So how do I decide which books I’m going to read in this journey of only reading BAME authors during 2021? I have several pages in a big notebook where I have two lists of books that I ‘must’ read this year and books that I will ‘maybe’ read. I’m always adding to the lists and it’s very fluid. I probably won’t get through all my ‘must’s’ and often a ‘maybe’ sneaks in, as do books that are nowhere to be found in either column! This is what my fairly chaotic list looks like. The highlighted books are those that I have read.
Once I have read a book, I write them up in this little notebook below (I bought this in a bookshop a few years ago and the second I laid eyes on it, knew I had to buy it!), writing a a brief summary and a stand-out line from the book plus stars out of five.
So, without further ado, these are the books I have read from the start of April to the end of June, followed by their rating.
📚 Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Fiction) ⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 Their eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Thurston (Fiction) ⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Memoir in Verse) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 We are all birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan (Fiction)⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (Fiction) ⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 Happiness by Aminatta Forna (Fiction) ⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar (Fiction) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 Tigress by Jessica Moohkerjee (Poetry) ⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 Rope by Khairani Barokka (Poetry) ⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 A Self-Portrait by Kahlil Gibran (Letters) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 The Return by Hisham Matar (Memoir) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (Fiction)⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 We should all be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie(Non-fiction) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 Clap when you land by Elizabeth Acevedo (YA Fiction in Verse)⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi (Non fiction)⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo (Fiction)⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith (Fiction) ⭐️⭐️
📚 Waves by Sundara Ramaswamy (Short Stories) ⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 The Color Purple by Alice Walker (Fiction) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Fiction) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 Freedom by Catherine Johnson (YA Fiction) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
📚 The Stopping Places by Damian Le Bas (Non Fiction) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I had a few less four and five star books these few months than I did for my January – March books so it was easier for me to choose my favourites this time round.
My favourite book of these three months….drum roll… was The Girl with the Louding Voice by Nigerian author Abi Daré.
I’d heard a fair amount of hype around this book prior to reading it. I’m a natural skeptic to hype so was, in a way, prepared to not love it. But…well…what can I say? Sometimes the hype really is well-founded.
Fourteen year old Adunni is third wife to a much older man in a Nigerian village. Sharp-witted and determined, she is desperate for an education and escapes to Lagos where she works as a maid in a large house. One obstacle after another is set in her path to prevent her from finding her ‘louding voice’ and speaking up for herself, but Adunni refuses to give up, setting her sights firmly on the end goal.
It took me a little while to get in to Adunni’s idiomatic first-person narrative, but once I was in, I was in. I found this moving book hugely insightful into the lives of young girls from rural Nigeria as well as life in the teeming metropolis of Lagos.
(The Girl with the Louding Voice is followed a close second by The Stopping Places by Damian Le Bas which deserves a special mention. Roma traveller author Le Bas delves into the history and culture of Romani Gypsies, travelling the length and breadth of the British Isles in a transit van, parking up at atchin tan’s, traditional stopping places. A touching exploration into this fascinating lineage of people and a moving meditation on what is means to belong.)
My favourite audio was non-fiction We Should all be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Another Nigerian author! Though given the size and population of this country, it’s hardly surprising that it has produced so many stellar authors. I have always been slightly star-struck by Chimamanda – I’ve read three of her fiction novels, which I’ve adored, and this slim little feminist manifesto has been on my radar for a long time, so I couldn’t not read it this year.
Concise, witty and observant, she draws upon her own experiences of the gender divide in the US and Nigeria, calling upon us all – male and female – to take to task the continued marginalisation of women and to join the rallying cry of why each and every one of us cannot afford to NOT be feminists. Although this was written nearly a decade ago, it remains more relevant than ever. It is a very short and sweet read (or listen) and if you haven’t already read it, I urge you to do so. I, for one, will never look at feminism in the same way again.
Have you read any of these books on my list? If so, what did you make of them?
I’m now half way through my reading challenge of a year of BAME authors, and if there are any you think I ought to add (given that you know how fluid my list is!), do let me know.