Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

These two books depict some of the daily horrors that women of color endure and the many ways through which they are able to overcome these challenges. I was reading both books at the same time, and I didn’t realize how devastated and exhausted I would feel as a woman who stand in solidarity with every other woman of color whose default experience had been one of abuse, denial of opportunities, silence, as they are violently positioned to remain in the fringes.

So You Want To Talk About Race (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by: Ijeoma Oluo Publisher: Seal Press (2019) ISBN: 9781580058827 (ISBN10: 1580058825) Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee, Nonfiction (2018); Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize Nominee, Nonfiction Longlist (2018) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I read this book upon the behest of my daughter who had this as the common core text in her university (Seattle University). I found myself agreeing with most of the issues fearlessly explored in this instructional text, particularly in reference to affirmative action, school-to-prison pipeline, and microaggressions. It is written in a very accessible manner (I could see why this will be popular as a required text for undergraduates), with the author’s personal experiences foregrounding her argument. There is a conversational tone that is bound to appeal to a younger audience, even as the author educates an ostensibly-predominantly-White reader, for which much of the ‘lecture’ is predicated upon.

I suppose that is what has disrupted the flow of my reading, even while I found myself agreeing with some of the main points raised. I know this wasn’t written for someone like me in mind: a Southeast Asian woman in her mid-40s who has lived in two countries, different from my country of birth. There were convergences, evidently, but there were also non-intersecting lines of experience, given how I have grown up in a country where the poor had no access to systematized and reliable social services, unemployment benefits, or clear access to multiple opportunities and resources.

This is why when people from developed countries claim that they have experienced poverty, I often pause and take deep breaths, and try my best to reframe my experience without necessarily diminishing anyone’s experience nor attempting to practice a form of Oppression Olympics that is neither helpful nor productive. I simply acknowledge that there are still hierarchies of oppression and privilege that need to gradually surface to fully capture the multiplicities of experiences we go through.

I especially appreciated reading the section on the “model minority myth” because it validates why I feel invisible in a lot of conversations about race, and feel a sense of an ‘incompleteness’ in a narrative that is largely confrontative or individualistic in nature, one that does not particularly resonate with my sensibility (I especially found the author’s relationship with her White mother contentious). Regardless, I can see this serving as a perfect primer and definitely a must-read for a lot of wide-eyed young people.

The Girl With The Louding Voice (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by: Abi Dare Publisher: Sphere (2020) ISBN: 9781529359275 (ISBN10: 1529359279) Awards: Desmond Elliott Prize Nominee, Shortlist (2020); Goodreads Choice Award Nominee, Fiction and for Debut Novel (2020) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

While the first book provides helpful guidelines and point-by-point recommendations on how to advocate for the marginalized, this novel tells the story of a 14 year old girl from Nigeria who is living a life of oppression, having been made a third wife to an abominable old man, and eventually enslaved in an abusive household as a servant who went unpaid for her services. No wonder my spirit felt drained and exhausted after reading both books before retiring at night. There seems to be no escape from oppression everywhere I turn.

Yet this story, despite the harrowing narrative of Adunni with her rapist-husband and abusive household employers, remained luminous and hopeful and with a distinct voice all its own. This is a book I want all my linguist friends to read as it subverts the English language and transformed it to one that is distinctly Adunni’s, as she conveys her story in a no-nonsense manner that is unadorned and unpolished – yet it gleams, nonetheless, burning bright and beautiful. This is a book that I held close to my heart as I read the last few pages, my spirit rooting for this girl with the generous heart and eyes that sees the world like no other, the girl with louding voice.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 107-108 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

2 comments on “[Saturday Reads] Black Female Voice Rising

  1. Pingback: [My 2021 in Books] Favourite Books Read in 2021 – Gathering Books

  2. Pingback: [#DecolonizeBookshelves2022] The Tyranny Of Gratitude in Dangarembga’s “Nervous Conditions” from Zimbabwe – Gathering Books

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