I wrote about If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha back in February when thinking about beauty and plastic surgery. In addition to being an amazing book and offering a really interesting look at the plastic surgery industry in South Korea, the book provided a different perspective completely from my white American female experience. While I tend to gravitate towards books written by women, I realized last summer (along with lots of white people) that I almost exclusively read books written by white women, about white women. So I pledged (to myself) to read at least one book a month by someone who had a different background - ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, etc - from me. I get lots of help from following Grace Atwood and the Bad on Paper podcast so I highly recommend both if you're looking for book recommendations. And here are my recent reads that I both loved and struggled with:
- If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha - a look at contemporary South Korea from the perspectives of four women
- White Ivy by Susie Yang - Ivy is Chinese American and this story follows her from middle school into adulthood through relationships, lies, and a few crimes. Not a thriller but definitely a page-turner to figure out what is going to happen with her tumultuous life.
- When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole - definitely a thriller! Also a social justice and anti-racism book wrapped in a thriller. In complete transparency, I really struggled with this one. It's centered around gentrification in Brooklyn and is anti-white at parts. And I know that's a good perspective for me to read, absorb, and understand. I recommend it and there were parts that made me distinctly uncomfortable.
- The Nickle Boys by Colson Whitehead - This is not a hot take as this book won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. And I had to include it as it is amazing. It's also a bit brutal as it is about a boys reform school in the South during Jim Crow. It's a quick read and another pick reads like fiction because it is fiction while also feeling like an anti-racism resource.
- Infinite Country by Patricia Engle - I also struggled a bit with this one. It's super short and very well-written. The story flips between Talia, a teenager living in Columbia, and her parents who immigrated from Colombia to the United States right before 9/11. Like many [white] American children who remember 9/11, I feel an instinctive reflex against anyone questioning the American response to the terrorist attacks. That's a small part of the book but it stuck with me and again, is something I need to read, absorb, and understand. I found the book overall a bit slow and boring but it was a good story.
- Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi - I loved this book so much. It follows two sisters, Korean American, living in New York City. Two content warnings here for cancer and eating disorders. Like in Tell Me Lies, I found reading from the perspective of someone with an eating disorder actually helpful for mine. I don't want to give too much away because I think this book was absolutely fantastic and think everyone should read it.