A Coming-of-Age Story by a BIPOC Author: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge

May 31, 2022 | Nalini

Comments (0)

TPL Reading Challenge 2022

This category of the TPL Reading Challenge means the most to me. Before I go further, I'd speak about the term BIPOC, which stands for Black, Indigenous and/or Person of Colour. I recognize that this term isn't a very good one. Not one term can encompass the richness and diversity of so many countless peoples and groups in our world, each with their own languages, cultural practices and history. As my colleague, Sephora, mentioned in a previous TPL Reading Challenge event, "we are using this term for lack of something better, and we are using it with positive intent."

I grew up in Toronto as a big reader. I was that kid who spent hours in my local library reading everything and anything. Yet when I look back, I can't think of a single book that really reflected me, my family or our life experiences. None of the characters had a name like mine, looked like me, or had the kind of life that I did. Thankfully, publishing has changed, and voices that were left unheard now have an opportunity to share their stories, and more importantly, people have the opportunity to read them. 

 

Here are some recommendations

Son of Elsewhere by Elamin Abdelmahmoud

Son of Elsewhere by Elamin Abdelmahmoud

Elamin, a Canadian media personality, shares his memoir in pieces through a series of non-linear, interconnected essays. He arrived in Canada at the age of 12 from Sudan and settled in Kingston, Ontario. Highway 401, which is featured on the cover art, led him to important places and moments in his life. It was also where he was able to process and reflect on how places and moments made us, and continue to make us who we are. It is poetic, funny, and smart, and I wish this book was around when I was a young adult.

Other categories:

  • A book by an author from Toronto
  • A book by a journalist

— Nalini, Senior Department Head

 

The girl in the middle by Anais Granofsky

The Girl in the Middle by Anais Granofsky

This author will be familiar to anyone who watched the 1990’s Canadian television series Degrassi High. In this memoir she describes how she grew up in Toronto, dividing her time between two worlds. During the week she lived in a one-room apartment in a rooming house with her Black mother, sharing a mattress on the floor. She spent her weekends with her white Jewish paternal grandmother in a mansion in one of Toronto’s wealthiest neighborhoods. She had to adapt to living in two totally different worlds, but this unusual childhood prepared her well for her future acting career and made her appreciate her diverse family, no matter what their history or culture. Her story shows beautifully how at their heart, families are all very similar, despite their many differences.

Other categories:

  • A book about family
  • A book by an author from Toronto

— Colleen, Public Service Assistant

 

Swimming in the monsoon sea by Shyam Selvadurai

Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai

Beautifully written book where you can feel the heat of summer in India and the emotions of a young summer love. The only book so far that has made me miss my subway stop! Thankfully it was a short loop back on line 1 from Finch to Wilson. The title is both historical and current and will take readers on a memorable journey.

Other catergoies:

  •  A book about time
  • A book by an author from Toronto
  • A book about family

— Radha Lisa, Director (Collections and Membership Services)

 

Life in the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Muller

Life in the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Muller

In this memoir, Cree Environmental Activist Clayton Thomas-Muller describes his life growing up in the residential school system, living in Winnipeg, travelling to British Columbia, and back to his ancestral traplines and Indigenous lands. He describes his incarcerations, gang-related activities, and experiences with activism in great detail. Interspersed throughout is Thomas-Muller's engagement with political uprisings and the oil industry. He emerges as a leader and Environmental activist fighting big oil today. It is an eye-opening memoir of his journey and healing, and hope for global climate issues.

— Catherine, Librarian

 

Amazing Absorbing Boy by Rabindranath Maharaj

The Amazing Absorbing Boy by Rabindranath Maharaj

Sam, from Trinidad, moves to Toronto at age 17 to live with his estranged father. He finds the unfamiliar world a challenge and uses his love of comics as a way to negotiate a relationship with Canada and the promise that it offers.

— Elsa, Senior Services Specialist (Multicultural Services)

 

Speak by Tunde Oyeneyin

Speak by Tunde Oyeneyin

I don't even know where to begin with this amazing woman. She is a Peloton instructor, fitness star, and founder of S.P.E.A.K. - Surrender, Power, Empathy, Authenticity and Knowledge - an Instagram Live series that offers a platform to anyone wanting to make a positive change in their lives. This self-help and motivational book provides an avenue for her personal struggles including the struggle with her weight and how she turned her adversities into her strengths. The book takes a positive outlook on life. “We don’t choose what happens to us, we choose how we react to it. Today’s a new day; choose to be new in it.”

— Radha, Senior Branch Head

 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Comedian Trevor Noah humorously recounts growing up as a mixed-race boy at the end of Apartheid in South Africa. His insight into navigating race, his mischievous boyhood adventures, his love for his mother, and his street hustle as a teenager makes for both funny and touching tales. 

— Nadine, Librarian

 

Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro

Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro

This is a fast-paced coming-of-age story that follows a young man as he enters a new high school and experiences his first love. Sugihara, the main character, lives in Japan and is of North Korean descent (he is "Zainichi," a label specifically used for Koreans in Japan who emigrated from Korea before the 1980s). Throughout the book, Sugihara battles, both physical and metaphorically, with what he calls a "blurry" label that affects every aspect of his life. This is a work of fiction but is based on the author's own experiences. I read it twice in one sitting just to make sure I absorbed all of it!

Other categories:

  • A book about family

— Taylor, Librarian

 

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

In the genre of afro-futurism, this book follows a young woman who learns about the Caribbean spirit world and her family's connection to it. It takes place in a future downtown Toronto that has been devastated. By the end, the heroine has integrated her special powers to serve the people.

— Linda, Librarian

 

Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson

Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson

It was so good and I am thrilled that it is the first in a series. It is the story of Jared, a teenager trying to get through life but struggling. His family life is less than perfect, his love life is tense and his social life is barely existent. And on top of all that: he starts hallucinating and hearing voices- are the ravens really talking to him? At first, he thinks it was the drugs, but as he learns more about himself and his family the mystery gets revealed.

Other categories:

  • A book about family
  • A book about magic

— Pauline, Librarian

 

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

George Washington Black, or "Wash" is a 12-year-old boy living as a slave in 1830 Barbados. When he is chosen to work with his master's brother on creating a flying machine, his life changes dramatically. This begins an adventure that he could never imagine, where one can fly and see things from a totally different perspective. But when a man is murdered, and Wash is implicated, his partner helps him flee. Wash eventually becomes a free man, but it takes a long time for him to feel free. This is a complex story with beautiful characters as it explores the complex feeling of what is freedom, and when can a black man and a white man be seen as equal?

Other categories:

  • A book about art
  • A book with a colour in the title

— Debra, Librarian

 

Iron Window by Xiran Jay Zhao

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

A kind of cheesy science fiction involving Pacific Rim-style battles with young adults paired up to control giant armor suits... but also so much more than that! Zetian's life in a poor agricultural town changes when she is shown to have an enormous "spirit pressure" allowing her to pair up with one of the strongest warriors in the country to pilot the Nine-Tailed Fox. The bad news is that women rarely survive their first pairing. This book is both loud-out-loud funny and gut-wrenchingly emotional and I loved every minute.

Other categories: 

  • A book by a trans or non-binary author
  • A book about magic

— Kasey, Librarian

 

Chasing me to my grave by Winfred Rembert

Chasing Me to My Grave by Winfred Rembert

This is the amazing story of Winfred Rembert. He was born in Georgia during the Jim Crow era, living in terrible conditions. The book itself is in Rembert’s own words, as told to Professor Erin Kelly, and is filled with gorgeous colour plates of Rembert's extraordinary artwork. He speaks with terrific humour, eloquence, and candor about himself, the people he encountered, and the strange, terrible, and terrifying situations he found himself in. You can see a doc about his life and art here. There is also a doc about Rembert’s life and art that you can view here. The book won this year's Pulitzer Prize for biography.

— Joel, Librarian

 

More recommendations

These are just some of the suggested titles from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2022 discussion group. You can read all of the responses in the original post. You do not need a Facebook account to read the suggestions.

 

Even more recommendations

I also hosted a TPL Reading Challenge Online discussion along with my colleagues Joel and Despina. If you are still looking for recommendations, please watch the replay!

French Recommendations

If you like to read in French, check out the list of recommended books for "Romans d'apprentissage des auteurs racisés et autochtones" - there's a mix of books, eBooks and digital audiobooks to try!

Lastly, do you have a recommendation that has not yet been mentioned? Please share below!

Comments