What I’m Reading: Beyond the List

So here we are, a new year, and a new page to fill with the books that I’m reading.

Just started the first book for 2016, No God but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan. The book was on my audio list at NYPL, and I downloaded the book as a test when I was having problems transferring files to my MP3 player. This book should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand religious practice in general, and Islam in particular. And for anyone who is concerned about the rise of fundamentalist religions, be they Islam, Christianity, or any other practice. One thing that I learned, or what I was reminded of, is that religions and religious practices do not exist in a vacuum. They are the shaped by the society, culture and economic landscape that surrounds them. It’s easy for us to look at things within our current societal, cultural, and political context, and therein lies the danger.

Speaking of culture, society and politics, I made a trip to the Schomburg Center in Harlem during the holiday season to check out an exhibit titled, Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination. The exhibit explored “black speculative imagination,” and it was one of the best exhibits that I’ve attended at the center. When I started reading sci-fi back in the 1970s as a junior high school student, the word ‘nerd’ wasn’t invented. But sci-fi definitely wasn’t cool for anyone, black or white. I attended an integrated school where sci-fi wasn’t considered as serious literature by our teachers, and still carried the pejorative term, “pulp fiction.” For most of the black folks I knew, sci-fi existed in another universe. The exhibit not only featured artwork, but speculative fiction and related books throughout the decades. One of the books featured in the exhibit is part of my stack of books at home: Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora. The second book in the series was also included in the exhibit. More books for me to add to the ever-growing list.

The list also included some of my favorite authors, such as Walter Mosley, who is a superb science fiction writer. And an author that I haven’t read yet, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her book We Should All Be Feminists, was featured as part of the exhibit. Her book, along with Dark Matters, will go near the top of the queue.

I also made a stop at the Schomburg gift shop, and picked up the book Invisible Blues by one of my all-time faves, Michele Wallace. Any time I get one of her books, it goes straight to the top of the pile. I read her seminal work, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, back in high school, at a time when the feminist movement was gathering steam. I’ll start her book after I finish The Cutting Season. Then continue my exploration of the Schomburg exhibit by reading Dark Matter and We Should All Be Feminists.

Hope that you’re having a good start to your reading year!


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