The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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“Sloth was literal death for us, while for them, it was the whole ambition of their lives.”

Hiram is born into slavery in Virginia. Although he’s far more educated and capable than his bumbling white half-brother Maynard, Hiram is tasked with being his brother’s servant. When the book begins, both of them are about to be drowned in a river before we go into a flashback. Continue reading

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

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One guy in Russia suddenly goes crazy. He first attacks his friend, then he kills himself. A few more people engage in similar behavior. By the time there’s about 300 unexplained suicides worldwide, society shuts down. This didn’t ring true to me. As I write this, over half a million people have died from Covid-19, yet there’s still a sizable chunk of the population who refuse to wear masks. Why would everybody panic after just 300 deaths worldwide? We humans generally don’t take things seriously until it’s too late. Continue reading

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

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White people are uncomfortable talking about race because it challenges our identity as unique and objective people. We get defensive and might insist that we’re the ones who are really being oppressed. We want to believe that we aren’t racist and any suggestion that we benefit from racist systems makes us angry or makes us not want to talk about it. However, not talking about it preserves the system that gives us privilege.
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Zone One by Colson Whitehead

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“If they could bring back paperwork, Mark Spitz thought, they could certainly reanimate prejudice, parking tickets, and reruns. There were plenty of things in the world that deserved to stay dead, yet they walked.”

Zone One is a literary novel and as such is more focused on poetic language than action. The prose is filled with metaphors, similes, foreshadowing, personification, thesaurus words, and pages of description. So even though it’s a zombie book, it’s one your English teacher will be proud of you for reading. Continue reading

The Mandalorian

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I’ve watched a lot of great sci-fi series lately. Watchmen (which everybody should see), Star Trek: Picard (which was good), The Expanse season 4 (which was pretty good), and Westworld season 3 (which was ok). The Mandalorian, however, was not my favorite.
It’s basically a Western in space, but unlike Firefly which set the gold standard for doing a Western in space, The Mandalorian doesn’t have any compelling characters. The main character (who is nicknamed Mando) is a gruff loner who doesn’t talk much, doesn’t remove his helmet, and doesn’t even have a proper name until the end. So we don’t get much personality from him.

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Dark Corners

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Dark Corners is a collection of horror short stories published by Amazon, which I’d say is worth your time overall.

“There’s a Giant Trapdoor Spider Under Your Bed” by Edgar Cantero takes place in a world in which anything you say becomes reality. It’s both fun and funny and also has a couple scary moments. Four children who are all Harry Potter fans (and who each belong to a different Harry Potter house) are having a sleepover when the ability to summon monsters like giant trapdoor spiders into existence becomes a problem. Continue reading

Weird Dream Society

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This collection of speculative fiction was published in order to support the refugee and immigrant center RAICES. In the introduction, the editor compares the treatment of present-day South American refugees to the way Jews were treated during World War II, which is an apt comparison. After all, FDR turned away thousands of Jewish refugees and sent them back to Germany due to fear that they would threaten national security. Many of them ended up dying in the Holocaust. Unfortunately, history is repeating itself due to the anti-immigrant sentiment of Americans today. Organizations like RAICES need all the help they can get. Continue reading