#15 – Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Read: 2/4/16 – 2/6/16
- Provenance: Library (hardcover)
- Challenge: PopSugar 2016 Reading Challenge; also the Adult Booklr book club February selection
- Task: A National Book Award winner
- Rating: 4/5 stars
I try not to be political on my blog, or deal much with social issues beyond a smidgen of feminism, which I feel qualified to talk about.
I do not feel qualified, or comfortable, talking in any depth about race. Partially because I am white, raised my whole life in exceptionally white towns, and I simply don’t have a framework to build this conversation on. And partially because I’m a coward who is afraid that no matter what I say, no matter how carefully I phrase my ideas and think through my logic, I’ll still wind up making some offensive remark out of that ignorance.
So I can’t even begin to encompass all my feelings and reactions to this book in words. It made me think. I often felt uncomfortable reading it, because of the sensitive subject matter, but the discomfort was not because the words or ideas were offensive; instead, I was uncomfortable because I was being pushed to think beyond the safe boundaries that describe my privilege. And that’s a good thing.
#16 – The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
- Read: 2/6/16 – 2/10/16
- Provenance: Library (paperback…look how beat up it is!)
- Challenge: BookRiot Read Harder 2016
- Task: A book set in the Middle East
- Rating: 5/5 stars
Since this is by no means a new book, I’ve seen plenty of criticism for it floating around since it was released. Ham-handed themes, plot twists that are telegraphed a mile away, dwelling too long on intricate but ultimately inconsequential cultural details…
And I can see how those things are true. Yet, I loved this book. I didn’t have much time to read it until Wednesday, when I curled up in bed and spent the entire afternoon plowing straight through to the end.
I gave it 5 stars, though it’s got enough flaws that a case could be made for 4.5 instead. Because I really did see the “twists” coming, and because the early chapters dealing with Amir’s childhood stretch on a bit too long. But a big component of my (loose) rating system is just the feeling I have when I finished–did I enjoy it, or not? Did the book do what it set out to do, and did I get what I wanted out of it?
And it did. I did. I didn’t find the details overwhelming or unnecessary. I loved stumbling across the names of food dishes I already knew, from my extensive collection of cookbooks for foreign cuisines. I loved reading about dishes I didn’t know that I suddenly wanted to try. (I’m such a foodie.)
The settings are vivid, the characters believably flawed and memorable.
And however much the point might have been belabored through the story, I have always had a soft spot for the tales of families that aren’t formed of blood ties. Poor little Amir can’t seem to relate to his father, and yet he has an “uncle” who understands him better than anyone. He never had his mother, but his mother-in-law adores him and lavishes him with maternal affection. And ultimately, Amir’s family are the people he has chosen, rather than those he was born into.
And that always gets me.