Welcome to summer… the weather is warmer, it’s time to sit outside with a cold drink and learn to be anti-racist. The past month has been eye opening for me in a lot of ways, and I have been grateful for all of the lists and recommendations on ways that we can educate ourselves on racism and the Black Lives Matter movement using some of my favorite pop culture mediums. Every non-fiction book was immediately sold out, but there’s some great Black fiction that I “kept meaning to get to.” And now I am finally doing it. It hasn’t all been educating myself, I still found plenty of time for mindless entertainment, I promise.
Here’s a great anti-racist reading list from Powell’s if you aren’t sure where to start.
I quickly devoured The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel who also wrote Station Eleven. I love her storytelling style and how these seemingly independent stories come together. It wasn’t AS good as Station Eleven, but I still really enjoyed it.
I just finished American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson, a recent purchase from Powell’s. It was SO DAMN GOOD. It takes place in the 80’s and early 90’s, written as a letter to a woman’s young twin boys explaining her life and family and her time in the FBI. I had a hard time putting it down – the story is great and geographically diverse (Martinique & Burkina Faso). It’s also based on real people (the politicians in Burkina Faso) which I didn’t realize till I was half way through. I went on a bit of a wikipedia rabbit hole after I finished the book to learn more which rarely happens.
I am almost done with The Mercies which is a crazy good story about a 1600’s fishing village in Northern Scandinavia. A boat filled with all the village men goes down in a storm and the women are left to run the village. It is so good, I’ve had a hard time putting it down this weekend! Update: I finished The Mercies and it was AWESOME! I am so glad it stuck the landing – 10/10 would recommend.
My new reading goal is to make sure every other book is written by a BIPOC. The last book I read by a man (sorry guys) I stopped within the first 50 pages. I’ve read a lot of male authors, but a librarian recently mentioned she mostly reads female authors, and I noticed I do tend to enjoy them more so plan to start paying better attention to who I let on my bookshelf.
Next up: The library just informed me that An American Marriage, Homegoing and Between the World and Me are ready, so those are my next 3. I also picked up G Willow Wilson’s latest graphic novel – Invisible Kingdom, she wrote the Ms Marvel series that I LOVED, I can’t wait to dive in to her new series!
Here’s a good list of books, tv shows, movies and podcasts to help educate you.
If you live in Oregon and haven’t read the OPB article about Oregon’s Racist history, there’s an audio version included and there’s also a good 5 minute Retropod episode that will give you a quick overview of what a terrible state we’ve been.
I read a different list that I can’t find to share (sorry!) that suggested What a Day as a podcast to listen to. I used to listen to it and stopped because I felt like it was redundant to news I already knew in the morning. BUT Akilah Hughes (one of the co-hosts) is delivering some great content around systemic racism and the history surrounding specific BLM events. Episodes are only 15-20 minutes, easy to listen to while getting ready in the morning or while driving to and from the gym.
I really enjoyed Winds of Change which just finished its 8 episode series. I wish it had a better final episode but maybe with some time away I’ll come to love it more. It does sound like there could be more to come from the story. It definitely filled a Russian/CIA/KGB hole in my heart left by The Americans, an all time favorite TV show.
My husband and I finally watched The Last Dance. As a kid who grew up in Oregon in the late 80’s/early 90’s and was a MAJOR Blazer’s fan, it was fun to watch the series and remember all of those players that I hated (did anyone ever like Bill Laimbeer?) It’s definitely Jordan’s version of history, but I still learned a few things and it was fun to have a bit of sport around.
When They See Us should be required viewing, it’s only four episodes and even though we have spread them out over a couple of weeks, it’s a horrible story that I didn’t know anything about. Watch it, be infuriated, keep going.
The Juneteenth episode of Black-ish was a great and easily digestible way to learn about this (soon to be national) holiday. If you’ve never watched Black-ish it’s really smart and worth watching. Then watch #blackAF on Netflix which is the same creator, Kenya Barris, who stars with Rashida Jones (Ann Perkins!) who I love so much.
We finished Top Chef and the right person won – I was VERY happy! Luckily to fill that foodie void is Padma Lakshmi’s new show on Hulu – Taste the Nation. It’s so well done – each episode tells about specific food cultures from immigrant groups. It’s been educational and the Gullah Geechee episode is free on YouTube, which was our favorite! We devoured the series and every episode had us curious to try or revisit foods we may have over looked.
Wyatt Cynac has a show on HBO that I completely missed – Problem Areas. I caught it on Hulu the other day – I was looking through the two seasons and discovered in the second season they go to Salem, Oregon and talk to the school district about mental health. It was FASCINATING. Once we finish Taste the Nation this is the next binge.
Also on YouTube is 8:46 a stand up special Dave Chappelle recorded earlier this month. It’s eye opening and smart and I wish I had started watching his work years ago.
I did also find time to watch Queer Eye, the first episode with the gay pastor was AWESOME, the rest of the season was also good, but man they started out with a bang. I also binged season 2 of The Politician. I liked that they didn’t try to tell too many stories and the comedic team of Judith Light and Bette Midler is still one I will always be shocked and delighted by. Over the weekend we enjoyed Uncorked on Netflix – a foodie movie that includes both wine AND BBQ? The movie was made for my husband and me. We also enjoyed Leslie Jones: Time Machine, the woman wore a knee brace for her standup special recording and I love her SO DAMN MUCH.
What pop culture kept you sane over the past month? Did you pick up any new recommendations based on the increased awareness of Black authors and creators? Did you find some good mental health breaks with pop culture? Share your new favorites in the comments!