[Review] Spook Lights II: Southern Gothic Horror

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Aaand I’m back with a review of an another excellent read. Damn body kept me from doing much gushing on here the last couple weeks, but be prepared for more awesomeness (aka ALL the reviews)! And fittingly, these last 2 weeks of April are Spring into Horror, a themed readathon, and Spook Lights II would be a perfect choice for it. You can find the sign-ups and more info here.

I’ve always loved creepy tales that make for good reading to cozy up with under the blankets. But I only discovered Southern gothic horror a couple of years back when I found Tananarive Due’s works. Those made me fall pretty hard for the stuff, so I jumped at the chance to read Spook Lights II, and I’m glad I did.

Eden Royce’s second collection of Southern gothic horror tells the stories of powerful Black women of the South. For those of you who don’t do well with the brutal stuff, mostly these stories aren’t very gory, but instead the horror comes quietly creeping up on you while you’re reading. And then Royce is excellent at creating tightly packed narratives with endings that pack a punch.

As with any collection, some stories are better than others, but Spook Lights II is a remarkably strong collection overall. Let me try to awkwardly gush about some of my favorite stories without giving anything away.

Spook Lights II opens with “Carolina Blue,” bringing with it a strong sense of place with the crops and wet marshlands and oppressive heat. And it’s not just the rice that’s blue. The uncanny here is quite unexpected but I also loved this story for the atmosphere and tone it set for the rest of the collection.

“To-do list” was pretty epic, I mean I love lists, so that’s a sure way to get me excited. But that story is genius, from the seemingly mundane lists about grocery shopping to couples arguing, read it and tell me what you think!

Meanwhile in “Grandmother’s Bed,” a young woman contemplates her dying grandmother’s powerful role of head of family and her own position of possible successor. The solution to her problem is both ingenious and horribly creepy.

I very much enjoyed how many of these stories focused on women and their relationships with family, especially mothers and grandmothers. There’s a give and take of love but also obligation as well as roles and powers that are passed onto the next generation.

By the way, both Spook Lights and Spook Lights II are <3€ on Amazon Kindle at the moment! Naturally, I had to get the first Spook Lights collection, too. Those warm nights spent bundled up alone on the terrace late at night are coming up, and I want to be ready heh. (that’s how I do horror in summer 😀 )

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Disclaimer: I received a free e-version of this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review.

[Review] God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems by Ishara Deen

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(How gorgeous is that cover!?)

Please note that my review is not written from an #ownvoices perspective, so I urge you to check out Saadia’s review,  MuslimahMediaWatch and Ruzaika’s thoughts!

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Mysteries are my comfort reads, but the genre tends to be super white at first and often at second glance, too, so I’m always on the lookout for diverse mysteries. I was thrilled that I was given the opportunity to read God Smites, starring a Muslim teen girl detective and let me tell you, I know I’ll reread it often. Also, so happy to hear that there will be a sequel called Mutaweenies and Other Muslim Girl Problems!

In her debut novel, Ishara Deen introduces us to Asiya Haque, a Bengali-Canadian teen who tries juggling high-school, interning, crushes and family. Oh, and a murder mystery. God Smites opens with Asiya’s mother warning her daughter about boys, and Asiya’s internal monologue where she considers her religion and what she owes her mother is hilarious and sweet. Probably most people with Muslim, or even other religious, family will find these situations familiar ones. I also loved her loyal father and I have a cheeky but supportive younger brother myself. And Asiya’s best friend is such a great character who we’ll hopefully meet again, and I’m sure the gossiping aunties will return as well. It was so wonderful to read of close family ties and see complex, positive Muslim representation. Asiya is a fantastic and extremely likable protagonist, and I really appreciated the way she strove to be independent but in a way that spoke of respect and love for her family.

While out walking with her crush Michael, they stumble over a dead body and Asiya finds herself in the middle of the investigation. And just how is Michael involved in all of this? I’ve read a lot of mysteries and this one is so much more, but I really enjoyed guessing whodunnit and kinda-but-not figured it out. That cliffhanger though! I may be a mystery fan, but I feel confident in recommending God Smites to people who not usually go for mysteries. Still, this book gets a prime spot on my growing #DiverseDetectives shelf!

What I love is how Deen manages to make this a cozy crime, a coming-of-age story with a hilarious protagonist and also a book of social commentary on Islamophobia. That’s not an easy feat. I can only hope book like this will reach a wider audience, there’s so much unpacking of stereotypes and fears to do. But most of all, I hope Muslim teens will find Asiya. So make sure to review, buy and request God Smites at your library!

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twitter-button                                               Make sure to follow Ishara on twitter!

Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Other thoughts:

Reading and Gaming for Justice

Paper Wanderer

In Tori Lex

Building Diverse Bookshelves

[Cover Reveal] Opal Charm: Hope in Nautical Dusk

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Today’s the cover reveal for Miri Castor’s Hope in Nautical Dusk, hosted by Rich in Variety a tour hosting site dedicated to diversity. Hope in Nautical Dusk is the second book in the Opal Charm fantasy series and will be released March 19th, I can’t wait! So without further ado, here’s the complete cover, isn’t it gorgeous!

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About the book:

Author: Miri Castor • Publication Date: March 19th, 2017 • Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy • Inclusion of Diversity: Bisexual African American protagonist.

The Gift of Twilight flourishes within Opal Charm as winter descends on Dewdrop. Life was already rough before, but Opal’s got new obstacles to face – getting into high school, bringing her brother back home, and training to protect Athre and Earth from Samael, the mysterious overlord who seeks to rule all, and put an end to her and the Charm lineage. The balance between harsh truths and sweet lies is more fragile than ever. Yet, as winter rolls on, the balance begins to break as a new threat emerges. Memories Opal once trusted are disintegrating her friendships, and lies are clouding her Path of Dawn and Dusk. Opal must seek the truth while protecting those close to her, no matter how painful it may be.

Add to goodreads!

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About the author:

Miri Castor is the author of Opal Charm: The Path to Dawn. She spent many recesses in middle school writing fantasy stories, with Opal Charm being one of many. She has written for Black Girl Magic Literary Magazine and was featured as a Spotlight New Author in 2016. Now attending a university on the East Coast, she studies biochemistry and will receive her B.S. in 2016. A New York native, Miri is working on her second novel while in her last year as an undergraduate. She enjoys playing video games, attending music concerts, and strolling through the City.

10 Poetry Collections by Black Women #BlackHistoryMonth

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It’s Black History Month! And while I try to read and highlight Black writers throughout the year, I thought I’d contribute a few extra posts for folks celebrating and folks looking for more resources. While spoken word is my first love, I have been getting better at reading poetry and so I thought I’d share some of my favorite Black women poets and collections that I’m reading or that are on my list. Let me know in the comments what you’re reading this month!

1.Narratives: Poems in the Tradition of Black Women by Cheryl Clarke gr-pic

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Black lesbian poet Cheryl Clarke’s 1992 collection, first published by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, is about love and women creating representation.

 

2.The Black Unicorn by Audre Lorde gr-pic

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Fed up with the whiteness of the poetry and nearly all literature taught in my school, Audre Lorde was one of the first poets I really connected with. The poems in this collection are beautiful and powerful, and explore how we inhabit multiple positions. Find “A Litany for Survival,” and other poems here.

 

3.Black Wings & Blind Angels by Sapphire gr-pic

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This work collects over 40 poems by the author of Push, as unflinching and harrowing and powerful as her novel, but also trigger warnings for abuse and incest.

 

4.Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith gr-pic

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When it comes to poetry, spoken word is my first love. Here’s Blood Dazzler by amazing Patricia Smith, check our her spoken word performances (some videos are available online)! This collection follows Hurricane Katrina and the destruction unleashed through the voices of survivors, politicians and even the hurricane itself.

5.They Are All Me by Dominique Christina gr-pic

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Another slam poet, Dominique Christina is also an educator and activist and this work is her second poetry collection.  She takes on topics such as genocide, police violence, Katrina and menstruation.

6.Gospel by Samiya Bashir gr-pic

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In this collection, poet Samiya Bashir takes on fear and power through gospel, but not necessarily (just) the religious meaning of the word. By the way, Bashir’s newest work comes out in April!

 

7.Beastgirl and Other Origin Myths by Elizabeth Acevedo gr-pic

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In the 2016 collection Beastgirl, Afro-Latina poet Acevedo interweaves personal stories, mythology and Dominican culture.

8. BlackGirl Mansion by Angel Nafis gr-pic

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Also a spoken word artist, Angel Nafis’ poetry leaps off the page: “I am here now,/speaking and giving/in bursts/of chest, and effort,/and temperature.”

9.Trigger by Venus Selenite gr-pic

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This is poet, writer, performance artist, social critic, editor, educator, and technologist Venus Selenite’s debut collection “is a bold, intimate, and comfortable/uncomfortable quest, through (Selenite’s) own eyes, in being Black, being queer, being trans, being a woman, and being non-binary in 21st century America, in what continues to be systemic and oppressive, but also adventurous and ecstatic” (venusselenite.com). Venus Selenite is also the co-editor of Nameless Woman: An Anthology of Fiction by Trans Women of Color (forthcoming).

10.Name Poems by Jewelle L. Gómez gr-pic

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The Gilda Stories author Jewelle Gómez writes poetry as well. In this 2015 collection, she examines experiences at multiple intersections, exploring her Native American (Ioway, Wampanoag) heritage and Black lesbian identity.

Further reading:

10 Works of Black Lesbian Short Fiction

What are you reading this Black History Month?

2017 #DiverseAThon TBR

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This month #DiverseAThon returns from January 22nd – 29th to bring the book community together in reading diverse literature. #DiverseAThon was first started by booktubers Joce @SquibblesReads, Christina Marie, Monica@shemightbemonica and Whitney @WhittyNovels in 2016 after a white booktuber had a meltdown over diversity and how it doesn’t matter. As they tend to. Anyway, it’s always awesome to see people striking back and I’m happy to see that #DiverseAThon has returned, hope it will for many years to come.

I’m almost always reading diverse lit, but the -thon part I need to get better at. At the moment I’m juggling a lot of books but that means I don’t finish many for quite some time. So, hopefully #DiverseAThon will help me with that. And I love making lists for these events. Here’s me trying to settle on a tbr, and though I hardly ever stick to my lists, I’ll do my very best! The best thing about this readathon is that there’s a timeframe and the goal to read diverse lit and that is it, no other requirement!

I’ve extremely optimistically put together a tbr of 5 books, reach for the stars and all that. I’ve also selected books that range from non-fiction to short stories to poetry, because I want to have option since I’m a total mood reader. And my focus is on Women of Color literature of course.

Deceit And Other Possibilities: Stories by Vanessa Hua gr-pic

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In this powerful debut collection, Vanessa Hua gives voice to immigrant families navigating a new America. Tied to their ancestral and adopted homelands in ways unimaginable in generations past, these memorable characters straddle both worlds but belong to none. (GR)

White Nights, Black Paradise by Sikivu Hutchinson gr-pic

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In 1978, Peoples Temple, a Black multiracial church once at the forefront of progressive San Francisco politics, self-destructed in a Guyana jungle settlement named after its leader, the Reverend Jim Jones. Fatally bonded by fear of racist annihilation, the community’s greatest symbol of crisis was the White Night; a rehearsal of revolutionary mass suicide that eventually led to the deaths of over 900 church members of all ages, genders and sexual orientations. (GR)

The Little Book of Big Visions. How to be an Artist and Revolutionize the World by Sandrine Micossé-Aikins & Sharon Dodua Otoo, eds. gr-pic

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German theatres still have almost exclusively white ensembles and Afro-German visual artists continue to struggle for recognition free of labels like “African” or “migrant” – even in 2012. “The Little Book of Big Visions: How to be an Artist and Revolutionize the World,” edited by Sandrine Micossé-Aikins and Sharon Dodua Otoo, discusses the current situation of Black artists in Germany and presents their visions for equality in text and image form. (GR)

Floating. Brilliant. Gone by Franny Choi gr-pic

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Beginning at loss and ending in reflective elation, Floating, Brilliant, Gone moves steadily through the many complicated textures of identity, anxiety, and absence. Using a language that is as volatile as the world it tries to occupy, these poems read like lucid dreams that jolt awake at the most unexpected moments. (GR)

A Return to Arms by Sheree L. Greer gr-pic

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When Toya meets Folami and joins the activist collective RiseUP!, she thinks she’s found her life’s purpose. Folami’s sensuality and her passion for social justice leave Toya feeling that, at last, she’s met someone she can share all parts of her life with. But when a controversial police shooting blurs the lines between the personal and the political, Toya is forced to examine her identity, her passions, and her allegiances. (GR)

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Are you doing #DiverseAThon? What’s on your TBR?

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Keep up with DiverseAThon via the twitter account @DiverseAThon and follow the hashtag #DiverseAThon!

10 Works of Black Lesbian Short Fiction

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Recently, I was asked about short story collections by women of Color, and what a timely thing, too, since I’m planning on reading more short fiction this year. Collections are always a bit complicated for me: on the one hand I want to take my time and savor each story, treat it as a complete work by itself (as should be, unless it’s interconnected stories), but on the other I usually fail and pressure myself to read the whole collection quickly. So this year, I will again start an extra page in my menu for short stories I’ve read. I used to do this a few years ago, but have sadly let it slide. That way I hope to concentrate on a variety of stories,  giving each the same attention I would give a novel.

Now, short story collections by women of Color, that covers a lot of ground! So I’m starting with this list of Black lesbian short fiction:

1.Does Your Mama Know?: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Coming Out Stories by Lisa C. Moore, ed. gr-pic

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This important 1998 collection showcases Black lesbian coming out experiences. Many of the contributions are short stories but you can also find poems, interviews and essays. Edited by Lisa C. Moore who is also the founder and editor of the amazing RedBone Press, which publishes Black lesbian and gay literature. Note: There is now a second edition that comes with 17 new stories!

2.Speaking in Whispers: African-American Lesbian Erotica by Kathleen E. Morris gr-pic

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A 1996 collection of erotic short fiction, celebrating Black lesbian sexuality and sensuality, also available from RedBone Press! Kathleen E. Morris identifies herself as a militant total femme dyke.

3.Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing by Catherine E. McKinley, L. Joyce DeLaney, eds. gr-pic

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First published in 1995, the Afrekete anthology also includes poetry and nonfiction. It features works by Audre Lorde, Jewelle Gómez, Jacqueline Woodson, Alexis De Veaux and more and was nominated for the Lambda award in 1996.

4.Don’t Explain by Jewelle Gómez gr-pic

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In her short story collection, American writer and cultural worker Jewelle Gómez (of The Gilda Stories fame) presents Black lesbian speculative fiction set in 1960s Boston and other futures.

5.Longing, Lust, and Love: Black Lesbian Stories by Shonia Brown, ed. gr-pic

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A 2006 collection of erotic short fiction about Black lesbian love at different stages., edited by Shonia Brown, author of a novel and independent book publisher.

6.Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction by S. Andrea Allen, Lauren Cherelle, eds. gr-pic

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A recent addition, this collection presents stories about the range of Black lesbian experiences in such genres as romance and SFF. Editor S. Andrea Allen is also the founder and publisher of Black feminist press BLF Press, take a look!

7.Two Moons: Stories by Krystal A. Smith gr-pic

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This collection isn’t out yet, but will be released June 20, 2017 ( also by BLF Press)! Krystal A. Smith is a “Black lesbian writer of poetry and speculative fiction.”

8.Callaloo & Other Lesbian Love Tales by LaShonda K. Barnett gr-pic

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LaShonda Barnett is an author, radio host and scholar, and also the author of the novel Jam! On the Vine. Her short story collection from 1999 presents tales of Black lesbian women from different walks of life.

9.Black Girl Love by Anondra “Kat” Williams gr-pic

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Anondra “Kat” Williams is a writer and poet as well as a radio host and the author of another collection, SistaGirl. Black Girl Love collects more than 25 short stories and poems about Black lesbians on love, life and sex.

10.Once and Future Lovers: A Collection of Short Fiction by Sheree L. Greer gr-pic

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Sheree L. Greer is an author and the host of Oral Fixation, an LGBTQ Open Mic series. Her 2012 book is a short collection about the courage, joy, pain and pleasure of love and relationships.

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How do you read short story collections? And have you read any of the works above? 

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Further reading:

For all the Black lesbian lit recommendations, visit Rena’s excellent blog Sistahs on the Shelf.

For more generally diverse short story collections, see for example Naz’ wonderful list “Give Short Fiction A Chance” here.

Side Project: Diverse Study Group

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Ugh I wanted to post last night but migraine struck again. I didn’t want to post without an image though, so today is the day! Maybe it’s my migraine hangover brain, but while rereading the rows of text confused even me, thus have some random keywords emphasized for (hopefully) readability.

The What & The How

So during the holidays I mentioned on twitter that I wanted to read up on current mostly academic nonfiction and asked if anyone wanted to join in. Loved that so many of you were interested, and hope you still are at the end of this post! 😀

I graduated last year, but have continued reading articles and nonfiction regularly, however I miss the exchange and discussion part of uni that generates understanding and new ideas. So that’s why I want to make this a regular thing and also involve you folks. Knowledge production happens in fiction and on social media, especially twitter, as well, so reading scholarly works would just be another, perhaps complimentary,  approach. I realize that these works might not be accessible to all, but perhaps the format of an informal study group encourages people who wouldn’t pick up these works by themselves. Disclosure: I’ve done grad school twice, but I had to work for it, my brain is super slow. I hope to have discussions that have space for non-academic folks and a context that is not competitive. As for actually getting our hands on these books, I can ILL many UP books (which takes 2-3 weeks) here and probably share 1-2 chapters as pdfs. We might also decide to read articles and I still have access to some databases. Perhaps between all of us, we’ll manage with most works, I’m hopeful.

Which brings me to another thing: This project would basically be a study group not a book club in that we would be reading chapters from books (and /or articles), perhaps several different books to get at several ways of approaching a topic. We could always later decide if we want to continue with a specific book all the way through, but the wonderful Social Justice Book Club does this and I want to join their reading whenever a book interests me 🙂 Let me know what you think! I know we all have lots of other books to read.

Also, I was thinking of reading and discussing 1-3 chapters a month, using a hashtag (#DivStGr for example). Or we could use a shared google document perhaps. We’ll need to see how the time-zones work out, but perhaps weekends with not quite live-tweeting would work.

Also, you’ll notice that this is a book list that is broad in topics and  lot of books are left out. That is because I finally have to luxury to read widely rather than in-depth to become an expert in one particular topic. However, my focus is clearly on ethnic studies, feminism and social justice and at the moment I’m mostly focusing on the these experiences in a Western context. So there’s several fields I want to explore, and that’s how I grouped books. Of course several books would fit more than one category, but this is easier for overview, I hope.

And finally, tons of books are missing from this list. I forced myself to post only a handful of books I want to read to start with, my initial list was embarrassingly long! But I’m sure you have suggestions, too, and when we decide on a fist topic we should do additional research as well. While my goal is to read newish research, I found that it might benefit discussion and understanding to go back more so that foundational and key texts can be added too. So the older works could be read if some of you are new to a concept or topic, or for comparisons and to find changes in directions of where the field is headed.

Fields of interest/ books to read from:

Intersectional Feminism, Solidarity, Disability

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Are All The Women Still White?: Rethinking Race, Expanding Feminisms  (Janell Hobson)

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Intersectionality (Patricia Hill Collins, Sirma Bilge)

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Feminist, Queer, Crip (Alison Kafer)

#BlackLivesMatter

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Policing the Planet (Jordan T. Camp, Christina Heatherton, eds.)

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From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation (Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor)

The Prison Industrial Complex

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Global Lockdown: Race, Gender, and the Prison-Industrial Complex (Julia Sudbury, ed.)

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Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex (Eric A. Stanley, Nat Smith, eds.)

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Are Prisons Obsolete? (Angela Y. Davis)

Sound Studies

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The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening (Jennifer Lynn Stoever)

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Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music: The Limits of La Onda (Deborah R. Vargas)

Indigineity, Settler-Colonialism, Sovereignty

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Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (Linda Tuhiwai Smith)

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Asian Settler Colonialism: From Local Governance to the Habits of Everyday Life in Hawai’i (Candace Fujikane, Jonathan Y. Okamura, eds.)

Queer Studies

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Queer Activism in India: A Story in the Anthropology of Ethics (Naisargi Dave)

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Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology (E. Patrick Johnson, Mae G. Henderson, eds.)

Critical Ethnic Studies

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Critical Ethnic Studies: A Reader (Critical Ethnic Studies Editorial Collective)

Biopolitics

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Bioinsecurities: Disease Interventions, Empire, and the Government of Species (Neel Ahuja)

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Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human (Alexander G. Weheliye)

Health, Medicine

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Medicating Race: Heart Disease and Durable Preoccupations with Difference (Anne Pollock)

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Blood Sugar: Racial Pharmacology and Food Justice in Black America (Anthony Ryan Hatch)

So, what do you think? Are you in? Let me know your thoughts on the project, books on your radar and directions you want to explore!

P.S.: I’m totally taking ideas on the name!