TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains discussions on marital abuse.
I’ve been reading A LOT lately, seeing as I’ve been on holiday plus having a break in between modules, giving me the head space I need for that time away from reality. I’ve actually been reading a lot of fiction lately too, which is unusual for me as I’ve always been a lover of nonfiction, but over the last year and a half I’ve been reading more black nonfiction. I’m passionate about my culture and learning more about my history especially witnessing the rise of racism and fascism seeing history repeat itself.
At the beginning of the month, I finally got to read Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”. by Zora Neale Hurston. Now, I say finally because it’s been on my bookshelf since it was released earlier this year and I genuinely haven’t had a chance to read it until now (I’m like a magpie; I buy books and then see others that distract me from my initial list of books to read or earlier purchases). This book is everything I wanted it to be: real, beautiful and heart-wrenching. This story took such a long time to be published not only because of the subject matter, but also because Hurston has written much of the story in Southern African-American dialect, as spoken by Cudjo. The story is a firsthand account of slavery and the formation of a new life in America post-slavery, therefore the dialect in my opinion is extremely relevant and effective to the storytelling element of the book. I can sympathise with the critics to extent though, as in the past, I used to find stories written in dialect extremely difficult to read (I still haven’t finished Trainspotting and started reading that while I was a teenager!) however, the more I read stories like this, the easier it becomes for me. It also felt like Cudjo was speaking to me, as opposed to me reading it, which is an incredible achievement by Hurston. I definitely recommend!
I’ve read some amazing fiction books this year…
At the end of last month, I finished reading Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee, a story about a relationship between two sisters: Lucia, who suffers from a mental health condition and her older sister Miranda, who struggles to take care of Lucia and ensure that her sister is taking care of herself. The problem is Lucia finds it difficult to accept her condition and often prefers herself off medication; she also begins to resent her older sister who she perceives as restraining. The story ends tragically and is one that continues to live with you long after you’ve finished reading.
While on holiday last month, I read Halsey Street by Naima Costa, which is a beautiful novel about the relationship between mothers and daughters and what happens to a child when the mother leaves. The narrative mainly focuses on the effect of her mother walking out on the family has left on the protagonist, Penelope, who is a young black woman. Her mother’s absence shapes her character and the way she responds to life, by running away. The narrative of Marella, her mother very much reminds me of my own mother, who I often think resented being a mother and being the one who wasn’t able to walk out first, hence reading this left me with a lot of emotions and thoughts to deal with, which gave me some amazing material to work through in therapy! Seriously though, it was like a spiritual journey, working through the emotions both from a disengaged perspective through Penelope, whilst working through my own.
Earlier in the season of Autumn, I read When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of The Writer as a Young Wife by Mena Kandasamy, a tragic tale of a woman who falls into the perils of an abusive marriage after suffering from heartbreak inflicted by a former lover. Her husband physically abuses her and crushes her soul by taking away her connections from the outside world, which she relies on for her piece of mind and writing career; the more isolated she becomes, the more she tries to become the wife he desires, but she never seems to be able to achieve this. She also frequently blames herself for the abuse, which is something victims often do and reading about her pathetic husband and the ridiculous things he punishes her for, you as the reader are consumed by a desire to just jump into the book and save her. This feeling of being a saviour is heightened even more as you read about her parents, who trapped in culture struggle with coming to terms with the extent of the abuse and for a while, the protagonist is left alone to struggle.
Lastly, When We Speak of Nothing by Olumide Poppola, was one of the first books I read set in London, making it extremely easy to escape into the narrative. Poppola tells a story about two young men, Karl and Abu, who in 2011 are growing up in the harsh realities of our capital city. These two boys are dealing with coming of age during the explosion of racial tensions in our capital city, family and rejection, displacement, and girls, whilst trying to keep their friendship intact. Again, this is a tale that lives on in you long after reading it. It’s full of familiarity, tension and tragedy. In fact, I think once I finished I just laid in bed for ages trying to process everything. So incredible.
That’s it! I am now currently reading The Book of the Night Women by Marlon James, centred around the story of Lillith, born into slavery. So far I’m enjoying it and finding it gripping. It’s actually better than the only other novel by James that I’ve tried, A Brief History of Seven Killings (unfortunately I never finished it). I’ll update you all with a full review once I’ve finished!
Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed my first book review! I’d love to know your thoughts on any of the books I’ve mentioned and also if you have any great books you can recommend!