Crying in a Country… or Something Like That

Y’all! So, I’m reading this book, right? And, while I am interested to find out how the story plays out, I can’t help but think I totally understand why this was only $4 at Books-A-Million. Actually, it was $3.97. Cheapest book I’ve ever purchased from a big book store.

First of all, it can be difficult to keep up with the dialogue. Spoken words are preceded by a hyphen rather than cradled within quotation marks, and sometimes they are just tucked within the line of text. It gets really confusing at times.

Also, the flow of the conversation is often ragged and seemingly unnatural. To be fair, the book is set in South Africa (at least the beginning is), and the characters speak various languages. Even though the text is in English, the author could be translating or trying to account for a particular cadence of speech or maybe I’m just trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I’m reading this one a bit slowly—a little before bed each night. I’m curious to know if (and where) Kumalo finds his son.

I’ll be sure to let you know how it plays out.

Oh, by the way, the book is Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton.


Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray: The Personal Librarian

First, have you seen a picture of Belle da Costa Greene (Belle Marion Greener)? If not, take a look.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I can immediately tell she is a Black woman. When I see pictures of Black people who passed as white in the early 1900s, I am amazed by the absolute insanity of it all. Now, I have seen many mixed-race people who could certainly pass as white, but to have two light-skinned Black parents and to be a light-skinned Black person with distinctively Black features, and to pass as white is… victorious.

Reading Belle’s story, I was constantly worried about her being found out. Even when she had that last conversation with Anne, I was yelling at the book, “Don’t reveal yourself! Don’t trust her!” Also, she had a thing for older men… like, 20-40 years her senior [mind blown].

I cannot imagine the pressure she must have felt every day to live her life as a white woman. She mentions several times that her sisters have a lighter complexion and are more white-passing than herself and their brother, and while the consequences of any of them being found out would be devastating, it would be even more so for her sisters once they married white men. Belle could lose her job and income for deceiving Mr. Morgan (and the entire art world), but, depending on the kind of men they married, her sisters could lose their lives.

But we’re not here to talk about passing as much as we are to talk about Belle’s incredible skill and how she became such an impressive woman and asset that J.P. Morgan adder her to his will.

Belle was bold. In her words, actions, and dress. She didn’t dim herself for fear of being found out, she dug in to her role (because she was acting) as a strong woman navigating a world and a career dominated by men. She would not have become J.P. Morgan’s Librarian if she couldn’t excel in her position. She had to know her stuff to compete in the world she was in. Her position was more “museum curator” than what we might typically consider a Librarian. She wasn’t just cataloging books, she had to source ancient texts to collect and be able to authenticate them to prove their value in Morgan’s collection. I understand why the activists in the women’s movement and her male colleagues in the art world alike held her in such high esteem.

She achieved so much more than other women at that time could achieve, and her accomplishments ran even deeper considering she was a Black woman. I did wish, however, that she would never have gone back to Bernard, but she learned his true character in the end anyway so I was still satisfied.

I didn’t know I would enjoy The Personal Librarian this much (I tend to hesitate with books about Black people written by white authors, but it was co-authored with a Black author so I gave in), but I often found myself not wanting to put it down. I’m glad I added it to my list. We’ll see what I find next.

Happy reading!

Raven Leilani – Luster

Luster was another book I had a difficult time putting down. It was like witnessing something you shouldn’t be privy to and not being able to look away. These people had issues!

Thing is, all people have issues and this book was very much a weird peek into the dysfunction that can happen when other people are brought into a marriage and the nonsense we will allow ourselves to endure when we have no place else to go.

Edie is young and struggling financially, so I mostly give her a pass for the shenanigans, but the shenanigans were many. She constantly makes bad decisions, starting with sleeping around the office with literally (almost)every man (and one woman, if I remember correctly) at her job. I won’t fault her for getting into a relationship with a married man. If the couple has an open marriage, there’s no reason she should feel guilty about being involved with him.

However, how are you just going to walk up into somebody’s house like that? Especially when one of the “open relationship rules” is to not go to the house. But, also, how are you going to leave your front door open when you’re upstairs cleaning or whatever? Not only can strangers walk into your house (like Edie did), but stray cats, snakes, racoons… Who even does that?

The wife was in over her head anyway. She probably didn’t even want the open marriage to begin with. Her obsession with Edie and how she invited her to live in their house when her husband (Edie’s boyfriend) wasn’t home. Yes, this white couple’s Black child needed some Black love in her life, and it was nice watching her relationship with Edie grow, but living in your married boyfriend’s house with his wife and child is weird. The wife’s treatment of Edie is weird. Did she really think Edie would stop sleeping with her husband because she asked her to (and put a roof over her head)?

If you don’t want an open marriage, just say that.

I don’t know, y’all. I was thoroughly entertained, though.

Pick it up or don’t. These people are a mess and I felt awkward with the interactions throughout the book, like I was the one doing something wrong (chuckles internally).

It’s like, I don’t judge a book by its characters, or even its storyline most of the time. I judge a book by its ability to keep me from putting it down. My reading habits aren’t nearly as indiscriminate as my movie-watching habits (I will watch almost anything), but I still find myself choosing books just because someone else said it was good, or I liked the cover, or the title spoke to me. Even when I read the book description, by the time my Overdrive hold becomes available, I’ve forgotten what the book is about anyway and go into it blindly. I kind of like that, though. I get to surprise myself with new stories and characters that frustrate me while they intrigue me.

I missed my download window for The Personal Librarian, so now I have to wait until the 16th to get it back. That’s my next read. I also have no idea what it’s about. I just liked the title and the cover art (yes, I do judge a book by its cover sometimes).

Happy reading, y’all!