I wrote about how I was struggling to finish my reading challenge
a few months ago a long time ago, but I’ve actually been working on this reading challenge for well over a year (or maybe two). Well, I’ve finally finished! Here’s what I read:
A book written by a woman under 25
- Most everyone knows the story of Malala Yousafzai, the girls’ education activist who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out against their oppressive rules and systems which were (and still are) in effect in Malala’s home country of Pakistan. I’ve watched the documentary He Named Me Malala and I even show it to my Civics students, but I decided to read I Am Malala to try and get a better understanding of her mission. It was a bit of a slow start to be honest – Malala’s actual activism work and her story are definitely more interesting than the book itself.
A book about non-Western history
- This was maybe the hardest category to fulfill, despite my degree in Global Development and my job as a history teacher! I just find straight-up history books a little dry. Dancing with the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink by Juliana Barbassa was about Brazil and its struggle to make itself known on the world stage during the past decade. The book explores how the impending World Cup and Olympic Games shocked the city of Rio de Janeiro into development, but often in unsustainable ways. The author is Brazilian but she definitely doesn’t shy away from critiquing the municipal and federal governments, and it was honestly a little heartbreaking to read about some of these government actions and the negative impacts they have had on Brazilian citizens. In any case, I enjoyed the book and felt like I learned a lot! Also, I think a second edition of this book has been released with an additional chapter (as a response to the 2016 Olympics).
- I think this challenge has helped me understand what kinds of history books I enjoy. I like reading about recent history (1990s – 2000s, I guess!) and I like when the author inserts themselves into the book, because it’s just less academic that way! (Barbassa had just moved back to Rio from the US during this time of upheaval, so she shared a few anecdotes from her personal and professional life, which I enjoyed!)
A book of essays
- American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures is a collection of essays written by famous Americans in media. These singers, actors, models, and politicians have done a great job in increasing representation of non-white people in American media and news, but a lot of them are not born writers and so the writing was a little bit difficult to get through at times. In all, I loved the idea of the book, but the execution could’ve been better.
A book about an indigenous culture
- Peace Pipe Dreams: The Truth about Lies About Indians was for some reason tough to read (maybe I’m not a non-fiction person … I love memoirs but informational books are difficult for me to get through, I guess!), but I enjoyed it all the same! As a teacher of Canadian history, I find it somewhat difficult and also awkward to teach my students about FNMI history and issues when I myself know and understand so little about the subject. This book is an accessible way of learning about Aboriginal peoples and their relationship with the Canadian government, and of course, it helps that it’s written from the perspective of a First Nations person. I recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about indigenous peoples in Canada! I still have lots to learn but I feel like I know a little bit more now, thanks to this book!
- I found this cool graphic that summarizes the whole book! (But you should still read the actual thing for yourself!)
A graphic novel written by a woman
- Something New: Tales of a Makeshift Bride is such a fun book! Planning a wedding was one of the most unnecessarily stressful things in my life, and Lucy Knisley perfectly encompassed so many of the same feelings and experiences I had while planning my wedding: Stress! Excitement! Dealing with family! Caring too much about minute details!
A book about an immigrant or refugee
- I read Vi by Kim Thúy in its original French. It was simple and poetic; each chapter was like a short anecdotal account of the main character Vi’s life. I felt like the book didn’t follow the regular “elements of plot” format because there wasn’t an obvious climax or resolution. Rather, the tension came from the fact that Vi was a refugee and from her struggle to understand and reconcile her Vietnamese and Canadian identities.
- P.S. Here is a link to an article in which Kim Thúy explains how refugee literature is different from immigrant literature.
- P.P.S. I wrote a post a loooong time ago about a book that is also about the Vietnamese diaspora. Same historical event, but such a different story and experience!
A work of post-apocalyptic fiction
- The apocalypse in Station Eleven is brought on by something called the Georgia Flu, which ravages the entire world and leaves only a few survivors. The book goes back and forth in time, describing the days just before the flu pandemic as well as how future generations are coping decades later. I haven’t read much post-apocalyptic fiction – this was a pretty good book but I still feel like this isn’t a genre I’d normally gravitate towards.
A translated book
- Ghochar Ghachar was so good, I finished it in one day! It’s short and sweet, and tells the story of an Indian man whose family quickly comes into money after his uncle starts a spice business. The book shows how the sudden wealth changes the family’s relationships and interactions. The translation was so smooth and easy to read, plus, this is one of the few books written in the Kannada language that has been translated into English!