Tag: reading challenge

5 Reading Challenges to Jump Into in 2021

To celebrate the start of 2021, and the many new bookish adventures that await you there, we've provided a list of five thrilling new reading challenges. Jump into some novel written terrain with these biblioriffic book challenges for 2021!

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What Famous Book is Your State Known For?

Every state is the setting of a famous book. What book is your state the setting of?

 

 

Alabama – To Kill a Mockingbird

Published in 1960, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, which is based on Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Monroeville was also the hometown of Truman Capote.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird cover

image via amazon

 

Alaska – Into the wild

Jon Krakauer’s 1996 non-fiction book is an expansion of his essay on Christopher McCandless, titled Death of an Innocent. Into the Wild was later adapted into the Academy Award nominated film of the same name and was directed by Sean Penn. The book and film both take place in the Alaskan wilderness.

 

Into the Wild Cover

image via amazon

 

Arizona – the bean trees

Barbara Kingsolver’s first novel, The Bean Trees takes place primarily in Tucson, Arizona. The setting of the story has a great symbolic meaning for Taylor, the protagonist of the novel.

 

The Bean Trees cover

image via amazon

 

Arkansas – a painted house

A Painted House was inspired by author John Grisham’s childhood in Arkansas. It follows protagonist Luke Chandler, who is the youngest in a family of cotton farmers, struggling to earn enough money to pay back their debts.

 

A Painted House cover

image via amazon

 

California – east of eden

By Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck, East of Eden is set in Salinas Valley, California. Originally, Steinbeck wanted to describe Salinas Valley, in detail, to his young sons with this novel.

 

East of Eden cover

image via amazon

 

 

colorado – the shining

Stephen King’s iconic novel The Shining takes place at the Overlook Hotel situated in the Colorado Rockies. The setting was influenced by King’s own experience visiting The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado in 1974. The Shining was adapted into a film of the same name in 1980 and remains one of the greatest horror films ever made.

 

The Shining Cover

image via amazon

 

Connecticut – Revolutionary Road

Richard Yates’ debut novel Revolutionary Road is set in the Connecticut suburbs in the 1950s. Yates intended for the novel to be an indictment of American life in the 50s during a time where there was a general lust for conformity.

 

Revolutionary Road cover

image via amazon

 

Delaware – the saint of lost things

The Saint of Lost Things is a novel by Christopher Castellani that takes place in 1953 in a tight-knit Italian community situated in Wilmington, Delaware. It paints a picture of the Italian-American experience with compassion and honesty.

 

The Saint of Lost Things cover

image via amazon

 

Florida – To Have and Have not

To Have and Have Not is a novel by Ernest Hemingway set during the Depression Era. It follows protagonist Harry Morgan, a fishing boat captain out of Key West Florida.

 

image of book cover

image via amazon

 

Georgia – gone with the wind

Margaret Mitchell published Gone with the Wind, a novel set in Clayton County and Atlanta, Georgia during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era, in 1936. Gone with the Wind received a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 1937 and was later adapted into a film. Gone with the Wind was the only book Margaret Mitchell published during her lifetime.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

 

Hawaii – hawaii

Named directly after the state itself, Hawaii by James Michener was published in 1959, the same year Hawaii became the fiftieth state of the U.S. With an episodic format, the novel begins with the formation of the islands and narrates the stories of all the different groups of people who arrive on the islands.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

idaho – housekeeping

Housekeeping is a novel by Marilynne Robinson, published in 1980. The novel is set in the fictional town of Fingerbone, Idaho, which has similar details to Robinson’s hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho. Housekeeping was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was awarded the PEN/Hemingway award for best first novel. The novel was also included in TIME’s 100 Best English-Language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Illinois – the jungle

Upton Sinclair wrote his 1906 novel, The Jungle, to portray the exploited lives of immigrants in Chicago and other similar industrialized cities. In his book, Sinclair inadvertently exposed many health violations and unsanitary practices in the American Meatpacking Industry during the early 20th century, which led to many reforms including the Meat Inspection Act.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Indiana – the magnificent ambersons

The second novel in his Growth trilogy, Booth Tarkington published The Magnificent Ambersons in 1918. The novel is set in a fictionalized Indianapolis with much of it inspired by the neighborhood of Woodruff Place. The Magnificent Ambersons won the 1919 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, just a year after it was published.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

iowa – a thousand acres

A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley, is a modernized retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The novel is set on a thousand acre farm in Zebulon County, Iowa. A Thousand Acres won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 1991.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

 

kansas – the wonderful wizard of oz

Though this novel features the iconic line “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum begins and ends on a farm in Kansas. One of the greatest stories in American literature, The Library of Congress has declared the novel “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been adapted numerous times into films, plays, comics, and more.

 

Book Cover

image via amazon

 

kentucky – uncle tom’s cabin

Another prominent novel in American Literature, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is an anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The novel begins on the Shelby plantation in Kentucky and is said to have gone on to help lay the groundwork for the Civil War. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the bestselling novel of the 19th century and the second best-selling book of the century, after the Bible.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

louisiana – interview with the vampire

Interview with the Vampire is a gothic horror novel by Anne Rice and was published in 1976. The novel follows the vampire, Louis de Pointe du Lac, who is based in Louisiana. Rice wrote Interview with the Vampire shortly after the death of her daughter, Michelle, who serves as inspiration for the child-vampire character, Claudia.

 

Book Cover

image via amazon

 

maine – carrie

The iconic Carrie by Stephen King was released in 1974 and is set in the fictional town of Chamberlain, Maine. The novel revolves around misfit, Carrie White, who uses her newfound telekinetic powers to exact revenge on those who mistreated her. The novel has inspired many adaptations including several films, a 1988 Broadway musical, and a 2018 special episode of Riverdale.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

maryland – dinner at the homesick restaurant

Set in Baltimore, Maryland, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant was written by Anne Tyler and published in 1982. Considered her best work, by the author herself, the novel was a finalist for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

 

Massachusetts – Walden

Walden, first published in 1854, was written by transcendentalist Henry David Thoreou and details his experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin near Concord, Massachusetts. The book closely details human growth and development and what that looks like when one lives a simple life.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Michigan – The Virgin Suicides

Jeffrey Eugenides’s debut novel, The Virgin Suicides, was published in 1993. The novel is set in Grosse Pointe, Michigan in the 1970s and centers around the five Lisbon sisters. Most notably the film was adapted into the 1999 film of the same name, written and directed by Sofia Coppola.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Minnesota – Main Street

Written by Sinclair Lewis and published in 1920, Main Street is a satirical novel about small town life set in Minnesota. It details the life and struggles of protagonist Carol Milford Kennicott in the small town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota. Main Street is arguably Lewis’s most famous novel, which eventually led to the author’s 1930 Nobel Prize for Literature.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Mississippi – The Sound and the Fury

William Faulkner’s fourth novel, The Sound and the Fury, was published in 1929 and is set in Jefferson, Mississippi. The novel uses several narration styles, including stream of consciousness. The novel was not initially a success, but eventually was ranked sixth on the list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century by the Modern Library in 1988.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Missouri – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Another American classic, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is the story of a young boy growing up along the Mississippi River. The novel is set in the 1840s in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, which was inspired by Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain grew up. Though originally, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was a commercial failure, it went on to become a masterpiece of American Literature.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

 

Montana – A River Runs Through It

A River Runs Through It is a semi-autobiographical account of author Norman Maclean’s relationship with his brother Paul and their childhoods in an early twentieth-century Montana family. A River Runs Through It is part of a three story collection and was the first work of fiction to be published by the University of Chicago Press.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Nebraska – My Ántonia

My Ántonia is the final book in author Willa Cather’s ‘prairie trilogy’ of novels. My Ántonia tells the story of an orphaned boy and the eldest daughter in a family of Bohemian immigrants, who are brought to Nebraska as pioneers. The novel is considered Cather’s first masterpiece and she was praised for bringing the American West to life.

 

book cover my antonia

image via amazon

 

Nevada – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Set in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a blend of fact and fiction. Author Hunter S. Thompson included vivid descriptions of illegal drug use and its retrospective on the 1960s culture. The novel follows protagonist Raoul Duke and his attorney, Dr. Ganzo, as they travel to Las Vegas to chase the American Dream.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

New Hampshire – The Hotel New Hampshire

The Hotel New Hampshire is a coming of age novel by John Irving, published in 1981. The novel is set in New Hampshire and follows the Berrys, a quirky New Hampshire family. It was adapted into a film in 1984 and stars Jodie Foster, Rob Lowe, and Beau Bridges.

 

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

New Jersey – Drown

Drown is a semi-autobiographical short story collection from author Junot Díaz. The collection takes place in both the Dominican Republic and New Jersey, where Díaz moved with his family as a young boy. This collection addresses the trials of Dominican immigrants and their attempt to achieve the American Dream.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

 

New Mexico – Red Sky at Morning

Richard Bradford’s 1968 novel, Red Sky at Morning follows protagonist Josh Arnold as he relocates from Alabama to Corazon Sagrado, New Mexico during World War II. The novel is still regarded as a classic coming-of-age story and was adapted into a film of the same name in 1971.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

New York – The Great Gatsby

Another piece of classic American Literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is set in Long Island, New York. Fitzgerald was inspired by the parties he had attended while visiting Long Island’s North Shore. The novel has since been adapted into everything from films, ballets, operas, plays, and more.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

North Carolina – A Walk to Remember

A classic piece of Nicholas Sparks literature, A Walk to Remember, the author’s third novel, takes place in Beaufort, North Carolina. The novel was inspired by Sparks’ sister, who died of cancer in June 2000. A Walk to Remember was later made into a film of the same name, starring Shane West and Mandy Moore.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

North Dakota – The Round House

The Round House is author Louise Erdrich’s fourteenth novel and is part of her “justice trilogy” along with Plague of Doves and LaRose. The story takes place on a Native American reservation in North Dakota and follows young protagonist, Joe, who decides to take matters into his own hands and sets out to investigate his mother’s attack.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Ohio – The Broom of the System

The Broom of the System is author David Foster Wallace’s first novel. The novel takes place in Cleveland, Ohio and follows protagonist, Lenore Beadsman, a twenty-four year old telephone switchboard operator who has to navigate three different crises.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

 

Oklahoma – Paradise

Author Toni Morrison completed her trilogy of books dealing with all kinds of love with the release of Paradise in 1997. Paradise takes place in the fictional town of Ruby, Oklahoma and focuses on the town itself and its implications on women from a nearby Convent. Morrison originally wanted to name the novel War, but was overridden by her editor.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Oregon – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was published in 1962 and takes place at a mental institution in Oregon. It was later adapted into both a Broadway play and a 1975 film, which won five Academy Awards. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was also included in TIME magazine’s 100 Best English-Language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Pennsylvania – The Lovely Bones

Published in 2002, The Lovely Bones is set in a suburban Pennsylvania town. The story of a girl who watches the struggles of her friends and family after being murdered and has to come to terms with her own death instantly became a bestseller. The book was adapted into a film in 2009 by Peter Jackson, who personally purchased the rights.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Rhode Island – My Sister’s Keeper

My Sister’s Keeper takes place in the fictional town of Upper Darby, Rhode Island, and is the story of a young girl who sues her parents for medical emancipation when they ask her to donate her kidney to her sick sister. The book was later adapted into a film with an alternate ending, which went against the wishes of author Jodi Piccoult.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

South Carolina – The Secret Life of Bees

Written by Sue Monk Kidd and published in 2001, The Secret Life of Bees is set in the fictional town of Sylvan, South Carolina in 1964. It is a coming of age story that deals with loss and betrayal. It was a New York Times bestseller and was adapted into a film, noted for Queen Latifah’s critically acclaimed performance as August Boatwright.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

 

South Dakota – A Long Way from Home

Tom Brokaw’s A Long Way from Home is mostly set in South Dakota, where Tom spent his childhood and began to live out the American Dream alongside his family. A Long Way from Home is a memoir that recounts the American experience, as lived and experienced by Tom Brokaw and his family.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Tennessee – The Firm

The Firm, by John Grisham, is set in Memphis, Tennessee and features a lawyer stuck between a rock and a hard place when the FBI comes to investigate his colleagues at a new law firm, which almost exclusively deals with unlawful clients. This novel was the second book published by Grisham and the first of his to gain wide-spread popularity. The Firm was later made into a movie starring Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, and Jeanne Tripplehorn.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Texas – No Country for Old Men

Originally written as a screenplay, No Country for Old Men was written by author Cormac McCarthy and published in 2005. The novel takes place near the Mexican-American border in Terrell County in Texas. No Country for Old Men was later adapted into a film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards including Best Picture.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Utah – The 19th Wife

Inspired by the life of Ann Eliza Young, The 19th Wife is a novel by David Ebershoff and was published in 2008. The novel takes place in southern Utah and follows protagonist Jordan who tries to determine if his mother killed his father. The novel was adapted into a television movie and was aired on Lifetime.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Vermont – Pollyanna

Considered a children’s literature classic, Pollyanna is a 1913 novel by author Eleanor H. Porter. The novel is set in the fictional town of Beldingsville, Vermont and follows young orphan Pollyanna Whittier. Since the release of the novel, ‘Pollyanna’ has come to be used as a term to describe people who are unfailingly optimistic and are naturally positive.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

Virginia – Bridge to Terabithia

Another work of children’s literature, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson takes place in rural Virginia. It is the story of two young kids who create their own magic kingdom in the forest. Paterson drew inspiration for Bridge to Terabithia after her son’s childhood friend was killed in a freak accident. The book was most notably adapted into the 2007 film starring AnnaSophia Robb and Josh Hutcherson.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

WashingtonTwilight

A YA cult classic, Twilight takes place in Forks, Washington. The vampire-romance novel was a New York Times bestseller and was named one of Publisher Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2005. Twilight was later adapted into the popular film of the same name starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

West Virginia – Shiloh

Shiloh is a children’s novel by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and is set in Friendly, West Virginia. The book follows young protagonist Marty Preston and an abused beagle he rescues from his neighbor. Shiloh won a Newbery Medal along with other state awards and was later adapted into a film of the same name in 1996.

book cover

image via amazon

 

Wisconsin – Little House in the Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder was published in 1932. The novel takes place in Wisconsin and is based on Wilder’s childhood in Big Woods near Pepin, Wisconsin. Little House in the Big Woods was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first book to be published and it began her Little House series.

book cover

image via amazon

 

Wyoming – The Laramie Project

The Laramie Project is a 2000 play by Moisés Kaufman and is set in Laramie, Wyoming. The play centers around the murder of a gay student at the University of Wyoming in 1998. The Laramie Project was adapted into a film, commissioned by HBO in 2002.

 

book cover

image via amazon

 

 

Featured Image Via Digital Arts

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2019

10 Reading Resolutions for the New Year

Everybody has that one friend who powers through seventy books in a year. Maybe you’ve got more than one friend who does this, and you’re the friend who doesn’t. Or maybe you are the friend who reads seventy books a year, driven by the knowledge that you—even you, of all people—will never be able to read them all. Reading goals depend on the person setting them, and no goal is better than any other. Most people want to read more, regardless of how much more actually is. Here’s the thing—you can read more and have a better time doing it. So here’s a list of New Years’ resolutions that don’t involve going to the gym.

1. Snag a book from your favorite author’s Goodreads page

 

Maggie Stiefvater's "read" shelf on Goodreads

 

Let’s assume your favorite author likes to read—that’s probably part of how they became your favorite author. (If your favorite author doesn’t like to read, maybe pick a new one.) Many authors have presences on Goodreads, but some actually use the site themselves. If you love an author’s actual writing just as much as you love their stories, search their profile for their own reviews and ratings. Chances are, you’ll find a new favorite book.

 

2. Read a book with friends

 

A group of friends reads 'Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass' by Meg Medina

Image Via Exchange.org

 

This doesn’t mean ‘read a book at the same time as your friend.’ It means read it with them. Choose the right book (or the right friend) and discuss your opinions, feelings, and reactions with each other. (Note: it still counts as a discussion if the reaction is !!!!!) Set specific places to check in and discuss—after part II, around 100 pages, etc. If one of you pulls ahead, the other will have to catch up before the faster-reading friend gets lowkey pissed. Peer pressure: now offering you more than cheap liquor and ill-conceived high school relationships.

 

3. Borrow from a friend

 

A flowchart to determine whether or not you can borrow my book.

Image Via Epicreads.com

 

Here’s the logic: if you borrow it, you’ll have to give it back. When you give it back, your friend will ask if you liked it. And if you admit you didn’t actually read it, you’ll probably feel like an idiot.

 

4. Try a new genre

 

Three popular genre works, including super-famous 'Children of Blood and Bone'

Image Via Nerdmuch.com

 

“I hate all fantasy. It’s all about swords and elves and fighting. Sometimes,” you say, like someone who has read two fantasy novels, tops, “they change it up and kiss each other.” The elves kiss the swords? If you insist. The point is that, chances are, you dislike a particular genre because of a few unpleasant encounters. Maybe you dislike the ‘classics’ because you’ve never gotten over your whitewashed high school curriculum (not that you need to get over it). Maybe your brain will liquefy if you see another poster for a YA dystopian blockbuster. Just try again.

 

5. Join your local library

 

"Having fun isn't hard, when you've got a library card!"

Image Via Tumblr.com

 

The cartoon aardvark Arthur said it best: “having fun isn’t hard—when you’ve got a library card.” Many people are surprisingly hesitant to take life advice from an early 2000s cartoon. If the advice is that a teenager can and should catch a murderer via trap-door and pulley system (Scooby Doo), that’s fair enough. This one’s solid, though. Even better, it’s completely free.

 

6. Find a BookTuber whose opinions you trust

Logo for Booktube, a subsection of YouTube content which covers books and authors

Image Via Bookwork.com

 

Here’s some news: YouTube isn’t just a place for pre-teens to make asinine comments. (It’s also for Vine compilations.) You may not be aware that the site has a thriving literary community, with many avid readers recording reviews, reactions, unboxings, and more. The obvious downside is that YouTube can be a bit of a popularity contest, and the top BookTubers to come up when you search might just have the highest-quality cameras or the most colorful bookshelves. Try searching for a review of a book you adore to find people reading the same things as you (regardless of the hits on the video). If you agree with that review, maybe you’ll agree with the others.

 

7. Try a memoir that speaks to you

 

Some of the best memoirs of 2018, including 'Educated' by Tara Westover and 'Sick' by Porochista Khakpour

Image Via Time.com

 

Maybe you assume most memoirs are too dramatic to resemble your life. They’re only for famous people, you think, or geniuses, orphans, criminals—people who are important, or tragic, or so often both at once. That’s a big assumption to make when life is the most dramatic possible thing, and you’re important already because you’re alive. Whether you relate to a writers’ cultural background, sexuality, profession, or even sense of humor, it’s powerful to feel a connection to another person—a person who, this time, is far from fictional. Many audiobook versions of memoirs are actually read by the author, which makes the experience all the more personal.

 

8. Learn something new

 

A selection of 2018's bestselling reads

Image Via Time.com

 

The difference between a work of non-fiction and your high school textbook is that the former is meant to be as fascinating as possible—while the latter is usually thick enough to inflict blunt-force trauma. Maybe you encountered a new topic on YouTube and want more information than a twenty-minute video can provide. True crime? Scientology? The Roman Empire? The real difference between a work of non-fiction and your high school textbook is that, with non-fiction, you can learn exactly what you want.

 

9. Pick a destination

 

An open book with a globe coming out of it

Image Via Abaa.org

Chances are, you’ve always wanted to go somewhere. (No, ‘to the refrigerator’ doesn’t count.) The destination doesn’t need to be far to be a destination—it only has to excite you. Or maybe you have an upcoming trip to somewhere a little less thrilling. (Off for the holidays to see your estranged aunt in rural Kansas, anyone?) It’s always possible that the sun over the fields will feel more beautiful once you’ve seen it through someone else’s eyes.

 

10. Develop a routine

 

A book, a fire, and a cup of whiskey

Image Via Craftybartender.com

 

In the ideal world, reading is a little more like this: you’re curled up by a fire with a mug of your preferred warm beverage (cocoa with marshmallows, Hot Toddy heavy on the whiskey), possibly in a sprawling library filled with plants you haven’t managed to kill yet. But you’re not in the ideal world—you’re in this one. Since it’s unlikely that you’ll ever have a day of uninterrupted, peaceful reading, it’s better to carve out thirty minutes to read and drink a cup of tea before you head off to bed.

 

Featured Image Via Goodhousekeeping.com

Image of two generals dividing the Earth with bookshelf overlaid.

What Does it Mean to “Decolonize Your Bookshelf”?

Many among us are obsessed with the state of our bookshelves. We meticulously organize, arrange, and decorate our personal libraries according to varying criteria: author, title, color, height, etc. But how often have you paused to consider how those books made it to your bookshelf? Have you ever read between the lines of one of your favorite works and found something troubling? And how often have you stopped to wonder about the classic works accepted into the Western literary canon and why they’re there?

 

Those of us who have ever studied postcolonial theory have, at the very least, a cursory familiarity with how pervasive the effects of colonial history have been and still are on society. Everything from politics to beauty products has been touched by colonialism, and there is still contention over whether or not colonization is even a thing of the past.

 

 

Map of the British Empire circa 1897

Image Via The British Empire

 

Colonialism has had one of its most insidious effects on literature. For instance, today when we hear of colonial regimes and policies, we recoil instantly (or at least one would hope that’s the general response), yet we still hold up works like Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as being examples of exemplary literary skill and talent in spite of its perpetuation of horrific colonial narratives. And aside from lauding literature that directly engages with colonial oppression, there is an even more insidious effect of colonialism that erases the narratives written by those who are/have been colonized.

 

 

Shelf of selected works in the Western canon.

Image Via MC Easton

 

When I was in college, I elected to take a course on Caribbean literature; it was taught by one of my favorite professors, and I trusted that in addition to a new world of literature, I would also be getting an important history lesson. In one of the first weeks of the class, my professor told us an anecdote about what happened when she told her mother about the class. Her mother, who was living in another country at the time, decided to visit her local library to pick up a few volumes of Caribbean literature in order to get a sense of what her daughter would be teaching. When she asked the librarian where their Caribbean literature section could be found, the librarian responded: “Oh, I don’t think they have literature there.”

 

 

Facepalm

Image Via Tenor

 

I hope I’m not the first to tell you this: yes, the Caribbean has literature. In fact, there is some amazing Caribbean literature you can look up with a quick Google search, literature you probably haven’t heard of before, unless you’ve had the opportunity to devote serious time to literary study. This is not because these texts require some level of exclusive literary expertise to access, but simply because the famous works everyone has heard of were written by people who had the power to circulate them all over the world, specifically people who are white European men.

 

The phrase “decolonize your bookshelf” has been on the rise in recent years, and its meaning is fairly simple. Decolonizing your bookshelf means examining the books you keep and the books you love and considering whether/how each book has served to uphold the acts of colonialism. In addition to sifting through the works you’ve already read, decolonizing your bookshelf means actively seeking out and reading works by authors whose work has been disadvantaged by colonialism. There is an incredible wealth of literature out there that has not made it into the Western canon simply because of the circumstances in which the author lived/lives.

 

Now to be clear, you aren’t a bad person if a significant percentage of the books in your collection were written by white European men. The reason why that percentage may be high has more to do with the systems in place that delivered you to that literature rather than any fault of your own. And by the way, no one is going to begrudge you your favorite books. The point of decolonizing your bookshelf is not to punish you, but rather to recognize the circumstances that suppress the literary output of colonized or formerly colonized people, and to swim against the tide in an effort to resist some of history’s evils. The destruction of colonialism can never be undone, but we can (and should!) certainly find ways to honor what has been destroyed.

 

Banner draped on the steps of the Brooklyn Museum reading "WHEN WE BREATHE WE BREATHE TOGETHER DECOLONIZE THIS PLACE"

Image Via Hyperallergic

 

 

Featured Image Via South Africa Today and Everything Fiction Wiki.