If anyone needs a book for the Own Voices Bingo square next year, these would all make excellent choices!
(4 stars) Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha
I was certain I’d added this to my TBR after reading a Cannonball review on it, but I can’t find one so maybe not. Maybe it came from Goodreads best of list for 2019? Regardless, it’s a relatively new book but I’m betting we’ll start seeing it everywhere.
Your House Will Pay starts out in L.A. in the 1990s, in a atmosphere of unrest and fear after a police officer has shot and killed a black teenager. Shawn Matthews and his sister Ava are going to the movies when a fight breaks out. Fast forward to present day, as Shawn is getting ready to pick his cousin up from jail and we find out Shawn’s sister died on that night. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to Grace Park — the daughter of Korean immigrants who run a pharmacy. Grace spends all of her time with her parents, caring for them and following their rules, while occasionally getting away to see her sister. Her sister cut ties with their parents years ago, presumably over a boyfriend, but we can tell there’s more to the story. When another black teenager is killed by the police, these two stories come together.
I don’t really want to give away more, since the reveal of how the two families are connected takes a while and definitely took me by surprise a few times. Your House Will Pay is a story about the Park and Matthews families, but it’s also about society (in the early 1990s as well as present day) as a whole. It’s very well-done and I had trouble putting this book down.
(4 stars) A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
This was a very powerful and compelling book about a culture with which I don’t have a lot of familiarity. The story itself is not particularly complex, but the history that runs through all of the characters’ actions and motivations makes it so much richer. A review I read on Goodreads (that I cannot find now) pointed out that the author is not just writing about a subjugated group of women. She’s also writing to them, so she may have intentionally kept the writing a little simple in order to make it accessible to more people. I think that’s an excellent point and I think she did a fantastic job.
“I was born without a voice, one cold, overcast day in Brooklyn, New York. No one ever spoke of my condition. I did not know I was mute until years later, when I opened my mouth to ask for what I wanted and realized no one could hear me.”
The book focuses on three women. Isra, married off at 18 to a man named Adam, who moved her from Palestine to Brooklyn in hopes of a better life. Their daughter Deya, growing up in Brooklyn in the early 2000s but still following her grandmother’s strict traditions. And Deya’s grandmother (Isra’s mother-in-law) Fareeda — we spend less time in her head than the others, but she gives us a glimpse into WHY she forces her granddaughters to follow her restrictive rules.
It’s a sad book, full of unhappy women trying to please angry (and unhappy) men. I spent the whole book wanting so badly for Deya to break free from her family and find her own path. I actually read this whole book in one sitting because I needed to know how it ended as soon as possible!
(4 stars) On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
I wish I’d gotten this book as an audiobook instead of reading a hard copy. I feel like Bri’s rapping would have really shone in that format.
At sixteen, Brianna is determined to make her mark as a rapper. She’s grown up in the shadow of her father, famous for his rapping but murdered when she was very young. Since then, Bri and her brother have been trying to help their mom make ends meet. Bri knows that if she can just get into the legendary rap battle known as the Ring, she can use her talent and hard work to make it rich and help her family.
“It is kinda messed up. Here my brother is, doing everything right, and nothing’s coming from it. Meanwhile, Aunt Pooh’s doing everything we’ve been told not to do, and she’s giving us food when we need it. That’s how it goes though. The drug dealers in my neighborhood aren’t struggling. Everybody else is.”
She has so many obstacles in her way. Her aunt / manager can’t be trusted, her dad’s old manager Supreme wants a piece of her, and she still has to deal with normal teenage issues like school and boys. I really liked Brianna’s character. She’s so smart and tough but not in an unbelievable way. Instead, she just seems like the kind of teenager who really could change the world if she was just given a chance.