In response to Wierd Tales Magazine’s awful decision to insult half the planet, I put together this reading recommendation post of books written by people of color. Do you have any books you would like to recommend for me? If so, please do so in the comments.
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Life of Pi is a an incredible story. An adventure fantasy, Pi’s story will break your heart with a world of sadness. Here’s the official description:
Yann Martel’s imaginative and unforgettable Life of Pi is a magical reading experience, an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and ultimately, faith. The precocious son of a zookeeper, 16-year-old Pi Patel is raised in Pondicherry, India, where he tries on various faiths for size, attracting “religions the way a dog attracts fleas.” Planning a move to Canada, his father packs up the family and their menagerie and they hitch a ride on an enormous freighter. After a harrowing shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean, trapped on a 26-foot lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a spotted hyena, a seasick orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker (“His head was the size and color of the lifebuoy, with teeth”). It sounds like a colorful setup, but these wild beasts don’t burst into song as if co-starring in an anthropomorphized Disney feature. After much gore and infighting, Pi and Richard Parker remain the boat’s sole passengers, drifting for 227 days through shark-infested waters while fighting hunger, the elements, and an overactive imagination. In rich, hallucinatory passages, Pi recounts the harrowing journey as the days blur together, elegantly cataloging the endless passage of time and his struggles to survive: “It is pointless to say that this or that night was the worst of my life. I have so many bad nights to choose from that I’ve made none the champion.”
Mr. Martel is a French-Canadian born in Spain. He was raised in Costa Rica, France, Mexico, and Canada. Though he may not identify himself as a POC, I think his upbringing is diverse enough to put him on my list.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Both sad and funny, Mr. Alexie does an incredibly good job of allowing us to see things from his point of view in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Not fantasy or science fiction, but just an excellent coming of age story. Here’s the Starred Review From Amazon.com:
Exploring Indian identity, both self and tribal, Alexie’s first young adult novel is a semiautobiographical chronicle of Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, WA. The bright 14-year-old was born with water on the brain, is regularly the target of bullies, and loves to draw. He says, “I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats.” He expects disaster when he transfers from the reservation school to the rich, white school in Reardan, but soon finds himself making friends with both geeky and popular students and starting on the basketball team. Meeting his old classmates on the court, Junior grapples with questions about what constitutes one’s community, identity, and tribe. The daily struggles of reservation life and the tragic deaths of the protagonist’s grandmother, dog, and older sister would be all but unbearable without the humor and resilience of spirit with which Junior faces the world. The many characters, on and off the rez, with whom he has dealings are portrayed with compassion and verve, particularly the adults in his extended family. Forney’s simple pencil cartoons fit perfectly within the story and reflect the burgeoning artist within Junior. Reluctant readers can even skim the pictures and construct their own story based exclusively on Forney’s illustrations. The teen’s determination to both improve himself and overcome poverty, despite the handicaps of birth, circumstances, and race, delivers a positive message in a low-key manner.
Mr. Alexie is a Spokane Native American living in Seattle, Washington.
Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
I read this book quite some time ago, but the images Ms. Danticat conjures with the words in Breath, Eyes, Memory still haunt me. From Amazon.com:
“I come from a place where breath, eyes and memory are one, a place from which you carry your past like the hair on your head. Where women return to their children as butterflies or as tears in the eyes of the statues that their daughters pray to.” The place is Haiti and the speaker is Sophie, the heroine of Edwidge Danticat’s novel, “Breath, Eyes, Memory.” Like her protagonist, Danticat is also Haitian; like her, she was raised in Haiti by an aunt until she came to the United States at age 12. Indeed, in her short stories, Danticat has often drawn on her background to fund her fiction, and she continues to do so in her debut novel.
The story begins in Haiti, on Mother’s Day, when young Sophie discovers that she is about to leave the only home she has ever known with her Tante Atie in Croix-des-Rosets, Haiti, to go live with her mother in New York City. These early chapters in Haiti are lovely, subtly evoking the tender, painful relationship between the motherless child and the childless woman who feels honor bound to guard the natural mother’s rights to the girl’s affections above her own. Presented with a Mother’s Day card, Tante Atie responds: “‘It is for a mother, your mother.’ She motioned me away with a wave of her hand. ‘When it is Aunt’s Day, you can make me one.'” Danticat also uses these pages to limn a vibrant portrait of life in Haiti from the cups of ginger tea and baskets of cassava bread served at community potlucks to the folk tales of a “people in Guinea who carry the sky on their heads.”
Ms. Danticat is a Haitian-American.
H/T The Open Window
15 thoughts on “Color Anew”
Thanks for the summary of Life of Pi, I picked it up on “REad It, Swap It” a year ago and its waiting patiently on my shelf. Not heard of the other two but they sound interesting!
It is worth the read.
I submit all of N.K. Jemison’s work.
Thank you! I’ll put her on my reading list over on GoodReads tonight (actually, I think I may already have one of hers listed…).
I thought The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was one of the best books I read last year (and she gave a shout-out to critters, which I found encouraging)
Critter-folk are awesome. 🙂
Anything by Octavia Butler is fabulous. And I loved Life of Pi. I read it twice. I’ll have to check out the other two.
I’ve heard of Mr. Butler, but never read anything by her. Another one for my GoodReads list! Thank you.
I’ve been reading some sci-fi by the Chinese author, Liu Cixin. He has a good imagination. Some of his novels and short stories have been translated into English.
Added! Thanks. 🙂
Good for you, devising a creative way to counter an unbelievably disappointing editorial decision.
Well, I can’t take the credit. Jim C. Hines started it, and then The Open Window (a fellow moderator over at SFFWorld.com) posted links to a longer list. I’d thought I’d recommend my favorites. However, thank you.
Jim Hines is great, isn’t he? I enjoyed Libriomancer, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Jig the Goblin.
Oh, good grief. I thought it was trouble when Ann Vandemeer got pushed out. And really, even if you don’t know better, endorsing a book that has the same plot as a fake unreadable Star Trek script written on spec by a character in an episode of Mad Men should give you pause.
Ha! Well said. 🙂