June was my best reading month of 2020 and I have quarantine and the end of the school year to thank for that. My intention for the month of June was to only read books that featured queer characters or were written by queer authors, but there were a few books in there that I read to help me work towards more antiracist actions and to educate myself more on the history of the oppressive systems that are ingrained into United States history.
What I read in June:
1. Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads, however, as I write this blog post I am thinking that I would give it more of a 3 stars after the amazing books I have read throughout the month of June. That being said, I found Oona Out of Order unique and fun, which I believe would make it the perfect book to take to the beach. Throughout this book you follow Oona as she travels to different years in her life and how she adapts to these changes. This book makes you think about how you evolve with age, but what if you did not age chronologically? If you like magical realism mixed with a little bit of an identity crisis mixed in, pick up this book.
2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
This book deserves ALL of the stars! If you are on a journey towards antiracist learning (which we all should be), then this book is an incredible resource for you! Jason Reynolds remixed the original Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi and delivered all of the history of racism and how it functions in our oppressive system in a way that speaks to young adults so that they can act against oppressive and racist systems. I listened to this book as an audiobook where Jason Reynolds is the one reading it to you and I found it so powerful. That being said, I already purchased a physical copy of this book to reread and loan to all of my friends and family because this book taught me so much about the real history of the United States that was not taught to me in school. I would love to start a motion for this book to replace all history books in high schools because I learned more from Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi than I did from all of my straight white cisgender male history teachers.
3. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
*Chefs kiss* This book is everything. 5 stars. I reviewed this book for Feminist Book Club here. Long story short, Felix Ever After is a book that every young adult should have access to in their classrooms, libraries, and homes. This book tells the story of identity and how difficult it can be to find oneself because it is not always a linear journey. I loved this book because of the friendships and relationships that were highlighted in Felix’s life because his support system is incredible. This is also an amazing own voices novel because Kacen Callender is a Black nonbinary author who writes about a Black transgender high schooler. If you are looking for a beautiful story of love and identity, please pick this one up.
4. You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
If you have not already, definitely check out Renee’s discussion with Leah Johnson here. This 5 star book spoke so deeply to me as a queer woman who had the deepest crush on her friend in high school. I loved this book because Leah wrote an extremely relatable character named Liz who is anxious and awkward like us all, but she’s queer, so even better. That being said, Leah writes such a nuanced character because Liz is a Black queer young adult who is growing up in a conservative town where she is just trying to get out. Definitely pick this book up and support Leah Johnson because she is the best and I cannot wait to see what she writes next.
5. Untamed by Glennon Doyle
I listened to this book as an audiobook read by the author herself, Glennon Doyle. I gave this book 4 stars because I am definitely not the intended audience of mothers and middle-aged women, but I found the book to be inspirational in that Glennon found her true self later in life and she realized the value in accepting herself for who she is. If Glennon would say anything for this blog it would be to remember that “we can do hard things” and that we are all “born complete.”
6. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
I hope you have been seeing this 5 star worthy book everywhere because it is fantastic! Brit Bennett is an incredible author who is being compared to Toni Morrison in her writing. Brit Bennett writes a beautiful story of twins who lead very separate lives in their adulthood because of the color of their skin. Stella and Desiree are beautiful characters who are living with nuanced identities and trauma from their past. However, the real stars of the book for me were Jude and Reese, who are a beautiful pairing and really share what it means to be a Black person living in an oppressive society. Please read this book because not only is the story gorgeous, but Brit Bennett’s discussion of racism and colorism is incredibly impactful.
7. How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones
How We Fight For Our Lives is my favorite book I read in June. It is quite possibly my favorite book I read in 2020 and it deserves all of the stars. Saeed Jones writes this beautiful memoir about his life and his experiences as a Black gay man growing up in the south. What I absolutely loved about this book is how unapologetically himself Saeed Jones is and the extremely close and loving relationship he has with his mother. I listened to this book as an audiobook, but I also purchased a physical copy to reread soon because I loved his story and his fight to be his truest self while living with such nuanced identities. Saeed Jones writes incredibly about love, loss, finding one’s identity, and Black joy, which makes this book one you need to pick up soon.
8. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
This is another book that I wish all young adults could have access to in their classrooms and school libraries because in All Boys Aren’t Blue, George M. Johnson writes an incredible memoir-manifesto about their life in essay format. There are not a lot of well-written and inspiring memoirs for young adults out there, but George M. Johnson wrote the book they wish they had growing up. This memoir is an essay collection that ranges on topics specific to George’s life, such as their relationships with their family members, but George also writes about how as a Black person living in the United States how many experiences can feel universal, such as how the educational system and the subjects taught are extremely whitewashed. George writes beautifully and explores topics of sexuality, gender identity, racism, and more while also touching on topics that are not usually addressed in young adult novels such as sexual assault and sex education. I highly recommend All Boys Aren’t Blue to anyone because this 5 star read will give everyone something to reflect on even if you do not directly relate to George themself.
9. Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
Wow, No Thank You was our Feminist Book Club pick for the month of June, which had the theme of humor. I had very few expectations going into reading this book except for that it was hilarious and everyone who reads it laughs until they pee their pants. Unfortunately, I did not have the same experience reading this book because I felt I could not relate to Samantha as much as my fellow Feminist Book Club members. There are quite a few funny parts, but I feel this book is intended for an older audience and as someone who is mentally old but trapped in a young person’s body, I could not relate to the different life experiences Samantha had. I still found this book to have some humorous parts and I believe that it deserves three stars because Samantha Irby bravely writes about many topics that women do not typically discuss such as a lack of pelvic floor.
10. Freefall by Jessica Barry
I intended to only read books featuring queer authors and characters this month, but I also was not expecting to read more than my usual eight books. For this reason, I began to feel like I was falling into a “reading slump” where I was not motivated to read. With some reflection, I realized my reading slump was motivated by the “serious” books I already read this month and how they all were either memoirs or contemporary fiction. I typically am a consumer of thrillers so I needed to include one for June. I picked up Freefall from my shelf because it is one of the books I have had on my TBR (to be read) pile the longest and I needed a fast paced thriller. This book definitely falls into the category as fast paced and I found the storyline very intriguing. That being said, after reading countless thrillers in my days, this storyline was predictable and lacked the individuality that 4 or 5 star thrillers need to have for me. There is something about the girl meets boy, girl becomes in trouble because of boy storyline that is not compelling anymore. Maybe it’s because I am reading with more of a feminist lens? For this reason, I gave the book 3 stars and I feel you would really enjoy this book as a quick beach or vacation read (if we could travel).