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The Community Curates with james-valentín
james-valentín is a teaching artist whose work is dedicated to crafting space(s) for himself and his community to refashion our world.
This text was my first introduction to bell hooks and it was what I had expected and more. Syncretizing feminist thought and critical pedagogy, hooks relates stories from her own experiences in the classroom. This book was so important to me at a time where I found myself at the front of classrooms, trying so hard to not replicate the same colonial, white supremacist education that I had received. Not a dense read at all, considering the subject matter. Everyone with even a passing interest in education should read this.
This book centers around decolonization, in Africa and Algeria in particular, but the message is universal. Fanon lays out the consequences of colonialism, a “stolen humanity” of the oppressed. He asserts that violence is a necessary aspect to a process of decolonization. This is something I chose to read in order to further my understanding of decolonization outside the metaphorical.
Written in the everyday vernacular of the people featured in its’ pages, Their Eyes Were Watching God can be thought of as a hero’s journey. It’s the life story of Janie, a Black woman from early 20th century Florida. We see her grow from a teenage girl into her forties and we meet all the terrible, violent men in her life along the way. The book ends as it begins, with Janie sitting on her porch, recounting her life story to a friend.
Things Fall Apart follows Okonkwo, an Igbo man who lives in what will later become south-eastern Nigeria. The book describes his life, the society in which he lives in, as well as the encroachment and influence(s) of British colonialism upon the aforementioned. It examines Christianity and masculinity and their relationship to colonialism. It’s a good read.
This is a collection of short stories published by the Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri. Every short story follows a different set of characters, some living in diaspora and some living on the Indian subcontinent. I was so struck by the way the author situates the reader within a world with so few words… The book is full of food, recipes and aromas that made me feel nostalgic for things I never knew.
This books tells the story of a young Dominican girl and her family’s migration story during the era of Trujillo. The García family flees to New York City from the Dominican Republic and the reader finds themself square in the middle of this cultural divide. It’s a poignant narrative full of strong women.
Dreaming in Cuban is a book that I’ve been able to come back to a couple times already. It’s a narrative fractured across time and space(s). The story follows three generations of Cuban women, in Cuba during the revolution and in the US post-revolution. I felt like this was the first book I read where I could almost literally feel the characters’ emotions. At the time I really appreciated the insights that the book shares on both Communism and Santería.
I first heard about this book from Rupaul, on his podcast. This was at a time where I was looking for my own answers to what spirituality meant for me. I think nowadays everyone talks about “living in the now” but this book was able to break it down for me in a way that felt authentic to my own experience. Tollé speaks about the separation of the ego from the self and the nature of “reality”. This book helped me feel more grounded in my own beliefs and really opened up new avenues of thought for me.