POCathon – Reading Books By or About People of Color


Hi guys. I’m Beth. This is read remark. And today we are going to be taking the POC-a-thon challenge. “So what is the POCathon?”
you may be asking. That is POC: People of Color. It is a challenge devised by
several booktubers, namely Justin over at Ghost Reader, Diana over at Diana in
Colour, Myn Kobayashi, Kevin at Story Glyph, and Paola Mancera. It is a
reading challenge that they devised to encourage people to just read more books
by and about people of color. The idea is to just get out there and get out of
your own comfort zone. Get out of your own demographic and get more diversity
into your life. It has five different challenges. The first one I see kind of
more as a heading I had to kind of wrap my head around it. It says to make sure
that you read books with main characters that represent at least three
different nationalities, ethnic groups, races, just to make sure that we’re being
diverse in our diverse reading. So I made sure to do that within the other
challenges. Challenge number two is to read a classic book by an author of color or
a translated work. This is one on my TBR pile and that is a couple books by
Alexandre Dumas. This was a French man who was mixed race. He was born to a
French nobleman father who coupled with a slave, an Afro-Caribbean slave. Together
they made a beautiful baby who became a very tremendously successful author. He
wrote many famous books such as The Man in the Iron Mask,
Georges, The Three Musketeers. One on my list is the Count of Monte Cristo. This
is actually a paperback book that I got from my mom and that’s been sitting on
my bookshelf for many, many years. I’ve always meant to read it and just
haven’t yet. So it’s supposed to have it all, as far as the intrigue goes. Lots of
stuff that should be a very interesting read. Challenge number three is to read a
science fiction or fantasy book by an author of
color. Now a few months ago during Black History Month (see my video for more POC reading opportunities there, as well) I talked about Octavia
Butler in the science fiction space. So I really wanted to challenge myself to go
beyond Octavia Butler, who by the way I think is brilliant and everyone should
read, and I came across this book (*short story) called Black Betty by Nisi Shawl. It is
available online free and in fact, the wonderful Levar Burton of Reading
Rainbow fame reads this on his podcast. He reads it out loud and it’s followed
by an interview with the author herself. It is about a dog. Black Betty is a dog.
She is born into ta society that’s kind of going into racial turmoil and
she herself has a lot of marks against her because I think she’s a black dog or
she grew up around African-American people or maybe it’s not even America.
Ah jeez. You kind of get into these thoughts of being treated like animals
and being traded and passed along and completely living at the whims of your
masters. So, very interesting story, Black Betty by Nisi Shawl. I highly recommend
that you either give it a read or listen to Levar Burton read it. Good stuff. (see notes for a link)
Challenge number four: read a poem by a person of color. For this one, I’m going
to read the first few stanzas of a poem called “I invite my parents to a dinner
party” by the poet Chen Chen. Here’s the first part of it. I’m not going to read
the whole thing, but here are the first few lines. In the invitation I tell them
for the 17th time the (fourth in writing) that I am gay. In the invitation I
include a picture of my boyfriend and write you’ve met him two times but this
time you will ask him things other than can you pass the whatever. You will ask
him about him. You will enjoy dinner. You will be enjoyable. Please RSVP. They RSVP.
They come they sit at the table and ask my boyfriend the first of the
conversation starters I slipped them upon arrival. How is work going?
I’m like the kid in Home Alone orchestrating every movement of proper
family as if a pair of scary yet deeply incompetent burglars is watching from
the outside. Good stuff. Good poem. It goes on to talk about the dinner party itself.
Chen Chen wrote that he wrote this poem in response to his own parents
grappling with his sexuality, and maybe thinking more in an ideal way of instead
of him constantly reaching out to them and trying to hope that they’d come
around, to shifting within this poem to a place where he’s telling them the way
that they need to act and expecting that of them. The fifth and final challenge
asks us to read a book about discrimination, immigration, or prejudice.
Now for this one I chose the subject of immigration and have two books that I
can recommend, both of which I have read within the last few months. The first is
The Leavers by Lisa Ko. This one deals with a boy who, he and his mother are in
the US. His mother came over illegally and then had him, and then all of a
sudden she disappears. She disappears and the rest of his childhood and young
adulthood is pretty much lived in the shadow of “where did she go? What happened
to my mother?” And so then we shift to the perspective of the mother and we see
what happened. We get to see her life leading up to coming to the US. We get to
see her early days as an illegal immigrant. And then we get to see exactly
what happened that made her leave and what had happened in the in the years
since. Now I will say this book really opened my eyes and made me feel almost
willfully ignorant because I straight-up did not know that these places existed.
I’m being I’m being purposefully vague right here because I don’t want to give
away the story and I don’t want to say where she went. So I’m gonna stop being
frustratingly vague and move on to the next book which is Lucky Boy by Shanthi
Sekaran. Another excellent, excellent book. This
one is about a little boy named Ignacio. His mother is a Mexican illegal
immigrant. Came over, had Ignacio, was deported, so he was taken in by this
set of foster parents who couldn’t have kids of their own.
So this “lucky boy” is kind of torn on these two sides by these two sets of
parents who love him desperately, desperately. And both want to keep him in
their lives. And so it goes through the the push-pull of that and then also the
conundrum of who does this boy belong with. The way it ended I think was the
right way for the book to end, but it was still just so heartbreaking. So
heartbreaking, but beautiful beautifully written. Thanks again to the booktube
creators of the POCathon, which has been a lot of fun. Admittedly, I suck at all of
the “a-thons” despite my best intentions to play along and do all the a-thoning
I can, but oh boy I’m just terrible. Even if I’m not necessarily reading non-stop
during these five days I am excited to have the reminder to read more diversely.
No just only these five days but moving forward. Very good challenge. Very good
reminder. Very good books. I’ll also be sure to link to a twitter thread that Justin
from ghost reader left that has just tons and tons of recommendations if you
are stuck in a place of, “What in the heck do I read? Where do I start?” He’ll get you
started. He’s got lots of great recommendations. Okay, thanks for watching.
Catch you next time. Bye! šŸ™‚

6 Comments

  1. Wonderful suggestions! I had not heard of Chen Chen in the beginning of that home has got me hooked! Lucky cat boy has been on my list forever ā€“ I must track it down. Wish Iā€™d been able to participate in POCathon but had some joyful personal matters to attend to that conflicted. Next year! šŸ™‚

  2. just found your channel through Books for MKs. this seems like a great read a thon. can't wait to hear your opinions on these books. new sub. would love a sub back!

  3. I hope you enjoyed these reads! They all sound really good. One day I will finish The Count of Monte Cristo…one day šŸ˜‚

  4. Hi Beth!! I am so behind on all things POCathon, but so pleased to have seen this video, I think you did a great selection of texts here with some wonderful authors! I cannot believe I still haven't read any Octavia Butler, and Nisi Shawl is new to me so thanks for the heads up!
    I'm not usually a fan of poetry, but I definitely enjoyed hearing you read an excerpt from the Chen Chen piece!
    Thanks for sharing and hope your POCathon reading went well šŸ˜€

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