The last month or so I’ve been trying to be a bit more conscious about what I’m reading. Don’t get me wrong, I love my female-authored thrillers, the ones you can read in a day and end up all blurring into one after a while. But these are usually written by white women, about white characters in white situations – and sometimes I want more.
So, like many of us, I have been actively seeking literature that will actually stay with me and teach me something. We all have to start somewhere and I understand that my (minuscule) part in dismantling systematic racism is going to take more than picking up a couple of books or watching a couple of films. But we have to start somewhere.
Here’s what I have on my list so far:
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
In Lovecraft Country, award-winning author Matt Ruff delivers a compulsive, page-turning blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom. Fictional – and all too real – horrors are imaginatively entwined in a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism – the terrifying spectre that continues to haunt us today.
I’m over half way through this book and I’m hoping to do a full review soon, so I’ll save my comments for that – however, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. I’m also very excited for the upcoming Jordan Peele/Misha Green created TV adaptation and wanted to be fully informed before it starts.
Again, I’m not going to go into it yet but I love how they’ve taken inspiration from H. P. Lovecraft, a notorious white supremacist and put this twist on it. IN YOUR FACE M**HERF**KER!
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
Teeming with life and crackling with energy, told through many distinctive voices, this novel follows the lives of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Joyfully polyphonic and sparklingly contemporary, Girl, Woman, Other is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.
Honestly, I don’t know what to expect here but it sounds amazing and vibrant – and admittedly, the cover was the first thing to catch my eye. Having read through Bernadine’s bibliography, it looks like she has a long list of bangers under her belt – which is an exciting discovery for me.
I’m very eager to dive into GWO – so watch this space.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
It is the mid-1800s and as slavery looks to be coming to an end, Sethe is haunted by the violent trauma it wrought on her former enslaved life at Sweet Home, Kentucky. Her dead baby daughter, whose tombstone bears the single word, Beloved, returns as a spectre to punish her mother, but also to elicit her love. Told with heart-stopping clarity, melding horror and beauty, Beloved is Toni Morrison’s enduring masterpiece.
I never did read this book – it wasn’t one of the titles on our curriculum when I was at school – we did Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings instead. Which ignited a life long love affair with her words and poems, so I can’t be too mad.
But Beloved is obviously a classic and a ghost story at that – my favourite genre of book – so hopefully soon I can finally say I’m up to speed on Toni Morrison.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
The book that sparked a national conversation. Exploring everything from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is the essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand race relations in Britain today.
This has been on my radar for a while but I’ve recently picked up a Kindle copy and it’s one of the next on my to read list. I’ve heard nothing but good things and I’m looking forward to reading more about race relations in my own country – then I’ll pass on my new knowledge. Share and share alike, right? Right…
Natives by Akala
From the first time he was stopped and searched as a child, to the day he realised his mum was white, to his first encounters with racist teachers – race and class have shaped Akala’s life and outlook. In this unique book he takes his own experiences and widens them out to look at the social, historical and political factors that have left us where we are today.
Akala is an incredible voice and someone who explains things I have never considered about race and injustice in a way that I can understand perfectly. He’s crazy talented and I’ve got it on good authority (well, my brother) that this book is shit hot. Bring it on.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fearless, gripping, spanning three continents and numerous lives, the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning ‘Americanah’ is a richly told story of love and expectation set in today’s globalized world.
I’d read a couple of Chimamanda‘s smaller works and loved them – so I can’t imagine feeling differently about this novel.
I find her voice incredibly moving so I’m really stoked for this and might make it the next book I pick up.
And I will definitely review every book I read from this list. Thankfully I have a week off work now so I hope to get a substantial amount of reading done. Nude, under a fan. Total bliss.