For May, I had to read a book of colonial or postcolonial literature and a romance novel by or about a person of color. I will admit I cheated a little. I'm pretty sure my book about colonial literature is not "literature." It is a true story, and it does take place during a time of transition in a colonial situation (India). But really, I would be hard-pressed to call The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled From India to Europe for Love "literature" in the snootiest definition from Merriam-Webster - writings having excellence of form or expression. That said Per Andersson's story of PK (a young man who grew up in poverty in rural India) and his travels to be with his Swedish-born love Lotta is just a grand adventure. PK is born as an untouchable and his family's views on whether having the British in power is better for them (it is) than having Indian Brahmins in charge (who believe the untouchables are literally untouchable) is thought-provoking. PK is a talented artist, and his ability to carry on in the wake of abject poverty and extreme conditions is overwhelming. In PK's life story, there are more issues of class discrimination within his own country than the fact that he and his girlfriend are different races. Lots to dig into, but at the same time, there is a light-heartedness to this tale, and as you can see by the author photo that it all works out in the end.
I was definitely nervous about the romance, I will freely admit. As much as I love a happy-ending, I'm just not into all the mushiness that I believed would happen in a romance. I was pleasantly surprised by Beverly Jenkins' Bring on the Blessings While there are some background romances happening in this story, it's really the fascinating story of the fictional small town of Henry Adams, Kansas - based on true towns that were formed by freed slaves. And it's the story based on a true place called Hope Meadows (originally Generations of Hope) where communities were built specifically to support foster families. Bring together a small town falling on hard times, a woman with Oprah-like levels of money and connections, and an idea to bring in foster children who really are lost in the system who will be raised by the community and you have a story that will make your heart ring. Yes, there are some relationships happening (or at least getting started), but that isn't the main point of the story. Which means it's my kind of romance. So not only was I pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this story, but I was thrilled to learn it was the first of a series - and yes, I already ordered the second one. Which to me, is what this Read Harder Challenge is all about. I never in a million years would have picked up this book. Now I have an entire series to enjoy - thank you Read Harder!