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Michael Muhammad Knight "The Taqwacores" - 5/5

Yusef's parents didn't want him living in the dorms, so he rooms in a house with a bunch of other Muslims. But what his parents don't know is that these Muslims include a burqa-wearing feminist, a drunk, and a pothead, and even the most "traditional" member of the group is a punk kid covered in tattoos.

This is basically the story of how Yusef's faith changes over the course of his time living there, and despite the fact that it's specifically about a Muslim guy, the story resonated with me coming from a Christian background as well.

The book assumes an audience of Muslims, so there are a lot of Arabic terms thrown around with no explanation, but I found it easy enough to follow despite that. (And I liked that you're just thrown into that and everything isn't explained.)

Although the author is white (he converted to Islam as a teenager), the characters are almost all people of color (there's one minor character who's white), mostly East and Southeast Asians. I really loved the characters, especially Rabeya and Jehangir.

It's also being made into a movie, which I'm really excited about.

Andrew Sean Greer "The Story of a Marriage" - 5/5

It's the early '50s and Pearlie Cook is a young housewife and mother, married to her childhood sweetheart, but her illusion of happiness is shattered when a man claiming to be an old friend of her husband's shows up on her doorstep one day.

I loved this book SO MUCH. I don't even know what to say about it. All I can do is flail happily. Like The Taqwacores, this is a story about people of color (apparently some people thought this was a "twist" in the story, but idk, there are plenty of hints before he comes right out and says it) written by a white guy, and I think he did a good job. He also did an amazing job portraying the delicate relationships between Pearlie and Holland and Buzz. I love Pearlie and Buzz's sort-of friendship, and how Holland is a mystery to both of them. Everything felt completely believable to me. I saw a lot of "why the hell did Pearlie do what she did?" type reviews on Amazon, but I thought it was perfectly obvious and made sense. She didn't do it for the money. She did it because she loved Holland and thought that was the only way for him to be happy (and because she didn't feel she could cross a rich white man). I loved the way the secrets came out, so many layers in such a short book.

I already have another book of his on my shelf to read, and I'd really like to get my hands on his short stories, too. Definitely a new favorite author.

Bernardine Evaristo "Blonde Roots" - 2/5

Doris Scagglethorpe, the daughter of a cabbage farmer, was ten years old when she's captured by slavers. Now twenty years later, she's trying to escape.

This is an interesting premise. Blacks (or blaks, as they are inexplicably called in the book (more on that later)) are the dominant race and whites (whytes) are the ones enslaved. It's not an alternate history, nor is it a fantasy set in another world. I'm not really sure what it is, or what it wants to be, and that was the problem for me.

Cut for length, not for spoilers )

Ken Mochizuki "Beacon Hill Boys" - 2/5

It's 1972 and Dan Inagaki is a pretty average kid, decent grades, but a bit of a slacker. Compared to his older brother, Brad, though, who's perfect at everything, Dan is a total loser, especially in the eyes of his family. They also don't like the way he stands up for himself and for Asian Americans in general, demanding Asian American history be taught in school and books about Asian Americans be added to the library. Better to keep your head down and avoid pissing people off.

Cut for length, not for spoilers )

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