Achievable Bookish Resolutions for 2021

Happy New Year Readers! Last year was a chaotic mess but we made it to 2021 and I wish you all the very best for the year in all your reading endeavours and otherwise. However, please continue to be vigilant and look after yourselves as we continue to contend with the worldwide pandemic. On a brighter note though, today’s post is all about setting achievable bookish goals for yourself this year in order to get the most out of your… bookworming??

I’ve come up with 5 user-friendly resolutions that I myself will be implementing in my routine and that I hope you will find useful. I decided to share only 5 resolutions, not least of all because wracking my brain for a sixth proved to be fruitless, but also because I believe that having an exhaustive amount of targets can become counter-productive and overwhelming, thereby reducing your (and my) chances of achieving them. That being said, here are 5 Achievable Bookish Resolutions to set for yourself in 2021;

  • D.N.F (Did. Not. Finish) More – Simple, right? (And hopefully not overly anti-climatic). This suggestion is nothing new and has been championed by many more prominent book bloggers than I in the community. I am merely adding my voice to the already loud, pulsating throng of clamours urging readers to desist from continuing to read books that add no enjoyment to their lives until the end. In fact, for all those that still need reminding of this, I am probably foremost.
  • Less Is More – Another no-brainer to be sure, but still I encounter those who feel inadequate because they cannot manage to read over 100 books in a year like some of our more hardcore reading chums. Remember that everyone has different circumstances and these feelings of inadequacy is not conducive to enjoying books. Instead of reaching for gargantuan goodreads targets, set yourself a goal to read a fewer amount of inspiring books rather than a lot of books that are average.
  • Ditch Book Buying Bans – This suggestion comes from a place of well-intentioned deprivation many readers will know well, myself included. As such, even I have subjected myself to the self-affliction that is, the dreaded Book. Buying. Ban. 🚫 See my blog post I broke another book buying ban. Here’s why The thing is, these initiatives rarely ever work for most of us and often leads to even more impulse buying… or is that just me? Especially now during such an anxiety-inducing period of uncertainty, depriving yourself too much can have harmful effects.

Research in almost all areas of deprivation from sleep to finance has proven that this approach can severely affect your mental well-being. Rather than imposing a draconian, joy-sapping ban, try challenging yourself to only buying a set amount of books a month or every other month. If it’s two books a month and you’ve met your quota, the next purchase on your radar will have to wait until the following month. Try this for a set timeframe and then review as needed if something isn’t working.

  • It’s Time For A New Genre – This next suggestion is particularly geared towards readers who aren’t keen on branching out into reading genres that are commonly viewed as ‘daunting’, dare I say non-fiction? This year, try including one non-fiction book in your familiar canon of YA fantasy and dystopian thrillers. To help you with this endeavour, I have a growing source of non-fiction recommendations, all neatly compiled into a handy booktube playlist.
Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to my channel!
  • Reach Out – This resolution goes out to my fellow book bloggers, but can equally be applied across different niches. I’m talking about networking. This can take many forms, including collaborations, guest blogging and group readathons. It can be an excellent way of grounding yourself in your chosen niche and creating future opportunities.

For example, I once reached out to an established book recommendations company called LoveReading UK and asked them to feature my blog on their website. They then sent me the Dark Artifices trilogy by Cassandra Clare and invited me to take part in a book tour, which led to the very feature I had asked for. Though it can be difficult to pointedly ask for things, especially from persons or companies with considerable influence, challenge yourself to do just that at least once this year.

Check out my LoveReading review here!

Honourable mention! – This year focus your reading on BAME and LGBTQIA literature.* If there’s anything we’ve learnt within the book community in recent months, it’s that reading can be political and influence others, therefore reading inclusively has a big impact. Click the image below to read about Own Voices recommendations.

You may have noticed that I have endeavoured to offer suggestions that focus on scaling things back i.e. be content to read fewer books, read one non-fiction book this year etc. That’s because I find that making small incremental changes can have potentially far-reaching effects and can lead to establishing habits that will eventually result in much more substantial changes, or indeed achieving much more than what you bargained for. Good luck if you intend try out any of the resolutions suggested in this post.

Happy Reading!



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How has your reading changed in 2020?

*BAME – Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic / LGBTQIA – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgenger, Queer, Intersex, Asexual

How has your reading changed in 2020?

LochanReads started as a blog focused towards book reviews and discussions. Reading books and then talking about them with others has always been something I’m passionate about, but I finally decided to act upon that passion three years ago with the inception of my blog. Admittedly, the books I have chosen to read and recommend on this site haven’t had any particular intent behind them. For the most part, I would simply read books that captured my interest or fell into familiar reading territory, such as Wordsworth classics or A Song Of Ice And Fire with a sprinkling of something ‘a bit different’ in between. However in terms of there being a specific focus behind my reading, there was none.*

That changed around June 2020 with the renewed worldwide interest in the Black Lives Matter movement, which initially began in 2013 but sparked anew in response to increased reports of police brutality in the United States. Furthermore, these atrocious events led to conversations at home, in the U.K. about the lack of black representation within the publishing industry as shown by startling figures released by the UK Publishers Association. Figures released in the Diversity survey of the publishing workforce 2018 found that those who identify as BAME** make up only 11.6% of the workforce. This has since increased to 13%.See sources below.

BAME book reviews coming soon!

These conversations also began gaining momentum within the book community on social media and it made me rethink my own personal reading habits. Suddenly I became aware of the fact that my own bookshelf is comprised of an overwhelming presence of white authors and protagonists and altogether heavily Westernized narratives. I had a very small number of books or number of books read that center on black voices, Latinx voices, indigenous voices, LGBTQ+ voices, Asian voices and minority ethnic voices. Of course I have some books that fit this bill such as Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, probably one of my most talked about books of the last two years, but not enough to really say I was contributing to amplifying the voices of marginalised groups.

That being said my reading habits underwent a metamorphosis and now as 2020 comes to a close, I can say that I’ve noticed a huge shift in my reading. From reading whatever takes my fancy or whatever is currently trending on Instagram to reading books that celebrate own voices and cultural diversity. My reading has become imbued with the very intent and purpose it lacked when I started this blog.

Such is the inspiration behind a series of videos that I am planning to release on my Booktube channel @LochanReads Book Reviews centered around recommending BAME books. To make sure you don’t miss the first instalment, which will be going live soon, please Subscribe and don’t forget to turn on notifications.


Diversity survey 2019, Publishers Associationhttps://www.publishers.org.uk/publications/diversity-survey-of-the-publishing-workforce-2019/

Black Writers’ Guild article from The Guardianhttps://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jun/15/black-writers-guild-calls-for-sweeping-change-in-uk-publishing

Black-owned bookshops article from The Guardianhttps://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/nov/02/black-owned-bookshops-call-for-more-diversity-in-uk-publishing

* Although I feel like I have benefitted greatly from having more focused reading habits, that’s not to put down anyone who prefers mood reading.

** BAME – Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic – comes from the British literary award, Jhalak Prize for BAME writers, founded in 2016.

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Book Reviews

Own Voices Must-reads

Today I started reading, The Clothesline Swing by Ahmad Danny Ramadan (now Danny Ramadan), which was kindly lent to me by a fellow blogger Jaz @TravelsinFiction as part of a book swap we hosted a couple of weeks ago. Though I had no prior knowledge of this book, it is fortunately turning out to be an immersive page-turner that a generally slow and steady reader like myself may very well end up completing all in one-sitting.

The Clothesline Swing is an Own Voices contemporary book written by an LGBTQ+ Syrian-Canadian refugee and it is about an elderly gay couple, one of whom is on the cusp of death. Their love story is a poetic harmony of reminiscent ‘tales’ about of their youthful love affair in Damascus, old flames, parental trauma and remnants of their war bridled past, told through traded stories and relived memories. In other words, I’m enjoying it a lot! And it is the inspiration behind today’s post, the aim of which is to recommend Own Voices books.

Own Voices books are typically known as books that feature protagonists from marginalised communities that were written by authors who share those same characteristics. In the case of The Clothesline Swing, Danny Ramadan like his two main characters; the ‘hakawati’ (storyteller) and his lover, is a gay Syrian born refugee. Therefore like his characters, he will have had firsthand experiences steepled in homophobia, lack of acceptance and anti-immigrant biases. These books make for unrivalled insight into the complexities and obstacles faced by certain groups of individuals, such experiences that others may never encounter in their lives – and are therefore likely to dismiss – because of the latter group’s affinity towards privilege.

Needless to say my initial impressions of this book are overwhelmingly positive and somehow I get the feeling I’ll love it just as much by the end, but I’ll save that until the review. Based on the first hundred pages I’ve read so far, I would recommend The Clothesline Swing as mature reading for those of you who prefer a slow burner with romantic poeticism.

Below are some more Own Voices recommendations that I loved reading and would strongly recommend;



Some more Own Voices Reviews Coming Soon! How many of these have you read?

Thank you for reading! x Please let me know in the comments if there are any other Own Voices Books you would recommend. ~

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Recent Book Review: Lead From The Outside by Stacey Abrams. In this self-help memoir, American politician and businesswoman, Stacey Abrams, discusses how minority groups in white-dominated professional circles can create opportunities that fuel ambition and lead to success.

Book Recommendations for Black History Month

For many people, October marks the dawn of Autumn, that cosy rustic season synonymous with vibrant sepia colours, knitwear, pumpkin hot chocolates and the delightfully terrifying holiday that is Halloween. But did you know that October is also Black History Month in the U.K.? Black History Month is an annual observance that began in the U.K. in 1987 and its aim is to celebrate African and Caribbean history and culture as well as the successes and achievements made by many black and person-of-colour individuals.

Even though October is nearly over and Halloween is almost upon us, I decided to put together a list of four books that would be ideal reading in terms of learning about black history, predominantly in the U.K. but also in America.

Check out my latest Booktube video to hear more about today’s featured books and as always don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE!

Small Island by Andrea Levy – Set against the backdrop of World War II in 1940s London, Small Island tells the story of a Jamaican migrant couple; Gilbert and Hortense who rent the humble lodgings of a conservative English couple; Queenie and Bernard. Gilbert is a war veteran and his wife recently arrived from Jamaica. The two have hopes of living a better life in England, the ‘mother country’ but instead they encounter a life of hardship.


Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge – This books analyses the real and very harmful effects of structural racism and how various institutions and systems in the U.K. are positioned in a way that marginalise and discriminate against black people. It presents a very well worded and multi-facted argument that challenges racist ideals of victimhood and uncovers a previously shrouded history of black people in the U.K. that predates the Windrush generation.


Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri – Is a book that I am still currently reading but which addresses the very rich and unique history of afro hair as well as the racist systems in the U.K. that discriminate against what Western values deems to be ‘unruly’ and ‘untameable’ natural black hair.


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi –

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife.

The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. As each chapter offers up a new descendant, alternating between Effia’s and Esi’s bloodline right up to the present day, a chasm of experience and the differing legacies of chance are brought starkly to light (A summary taken from Waterstones)


October may be almost over but these recommendations can be enjoyed at any time during the year. They share essential insight into the the history of black people in the U.K. and abroad, that is key to understanding the societal attitudes and structures of today and how our history has shaped them to oppress and discriminate against those deemed to be ‘other.’

Please let me know if there are any other like recommendations you would like to share in the comments below.

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Black Lives Matter – https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

Black History Month U.K. – https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/


The Bi-ble Book Of Bisexuality

As a person from a religious background, my initial reaction to the title of this book was a mixture of intrigue and defiance. I was raised to be god-fearing, as most young Carribbean children are and the doctrinal principles of my formative years were centered around love and acceptance of one’s fellow man, but also taught that a queer lifestyle could not fully align itself with ‘godly standards,’ hence that initial feeling of defiance. But as a person who has also struggled with their own sexuality, in terms of defining it and coming to terms with it, I also felt a sense of intrigue.

I first came across this book through an Instagram Liveshow that was hosted by Jaz from Travels in Fiction and Sophie from The Little Contemporary Corner and it was a truly wonderful discussion that impelled me to procure the book and read it speedily afterwards. Incidentally, I finished it on National Coming Out Day on Sunday 11th of October.

The Bi-ble is a collection of essays written by an extremely diverse cast of bi/pan and queer individuals. Their narratives represent a wide variety of perspectives and personal experiences, but there was one thing all the narratives seemed to agree on; they all conveyed a shared feeling of isolation and erasure within the very community that they are meant to be a part of, namely the LGBTQ+ community.

Regardless of where each essayist sits on the bisexuality spectrum, be it a cisgender bisexual white woman or a non-binary bisexual or a pansexual black man, their experiences all reflect a larger issue of having one’s sexual identity diminished, marginalised or written off as just a stepping stone to being gay and therefore not valid. These individuals will be more likely to struggle with ‘coming out’ and feel more susceptible to some form of mental illness, a result of the alienation they feel.

I loved every single essay in this book and I especially appreciated the intersectional approach it took, expanding on the added forms of discrimination people face because of social factors other than sexuality i.e. race. Such chapters as Going Either Way by Chitra Ramaswamy and On Being Black And Bi-furious by Jayna Tavarez, carried a lot of weight with me personally.

It is precisely this feeling of alienation and self-doubt that has hindered me from being fully accepting of my sexual identity. I had many crushes at school from secondary school into Sixth Form and some of those crushes were girl crushes, yet I’ve always managed to perpetuate the idea that I am ‘mostly straight’ and not ‘fully bi’ as though adopting the former title enables me to hold onto some semblance of a heteronormative life. Because having the appearance of being heterosexual or ‘normal’ or ‘godly’ absolves a person from the condemnation, ridicule and judgement of those around them. In that sense, this book was quite a cathartic read for me.

The Bi-ble is an extensive, all-encompassing look at bisexuality, from intersectionality to mental health to bi history and pop-culture to bi and queer sex. It conveys a level of insight and intimacy that was deeply impactful, and gives a much needed platform to a stigmatised community, enabling them to voice the validity of their personal experience.


Where to find useful information and support about Bisexuality;

https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/4688/stand-bi-me.pdf

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/bisexual_people_workplace.pdf

http://bisexualindex.org.uk/index.php/Bisexuality


To read more Book Reviews please click the link!

These books will change your negative opinion of Non-Fiction

There once was a time, around the same time as my pretentious adolescent obsession with all things Gothic literature, when I only read fantasy novels. If it wasn’t affiliated with A Song Of Ice And Fire, Lord Of The Rings or The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, the chances were I probably wouldn’t read it.

Of late though, I’ve learnt to appreciate the many benefits that come with reading non-fiction books. As it would turn out, not all books of this genre are gargantuan-sized political or historical verbiage, with cryptic equations and analyses and graphs. Actually, most of the non-fiction I’ve read are extremely accessible and are sure to disprove any negative misgivings people may have.

Of the modest pool of non-fiction books I’ve read, here are my top 5 recommendations that I hope will change your negative opinion of the genre, convincing you that books steeped in realism can be just as enjoyable as the feeling of escapism that books such as fantasy bring.

These picks will particularly appeal to people who are interested in topics such as health, beauty, politics and humour.

Please click on each title to read a review of the book. Unfortunately, reviews for Wellmania and We Should All Be Feminists are still yet to be published, but in the meantime, click on each of these titles to be taken to the goodreads page for each book, for a brief summary and more information.

Thanks for reading! x

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Disability Pride TBR

The month of July was the anniversary month of the Black Lives Matter movement that began in 2013. As such I decided to spend most of my time reading about and advocating books written by black authors given the marginal representation of the black community within literature and by extension the publishing industry.

However July was also Disability Pride Month, which is celebrated in many countries across the world today and can be dated back to a 1990 parade in Boston, Massachusetts, then dubbed Disability Pride Day. This celebration strives for greater equality by championing pride within the disabled LGBTQ+ community, such that it transcends the confines of a month-long observance.

In light of this pride celebration and given the fact that my reading habits could use a bit more inclusivity, I put together a modest TBR that is focused on reading books featuring disabled queer characters, especially in main or prominent roles. After a few Google searches, I decided upon the following three books;

Click on each title to read a short summary of the book, courtesy of Goodreads.
If you have any Disability Pride inspired recommendations you think I should read, please leave them in the comments.

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Click here for Audio Book Reviews!

Back to home 🏠

Books That Raise Awareness

July might be drawing to a close but I still wanted to highlight the importance of this month. July is the anniversary month of the Black Lives Matter movement, it is also Disability Pride month and it’s the month that I almost reached my Goodreads goal, which I see as an absolute win given last year’s performance, but I digress.

Of late I have been seeking out a range of diverse perspectives in fiction and other forms of literature and if the endeavour has shown me anything, it’s that far too much effort is required to unearth these stories. The representation of different minorities, be it black, person-of-colour, disabled, bisexual, asexual and transgender etc is sorely lacking from mainstream publishing.

It is on this basis that I wanted to share something that features the recent books I have enjoyed that give voice to generally underrepresented groups and to express my desire to continue searching for books that marginalised communities can identify with, far beyond the end of this distinguished month.

LATEST BOOK REVIEWS;

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This book, when read with humility is key in understanding the complexities of sexuality and gender identity.Trans Like Me: A Journey For All Of Us by C N Lester

“Simply put, The Hate U Give is crucial, thoughtful and inciting! A book everyone must read and be attentive to.” The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

“Queenie is an essential piece of modern contemporary for our day that combines chick flick witticisms with the seriousness of mental instability and politically tantamount themes.Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

“PET is a deeply thoughtful, uplifting story that bravely imagines a world of unconditional acceptance, whilst also exploring the harm that can result from forgetting the past, however troubled.” PET by Akwaeke Emezi

——————-

The books featured primarily represent the black and transgender communities. I enjoyed each of them for different reasons but they all share a relatable narrative that many readers will be able to empathise with. This is significant because it challenges the messages that can be derived from mainstream fiction as a whole, that of whiteness being the default.

It’s almost the end of July, but it’s not too late to enjoy one of the books highlighted above nor is it too late to support causes in favour of Black Lives Matter and trans and gender identity rights. Please follow the links below to see how you can help.

https://trans–rights.carrd.co/

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

#BlackLivesMatter

#AllGendersAreValid

June Books: Non-fiction must-reads and queer manga

June was nothing short of a tentative month, commencing with an interminable reading slump and culminating in an freak total of 11 books read. Partway through the month, I decided to switch gears and focus on reading books with more black and LGBTQX+ representation, as I realize that this is still a very niche part of fiction and literature that I myself have been neglecting.

We are seeing trends arising within the book community where the focus has shifted to amplifying the voices of underrepresented voices, but I sincerely hope that rather than fade into the inconsequential oblivion that trends normally do, this newfound awareness will continue to be a talking point, ultimately culminating in a greater presence of black, person-of-colour, white-adjacent and queer representation within the mainstream publishing industry.

Shown below are all the books I read in June, which I will also review individually so as to critique them in greater depth. Please check out the Book Reviews page to read more!

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams –

This book can be described a much needed contemporary voice within modern fiction that shows the harmful effects severe anxiety and abandonment issues can have on human relationships. Queenie has recently broken up with her long-time partner, Tom and this sets her down a tragic path of bad decisions fuelled by unresolved childhood trauma. The narrative also has moments of light humour as a means of comic relief. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

PET by Akwaeke Emezi –

Set in a surrealist utopia, Lucille is a place where ‘monsters’ once ruled, wielding all the negative isms of harmful oppression until the ‘angels’ rose up and overthrew them. Years later, a young transgender girl called Jam, who leads a happy life with her kind and accepting parents in a newly transformed Lucille, encounters a strange creature. It has come to her world to hunt and needs Jam’s help to uncover the identity of a monster hiding in plain sight. This book is extremely current and paints a truer picture of society in its representations of gender identity and poly amorous relationships. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie –

We Should All Be Feminists is a short commentary on the political movement, based on a Ted talk of the same name that was delivered by the author. It deftly dispels misguided notions of feminism and by way of practical experiences argues its relevance in many societies where gender based discrimination is still a threat to many. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Trans Like Me: Conversations For All Of Us by C N Lester

This book gives all-encompassing insight into the transgender community, exposing the hostile and structural transphobic sentiment that many suffer, simply for being who they are. It matter-of-factly analyses the existence of trans people throughout human history, highlighting that the existence of other genders outside of the limiting gender binary, do very much exist and are valid. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

For more of what I read in June, including commentary on my manga picks, see the video below!

Lochanreads on Booktube

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Why I’m No Longer Talking To Black People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Audio book Reviews

Black Representation In Books

On May 25th 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a black man called George Floyd was brutally murdered by police officers for allegedly spending a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd was handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer, called Derek Chauvin, who was kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, subsequently causing his death later on that day.

The death of George Floyd and other black American citizens at the hands of gross police brutality has sparked widespread outrage and was the catalyst for a renewed campaign in the Black Lives Matter protests, not just in America but also in the U.K. and across the world.

Source: Euronews

The victims of racially charged hate crimes and police brutality are distressingly many in number and include among many others; Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown, as well as numerous peaceful protesters injured in Minneapolis protests.

These heart-wrenching events occurring in shocking succession has seen not only an overwhelming worldwide support of the Black Lives Matter campaign, but it is also inciting many to question their attitudes towards race and in some cases, their unassuming complicity in the systemic racism of their social structures.

This awareness has also led many within the book community to actively seek out books written by mainly black but also person-of-colour authors. It has sparked a much needed conversation regarding the representation of black authors/black main characters in fiction but also across a wide range of literature.

An article from The Guardian made the following observation;

A major survey conducted by the Publishers Association last year found that “significant progress” was still needed to improve racial diversity, with only 11.6% of respondents identifying as BAME – lower than the UK population (14%), and significantly lower than London (40.2%)

Black Writers’ Guild calls for sweeping change in UK publishing -The Guardian

This prominent disparity really emphasises the need for more black representation within the book community. I find it genuinely upsetting and a source of great sorrow that it took such drastic measures for us to finally be having this conversation.

Whiteness within literature has long been considered the default, the bastion of normalcy. The book industry is still predominantly white, from those who preside over its publishing houses to its authors to those who sit on awards committees. It should thus come as no surprise that in this environment, we would expect to mainly read about white protagonists, with little to no representation of other ethnicities. Now that these conversations are becoming a lot more mainstream, we really need to support black authors and campaigns to amplify black voices, thereby disentangling the net of deeply entrenched structural racism within the publishing industry.

Books By Black Authors Recommendations;

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

“Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent.”

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Booktube Review of Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race + Thoughts on the BLM Movement;

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE 😉

Ways To Help The Black Lives Matter Movement;

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

https://www.booktable.net/black-lives-matter-reading-list

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Thank you for reading! x