Blogging Confessions

I’ve been book blogging for a year and a half now, and I’m realizing that I don’t really know/like a lot of the book blogging world.

I’m not interested in blog tours (I’m still not sure exactly what these are or what their point is), book cover reveals (is this really that big a deal?), memes (I do one meme, and it’s one I created and only post when I feel like it). I don’t worry about reading new releases unless I’m really interested in the book. I’m not afraid of giving negative reviews.*

I’m not interested in keeping up with what everyone else is read. Mostly because I think most books being released don’t sound interesting. I did more of that (reading new releases) when I started book blogging, and I just ended up owning (because when you’re pressuring yourself to review a book immediately after it’s been released there’s no time to wait for the library to get it) a ton of books that I HATED (and am still trying to get rid of).

I wish I were more connected to other readers in the book blogging community, but it’s been difficult for me to find bloggers with similar interests. There are a lot of group blogs out there, but it’s difficult to find the individuals who blog about racial diversity, too. If you have any suggestions (self-promotion included), let me know in the comments!

While I was on hiatus I was trying to figure out what I liked about blogging. I’m not sure I succeeded, but I did miss it while I was away which I took as a sign that I should keep at it. I will probably never keep a traditional book blog, but I’m okay with that. Looking back on my blog, I’m happy with what I see. And I’m excited to start again.

*Sometimes I think my reviews make it seem like I don’t like ANYTHING. I promise that’s not the case, and some of the changes I’m planning on rolling out are highlighting books/series/authors I do like.

Read a Book of Poetry

GBM_13136807510I usually wait until I’ve finished a goal to blog about it, but I’m too excited to wait for this one.

I’m in the middle of reading The Folio Society’s Goblin Market and Selected Poems by Christina Rossetti. The book is introduced by Kathyrn Hughes and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.

I read One Summer, also illustrated by Jillian Tamaki in May. It’s one of the only graphic novels I’ve ever read where the images stuck with me as much if not more than the words (I’m usually much more verbal than visual).

I read Goblin Market my sophomore year of college but was unfamiliar with Rossetti’s other work. Something about her stuck with me though. When cleaning out my grandmother’s apartment I kept a book of Rossetti’s poems.

So when I was browsing the Folio Society’s summer sale this year and saw Goblin Market and Selected Poems was illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and on sale, I knew I needed a copy.

The poems are lovely so far*, as are the illustrations. You can see a few more here at Jillian Tamaki’s website.

*They are also deceptively complex and often bleak (in a really great way). To learn more about Christina Rossetti’s life and works check out her bio on the Poetry Foundation’s website.

Words for Wednesday

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
- “Remember” by Christina Rossetti

Read This Series: Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke

I can’t remember how I learned of the Anna Hibiscus series, but I’m so glad I did. I read the first few books for my second 24-hour readathon in April of 2013. The books each contain four chapters and each chapter reads like a short story. The stories all manage to be entertaining, and most have a lesson in them somewhere.

There’s so many great things about the books. My two favorites are that they present Africa as a modern place and that Anna Hibiscus is biracial. Anna Hibiscus’ race is such a non-issue in the earlier books, I actually forgot about it until I reread them.*

Some of the stories do deal with heavier issues, notably poverty, but they always do it in a way that fits with the story and never becomes heavy-handed or overly didactic.

The only disappointment I have about the series is that Atinuke is a British author, so the books are difficult to find in the US. I didn’t even know that there were two more books in the series until I started trying to buy them. I was going to give the series to my niece for her birthday, but it’s such a pain to find the books I think we’ll just check them out from the library together instead.

Anna Hibiscus is a series that anyone can enjoy. I am well outside the intended audience, and I was entertained by all of Anna Hibiscus’ stories.

Titles in the series:
+ Anna Hibiscus
+ Hooray for Anna Hibiscus!
+ Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus!
+ Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus!
+ Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!
+ Go Well, Anna Hibiscus!
+ Anna Hibiscus’ Song (picture book)
+ Splash, Anna Hibiscus! (picture book)

*Anna Hibiscus’ race is touched upon in the last book, Go Well, Anna Hibiscus!

The List Is Done!

I haven’t finished it. But I have finished writing it.

I have a little over a year left in my 1001 days, and I’m probably not going to make it. Well, hopefully I make it to next July, but I won’t finish the list in that time. As I’ve said before, that’s OK. I’ll just take all my unfinished goals and roll them over and start a new list.

I like to leave myself a lot of wiggle room when writing an 101 list, because I know my priorities will change over the course of time, and they definitely changed over the course of this list. One year left seems like a reasonable time to pin everything down though.

I added nine goals this week: to read all the Sherlock Holmes short stories/novellas/novel. Since this is something I want to do anyway, it made sense to put it on the list. I read A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in the spring of 2012. I don’t remember the exact date, but I know it was around the time I started watching Sherlock and Elementary was announced. Then I just stopped reading them. I don’t quite know why. But now I will finish reading the stories (hopefully).

ETA: Whoops. When I was adding these goals to the list, I thought I had read the first Sherlock Holmes novellas/short story collection in 2013, but I actually read it in 2012 before I started my 101 in 1001 challenge. The list is still complete. I just removed those three goals from the list and replaced them. The replacement goals are to read a new book in a day, read a nonfiction book and to read only books I own that I’ve never read (for one month).

Words for Wednesday

When a few classmate dropped out after the first year, I both envied and pitied them. I didn’t dare think about doing the same, as it would have been an admission of failure to my mother. Instead, I chose Edith Wharton as my dissertation subject because I’d read The Age of Innocence so many times and hadn’t yet grown to hate it. I told myself that maybe everyone took their vocational cues this way. Maybe everyone felt like an imposter and this was why my classmates drank so much. -Pioneer Girl, Lee Lien

A Useful Reading Tip

I’m constantly learning how to read about other cultures. Let’s be honest, I’m also constantly learning how to read about my own cultures. One thing I learned while on hiatus is to distrust anything that talks about Africa or American Indians as a monolith.

I’m sure it’s something I’ve read many times without noticing: American Indians do this*, a tribe in Africa does that. These groups are not monolithic (in the same way Asians are not monolithic**), but they are often portrayed as such. When talking about a people, specificity is everybody’s friend.

Now when I read anything about groups I’m not familiar with, especially American Indians, I always look for specific mentions of a nation or tribe. I check to see if the author is an American Indian or not and see if they cite a source for their story if it’s an adaptation. If I can’t find this information in the book itself, I try and research the story to see where it comes from, if it’s accurate, how good the representation is, etc (American Indians in Children’s Literature is a good resource/starting point).

I’m discovering that I have somehow accumulated a huge number of books with problematic portrayals of American Indians (almost all of them are aimed at children). I’m currently trying to decide what to do with these books (I want to get rid of a lot of them, but feels irresponsible to simply give them away). Have any suggestions?

*I used the present tense purposely here. Oftentimes authors will talk about American Indians exclusively in the past tense, another warning sign you should look out for.

**I’ve never had that much trouble recognizing monolithic thinking/representation when it came to Asians, but I never really thought about how other cultures/peoples are presented as monoliths. Sometimes it’s difficult to look outside ourselves.

Hiatus Updates

I’m back from my hiatus! There are lots of potential changes on my horizon currently, and I considered extending my break. However, nothing’s happening yet, so I’m going to worry about things as they come.

While on hiatus I finished a few goals from The List including:

  • Read 75 books or 20,250 pages in a year
  • Read a book in a day (five times)
  • Read 30 books in 30 days (I also did this last June)
  • Do a week long readathon (new goal)

I also made progress on a few goals:

  • Read five books about Japanese internment (I read Dust of Eden by Mariko Nagai)
  • Read five Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners (I read Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It by Sundee Fraizer which won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award)
  • Give away/sell 250 books (I donated 25 books to the Friends of the Library)
  • Newbery Reading Challenge 2014 (I read the Caldecott winner Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say for 1 point)

In June I managed to read 40 books, 30 of which counted towards my Diversity on the Shelf 2014 challenge. However, I still haven’t met all of my personal goals for that challenge. I’m going to concentrate on finishing it in August.

I really liked having one goal for the month of June, so I’ve decided to break down the rest of the year by month. Each month will have one main goal which will hopefully help me finish other goals. For example, this month I’m concentrating on reading picture books.* I’m way behind on my I Love Reading Picture Books challenge, and this seems like a good time to catch up. Since picture books are short reads, I’ll also be concentrating on other things that can be read in installments (read a book of poetry, read a Shakespeare play, etc).

In August I’m going to read only books I own that I’ve never read before (and possibly do a book buying ban). I need to knock some books off my TBR shelves. I think August will be a good time to do that. I also have some books I’ve bought specifically for the Diversity on the Shelf challenge, so if I read those I’ll be fulfilling two goals with one book which is always nice. And I’m hoping some of my TBRs will also find their way out of my house once they’ve been read.

After August I have some idea of what I want my reading to look like. I’m thinking I’ll try to read The Tale of Genji over September and October. During those two months I’ll also try to clear some books off my Read It or Get Rid of It shelf, but I’m very prepared for the possibility that this won’t happen. September and October are when all the TV shows start back up and I know I’ll be distracted by at least a few of them.

In November I might try to read the Animorphs series, then I’ll finish off the year with rereads (potentially including HP, HDM, The Queen’s Thief) if I finish all my other yearly reading goals in the next five months.

I’m not too set on that schedule, though I do love doing rereads (especially of classic children’s novels) in December. It’s a nice break before I gear up into new goals for the new year.

That’s what I’ve been up to and that’s where I think I’m going. We’ll see if I actually get there or not.

*Because I’m planning on read a lot of picture books this month, I probably won’t be making regular round up posts. I might do a feature on some of my favorite books that I read throughout the month. We’ll see. But if you want to know all the titles I’m reading I have a special booklikes page just for picture books, Ama’s Picture Books.

Taking a Break

I was going to wait until June to take a blogging break, but when I realized I hadn’t posted anything this week, I thought now’s as good a time as any to take off.

Lots of things are going on in my life right now. I’m not reading as much. I’m not feeling motivated to write reviews. A break is necessary.

Since I’ve started posting here I’ve always blogged for fun. Blogging is still fun, but does feel more like a chore lately. Especially when I’m reading. I often find myself distracted from my book, thinking about what I’ll write in my review. I want to take some time to just enjoy books and maybe finish a few goals from the list.

I’ll be back by July (at the latest).