Happy New Year, friends! it’s going to take me a while to get used to saying 2022 for at least the next month or so…anyways here’s my last book roundup post for 2021:
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé – 4 stars
Students at an elite private academy, popular head girl Chiamaka and quiet musician Devon are starting their senior year with hopes of attending their dream college. Anonymous texter named Aces seems to be maliciously targeting them by spreading their secrets and lies throughout the school. They cannot seem to find a connection except for the fact that they are the only Black students at the school…
I stayed up past midnight to finish this one! Many describe this book as Gossip Girl meets Get Out and I agree (but Gossip Girl more so on the setting; more so Get Out for the thrill/stress level). I liked so many things about this book: the dark academia setting, the characters you get to know and understand, the suspense that continuously builds up, the disturbingly creepy but believable perpetuation of systematic racism, and more. The way everything resolved at the end felt a little bit rushed to me but perhaps I wasn’t quite ready for it to end. Cannot wait to read more from Àbíké-Íyímídé.
Voices from the Pandemic: Americans Tell Their Stories of Crisis, Courage and Resilience by Eli Saslow – 4.5 stars
Saslow interviewed Americans all over the country and compiled their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. While some stories were familiar or expected like those of a grocery store clerk to front workers at hospital systems, there were. narratives I hadn’t considered such as people running the elections during these times and the morticians who help you say goodbye to your loved ones. All of them were heartbreaking.
As many of us have become complacent in the last several months, Voices From The Pandemic brought me back to reality. Because I have been (incredibly fortunately) not drastically affected by the pandemic, reading these stories was an eye opening and emotional experience. I want to recommend this book to everyone who wants to have a better understanding of the gravity of this ongoing pandemic.
Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang – 5 stars
This memoir touched my heart. Qian chronicles her family’s story from the early days in communist China to their life in Mei Guo after the big move (Qian and her mom following her dad dad). Mei Guo is the Chinese word for America and it literally translates to Beautiful Country (It’s actually the same in Korean because the Korean word is based on the Chinese word/characters). The ironic title of the book could not be more perfect as life in America is not very beautiful for Qian and her family: working in sweatshops, three of them sharing a room in a roach-infested apartment, constantly lying about their immigration status and fearing deportation…
Their eventual move to Canada after losing hope for the American Dream was even more saddening because of how real that choice (sometimes the only choice) is for so many immigrant families. At the end of the book, Qian talks about how she hid and buried the “little girl” for so long after she had moved to Canada and adopted her English name Julie; until she couldn’t hid the girl anymore. As an undocumented immigrant, I have felt so much of these complicated emotions myself and appreciated reading Qian’s story.
The Mermaid from Jeju by Semi Hahn – 4 stars
The Mermaid from Jeju combines two of my favorite things: Jeju Island and early 20th century Korea; the former because of its unique culture and history and the latter because I find it to be the most interesting time period (I should rather say tumultuous). Junja is a haenyeo (literally translates as sea woman), or a female diver unique to Jeju, like her mother and her grandmother. Her life doesn’t follow that of her family’s though, especially after her mother’s unexpected death. She meets and falls in love with a mountain boy named Suwol but fighting for Jeju’s independence prevents them from happily ever after.
Hahn does a particularly fantastic job of portraying the traditional way of living and the different classes in Korea at the beginning of the book, all of which, of course, change drastically following the Japanese occupation and multiple wars. I liked the plot a lot (this would make a great movie!) and I LOVED the characters.
P.S. I am currently reading Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart!