! Ron Chernow, Tomi Adeyemi, Madeline Miller, Angie Thomas, and Tom Reiss.

Are you more likely to pick up a book if it has specific elements/themes?

While I like to think that I don’t, I have noticed that I am drawn to war theme stories, specifically WWII. I didn’t notice until I started my own blog, but I really enjoy reading about the underdogs overcoming great perils or historical novels exposing the horrors of real-world wars; not to mention the leadership it takes to defend one’s country. Hence, I will read anything involving Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harry S. Truman, to name a few.

Do you ever read a book that has generally negative reviews just to form your own opinion on it?

I so want to say yes to this question but sadly my answer is no. I never want to avoid reading a book solely because it has some negative reviews. Yet, if it’s widely known in the book community that a certain book has a few troubling factors like undeveloped characters, cheesy plot, or a weak resolution, then I will totally avoid reading it. On the other hand, if it has mixed reviews, I will consider reading it, but perhaps sometime later in the future.

Do you ever buy a book just because another BookTuber/Blogger has talked about it a lot?

Yes. And I have learned my lesson not to ever do that again.

Is there anyone whose book recommendations you always trust the most?

Absolutely! Regan from Peruseproject is a BookTuber who has a passion for reading high fantasy but will dabble in other genres like historical fiction. I love her in-depth reviews, primarily because she avoids mentioning spoilers. She’s charismatic and loves sharing books that are often not trending in BookTube. I trust her recommendations because she isn’t afraid to explain in detail why she didn’t enjoy a particular book. Also, she’s currently using her platform to highlight black authors and support the fight against racism which is a major plus in my eyes!

I had such a blast with this tag! Weirdly enough, I’ve learned a few things about myself and a few things I would like to change regarding how I select my next read. I will definitely be participating in more bookish tags in the future. If you haven’t done this already, welp, you have now been tagged!

Happy reading!

Eight Books You’ve Probably Already Read Haul

Yes, I know exactly what you’re thinking. It’s a bit bold of me to assume that you’ve read some, if not all, of these books that are featured above. However, if you haven’t, then we’ll just ignore that part for the sake of this post. I’m sort of joking. You see, I’ve had a few too many experiences of spending money on books that were slightly expansive, yet completely tedious. Presently, I now hold back from purchasing novels, especially on their release date, without doing some sort of research that goes beyond just reading the synopsis. I’ll read a few non-spoiler reviews, check out the author’s previous work, and watch a few book review videos on YouTube. I know my method might sound a bit much, but it definitely helps me from being disappointed later. Sadly, I have to admit this strategy of mine has a little drawback. By the time I finally buy the books, they’re already old news in the book community. In fact, I’m often so late to the game that an adaptation film is already out in theaters! In any case, the most important takeaway here is that I have obtained these precious gems. So, without further ado, let’s take a wander through my new book collection of which I’m almost certain you’ve had a chance to read at some point.

  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson — OK, I honestly purchased this book because I saw the movie and I was eager to know what part of the story didn’t make it to the screen.  I have been a fan of Bryan Stevenson since the moment I saw him featured on the Netflix documentary tilted, 13th. This book follows Stevenson’s early years of practicing law and defending those who were wrongly condemned. I am so excited to read this novel.
  • Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman — One of my favorite BookTubers decided to read this book on a whim and recorded her experience in her reading vlog. She was so moved by this story that she nearly cried a few times as she is able to connect with the main character and the issues that are mentioned in this publication. This debut novel is about a half-Japanese teen who’s struggling with both social anxiety and identity, along with a crippling relationship with her mother, as she strives to embrace her true self.
  •  The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames — I’m not sure why I’m so drawn to World War II historical fiction books, but here’s another exciting read. This is a richly told debut book about a young woman named Stella Fortuna who uses her toughness to protect her slower sister while fighting for her independence and dealing with an ancient and twisted family drama.
  • Crave by Tracy Wolf — New series alert! Although I was annoyed by the Twilight series, I am a sucker for a juicy vampire romance read. I came across this one while browsing online and decided to give it a chance. In this book, Grace is shipped off to a prestigious boarding school after the death of her parents. She soon realizes that Alaskan is no ordinary boarding school, as she is surrounded by paranormal creatures. Then, of course, there’s this hot vampire named Jaxon Vega with a deadly secret. Oh, so delicious! I can’t wait to start this one.
  • The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes — Another historical novel about the real-life Pack Horse Library project in rural Kentucky. A group of women on a journey to promote literacy during the depression era sounds so interesting and I look forward to devouring this book.
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff  — This hardback is super popular in BookTube and I’ve heard nothing but great things about this author’s writing. Simply put, Mia Corvere is a trained assassin seeking personal revenge towards those who have destroyed her family. A girl kicking butt—what’s not to love?
  • The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson — I’d read anything regarding Winston Churchill. This man was a true titan of his time. Unlike the so-called leadership we see today, Larson highlights Churchill’s undeniable skills to bring a country together during one of the world’s darkest moments. I’m already predicting this a five-star read.

“By the time I finally buy the books, they’re already old news in the book community.”

Supporting Black Authors

This isn’t a new trend for me. I have always and will continue to support black writers above all. Although there aren’t many African Americans authors in comparison to white authors, I am extremely proud that both readers and literary businesses are promoting black authors in solidarity against racism, given the recent tragedies in America. With that, here are some hardcovers I look forward to reading:

  • Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson — Claudia’s best friend, Monday Charles, is missing and no one seems to know when they saw her last. While Monday’s family strangely isn’t willing to help, Claudia will stop at nothing to find her friend.
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas — Struck with financial hardship and impending eviction, sixteen-year-old Bri is determined to help her family the one way she knows how: battling other MC rappers to make it big in the music industry.
  • Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds —Jack meets Kate at a party and is instantly smitten by her. Shortly after introducing Kate to his friends, Jack is devastated by Kate’s sudden death. Yet, Jack finds himself reliving those special moments with Kate as he tries to prevent her death no matter what.
  • Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream by Blair Imani, (Foreword by Patrisse Cullors) — An illustration collection of prominent figures’ experiences that have contributed to the fight against voting rights, domestic terrorism, discrimination, and segregation within the African American community.
  • Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes — Donte is framed by the captain of the fencing team, “King” Alan, and is suspended from school and arrested for something he didn’t do. Frustrated,  Donte seeks the help of a former fencing olympian, so as to confront his bullies and the blatant racism that exists in his nearly all-white prep school. 

All in all, I’m usually not bothered by how long it takes me to obtain a popular book, let alone read it. How I see it, so long as you have the publications in your possession, it shows your willingness to read it at some point in the future. No harm done!

Adios, and happy reading!

Introducing the No Name Book Club

One of the most exciting things to do as an avid reader is to become a member of a book club. Finally, you’re able to rave about the books you read with other readers without encountering uninterested stares. However, I’ve never been in a book club before, so you can imagine how I felt when my friend approached me with the idea to start one. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always dreamt of starting a small reading club, but since I’m somewhat of an introvert and am super awkward, I sort of gave up on that goal. Nonetheless, my friend— who has a passion for reading, but could never manage to actually finish a book— was eager to awaken the bookworm spirit inside her. How awesome is that? So, after spending a few hours perusing the book section at our local Target, we eventually agreed on our first book for our teeny-weeny club. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Here’s the interesting part. Given that we both have never participated in or hosted a book club, we didn’t know exactly how to proceed after purchasing our books. We’re total newbies at this. We weren’t sure what type of discussion questions to ask or if we should even ask any to begin with. We were completely lost with when or where we should meet, and clueless as to what the title or theme of our club should be. I know what you’re thinking— a simple search on Google would solve everything. I’m sure there is a myriad of articles on how to start a book club, but the one thing we both agreed on is that we didn’t want to follow any set of rules on how our club should be. This is why it’s been almost two weeks since our club has started, and we still haven’t come up with a cool name. No pressure.

Now, because our club is a bit more unique than others, my friend and I decided to start our first meeting with a day full of activities. We stopped by a garden shop in Wynwood and bought some pretty flowers, visited a cute juice bar and enjoyed some tasty refreshments, and picked up a bottle of wine along with some of our favorite snacks at our local grocery store. Our first meeting was quite brief but super funny. We couldn’t stop laughing at how nervous we were but we eventually were able to share our thoughts and have fun. We learned a lot from each other on how we interpret things and the way we connect with a particular paragraph or character. On top of that, since alcohol will be consumed at our little gathering, we agreed that it would be best to host our meeting on Fridays instead of Mondays.  

Basically, the old cliché holds true: there is nothing more comforting and relaxing than curling up with a good book. The purpose of our club is simply to enjoy each other’s company while encouraging each other to read more. Although our club is a bit small, I think we both wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you think it’s important to have discussion questions or for all members to express their thoughts freely? Let’s start a conversation in the section below.

As always, happy reading!

The Honest Truth About My Relationship with Reading

OK, I think our friendship has reached the point where I can now tell you the truth about how my love for reading got started. As with a first kiss, I will remember my first experience with reading forever… and it wasn’t all that great. Unlike most of my fellow readers in the book community, I definitely didn’t start reading at a very young age. In fact, reading and I weren’t always the best of friends growing up. We had a complicated relationship. When I would attempt to read, letters would magically switch positions, I would stumble over words or say them incorrectly, and what’s most annoying part is that I would normally have to read a sentence several times just to get its meaning. I can’t say for sure if I was dyslexic, as I was never diagnosed, but I wouldn’t be surprised by it. It comes as no surprise that at a young age, I had low self-esteem and would inaccurately consider myself stupid. At school, I would become quiet and withdrawn, hoping that people wouldn’t notice me. Sadly, people did notice me and as a result, I was bullied throughout my elementary school years. However, as I got older something inside me started to change. I found myself visiting both my local bookstore and library quite often. A small stack of books began to pile on my nightstands, and composition notebooks were slowly being filled with interesting new words. Just like that, a beautiful romance was beginning to brew.

My earliest memory of reading is spending a few minutes after school with my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Alvarez, reading books way below my grade level. I wholeheartedly believe that kids could tell the difference between teachers that cared and those that didn’t. Mrs. Alvarez immediately picked up on my reading ability and was determined to help me. She never called on me to read out loud during class, she gave me extra reading homework assignments to help with my overall grade, and she moved my desk next to hers so that I could easily ask for help instead of staying silent. Not only was she patient with me when I struggled with reading, but she also went out of her way to purchase a few books for me to keep at home so I could practice. I remember crying to her one afternoon when a group of girls from my class repeatedly called me stupid during lunch. I was ready to give up. Mrs. Alvarez pulled me aside before PE and encouraged me to be strong and ignore those girls. She even went as far as contacting the girls’ parents and creating the “Good Behavior Game” in which good classroom behaviors were rewarded during the instructional time of day. I instantly felt better and was reminded that there was someone that cared. She remains my favorite teacher to this day. Knowing there was someone invested in my success gave me a reason to do better, and to challenge myself in reading.

With the help of my favorite teacher, reading was slowly becoming a new outlet for my imagination and a constant companion. Although Mrs. Alvarez did her best to prevent me from getting bullied by my classmates, I was already a target for being weirdly skinny, ridiculously shy, and embarrassingly awkward. Yet, none of that bothered me too much. Since I had no friends, I turned to books even more. If someone was being mean to me, I’d pulled out my Sweet Valley High novel and escape to another world. At lunch, no one would sit next to me, but I was too nose deep in reading the Boxcar Children to care. Genres like romance, mystery, and historical-fiction let my mind stray from reality. They kept my imagination alive while I was being forced to learn multiplication and the names of countries. I went from loathing reading to losing myself in a book for hours. To encourage me to continue reading, my mother used to ask me questions about my latest reads since I didn’t have anyone to share my thoughts with. I remember telling her how I wish I could keep my books instead of returning them back to the library. Despite the fact that my parents didn’t have money to always buy me new books, my dad built me a small bookshelf and my mom would take me to our local bookstore on special occasions. I was slowly falling in love with reading.

Of course, as I got older, the bookworm inside me slowly died. I blame many things for my literary dry spell: college burnout, new jobs, guys, and watching more T.V. I was an adult, flushed with new freedoms. But it didn’t feel right—this life without books. I knew I had to do something, but I didn’t know where to start. But what happened next was nothing short of magical. One evening, as I was browsing through YouTube, I came across a video where this girl was gushing about the books she was planning on reading. Her name was Zoe, and her enthusiasm sparked something deep inside me. Zoe resurrected my bookworm spirit and I was instantly curious to know more about her reading journey, and also to get back to mine. I learned so much about the BookTube community and quickly became fans of other BookTubers like NayaReadsandSmile, Books with Chole, and PeruseProject. Since then, I’ve been reading nonstop and I feel so alive!

In a nutshell, reading and I had a rocky beginning, but I wouldn’t change my experience at all. Because I struggled with reading at an early age, I appreciate it much more now, knowing how far I’ve come. Reading gives me purpose, helps me persevere through difficulty, and unlocks parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed.

What is your earliest reading memory? Let me know below! 

Happy reading!

Dear Daughter

This poem was written by me after the senseless killing of both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. And now, given the public execution of George Floyd, I decided to share my poem here.

See that your eyes aren’t marked to be seen, but they are dark umber-brown wisdom left behind from ancestors who are still whispering.

Don’t be too amused by their caramel lies that tickle the ears. Yet faces are turning claret and eyes are swirling madly knowing very well what foul fallacy the tongue is holding.

Remember that block you grew up in Brooklyn? Walking that one-way eternal street with that old smell of grandfather’s menthol grease and sweet purple haze weed?

Or the corner where Kenny’s blood still cries and how grandma said they left when we started to arrive?

However, you kept exchanging handshakes with hard eyes and ashes in your mouth.

But sit up! This world won’t do it for you with gentle ease,

Especially, not for midnight skin,

Black afro coarse hair,

Or 12inch weave.

Happy Reading!

Book as Refuge: What I Read During the Pandemic

“Indeed, who has a greater right to public respect than the man of color fighting for freedom after having experienced all the horrors of slavery? To equal the most celebrated warriors he need only keep in mind all the evils he has suffered.”
― Tom Reiss, the Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

I know it’s been some time since I last posted anything, and I am truly sorry for my disappearance. Towards the end of last year, work was both chaotic and stressful which led me into a massive reading slump. However, right when things started to calm down, the world stopped due to the Coronavirus. Like everyone else, I was a bit nervous and scared about this pandemic. Standing in long lines at grocery stores, being holed up at home, and receiving devastating updates from news outlets all had me craving for some kind of diversion from the unfolding crisis. And like a true bibliophile, I turned to books as my refuge during these trying times. To my amazement, I’ve read a total of five books last month! Now, I know that’s not an impressive number, but if you’re a slow reader like myself, you’ll agree that this is a colossal achievement. With that being said, here are the books that have kept me sane during this time, along with a brief review:

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory — This book was not for me. I didn’t enjoy it one bit. The plot was OK but the execution was very cliche. The characters were annoying and the romance felt cheesy and rushed. I normally don’t DNF a book — a bookish terminology which means Did Not Finish — and because I bought this book with my own money, I owed it to myself to finish reading it no matter how boring the story was.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter — This book should have been featured above as the second novel to the right but I grabbed the wrong publication for this photo. Oops. Anyway, this book was fantastic! Absolutely moving! I normally avoid any holocaust novels because I just can’t stomach the horrific truth. However, I accidentally purchased this book without reading the synopsis, thinking it was a romance novel. However, I am so glad that I obtained this amazing book! The author was inspired to write this incredible true story of a Jewish family that got separated at the start of World War II. Finding out more about what the Jewish community really went through in order to survive shocked me to my core. This book made me cry, laugh, and cry even more.

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