Today’s post has been motivated by three “triggers”.
- Lashaan @bookidote question for me in the Neat Book Award : is there a cure for stupidity?;
- Alexandra @TheWryWriter telling she was fed up with Twitter and its hate, seriously considering to stop blogging;
- The awful events happening in the US now but also for years now.
All these converge to one word only : ignorance.
Why ignorance? Because I think you are not truly “stupid” but generally speaking, you act stupidely (and that’s a relative term because what I consider stupid might be considered brilliant or normal by others) because you don’t really know better. You have not been educated in other ways.
I think what makes people react badly towards people being “different” from their normality, be it the color of their skin, their religion , their sexuality, the food they eat and whatever else is that they feel threatened by these “strangers”.
Also because other people like their parents or friends or colleagues (social pressure is real) told them these people were “freaks” or dangerous or “amorals” or …
And they don’t know better because they have never walked in the other’s shoes. They never experimented their reality. They have never really talked WITH them not TO them. They never took the time to try to understand, to really see and empathize.
And that’s why I think the “cure” or certainly part of the cure, aside working or befriending them of course, is books.
From their young age, I made a point to talk with my kids about topics like skin color, sexual preferences, religion, handicap etc and I also had them read some of my favorite YA books talking about these topics or having a character that was different than them. I am proud to say that they have friends from all colors, sexuality, beliefs etc and that they can’t stand having one of them being bullied.
Instead of listing (only) books written by black authors or authors of color (you’ll get that list at the end though), I wanted to share with you books that make you SEE the other’s reality and empathize with the main character.
I DARE YOU or your kid to see them and their “communities” (sorry I don’t have a better word coming to my mind) in the same light after you’ve read “The End”.
Opening on a bang: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I know that book is everywhere again but it’s not only written by a black author or having a black main character no, it’s truly delving into the topic of being of color and killed for no reason by a police officer. It’s also about the fear to say the truth because you are so used to be overlooked and shunned as being a POC.
“What I really praise the author for was to make ME see, me white woman, the reality of many minorities.
The roots of the problem are fear. “White” people have preconceived ideas about poor black people (and that could be any minority really) that make them perceive these people as threat. Once the fear is present accidents happen or even deliberate shootings.
When you have desperate poor people kept in poverty as they only are offered menial and underpaid jobs these people get angry. It does not ask for much to ignite a spark and have the powder keg explode.
So this book was dense in his topics as we can add gang wars, reasons to sell drugs, people behind the numbers, etc. but it was written with mastery as it was real and never too much.
Starr felt real, true to many black teenagers. She took me by the hand and made me follow her in every ordeal she experienced.”
Following by A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
This one is talking about being muslim and right after 9/11. As a teenager in a massively white and christian community in the US. It tackles the topic of religion and the fear of terroists.
And after I finished that book, I wrote:
“I finished A Very Large Expanse of Sea in one day. I devoured this book like my life depended on it.
From the very first sentences I was horrified by what Shirin had to endure every day. Just for her choice to wear a scarf around the head.
How many violences were imparted on her.
Because of the heinous actions of some she was assimilated to terrorists and treated like one.
And then I thought:” how many times haven’t you be slightly frigthened by someone looking muslim and looking menacing to you? How many times have you been suspicious because they were different and terrorists had taken a stand, drawn a line?”
And each time I felt guilty because my frightened mind kept associating stranger with danger. Yet I knew this was false and wrong.
How many times did I think “Don’t let them win. Don’t let them create a cleavage. Don’t let them manipulate you and turn you into someone you are not: a hater.”
Now I’d like for you to read The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Because that shows the harsh reality of migrants. And that they don’t choose to leave their country to “steal your job, your house and your women or men”. They do it because they don’t have much choice and are rather desperate! And no they aren’t “lazy” nor “filty” ready to pillage your riches and do nothing!
“How did you change your life when you were trapped like this?
Her history didn’t define her. Her origin didn’t define her. At least, they shouldn’t. She could be more, if she had a chance.
But people didn’t see who she was inside. They didn’t know. And she had no way to show them without an opportunity.”
Helen Hoang truly did an amazing job making me see the world through Esme’s eyes and she could not be more different than I am culturally and socially speaking. Aside a character’s driven story the focus of the book is very real and contemporary, broaching the immigration problematic, the huge difference in wealth and way of living between some “rich” western people compared with many individuals living from nearly nothing in other countries.
If you are looking for rather a YA for you or your kid on the topic of migrants, I’d recommend The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt. A hidden gem in that field honestly!
“ I can honestly say that I loved this book as it broached a very sensitive and contemporary topic with great care and respect. Choosing to portray a young migrant fighting to protect his young brother the author morphed impersonal statistics into individual heartbreaking cases.
This is the story of Phoenix 18 years old migrant from El Salvador. He fled his country with his little brother Ari to escape from the dangerous gangs ruling their little town. Orphaned, their travelled for months on foot or hanging from a train to reach the US border where they’ve been arrested and sent to detention camp. They witnessed so much violence on their trip that Ari isn’t speaking anymore. Now Phoenix is living with two old ladies waiting to know without much hope if he could stay in the US. Phoenix did some bad things in El Salvador under the gang’s pressure. They threatened his family and he did not really have a choice. Now he lives in guilt for what he’s done and does not think he deserves the kindness people can show, especially Gretchen’s .
This book may be YA romance with young main characters but reading it was thought provoking.
We take so many things for granted that we don’t even see we’re very lucky, spoiled even. We pay a fortune to have cut fruits at the grocery store while whole fruits cost just a penny. Phoenix was grateful just to be alive and in a safe surrounding without bullets flying or gang members taking your dearest possession. He was grateful for everything he’s been given, second hand clothes, a bed, a roof upon his head. His American dream was not to become rich or successful. He just wanted to have a little house, to walk freely and fearlessly in the countryside and maybe have a beer with a friend. This made me realize I was lucky.
Reading about Phoenix and Ari’s life in El Salvador, about their traumatizing journey and about their hope to be safe, to live made me truly see these migrant’s utter despair. Most don’t leave their country on a whim but out of sheer necessity. When they reach a border, they’re contained in camps and begin the long wait to see if their hope will come true or be crushed again. To witness Phoenix and Ari having to prove they’re worthy was heartbreaking. They had to be cleaned and judged and deemed worthy. How many succeed? How many are rebuked? What do they become once they’ve been sent back? Phoenix knew the statistics and how very few got permission to stay in the US.”
To know more about the ordeal transgender go through, I invite you to read the utterly heatpreaking and phenomenal : Birthday by Meredith Russo
“This book hit me hard.
I am someone who will empathize with the character, live his life, suffer with him if the author does it right.
Well it is to believed that Meredith Russo is extremely gifted as I walked in Morgan shoes all along, crying inside, raging against the unfairness of the situation.
I read it till the wee hours of the morning and ended up with puffy eyes, a congested nose and not one tissue left, thankful for being more educated and aware of some transgender ordeals and sufferings.
And what the New York Time wrote about it:
“”Rarely have we seen a story like Meredith Russo’s BIRTHDAY…One of the great wonders of Y.A. fiction is its power to create new narratives that replace fear and hatred with empathy and acceptance, and to show young people a path for the future that’s better than what we’ve seen. Russo’s narrative expression of the need to live one’s truth, and the option of choosing love through it all, is a valuable reminder of what really matters.”
— New York Times Book Review”
Now staying into the sexual orientation and adding also what intolerance can do to an individual who is different try a truly overlooked gem: The Silver Cage by Anonymous
“This book was the one to send me over the edge and see “LGBTQ” literature for what it is: love stories. Pure and simple. No gay no lesbian no…I don’t want to label them M/M or F/F or… anymore because it’s just love.
Gone my preconceived ideas about the genre.
They have been reduced to ashes by Red Feather Lakes lightning.
This story is about being trapped by your beliefs and upbringing.
It’s about wearing a mask your own life. Feeling like wearing clothes you outgrew decades ago.
It’s about the fear of being rejected would people really get to know you.
About guilt. So much guilt it nearly drives you insane.
About redemption that you crave but believe you don’t deserve
… and would probably never come.”
And I will conclude with another “difference”: people suffering from a handicap or being autistic. I could of course recommend The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang as a romance reader but I’d rather go with House Rules by Jodi Piccoult.
I read that one many years ago, before writing reviews but I do recall that what struck me was how having an Asperger’s kid impacted the whole family too. So I will just leave you with the synopsis here:
“When your son can’t look you in the eye…does that mean he’s guilty?
Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject – forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he’s always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he’s usually right.
But when Jacob’s small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob’s behaviors are hallmark Asperger’s, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s mother, Emma, it’s a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it’s another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob.
And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?”
And now if you are looking to support authors of color (I don’t limit my list at black authors here), here is a list of books written by authors of colors I loved and recommend (honestly, I had to look after the skin colors of these authors as I don’t give a fig what color is “my” authors skin and most of the time I don’t have any idea!).
What do you think now? Do you think reading some books like these could make the world a better place?
Thanks for reading!
This is a truly awesome post! These are great recs. I’d add Tiger at Midnight/ Swati Teerdhala to the list at the bottom. My list would also include Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. That book makes me cry every time I read it.
I’d love to think that reading such books would help heal ignorance. If the person has an open mind, or carries those beliefs because of family influence, but doesn’t really ‘believe’, those are the people I could see being swayed by reading these books. And many people out there fall in this category, if you can convince them to give the books a chance. Those who are rabid fanatics and die-hard racists/bigots/ @$$hats, they are far less likely to even consider it, sad to say.
What id love to see is kids reading these in school.
I will add Tiger at Midnight to my TBR! And yes I think every kid should read this in school! let’s hope things will change.
Love this recommendation list so much. I adore THUG as you know and Angie Thomas is a queen. And I also really want to read A Very Large Expanse of Sea and The Bride Test 😀
I can’t wait to read your thoughts about these two books Olivia!
Oh my, you did great with this post!! Thank you!! ❤️
You are so welcome Susy!
I absolutely agree with you, Sophie! A step in the right direction is to educate ourselves and to help everyone open their eyes to real-life problems and books allow that. They just need to take the time to understand the issue that they simply never thought of! Thanks for sharing these recommendations. 🙂
You are so welcome Lashaan!
Such a fabulous post, Sophie. You make me want to grab all of these. House Rules is especially appealing as my son struggles painfully with social interaction. Even with me sometimes.
House Rules was an amazing read Laura! I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Darn Sophie, my heart. I love this post so much. Your words, the emotions and truth behind them hits me so hard. ❤️
Thank you Lili!!! You made my day with your kind words.
The Hate You Give was amazing – it should be required reading in my opinion.
I totally agree Teri. It’s the perfect example of what led to the reactions of this week!
oh this is a great post to do! I especially like bride test!
Thank you so much!
Love this post so much, Sophie! I think that these really are some powerful words and I had forgotten how much The Bride Test really spoke of some harsh realities for migrants. There are some books on your list that are new to me. I will make sure to check them out. <3
Thank you SO MUCH!!!!
Great topic and great post title too. I would definitely like for my child to read books like The Hate U Give. I want him to be well educated and open-minded. I try to talk to him (and get him to talk to me) about everything that is going on in the U.S. right now. I just think it’s such an important conversation to have.
Exactly Suzanne. It’s important to explain and dissect the news with our kids to have them truly understand.
I laughed at the title of this post. It’s awesome. I read to (hopefully) become less stupid, and I wish others would too. I’ve read THUG, and I guess I should look into the other books in this post.
Thank you AJ (insert curtsy here) :-)))
A fantastic set of books, Sophie, and yes, you are quite right we need to all educate ourselves and understand how it is for others before making assumptions. I have been lucky enough in my life to live in some fantastic places, and our learnt lessons from a very early age that we are all different, yet one.
I think an enlightened mind will be able to rise above the pettiness Alexandra!
Great post, Sophie. I did a similar post today, highlighting books by Black authors. Everything is so sad right now and things have to change.
Heading to your post Tammy!
I think it’s sad that one human can look upon another and consider them ‘less than’. Some of it comes from being raised in white communities where the introduction of another skin color or religion is rare, though that is still no excuse for cruelty.
Thanks for writing this important post, Sophie. I try not to be close-minded, but there are times I’ve been guilty of separating ‘them’ from us, as well. I think we’ve all done this, black, brown, or white. We need to learn to treat each other as humans- that’s it- just human. <3
Indeed it’s a human reaction Jacquie. That’s why it’s important to try to get close, read and talk with them. To erase that knee jerk reaction with true facts.