Queenie- Candice Carty-Williams (physical book, new read)
‘Meet Queenie. She just can’t cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That’s just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Stuck between a boss who doesn’t seem to see her, a family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested), and trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her, it’s no wonder she’s struggling.’ (Queenie synopsis)
Whilst I read this book before the murder of George Floyd and the protests, I would again like to address the horrific events and systemic racism that black people are experiencing, specific police brutality and everyday racism at the hands of ignorant white people. I am continuing to educate myself, sign petitions and donate to causes that support Black lives matter, and I will continue to read- and actively seek out books- written by black authors or representing the experiences of black people to enhance my education as I aim to become actively anti-racist. I understand that I will never understand. However, I stand.
I knew nothing about this book going into it, but I instantly loved Queenie as a character and found this very quick and easy to read. This book emphasises the more ‘every-day’ elements of systemic racism and Candy-Williams highlighted the ignorance of white people in denying racism through the dismissive nature of the white characters; Queenie experiences lots of gaslighting from her relationship and there are several examples of her ex-boyfriend supporting the racist statements and assumptions made by his family. As a result of this gaslighting, Queenie often doubts herself and the racism or sexism that she faces throughout this book- I loved the nuanced way that this is addressed as the writer effectively emphasised the doubt that people can feel whilst standing up for what’s right, and the way that dominant assumptions and meritocratic discourse create an environment where racism and sexism can go unchallenged. Queenie will be a very relatable character for readers in her actions and inner monologues. I will note here that there is lots on consent, power and abuse which is extremely well written but may act as a trigger for some readers.
I also enjoyed the realistic and positive depictions of mental health and illness, and Queenies relationships with her family and friends. Themes of reliance on others and the need to work on yourself and learn to love yourself can be seen throughout. It was very interesting to read about the cultural elements of mental health discussions in this book; Queenie and her family reflect upon the often-dismissive reaction to mental illness within Jamaican culture, and reluctance or shame surrounding accepting help.
“It’s not putting black lives on a pedestal, I don’t even know what that means,” I said, my heart beating fast. “It’s saying that black lives, at this point, and historically, do not, and have not mattered, and that they should!”
I looked first at Gina, then around the room to see if anyone was going to back me up. Instead, I was met with what I’d been trying to pretend hadn’t always been a room full of white not-quite-liberals whose opinions, like their money, had been inherited.”
The Hate U Give- Angie Thomas (audiobook, new read)
‘Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.’ (The Hate U Give synopsis)
I watched this film when it came out and I was incredibly moved but having never read the book I decided to listen to it. This book is extremely powerful and is still incredibly relevant, the events of this story are exactly parallel within the police brutality, protests, and social media conversations we are having today. The fact that this story was relevant and continues to be relevant is despicable. Starr is an amazing and relatable character and I would recommend that everybody read this story, regardless of age. I’ve been thinking about books that I can read with my class to learn about race and racism, and whilst The Hate U Give is too mature for primary school I highly recommend giving this book to any teenagers and young adults, it is incredible. I would also recommend watching the film, it has been adapted very well and is incredibly powerful.
“That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
“People like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right.”
My Year of Rest and Relaxation- Ottessa Moshfegh (physical book, new read)
‘It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong? Our narrator has many of the advantages of life: Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend.’ (My Year of Rest and Relaxation synopsis)
This book is a little bit mental hahaha, I’m intrigued to read some of Moshfegh’s other books to see if they have similar surreal plots and characters. Whilst this book touches on elements of grief and depression it is a satirical account of wealth, youth and the sense of dissatisfaction or ingratitude that can come with privilege. I think this is also written as though it is a social commentary of those who perceive ‘Generation z’ to be lazy, entitled, and uninspired due to the perceived ease of life today. The main character is unlikable and Moshfegh writes her sense of entitlement and selfish nature in a very interesting insightful way. This book has a particularly unsettling contrast when read alongside the other books I read this week, with themes of privilege, prejudice, and discrimination. The tone of this book is in parts gloomy and funny and I found it very interesting to read about the caricatures of realistic people (if that makes any sense at all).
Whilst reading, I also noted that the main character has a similar vibe to the narrator of American Psycho and these books gave me a similar sort of feeling (I liked this one more though, American Psycho made me feel a bit queasy most of the time). I was also reminded of The Vegetarian in the last half of the book, the characters ‘transformations’ felt similar.
‘in my frenzied state of despair, I understood: there was stability in living in the past.’
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
I made an entire blog post about this book (basically a rant hahaha, it was not my favourite).
Thank you for reading and I hope you’re all doing okay. Please consider writing to your MP/MSP if you live in the UK, signing petitions, donating if you can and educating yourself to become actively anti-racist.