We are now well into March and finally I’m taking a moment to reflect on what I managed to read during last month. February was very active since I was celebrating Black History Month through #ReadSoulLit. Firstly I’d like to thank everyone deeply for taking the time to post, to share, to encourage others to join in, to follow, to subscribe, to comment, and mostly to read and promote black authors in February. Thank you! Thank you! Every year #ReadSoulLit is growing and I’m really happy that people are reading and promoting black authors more and more. We must keep it going all year-long not just for Black History Month. Always remember to tag your posts and pictures with #ReadSoulLit so that they can be found.
As for my reading in February I didn’t do so badly. I read a total of 8 books. Most of them were short. The only book I didn’t finish was the short story collection called Black Enough. I didn’t quit because I was bored. I think I was just a bit too preoccupied with everything. There was a lot going on between the read along, the Instagram Photo Challenge, Booktube Black Chats, and book reviews. Despite all that was going on I still feel like my reading was very good and most of all meaningful. So here’s the break down:
Unforgivable Love by Sophfronia Scott was the read along pick for February. This year I decided to choose something that was very different from what we usually read in February. Unforgivable Love is a retelling of the 18th century French novel Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, set in 1940s Harlem. What a stunning read! The writing was beautiful and the characters were messy and kept me looking for what was going to happen next. There were quite a few poignant, unforgettable scenes too. The original French work was written in epistolary form but this was written as a novel allowing for more creative license to fit the story to 1940s Harlem. I highly recommend it. I also held a live discussion on my YouTube with a few Booktubers and the author Sophfronia Scott. That was AWESOME! If you’d like to watch it just click here. I suggest not watching if you plan to read the book because the video contains spoilers.
We Cast A Shadow is by debut novelist Maurice Carlos Ruffin from my hometown New Orleans. I was really excited to pick this one up but sadly it didn’t wow me as much as I thought it would. I liked it because of the premise and the bold statements it makes but I felt like the main character’s voice was so domineering that it took me away from the overall feeling of the novel. The tone of We Cast a Shadow is very particular. I’m not sure how to describe it – dystopian but not really. The book explores the black unnamed main character who is married to a white woman and has a son named Nigel. The main character would like his son to undergo a demelanization(change his skin color and features to that of a white person’s) operation so that he can no longer have problems living in the world as a black person. The book is full of hard, sad truths, even today. You can see more about how I felt in my video review here.
Next I read The Negro Motorist Green-Book which brought me back to the Jim Crow period. It was a book used by black people when they wanted to travel within the US. It gave them recommendations of hotels where they could stay, restaurants, and even gas stations that accepted black dollars.
The Post-Racial Negro Green Book is a must read. It gives the statistics on race relations in the United States state by state. It give the percentage of blacks per state in proportion to whites. The poverty rate, unemployment rate, imprisonment ratio are given as well as information on whether the state has an open permit and stand your ground law. The number of hate groups are numbered and it is mind-boggling the quantity per state. We have some serious issues to work through in the states if we ever want to improve and get to a peaceful existence. Finally the percentage of black victims of law enforcement killings from 2013 – 2016 are TOO DAMN high! Whether there are large demographic of blacks in the state or not racism is still rampant. Incidents of racism being perpetrated by not only police officers but by mayors, fire chiefs, sheriffs, etc. The book cites racist incidents after another throughout the union from racial slurs oral and written everywhere even universities and incidents that have led to deaths. White America when are you going to fix this? You’re in control! This book left me feeling helpless, pessimistic, and dejected.
Dear Ancestors was the only poetry collection I read and it was a real treat. I’ll link my blog review here. It recounts the Trans Atlantic slave trade to today. After I picked up Praise Song for the Butterflies which explores the terrible African tradition of religious shrines where young girls mostly are literally sold into slavery in atonement for the family’s misfortune. It’s a beautiful story of redemption and recovery. You can clickhere for my video review. Praise Song for the Butterflies has also been longlisted for the Women’s Prize 2019.
The last #readsoullit book I read in February was Eva’s Man by Gayl Jones. Wow! Wow! Wow! Gayl Jones does NOT play. Her writing is so direct and brutal. Haven’t read that many writers that have that power in their writing. Why is she so underrated? Corregidora was at the same level of potency. Eva’s Man tells the story of Eva Medina Canada who is serving time in prison for poisoning her lover Davis Carter. This book essentially tries to uncover the effect of sexual abuse, trauma, exploitation, and promiscuity. It’s for this reason I will warn you about the graphic sexual content of the book. Powerful short read that says so much in so few pages. Can’t wait to start The Healing by her next.
Finally the last book I read in February was The Tattooist of Auschwitz. This book is a historical fiction novel based on the life of real people. This was my book club’s March pick. Sadly this one was not my cup of tea. You can check out my Goodreads review here.
All in all, this was a fantastic reading month for me. Wish February was 31 days, but #readsoullit is 365 day of the year. Hope you all had a great February reading month. Let’s chat about that below! What were some of your memorable #readsoiullit books from February?
Brown Girl Reading has made 9 years today. I can hardly believe it. So in honor of my blogging birthday I’m reposting one of my first reviews. You won’t believe it but I reviewed a zombie novel called Warm Bodies. Hated it! Surprise, surprise… Thank you all for reading, commenting, and supporting all these years. I really appreciate it. So here’s a post from the past in celebration of all of these years of blogging. Now nobody can say I haven’t tried to read a fantasy/zombie/romance/horror book. That favorite quote is pretty funny though.
It seems as if my reading experience at the end of January has gone down slightly. I strayed from my intentions of sticking to really good sure thing four-star and five-star books. I was enticed into reading Warm Bodies – 1. because it was the YT book club pick for the 2nd of February, 2. because I’ve never read a zombie book before, and 3. because of the description on the back of the book was tempting and I was sure it was going be a good read.
Warm Bodies is a story of R, a zombie who cannot remember his name, his age, or how he’s become what he is. He and other zombies spend their time wandering aimlessly in an abandoned airport, which is ruled by the terrifying Bonies. Bonies are zombies in the most decomposed state, essentially skeletons, that are vicious and dangerous. R is a different kind of zombie because he has dreams. One evening while R and some other zombies are out on a “food” run, he meets a “living” girl named Julie. She is the total opposite of what he knows and an affectionate relationship grows between the two. Sounds pretty interesting, but in essence reading about it was a total bore for me.
The best thing about this book is the writing style. Isaac Marion is a talented writer. He does an excellent job of describing situations and especially the feelings of R, however I found some parts of this story uninteresting and very slow. Another good thing about Warm Bodies is the Vintage Originals paperback cover, white with the red raised nerves. I also loved how each chapter begins with a labeled sketch of a part of the human body. The sketches at the beginning of the chapters seem to correlate with what happens in the chapter where it appears. There is a strong underlying theme from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette and I found that a little cliché at times. It was as if he was trying much too hard to intellectualize this zombie story. Since Isaac Marion apparently wrote this book for adults, he was surprised that his book is being shelved in the Young Adult section and thinks that adolescents aged 16-19 should be reading what he reads and that these classifications shouldn’t need to exist. He believes this is mostly because of the quote from Stephanie Meyer on the back of his book. Needless to say, they put Stephanie Meyer’s quote on the back and the front of the Vintage Originals paperback edition. Marion feels “the YA label is reductive to any book.” So there are probably a lot more adolescents picking this one up than adults, moreover I can’t see this story really appealing to adults. Who knows? I could be wrong, certainly when you read Audrey Niffenegger’s quote on the back cover:
“Warm Bodies is a strange and unexpected treat. R is the thinking woman’s zombie — he could be the perfect boyfriend (though somewhat grey-skinned and monosyllabic). This is a wonderful book, elegantly written, touching and fun, as delightful as a mouthful of fresh brains.”
“Monosyllabic and grey-skinned “are not the only problem, R is a walking, smelly, rotting corpse for Christ’s sake. Warm Bodies was published in 2010 and I don’t think I remember hearing anything about it before now, but the movie was released yesterday in the States and next week in Europe. It is evidently more comical than the book, at least from what I can tell from the movie trailer. It did well at the box office this past weekend, but will it be classified as another movie about love between a living being and an undead, like Twilight. I’m sure the masses will be attracted to this film because of the comedy and I’d say go see the movie because you’ll have a better time than reading the book.
The New Hunger is the prequel to Warm Bodies, which is the beginning and ending of R and a few other characters. It foreshadows the second part to Warm Bodies. Isaac Marion has written since he was 14 years old. He has done lots of different jobs, including delivering death beds to hospice patients and supervising parental visits for foster-kids. Isaac Marion is the writer who has reinvented the zombie story, without really wanting to. He’s currently working on a sequel to Warm Bodies, which is due to be released in 2014. Check out the clip below to find out more about his path to success.
Title: Warm Bodies
Edition: Vintage Originals – Cool cover!
My rating: *
My favorite quote: ” ‘Why is beautiful that humanity keeps coming back? Herpes does that, too.’ ” (Warm Bodies, p. 147)
Poetry is not something I pick up very much but in the past 4 years I’ve had the pleasure of reading some fantastic poetry collections. This year has started with Dear Ancestors Poems & Reflections on the African Diaspora by CP Patrick, author of the compelling novel The Truth About Awiti. There are poems in this collection that come from The Truth About Awiti. I strongly recommend you check it out because it is quite the story with a dash of fantasy and deals with the African diaspora and the transAtlantic slave trade.
It’s a slim collection containing only 58 pages, a short poem on each page. To the eye that would appear to be slither to discuss such a complex subject, but believe me it’s more than enough. From the first poem I was thrown into the African diaspora, my emotions rising within. I could put it down and when I did I had finished and reread it a second time.
The collection is structured in 4 parts – Home, Middle Passage/Second Home, Bondage, Freedom or Something Like It. The poems in each section are perfectly understandable. These poems are not obscure or difficult to understand. They are written with nuance and a perspective that will touch you before you realize it. These poems made me reflect but also made me remember how proud I am to be black. I come from strong people. People that have a history that doesn’t just start with slavery.
The fact that CP Patrick begins the collection with poems from the section Home that cherishes the beginnings of black people in Africa – free with their own lives and customs, good and bad, exhibits her desire to tell our entire story.
“if but for a moment
descending from the heavens
leaving the safety of my warm womb
you saw this sad world
and changed your mind”
CP Patrick, Dear Ancestors Poems & Reflections on the African Diaspora, p. 28
If you’d like to pick up a copy of Dear Ancestors or any of my other recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!
February always gets me so excited about reading. Black History Month always makes me want to delve deeper into the books written by black Americans and to learn more about my culture. I feel that black literature, is getting more recognition these days although I still feel that more consideration is given to African Literature. We have ways to go to get to the same level of recognition.
This is why I’m hoping that the photo challenge on Instagram and my videos this month on YouTube will give African-American authors the spotlight they so desperately need. I’d love to be able to mention Bernice L. McFadden, Dolen Perkins-Vladez, Gayl Jones, and so many others and have everybody know who they are and what their writing is about.
As you can see in the picture above, this is just a fraction of one of my book shelves that contains quite a few books by African-American authors – 11 to be exact including the June Jordan novel that’s just at the edge of the picture on the right. There are a few of these that I plan on reading this year that frankly I should have read many years before. I’m looking forward to reading So Much Blue this month by Perceval Everett. It will be my first attempt and I hope I’ll love it, having heard so many great things about this author and how he tells stories. Another one on this shelf that is long overdue is Perfect Peace by Daniel Black. So many people have recommended this one to me over the years and I’m not sure why I have continued to neglect picking it up. Promise to myself and others that this one will get read this year. Ann Petry’s The Street is another one that I’d like to finally read completely. I had one failed attempt during a buddy read. I didn’t finish because I didn’t like it. It was mostly because I was too busy to concentrate on it. The classic The Wedding by Dorothy West has been on my list for ages and I finally picked up a copy 3 years ago but have been putting it off. The Darkest Child I’ve been putting of because of its story. I’ll definitely need a pallet cleanser after reading it. I’m sure it’s going to make me mad as hell. So these are just a few books among many others that will continue my #readsoullit reading of African-American writers throughout the year. I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing these as well as checking out a few new ones this year. Happy Black History Month and reading!
I created this tag so that people could get more recommendations of books by black authors. I’m tagging all of you bloggers out there to do it and to add to the list of growing recommendations of African-American authors and their works this Black History Month. Enjoy!
#ReadSoulLit Tag (Original) - YouTube
If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of my recommendations please consider clicking my affiliate link for The Book Depository, where shipping is free! It would be much appreciated. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing. Thank you!
What’s in a seal? Prestige, praise, protection, a blessing. Seals have existed for many centuries. They date back to some of the world’s first civilizations. Today we use them mostly to award prizes. If you’re a book lover of literary prizes, then you’re used to seeing seals on winning books and runners-up. Seals are now also showing up on new releases and back list books for book clubs. Oprah’s Book Club, Reese’s Book Club, Emma Watson’s Book Club, even Jimmy Fallon, and the list goes on.
I hope this trend isn’t going to continue but it seems as though people are really catching the reading bug because of them . That’s fantastic! However the thing that annoys me about some of these celebrity book clubs is that when the book is published there has to be a giant seal printed on the front cover for the book club. This drives me mad! Why is it that publishing companies have to put Oprah’s seal on every book she chooses for her book club?
When the public decides to buy a book that happens to have the Oprah book club seal, it looks like we’re all joining her book club when we aren’t. It’s great for the author who gets loads of publicity because his/her book was chosen to be discussed for the club. Sadly for collectors, like myself, the Oprah and Reese cover seals don’t cut it.
November 13th, 2018 Becoming by Michelle Obama was released. I was ecstatic but when I heard that Becoming was chosen for Oprah’s book club, I hoped that there would be some pre-orders that were published without the seal. First edition hardcover books with a book club seal on the front is just disheartening.
The 13th I looked at all of the pictures on Instagram that rolled through my feed of Becoming. Everybody was so proud and overjoyed by the release of this book. But there was a common feeling lurking under many of these posts. “I would have preferred that the cover didn’t contain a Oprah Book Club seal.” Now this is a very common thought contrary to what most people would think. It’s time that publishing companies start listening more to their customers, the avid readers and book collectors on this one. We are all prepared to buy books but we’d prefer you omit publishing them with book club seals.
I know publishers probably think that the seal of approval encourages the public to buy more books. Avid readers who buy a lot of books don’t need a seal of approval on a book to be convinced to buy it. Most of us do our research and we know what we want to buy and read. There are people who just refuse to buy any books with book club and literary prize seals on them. In my opinion, these so-called seals of approval make the value of the first edition decrease.
Now after pre-ordering my copy of Becoming from Amazon, it arrived sadly with the dreaded Oprah seal. So I had to hunt for a copy with no seal. I realized that the British copies do not have any seals on them. On the hunt for a British copy, I found and ordered a copy of Becoming from The Book Depository. My copy came from the UK and it doesn’t contain the Oprah seal of approval. Thank goodness was my sigh of relief once the box was finally opened. Becoming looking perfectly beautiful.
So what can we do to try to get books to not contain seals of approval from celebrity book clubs? I think we should all take to our computers and write letters to publishing companies, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc and urge them to stop printing book club seals on book covers or at least print only half of them with seals. At least this way there would be a possibility for book lovers to be able to buy a book without a seal. This could be done since now we know that they produced all of the UK copies without seals. What’s stopping publishing houses from publishing only half the books with seals? Comment below and let me know what you think about this.
I can hardly believe that 2019 has arrived so quickly. 2018 was a good reading year as a whole for me because I did complete my Goodreads goal to read 60 books. I also read 461 more pages than last year. However, there were quite a few things that did not go as planned that I hope to improve this year.
I didn’t get a chance to read very many Caribbean lit books. I managed to read 3 – one poetry collection Satellite City and Other Stories by Alecia McKenzie is a wonderful short story collection that plunges the reader into the ambience of living on an island and Jamaican culture. , The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Afro-Dominican writer, is YA novel in verse that will grab your heart and won’t let it go. It’s beautifully lyrical and relatable to all ages. This is a book not to miss, and finally Slave Old Man a short literary fiction novella written to perfection by Patrick Chamoiseau. The beautiful descriptions take you through the plush green sinister nature of Martinique to the uncertain life of an old slave who finally seeks freedom. All three are excellent books that are well worth 4.5 -5 stars. So I will definitely continue on my Caribbean journey because I still have much to discover and experience.
I also joined the #readingblackoutchanllenge(=to read only African-American writers during the year) which I did for half of the year. Of my 60 books read, 35 books were by African-American writers. This was an interesting challenge. It got me started on reading the Easy Rawlins series by Walter Mosley. I managed to read the first four books and they were really good. There are a total of 13 books in the series so I’m going to try to see how many I can get through this year. Reading this series was a great reading surprise for me. I couldn’t believe how much I liked them and kept asking myself why it took me so long to start reading them.
So many books, so little time is the phrase we should all have engraved somewhere. How we torture ourselves over all of the new books coming out each year. Well I won’t be doing that this year. I have already pre-ordered a few but I will be focusing on trying to finish reading all the books by certain authors, for example I still need to read Love and Paradise to finish all of Toni Morrison’s books.I still have books to finish by Jamaica Kincaid, Edwidge Danticat, Colson Whitehead, even Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie and many others. My year will be devoted to backlist books (If you want to join me use #backlistbooks2019 when you post about a booul you’re reading that isn’t from this year.) and some new ones here and there.
As for reading challenges, I’ll be choosing them as I go along during the year, but I have decided to participate in the Ghana reading challenge(spearheaded by African Book Addict, go check out her blog for more info), which is to read 5 books within the year which are by a Ghanaian writer. It turns out I have quite a few which are already on my backlist for this year. I’ll also be trying to read at least 10 big books that are 400 pages and over this year. I do this challenge every year because it helps me not forget those huge door stops that have a tendency top be overlooked because of their size. We have to remember that big is not always synonymous with fear. There are some great big books pout there and I hope I’m going to put my hands on at least ten of them.
Now, I’d love to read more than 60 books but I don’t dare set my total Goodreads goal for more books. Last year the goal was set at 60 and this year I sat the goal at 50. If I get a chance to read more I will be thrilled, but essentially I’d like to be able to choose 4 and 5 star books. I reaching for quality.
So, that’s all for the reading goals but I do have some writing goals concerning this blog and that’s to write at least 1 blog post a week and to finish each month with a recap of what I read for the month. This means I won’t be recapping over on my YouTube channel. I’d like to balance my time between here and YouTube. The other place where you can get bookish updates from me is Instagram and Twitter. Click the links to follow me over there. Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and to support the blog, my YouTube channel, and Instagram! I really appreciate it. 2019 is going to be a stellar year all around and the bookish communities seem to be gearing up for some great reading and sharing! Let me know below how your 2018 in reading went and what you have planned as reading goals for 2019.
October was designated as Black History Month in the UK by Akyaaba Addai Sebo in 1987. This was as a result to the riots of the 1980s in the UK when black Britons fought for tolerance and acceptance and their fight against racism and marginalization headlined. Black History Month was chosen to be in the month of October because it is the month when African leaders and chiefs get together to settle their differences. It also corresponds to the beginning of the school year and there was hope that it would instill pride in black children.
Since I host a month of videos, Instagram photo challenges, a readalong, and blog posts for Black History Month in February for the US, I felt like I needed to do something this year for Black History Month UK and I will continue to do things for October. I’m terribly disappointed that it is hardly mentioned in the book communities online, especially since there are many other different book activities hosted this month. So, I decided to spearhead a readalong of 26a by Diana Evans over on Goodreads.
I believe when readers are asked who is their favorite black British writer they either have a tendance to say Zadie Smith or they have no idea. I find that a little sad because there are a plethora of black British writers out there but I don’t think they are getting as much recognition and love as they should. So I decided to contribute these two extensive lists below of black British Women and Men Writers that you may not have even heard of.
Once during one of my Instalives someone asked me, «Who is your favorite British author? » I was taken aback because the only name that came to mind was Zadie Smith. It was in that moment that I realized I was lacking in reading Black British authors. There were other names I could have said that I’d read, but for some reason they weren’t coming to mind. That goes to show how important publicity is and why it’s important to not only read black writers but to talk about them and to gush about your favorites. Why is it we can name white men and women British writers’ names without hesitation? Their names are foremost in our heads because they are literally all over the net ALL THE TIME from Goodreads to YouTube to Instagram to Litsy and so on….
In order to encourage you to discover some black British writers check out my list below. I’ll highlight the authors and the titles I’ve read. I’m sure this is another literary journey I’ll attempt to go on eventually because the lists are rich. At the moment, I’m enjoying discovering literature from the Caribbean, which will overlap with these two lists. Concerning my Caribbean reading journey, the backlist has been where I’m finding the gems. The Backlist is where it’s at people. You’re chasing the new titles and missing out on the tried and true. Remember there will always be new titles coming out but the oldies are classics which stand the test of time.
Black British Women Writiers
Malorie BLACKMAN – Noughts and Crosses
Diana EVANS – 26a
Aminatta FORNA – The Memory of Love
Jackie KAY – Red Dust Road An Autobiographical Journey
Dreda Say MITCHELL
Khadijah (George) SESAY
Zadie SMITH – NW/On Beauty/White Teeth/Swing Time (curently reading Feel Free)