This year I decided to tackle Book Riot’s Read Harder 2015 challenge. I’ve recently become somewhat of a devotee of Book Riot. I love that they hold both fine literature and guilty pleasures in passably equal regard because they have such a passion for reading. I’ve recently gotten back into that sort of reading since I began working at a public library again and their guidance has been invigorating.
Of their many favorite topics, the writers consistently return to that of diversity in literature. Like many of them, I never paid close attention to the diversity of my reading list. I read what I liked and that was that. Their attention to reading diverse authors has made me interested in what my literary life was missing. That’s part of the reason I started the Read Harder Challenge. There are several categories that will push me to read outside of my traditional repertoire of urban fantasy, psychological horror, and whatever has the longest hold list that isn’t written by James Patterson.
One of the first books on my list was Toni Morrison’s newest, God Help The Child. I haven’t read any Toni Morrison (a.k.a. The National Treasure) books since Beloved scarred my adolescent mind in high school. I detested the book and decided that since 15-year-old me didn’t like Morrison, all of my future incarnations would also spurn her books. The Book Riot team could double as a Toni Morrison cheer squad, so encouraged by their de facto praise for her, I gave her another shot.
I’m so glad I did. This is the type of book that the Read Harder challenge was created for. It’s the sort of book I would never pick up on my own. Character studies are not generally my thing, but the manageable length and my spirit of adventure spurred me onward.
This is the story of Bride, a twenty-something independent career woman whose success hides the pain of her childhood. Her mother, who could pass for white, was devastated that her daughter’s skin was dark as night. She distanced herself from the girl, causing a chain of hurt that spreads far beyond Bride herself. Bride, and her companion Booker, must confront the pain of their past if they want to create a future. What’s more, they come to understand that no life is perfect, no choice is without risks, and we all live with the failures of ourselves and those that care for us. I’m amazed that Morrison, who is in her 80s now, has such a firm grasp on the concerns of this generation.
Perhaps it is the passage of a decade and a half, or maybe it’s just the more modern storytelling in this book, but I’m willing to admit I might have been wrong about swearing off Morrison. Thanks to the Read Harder challenge, I hope to introduce myself to other previously off-limits areas of literature.