By Anya Shukla
Yeah, yeah, I know I was SUPPOSED to be reviewing “The Fifth Season” this week… but truthfully, I wasn’t in the mood. I went to California on vacation, and the 90 degree weather coaxed me outside, sunscreen in hand, book tossed carelessly on the hotel bed behind me. So instead, I decided to cobble together some short reviews of the BIPOC books not on my original list that I read these past few months.
The question on my loyal readers’ minds, of course, is “will Anya manage to get back on track next week?” Honestly, I don’t even know. The palm trees are swaying, the ice cream is calling, and I’m surprisingly ready to spend some time outdoors. What happens next is TBD.
Oh, who am I kidding? This bookworm is going to be back next week. My 4-day trip to Cali isn’t going to change me that much.
“Counting Down With You” by Tashie Bhuiyan
Move over “When Dimple Met Rishi.” There’s a new South Asian teen romance in town. (Quick aside: anyone who thinks “When Dimple Met Rishi” is a good book should stab themselves in the foot with a fork. It’s a dumpster fire of a novel and no one can convince me otherwise.) In a classic tutors-to-lovers setup, high schooler Karina is forced to teach resident “bad boy” Ace English after class. When Ace convinces Karina to be his pretend girlfriend, their strictly professional relationship quickly turns amorous.
Ace is Quite Romantic—he makes Karina a playlist!—but their interactions are not always realistic (I’m sorry, what couple makes plans to go to the same college after two weeks of dating?). I’d prefer more subdued metaphors and slightly less cheesiness, but I’m not complaining too much. I love a book that shows brown people that they, too, can find love and happiness despite super-strict parents. Rating: 4.25/5.
“The Making of Asian America: A History” by Erika Lee
My takeaway from this book boils down to: why was my high school World History class basically just European history? I mean, guess who never knew that there was Asian indentured servitude in Central and South America, or that the United States orchestrated a relocation of many Japanese Peruvians to American internment camps during World War II? This gal.
There is valid criticism online that this book glosses over the 9/11 era onwards. However, for anyone looking for an in-depth, carefully researched, actually readable nonfiction book about Asian American history from the 16th through 20th centuries, you’re in for a treat. Rating: 4.75/5.
“Authentically Black: Essays for the Black Silent Majority” by John McWhorter
This may be the first book I’ve ever read by a conservative author (I live in one of the most liberal cities in America, okay?! Don’t come for me). It was an experience. I’ll be reading another McWhorter book later in this challenge, so I’m excited to review him again in greater detail.
This essay collection reads like a series of opinion pieces, especially because McWhorter tends to build one-sided arguments. For example, he accurately notes that the majority of Black people do not live in poverty, but fails to disclose the 10-15% gap between Black and white poverty rates. Provide more statistics, please and thank you :)
That being said, “Authentically Black” forced me to think outside of my little liberal bubble. McWhorter describes a dichotomy for people of color: if we aren’t shaming white people, then we’re not doing our duty to our race; we’ve assimilated; we’re “white” ourselves. Especially in the era of “cancel culture,” this idea rings true for me. I can see how BIPOC people might be pressured to be in constant conflict with white people because they’re worried about not being seen as “enough” of a person of color.
I don’t always agree with McWhorter, but he definitely expanded my worldview. Liberals interested in gaining a multidimensional understanding of race relations should definitely check this one out… but be prepared to fact-check like nobody’s business. Rating: 3.75/5.