Review of ‘The Other Black Girl’, by Zakiya Dalila Harris—Must Read
Stepford Wives meets The Devil Wears Prada in this gorgeously written novel about a young Black woman working for an all-white publisher thrilled about a recent fellow Black woman being hired. There are many reasons why this book is a must read—darkly hilarious, deeply engaging, and very addictive—but the main reason that I, as a white-passing person, would recommend this book to a white/white-passing audience is the broad spectrum of microaggressions it addresses, quite naturally, as part of the story. In light of the conversations about race happening in North America, I feel this book not only serves to entertain and captivate (which we all really need during this pandemic), but will also help readers glimpse into the burden and pain of these microaggressions. There are so many moments that come and go, but one longer scene particularly stands out: when the Black female assistant editor has to explain to the White male (best-selling) author why the depiction of a character in his book is racist. It might get some White defenses up, but this scene and the entire book will well serve its main purpose of entertaining (and watch out for that ending, it’ll take you by surprise!) and, as complex and nuanced books tend to do, open some eyes to the realities of lives quite different from ours.
Review of ’90 Days of Different’, by Eric Walters—Great Read
I have to admit that I love all of the books I have ever read from Orca Book, and this one, yet again, didn’t disappoint. First let’s discuss the basics: the paper this book is printed on. It’s so incredibly smooth and a sheer pleasure to just hold. Just… Aaaahhhhh. I also have to admit that at first, I was primed to not like this book. The premise is that you need to change it up to be interesting. I don’t agree with this premise; you are who you are. If you are happy without big changes and adventures in your life, everyone around you should respect that, and not push you to become who they think you should be. But then the story unfolded, and we find out that a certain life event changed things for our main protagonist, and her not taking chances and being predictable was in part a reaction to this traumatic life event. And the “summer of firsts” became, in a way, a reflection into who she really is versus who this traumatic event shaped her to be. I also really appreciated how the main character doesn’t end up blindly following others and just accepting everything as part of who she now is. Rather, she reflected on each “first” and picked and chose which ones were her and which ones weren’t. In short, this was a lovely exploration of who we are, who we are shaped to be by major events in our lives, and how, with the help of friends, time, and constant (written) reflection (although it doesn’t have to be on social media…) we can figure out who we want to be. There is a big skew towards being the kind of stereotypical person we often see portrayed in the media, which I think is the main weak point of the book, but if read consciously and perhaps even in a safe space like a book club, this could be quite the game changing book for teenagers and adults alike.
Review of ‘Some Other Now’, by Sarah Everett
I’ll start by saying that the ending to “Some Other Now” was really obvious. We start the book at a point where Jessi has her relationship with the Cohen family—Mel, the mother she didn’t have due to crippling postpartum depression, Rowan, her best friend, and Luke, the older brother—and, through a series of “Then” and “Now” chapters, the bridge between how things were and how they are now is drawn. But guessing the ending a mere few pages in didn’t take away from enjoying the journey. I mean, “enjoying”, because this is a painful story to read, filled with hurt, loss, and pain. Ultimately however, it does leave readers with a sense of gratitude for the life lived, rather than the life lost. I feel this would also be a good book for a book club. Discussing how things got to where they did, truly understanding what dynamics contributed to getting there in the first place, and identifying where healthier patterns of communication could have led, might do wonders in preventing pain and anguish in the readers’ lives. Consider picking this one up this summer.
Review of ‘Love Like That’, by Emma Duffy-Comparone
Everyone has a definition of what love is and what it should look like. And everyone has a certain boundary that they think they won’t ever cross. In this collection of short stories, we get to glimpse into the lives of women, from children to adults, who make decisions out of love that don’t make sense until we understand the entire story. And while there are many uncomfortable moments—like physical desire between a teenager and a man old enough to be her (young) grandfather—this collection serves another purpose, perhaps not intended by the author: to help readers open up their minds to the reasons why others do things that they would never do. Cultivating this attitude of understanding—which, by the way, doesn’t mean the reader is being called to change their personal beliefs—is so needed in our world today. After all, the pandemic has proven once and for all that we are much more interconnected that we might want to acknowledge, and that, to conquer our common challenges, we need to unite and work shoulder-to-shoulder to transform the world. By understanding the elusive “other”, we can stop creating barriers where there were none in the first place, and build, together, a better world.
Thank you to Raincoast Books and Simon & Schuester Canada for the physical Advanced Reader Copies, to Orca Book Publishers for review copies, and thank you to all the publisher who sent me electronic advance copies through Netgalley!