I’ve been thinking about summer–the long, hot, humid, stuck indoors summer–and how to make it more enjoyable. Lately, adding reading to my weekly goal list has increased my reading time while cutting out the “you’re being lazy” guilt soundtrack. I thought about the books I read/ am reading this week, how even a fictional story makes a person more empathetic and increases awareness on very non-fiction subjects. These thinkerly thoughts birthed an idea, a sort of crazy, wonderful idea. Remember the other day when I said I love a numbered challenge? I created a challenge, a goal and an indulgence all wrapped up in one shiny package: the 100 story summer.
Starting today, and going through Labor Day, I’m going to read 100 stories. True, it’s not quite summer but my A/C is already running, so close enough! Then, every Saturday, I’ll share about them here on the blog. After all, I have one hundred days of writing -81 now!- to fill. Usually, I drift through summer time, binge watching Netflix and finding ways to avoid being outside in daylight. This adventure keeps me out of the sun and focused on a destination. It’s the best of all worlds. Not to mention making a dent in the amazing hoard of unread books sitting on my kindle.
I’m going on a story adventure! You’re invited, too.
This week I read/am reading an amazing trifecta of racially related books. I didn’t plan to read them all together like this, but I’m so glad the due dates aligned on them to make it so. What an amazing journey.
The Underground Railroad – If you are one of the few people who haven’t heard the premise here it is very briefly. Set in pre-Civil War America, this story follows the escape of slave woman from the South to the North. The twist: the Underground Railroad is a literal railroad people ride from one stop to the next. The story is harrowing and dreadful in so many ways. While the railroad is an imaginary device, the rest of the story only seems surreal in its cruelty, hatred and violence. Sadly, those elements are all very real. Yet somehow despite the brutality, the overwhelming theme is one of fierce hope, inspiring perseverance and the depth of courage within people who refuse to participate in racial dehumanization.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – This book has been on my reading list for a long time. I tend to believe that most books fall in my lap at exactly the perfect time, and so it has been with this one. This story seems as though it should be imaginary, a bizarre, dystopic, sci-fi depiction of medical science. Only it isn’t. It’s a true story about what happens (and is still happening) when when the ends justify the means, any means at all.
The misuse of Henrietta Lacks, both cells and person, alongside the echoes of racial injustice and poverty that echo through the generations of this story are heartbreaking. The author puts a human face on a biological nightmare by telling the story of the Lacks family, as well as the HELA cells. It’s absolutely riveting. I’ll be unpacking how I feel about this one for a very long time.
Underground Airlines – I only started this one this morning, but after 78 pages, I am ALL IN. This novel is set in present day with a twist, the Civil War never happened. In four states, The Hard Four, slave labor, plantation style is alive and well. I didn’t expect the author’s recreation of global economics and scientific and technological advancement as a result. Without the Civil War, it really is a whole new world. The social commentary is scathing and altogether too close to present day reality. It’s a thriller, but so much more than that.
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