Welcome to What Are You Reading?? where every month we’ll dedicate three flash reviews from you to writers of colour and their work.
We’ll start with Eyoel Delessa’s review of Nepalese author Samrat Upadhyay, whose collection of shorts Mad Country was published in April this year.
Mad Country is a collection of short stories that are based in Nepal. Written by Samrat Upadhyay, the stories’ themes range from the existential angst of Nepal’s social elite, to the passions and bitter struggles of those barely inching by. It is a daring insight into a world I never read about and a world I had never thought of exploring – an ultimate privilege of reading whatever lands on your shelf.
Upadhyay’s love for his home country Nepal is unmissable, but his love is not blind. In captivating stories, he addresses ugly truths of classicism and racism in Nepalese society. For a collection of short stories Mad Country surprises with its unapologetically dark and sombre twists. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not something I expected. The stories are often ambiguous, yet they point to specific societal and political issues. It’s is an exhilarating read and if the reader is ready to face a lesser-known, darker side to Nepal, they will appreciate this collection.
Review by Eyoel Delessa @eyozel
Next we have a review of The Good Immigrant (Edited by Nikesh Shukla), also a collection of shorts. The book made a big splash when it was published last year, and Simran Kaur Sandhu explains why it continues to be an unmissable read.
So it’s midway through the summer holidays and bingeing on Netflix is beginning to bore me. What to do?
On Going Home tells you that it’s okay to feel home in two cultures, and Darren Chetty’s You Can’t Say That highlights why it’s so important that children’s books include protagonists of colour. The Good Immigrant is a collection of voices that I’ve so desperately been waiting for. If you’ve been stopped one too many times at airport security, Riz Ahmed feels you; ever wondered if the person you’ve hooked up with is fetishising your skin colour, Coco Khan has your back. And if you’re sick of one-dimensional, token PoC characters in your favourite films and TV shows, Bim Adewunmi has a shockingly simple answer (no spoilers!).
Every essay in this collection acts to affirm a multitude of experiences and expose the bias people of colour face on an everyday basis. In return, it asks for nothing more than your attention and that you spread the word so that other people can benefit from the encouraging warmth of its words. Go ahead, read it!
Review by Simran Kaur Sandhu
We’ll wrap up with Hodan Yusuf’s joint review of Jennifer Teege’s autobiographical My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me and the fiction novel Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, both stories of women who set out to uncover their very difficult personal histories.
My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me is a non-fiction book by Jennifer Teege, a black woman of mixed heritage who comes across pictures of her mother and grandmother while reading a book in a library. It is there that she makes the shocking discovery that her grandfather was Amon Goeth, the Austrian Nazi commandant responsible for rounding up and transporting victims of Nazi Germany to concentration camps. The findings send the author Jennifer Teege into severe depression, and My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me documents her search for the unbearable truth.
The second book I’m reading is a story no less saddening; Though a fiction novel, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is an incredibly moving, well researched and compelling story of two sisters torn apart by the slave trade. It follows the concurrent lives of eight generations of descendants on both sides of the Atlantic. The book is a beautiful and necessary read for anyone interested in the human cost of slavery and its intergenerational impact on descendants of both the enslaved and the families from whom they were stolen. Homegoing had me captivated from start to end when I closed the book on the last page. I sat in silence for a long time and cried.
Review by Hodan Yusuf @hyfreelance
Like the sound of our picks? All books are available here:
- Mad Country, by Samrat-Upadhyay: Amazon
- The Good Immigrant, Edited by Nikesh Shukla: The Hive Books
- My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me, by Jennifer Teege: The Hive Books
- Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi: The Hive Books
And if you like this series and want to tell us what you’re reading, send your flash review (150-300 words) to our online editor Mend or tweet at him if you have any questions: @mendlusi. As a new and self-funded project, Skin Deep relies on the generosity of our readers who can afford to contribute. If you’d like to make a donation, please click here.