By Jarrett Seto
Who we are and who we present ourselves as varies depending on the situation. When I play my intensive and micromanaged military strategy board games, I’m a tactical genius. When I ride the Skytrain, I’m a passenger. When I walk our Alaskan Klee Kai Milo, I’m a servant. And because I was born on a random patch of land, I’m a Canadian. There are things I can’t change about myself. My ethnicity for one. We live in a world (maybe not the worst timeline, but nowhere near the best) where your ethnicity still dictates how you’re treated. The carcinogenic spectre of systemic racism is embedded in numerous aspects of our society. Like the invasive perennial vine kudzu, Pueraria montana, that wraps itself on flowers and trees, strangling out their life with an unconscious maliciousness all too present in the natural world, racism creeps into facets of everyday life. At least in the case of kudzu, there’s a semi-morbid appreciation for its biological efficiency, like the Zerg, the Borg, or the Cybermen. Racism doesn’t possess one iota of that. The following titles explore this in painful, cathartic, comedic, and very real ways.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
It may seem a trite statement, but all families have history, and some families have more complex histories than others. In The Vanishing Half, follow the Vignes sisters on a multigenerational journey that they and their relations take and how it affects both themselves and their descendants. From the South all the way to California, this interweaving tale of race, motherhood, expectations, and self-discovery will leave you with hope and also with awe for Bennett’s prose and character development. If you’re searching for a book to read on a patio this summer, make it this one. Look up at the clouds too – their poetic and seamless nature is how you could visualize Bennett’s writing.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
A debut novel about race and privilege reads like a seasoned writer’s tale. It’s hard to fathom that this is Kiley Reid’s first published novel. After a mistaken case of kidnapping is reported, Emira, a young black woman, is subjected to a humiliating experience. Alix, her white employer, tries to make up for it, with unintended results. Filled with razor sharp social commentary and coupled with generous scoops of heart and soul, this fast paced book is entertaining, captivating, and shows uncomfortable truths before you even know that it’s there.
The Skin We’re In: A Year Of Black Resistance And Power by Desmond Cole
Have you ever been stopped by the police while bringing groceries to your car? How about while jogging? Or walking down the street? And, if they have stopped you for seemingly no reason whatsoever, did they claim that you matched the description of a person of interest in the area? This is unfortunately, and more so, infuriatingly, a common occurrence for many people of colour. The Skin We’re In documents systemic racism through former Toronto Star’s columnist Desmond Cole’s journey from board meetings to police brutality to political activism to police in schools. It’s a call to anti-racism, so read it if you can.