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This is the second instalment of a series where I review all the books I read each month. If you want to read last month’s instalment, then check out the books I read in May.
June was relatively light on reading since it was also the month I sat my University finals, but I still got through four books: The Good Immigrant, I am Malala, The Unfair Advantage, and Strangers.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these books, or if you plan on picking one up!
The Good Immigrant (5 Stars)
This is the first – but not the last – book about race that I’ll mention in this series. The Good Immigrant is a collection of 21 essays written by people of colour in the UK. It’s an important read for anyone, and I’d highly recommend you pick it up if you haven’t already.
Before starting this book, I read a review recommending you don’t rush it. So I read an essay a day for 21 days, and I’ve already noticed a shift in my perspective. I still have a lot to learn about racial inequality, but this book set me off to a good start.
Some highlights from this book
Kendo Nagasaki and Me by Daniel York Loh
For context, I’m ethnically half Chinese. Recently I’ve been struggling with my identity as a white person who benefits from white privilege, but also as an Asian person who experiences microaggressions on a regular basis.
I was surprised to find out this book included an essay by another half Chinese person, since we are so underrepresented in the media. In fact, we’re usually completely erased – Emma Stone being cast as a half Asian character springs to mind.
This essay touches on exactly this issue. Daniel York Loh writes about his excitement as a kid who finally gets to watch an Asian wrestler, only for him to rip off his mask and reveal a white man. This was in the 70s, but it seems we still have a way to go in combatting yellowface.
Yellow by Vera Chok
I liked the essay by Vera Chok, which touched on the hyper-sexualisation of East Asian women. This essay helped me recognise the heartache I feel every time someone expresses an interest in me, only to later admit it was only because I “look like an anime girl”. I experience things like this on a regular basis, but used to brush them off because they “weren’t that racist”.
…And all the other essays
I – of course – also enjoyed the essays from people who don’t look like me. The only reason I picked up this book was to learn about others’ experiences living as a person of colour in the UK, and it didn’t disappoint.
I could stay here all day and write about how much I loved each and every one of these essays, but instead I’ll just let you read the book. Each essay offered a different perspective that provided some great thinking points, and I’d recommend anyone to give it a read.
If you’ve read any other great books about race, please let me know in the comments. While I’m aware it’s not enough, I’ve made it a priority to read at least one book about race per month. I’m currently reading Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m no Longer Talking to White People about Race, so let me know if there’s anything else you think I should read next.
I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai (5 Stars)
“I knew that any of the girls in my class could have achieved what I had achieved if they had had their parents’ support.”
I loved this book. And not just because Malala is one of my biggest inspirations – although that much is true.
I am Malala is an autobiography which tells Malala’s story – from her parents’ celebration of her birth (despite her being a daughter and not a son), to her name’s origin, to her activism for girls’ education, and to her being shot by the Taliban on her way home from school.
It’s obviously a very heavy book, but there’s also a narrative of hope the whole way through. Never once do Malala or her family give up on fighting for girls’ education, despite death threats from the Taliban. The love within the Yousafzai family is incredible, and it was interesting to understand how Malala became such a bright and inspirational figure, even before she became global news.
Malala clearly loves her country and believes it can change, which is a powerful message when the world is so bleak.
For me, the most jarring part of the book was Malala’s description of how she liked to style her hair, followed swiftly by a graphic description of bombings. She was – and is – a normal girl, and if you follow her on Instagram then you’ll probably know that.
But she’s also Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai, and a huge inspiration to women and students everywhere.
The Unfair Advantage – Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba (4 Stars)
The Unfair Advantage is a book aimed at people who want to start businesses or startups. And while I’m interested in business, I felt this book was aimed more towards people who want to start risky startups, so I’m aware that I’m not exactly the target audience for this book.
Instead, I picked up this book because I loved the initial premise. The Unfair Advantage introduces the MILES framework – the idea that Money, Intelligence, Location, Luck, Education, Expertise, and Status all play an important role when it comes to becoming successful in life and in business. This has been my philosophy for a long time, and so I bought the book.
This book has some great ideas, but these great ideas are buried in waffle. A lot of this book is common sense – and that’s coming from someone with no business experience.
The Unfair Advantage could easily have been a 5 star book had it have been half the size. But still, I enjoyed it and I learnt a lot.
I particularly enjoyed the case studies. This book talks about the conceptions of dozens of successful startups such as Facebook, Snapchat, Just Eat, and Spanx – and all the factors that helped their founders achieve success.
And while I could easily have looked up these stories myself, I’m not sure I would have. This book sparked an interest that I didn’t know I had, and I’ll definitely be doing more research into the establishment of brands I like to use from now on.
Strangers – C.L. Taylor (2 Stars)
I was expecting to love this book. I love psychological thrillers, and I’ve read countless 5 star reviews for Strangers. To top it off it’s set in Bristol, a city I love and used to live in.
But this book didn’t do it for me.
Strangers has three main characters: Alice, Ursula and Gareth. But there wasn’t much substance to any of them. They were just characters wandering around Bristol, occasionally seeing one of the others around in public (which was fun, but not quite a book-worthy concept).
It’s not that they were unlikeable, I just don’t think they were fully developed. I had no reason to care about what happened to them.
We don’t know how these characters are linked until very far into the book – around 90% of the way through. I read loads of reviews claiming that the way they’re linked is clever, so I kept reading and reading and reading until the end, waiting for this incredible ending I was promised.
It didn’t happen. And by then I had read 95% of the book, so I thought I may as well finish it.
I don’t know if I missed something with this book. As I said there are hundreds of 5 star reviews, but I just couldn’t get into it. I’d be interest to know if you’ve read this book and enjoyed it, since I feel like I’m the only one who didn’t like it.
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These were the four books I read in June. I have a lot more free time this month so let me know if there are any books you think I should read next. Again – I’m looking to read more books about race, so please let me know in the comments if you’ve read any good ones.
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