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This is Not a Border: Reportage & Reflection from the Palestine Festival of Literature

by Ahdaf Soueif (Editor), Omar Robert Hamilton (Editor)

Writers are in a unique position in society – their gift is to help us feel emotions. They weave stories for us that make us angry. That can make us feel joy. That tear ourselves up inside with sadness. We revere writers for bringing us these emotions. They help us understand the world around us, and even understand ourselves better. What better people in the world to help you get a bit of the feeling of what Palestine under Israeli military occupation is like.

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Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick

This one is a strange one. I'm still trying to get my head around it. It's about a man who one day is famous and recognized by millions, to waking up the next morning and not existing, at least on paper and in all the data banks on Earth, and Mars. It makes him question what is real and not real. He also has to quickly get fake ident cards made so he doesn't get deported to a forced labour camp. He tries to confirm his existence and figure out what happened to him. Why doesn't anybody remember him? There are also police, pols, on his tail trying to figure out how this person could just erase themselves from all the data banks.

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American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

In this one, he weaves together 3 stories: the monkey king, a Chinese-American boy who is trying to fit in at school, and cousin ChinKee, the racist stereotype of Chinese people. I think this would be a good book for discussion groups for young adults. It has themes of racism, identity, and bullying too. It also can introduce Westerners to a bit of Chinese culture.

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A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

A real look at the struggle faced by conservative Arab women living in America. They have to grapple with the claws of tradition, while raising kids in a 'free' country like America. I really love these multi-generational stories and this one is well-done. The dialogue is spot-on; it doesn't feel forced at all.

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Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny by Witold Szabłowski

I was turned onto this book by my Polish friend. She is a huge cheerleader for all great Polish writers, such as this author and others like Olga Tokarczuk. I'm also very fond of original, funny, and clever book titles. It turns out I wasn't disappointed by this book.

In the first half of the book, they talk about the dancing bears in Bulgaria. It talks about how they were banned, and then rounded up to be rehabilitated in a nature park. It tells this story from different perspectives: the bear trainers, their families, and the people working at the bear park.

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Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

(Spin Saga #1)

Incredible world spun up by Mr. Wilson in this sci-fi tale about a mysterious event and what that meant for humanity as a species. It's a huge story but keeps you engaged because of his focus on the characters. I'm glad I chose this as my first book of 2020!

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Rocks & Minerals by Robert F. Symes

(DK Eyewitness Books)

Another solid entry into the Eyewitness Guide series. This one seemed like it barely scratched the surface of the topic. Rocks & minerals are so omnipresent in everything that it's hard to cover it all. There is also a lot of difficult vocabulary that it's hard to keep things straight.

As with all DK Eyewitness books, they take an arguably dull topic, and make it interesting. You even learn a few things while you read this.

I buy these 'for my kids', but am the first to read them. I'm happy to know these beloved books from my childhood are still bringing joy to people in the world.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #102 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #NonFiction #Kids #EyewitnessGuides

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

(Zita the Spacegirl #2)

This is a continuation of the wonderful “Zita the Spacegirl” series by Ben Hatke. For those who haven't read “Zita the Spacegirl” (and you should!), at the end of the story, Zita is stranded in space with her 'friend' (frenemy?) Piper after she saves the planet Scriptorium. In “Legends of Zita the Spacegirl”, she tries to avoid some of the unwanted attention brought on by her new 'superhero' fame, but in the process someone impersonates her and travels to go save another planet. The book is about her trying to get back to Piper and the gang, and also trying to save that other planet so she can get the reward, a time crystal, and find her way home.

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The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa

What if the government decided that what you could remember? What if they enforced people forgetting certain things? Memory is at the center of this dystopian story set on an island. At seemingly random intervals, people wake up and feel a loss of something. They feel something at the edge of their memory is gone. For example, one day they wake up, wander outside, and then struggle to remember what those winged creatures flying in the sky are called. If they have any books, or other references to that 'disappeared' thing, they have to quickly eradicate it before the Memory Police finds it. Not all citizens on the island are affected by the disappearances though; some people can go on remembering the things others have forgotten, but nobody knows why. The Memory Police is focused on trying to root out those people.

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Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

I knew that this book was the inspiration for the masterpiece of a movie, Apocalypse Now, but I had never been inspired to read it. Then, I read the book The Dead Do Not Die where the author extensively uses the Heart of Darkness to give his story, “Exterminate the Brutes”, context, and illuminate the racist attitudes in Britain and Europe at the time.

This book still holds up as a worthy classic to read as many, many parts of the world are still shaking off the shackles of colonialism, and tending to old wounds inflicted on them by Empire. It's also a short classic book at only 111 pages. Conrad's writing style is unique as he learned English, his third language, in his 20s. He draws you in immediately with his lyrical, some have likened it to a Shakespearean, style.

The story starts off with Marlow sitting on a boat telling his story of his trip to Africa. The reader is one of these listeners to this tale. Marlow tells of his job where he is sent up a river to retrieve Kurtz. This trip has a major impact on Marlow as he sees the ugly underside of the British empire, and how it affects natives.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #99 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#BookReview #Books #JosephConrad #colonialism #racism #classic #Africa