In Reading Color

The Artist’s Life, New Releases, and a Little Toni Morrison for You

Welcome to In Reading Color, a space where we focus on literature by and about people of color.

I went to a 3D Van Gogh exhibit the weekend before last and really liked it. I don’t quite know what I was expecting, but I guess it wasn’t that. I knew there would be original paintings, of course, but I really liked the main exhibit. I’ve heard some criticize it for simply being projections, and it was in a way, but they were immersive, in my opinion, which made all the difference. Also, the whole room had immaculate vibes. So maybe it was just vibes?? I might be a vibe girl this summer, who knows.

As I ponder my new identity, I’ve got a bookish goody, new releases, and some books about artists for you!

Bookish Goods

toni Morrison book mark

Toni Morrison bookmark by KLigg

This cute bookmark features a quote by my late play auntie, Toni Morrison. $4

New Releases

Bronze Drum Book Cover

Bronze Drum by Phong Nguyen 

Picture this: 40 CE Vietnam. Two sisters —Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhi — live privileged lives as the daughters of a lord, but it’s under the oppression of the Han Chinese. So, they spend their days training and studying, trying to resist complete assimilation into their oppressor’s culture. One day, Trac’s dutiful studying and Nhi’s straight mackin’ (IYKYK) come to an end when their father is executed, and the tenuous peace Lord Trưng had maintained falters. Now, with no protection from the Han, the sisters step up, forming an army of 80,000 women. Okurrrr! And let me tell you, the girls put on a show when they went to war — the elephants! the drumms! The good sis Han had to collect all the bronze drums after a while, they had her so shook.

The Undead Truth of Us by Britney S. Lewis cover

The Undead Truth of Us by Britney S. Lewis

After Zharie’s mom dies, she’s left with many questions. Chief among them: why no one else noticed her mother turning into a zombie right before she passed away. If that seems like it came out of nowhere, that’s kind of how I feel this feels, but in a good way. Now Z is living with her aunt, whose emotional distance adds to her loneliness. When a charming and cute boy, Bo, becomes her new neighbor, she is eventually intrigued by him. But once he starts switching back and forth between being a zombie and not, she starts to wonder if learning more about him will answer somethings she’s been wondering about her mother. This YA novel is a poetic exploration of grief wrapped up in a trippy, surreal zombie package.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

In the spirit of the artists’ life, here are a couple books by and about artists!

cover of 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows by Ai Weiwei

The history of Ai Weiwei’s family and that of China seem to be intrinsically linked. His father, Ai Qing was once the country’s favorite poet and a friend of Mao Zedong. once he was labeled a rightist, however, he was banished to Little Siberia and forced to do hard labor. After surviving a childhood in exile, Ai Weiwei moved to the U.S. to study art. There, he became friends with people like Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg. The link connecting him to China called him back, though, taking him from an unknown artist in his home country to a highly celebrated one. But with his artistic renown also came notoriety for being a human rights activist. Like his father, he became an enemy of the state, despite his earlier favor, and was secretly imprisoned for months without being charged in 2011. With this memoir, Ai juxtaposes his life against his father’s — highlighting how his father was silenced as an artist — as well as the culturally relevant moments of their nation.

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo cover

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by F.G. Haghenbeck, translated by Achy Obejas  

Frida Kahlo is an obvious art icon, but I wonder how much people know of her life. Here, a fictionalized version of her life is imagined, courtesy of several actual notebooks of hers that were found in her Mexico City home. From her terrible car accident to her lovers (like Tina Modotti and Diego Rivera) to her distinctive art, this book fully fleshes out a larger-than-life person. The recipes included are also a really nice touch.

While we’re talking about Toni Morrison, Akwaeke Emezi shared some amazing reading charts you should get into ASAP.

Thanks for reading; it’s been cute! If you want to reach out and connect, email me at or tweet at me @erica_eze_. You can find me on the Hey YA podcast with the fab Tirzah Price, as well as in the In The Club newsletter.