I LOVED Mexican Gothic more than I thought I would. And it’s not that it was over-hyped (was it?), or any of the negative comments circulating about it. It’s just that horror and romance are not my genres. But I did love it. I loved how it was slow paced, building up the excitement until past mid-book. I loved how authentic it felt, all those references to Mexican culture that made me nostalgic for my grandpa, and the deep side of it: the exploration of colonialism and eugenics. But most of it, it’s just an easy, addictive read. And some readers thought it should have content warnings, but I thought it was not too explicit or full of gore. It was pretty mild, in my opinion.
I loved “Lakewood” by Megan Giddings. At the beginning it gave me a “We Cast A Shadow” vibe (by Maurice Carlos Ruffin, another book I loved!) but though they both deal with racism and the burden of white-centered beauty standards (among other themes), they are very different books.
Lakewood takes us to a tiny town in Michigan, of the same name, where secret and unethical government sponsored clinical trials are undertaken on human subjects, mostly BIPOCs. Lena, a college student just lost her grandma to cancer and is forced to work to pay her mom’s medical bills as well as to continue to afford college. So, human trials that offer amazing insurance and great benefits, how bad can they be? They end up being a nightmare. Though not a horror story by itself, this story is pretty terrifying and cringing, and yet so addictive. Like a horror movie, you want to turn it off and turn a blind eye, but you also must know if Lena will make it out alive. It is so good! Worst part is that it is probably not too far away from the truth. I totally recommend it. I wouldn’t mind picking it up again right now.
She Would Be King by Wateyu Moore is an amazing and touching story of three gifted teens: a girl named Gbessa exiled from her village in Liberia for fear that her red hair and dark skin is evidence of witchcraft; and two young boys who end up in Liberia after escaping slavery in the Americas. Together they set out to protect the indigenous population of Liberia against slave-trader and European settlers. Its set in the 1800s, peppered with magical realism and told in beautiful language.
On the other hand, Dream Country by Shannon Gibney, is the story of a Liberian boy who gets into a bit of trouble in America so he is sent back to his relatives in Liberia. But more than that, it is the story of his ancestors and their fight against slave-traders and former African-American slaves taking up their territory and forcing them into servitude. The language in Dream Country is harsh and real, and the realities portrays can be overwhelmingly sad. But both stories are equally thrilling and mesmerizing. They are two different points of view of the same historical period and stories that will entertain you and educate you at the same time.
I had very little knowledge of the history of Liberia, aside from the re-settling of African Americans and had never thought about the impact it must have had in the local communities. This has open my eyes and allowed me to differentiate the fairy-tale story about freedom for African Americans in Africa that we have been told, from the harsh reality of conflict between settlers and indigenous people. If you loved She Would be King, you will love Dream Country. I encourage you to give it a try.