Comic Review: Black Panther

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4/5 stars

I’m a big Ta-Nehesi Coates fan. You can check out his journalism here and my review of his first collection of essays here (Between the World and Me was my favorite book of 2016). So when I heard that Coates would be writing a comic book–his first published fiction–I was excited.

While some of the dialogue is over-written, there was so much to enjoy about this addition to the Black Panther universe. T’Challa, our main character, is absent for much of the action as the book focuses on other key players that make up the political turmoil and murky ethics that plague the world of Wakanda. This move pays off as the other characters are fully rounded and help to flush out the world and the social and political issues Wakanda is facing.

T’Challa fights, but he unlike other superheroes, he is a king and a part of a rich history of duty and tradition. This difference allows Coates to work with some interesting themes that revolve around country, politics, and what powerful people have to do to stay in power.

Also, it’s just really nice to have two powerful, black queer women at the forefront of a story and the art work is simply beautiful. Check it out!

 

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2016 Wrap Up, Germany trip, and What’s Ahead

Total Books Read in 2016: 35

Total Comic Volumes Read in 2016: 11

I am really happy with having read 35 books in 2016. I started reading more heavily last May and it has been a pleasure to fall in love with reading once again.

These are my favorite reads of 2016. When I graduated from college two years ago, I scooped up as much contemporary literature I could find. I read Lauren Groff, Rebecca Solnit, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Celeste Ng, and Emily St. John Mande, to name a few. So when 2016 began I felt a shift. The last book I read in December of 2015 was Seveneves, a sci-fi book by Neal Stephenson about the destruction of our moon and a worldwide attempt to save the human race. Only a handful of people survive and the book then jumps 5000 years and we see seven distinct races comprised of 7 million people and I loved every moment of this book. The world-building, the complex female characters, the science. I was hooked.

So 2016 became the year of science-fiction and fantasy reading. Four of my top six picks are within those genres. I also grew to love graphic novels and comics. The first comic I ever read was Ms. Marvel, which tells the story of a muslim girl outsider and boy, did I pick a great character to start my journey with comics. I read the Harry Potter series for the first time. It was, of course, incredible. I also was introduced to Sarah J. Maas’ fantasy series and even got to meet her and get all my books signed. If you love sci-fi and kickass, complex female characters, check her out.

My top book of the year was, without a doubt, Ta-Nehesi Coates’ Between the World and Me. I wrote an in-depth review that you can check out here. Coates paints a striking picture of racism in America and I would recommend anyone read it.

This year was also the first time my boyfriend and I traveled together outside of the United States. We spend two weeks in Germany, exploring Bavaria, and it was an awesome experience. Lots of pictures coming, as I recap my trip via my photo diary.

Our favorite moments included hiking through the Black Forrest:

Visiting breathtaking castles:

Seeing as many museums and art as possible:

Spending two days at Oktoberfest in Munich:

And just enjoying the quiet of the southern Germany countryside:

One thing I will never forget about our trip is the feeling of riding our bicycles through the pouring rain, late at night in the murky darkness that is a midnight downpour, eager to get back to our small home after a day of museum exploring and drinking with new friends. We had taken three buses and then unlocked out bikes at the local train station. It was such a distinct feeling of an unideal situation and feeling exhausted but absolutely loving the moment in this strange country that had started to feel a bit less unknown.

If you read through this entire post, I’d like to thank you for sticking around. 2016 has been a challenging and exciting year. I’ve completed my year-long internship as a Volunteer Coordinator at a Bay Area nonprofit and I’ve been officially unemployed for a month now. I’m working at my internship, and dog-walking, and babysitting while I job hunt. This is the first time I haven’t worked fulltime in about 8 years and it’s a strange experience. I’ve enjoyed my time off but it is also my greatest wish to be able to post about a new job offer at I’ve accepted (at some awesome nonprofit that’s working to combat human right’s issues and systemic racism) sometime within the next two months. I’m excited about the coming year.

Reading Goal for 2017: 50 books!

That’s about a book a week. I plan on continuing to blog and I think I’m going to do a book review once a month on the best book I read for that month. I will also be letting you know which books I’ve read and doing a super quick review at the end of  every monthly TBR list.

That’s it for now. I’ll see you guys next year!

Book Review: Between the World and Me

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

4.5/5 stars

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a beautiful and powerful writer. He currently writes for the Atlantic and you should go check out some of the articles he’s written, and then read this collection of essays. Between the World and Me is written as a letter to Coates’ son, a study on race relations in America and how racism oppresses and terrorizes black people and their bodies. Coates dives into personal and national history to examine and explain the way systems in the United States work as well-oiled machines that maintain the status quo of assault and violation of black people.

A lot of the criticism of this book has been, “this is too dark, there is no hope in Coates’ words,” and these critics are correct in the describing the book as bleak. I was listening to Another Round, a Buzzfeed podcast, in which Coates guest starred in and spoke about this criticism. Coates explained that as a black writer, people expect him to speak for all of his people. He’s expected to inspire and enlighten and bring about change. As a black writer, he is not afforded the same liberties as Fitzgerald, who was able to paint a picture of excess and social failings. I think that this is an apt analysis of the criticism against Coates. Coates looks at his life and he looks at the history of black oppression and he writes what he sees.

I’m going to include some quotes from Between the World and Me that I found particularly moving.

This first quote appears toward the beginning of the book. Coates breaks down how our belief in race is a tool that perpetuates racism.

“Americans believe in the reality of “race” as a defined, indubitable feature of the natural world. Racism–the need to ascribe bone-deep features to people and then humiliate, reduce, and destroy them–inevitably follows from this inalterable condition. In this way, racism is rendered as the innocent daughter of Mother Nature, and one is left to deplore the Middle Passage or the Trail of Tears the way one deplores and earthquake, a tornado, or any other phenomenon that can be cast as beyond the handiwork of men.

But race is the child of racism, not the father.”

The second quote I’m going to include is one that features the American school system, which plays a prominent role in this book. Coates is very critical of public education. To him, schools are where the power imbalance is maintained. You either do well in school, or the streets will claim you and you will end up dead or in jail. If you will adapt and excel in school, you will be taught to exist and work within systems of oppression. Coates calls the classroom a “jail of other people’s interests.”

“But a society that protects some through the safety nets of schools, government-backed homes, and ancestral wealth but can only protect you with the club of criminal justice has either failed at enforcing its good intentions or has succeeded at something much darker.”

That something darker is what Coates really dives into, and it is something that pushed me to think even harder about the issue of race. He talks about the Dream, the white man in power and how if there is a mountain of power there must be people left down below in its shadow. Which is all to say that racism exists because people allow it, because people enjoy the benefits they are allotted because of it.

“Hate gives identity. The nigger, the fag, the bitch illuminate the border, illuminate what we ostensibly are not, illuminate the Dream of being white, of being a Man. We name the hated strangers and are thus confirmed in the tribe.”

 

August Update and September TBR

Hey guys,

So I’ve read a few books since I last posted by haven’t had the time to review them.

Here’s a list of all the books I completed in August:
When We Collided by Emery Lord
Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson (Vol. 1-4)
Saga by Brian K. Vaughn (Vol. 1-5)
iZombie by Chris Roberson (Vol. 1-2)

I read 3 novels, 9 comic volumes, 1 graphic novel and 1 play. It was a low month for novels but I got wrapped up in reading a bunch of other stuff that wasn’t on my TBR list.

I will be posting reviews for the things I’ve listed here and haven’t reviewed yet later this week.

Okay, so on to my September TBR list, which is going to be short because I’m going backpacking through Germany for 2 weeks!

September To-Be-Read List

  1. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  2. The Demon King by Cindi Williams Chima
  3. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Wolfe
  4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

It’s a short list because I’m going to be so busy sight seeing and thoroughly enjoying my time in Germany, and I know that I’ll be lucky to finish one book while I’m there. I’m currently reading Between the World and Me, and it’s already beautiful and I’ve been wanting to read it for so long so I’m excited with that. The Demon King is a fantasy novel that I’ve had recommended to me. And the last two books are classics that I’m rolling over from last month as I didn’t get to them. I feel like reading a classic will be fun while I’m abroad.

Okay, I’m off to do some reading 🙂