A Year of Reading Authors of Colour

I decided towards the end of 2020 that in 2021 I would read books only by authors of colour / BAME authors. I made this decision after realising that only a tiny proportion of my shortlisted favourite books from 2020 fell into the BAME category. I was pretty shocked to discover that and considered that it must be reflective, on the whole, of what I was picking up and reading. Feeling far more sensitised to this in a year in which we saw the murder of George Floyd and the eruption of Black Lives Matter protests across the globe, I decided to embark on this reading journey and see where it led me.

So far, I have absolutely loved this new reading adventure (I am already thinking about what I am going to read in 2022!) and feel like my antennae are primed towards all kinds of books and openings that normally I wouldn’t think about. Every three months this year, I’ll briefly re-cap the books I’ve read. Roughly half of these I’ve listened to on audio, and I’m going to tell you my top book, my favourite on audio and my least favourite overall.

The books I’ve read so far in 2021 January – March (Stars afterwards are out of 5, 5 being the highest)

📚 I Know why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (Autobiography) ⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 Secrets of the Henna Girl by Sufiya Ahmed (YA Fiction)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (Non fiction) ⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Fiction)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Fiction)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo (Fiction)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 Hunger by Roxanne Gay (Memoir)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 Karachi Vice by Samira Shackle (Narrative Non Fiction)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Fiction)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 The Narrative of Sojourner Truth (Autobiography)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 On Earth we’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Auto Fiction)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 Intimations by Zadie Smith (Essays)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA Fiction)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey (Fiction)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 Bessie Smith by Jackie Kay (Biography + Memoir)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 The Age of Magic by Ben Okri (Fiction)⭐︎⭐︎

📚 I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (YA Memoir)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 Real Life by Brandon Taylor (Fiction)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

📚 Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman (YA Fiction)⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

It was not easy to choose a favourite as there have been some fabulous reads, but if I were pressed to choose the one I least wanted to put down, this is what it would be:

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

Bernardine Evaristo: "Ser mujer y negra no es algo concreto"

I didn’t have particularly high hopes for this book, probably because sometimes these Booker-nominated novels get really hyped up, only to leave me feeling flat. BUT (obviously there is a ‘but’ coming), I could hardly put this down. Following the lives of twelve very different mostly black British women, as the story progresses through time and space, the reader discovers the way that these very disparate lives begin to interlink. There is no punctuation in Evaristo’s book (apart from one full stop at the end of each chapter) and to begin with, I wasn’t sure if I could cope with it! However, it didn’t take long for me not to notice that and I soon got swept up in the riotous, irreverent, bold, colourful beautiful prose and the lives and loves of these unique characters. Very highly recommended.

My top book on audio:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

literallylovely: Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of ...
Absolutely True Praise for Sherman Alexie: Just the Answers

To say I loved this book would be a vast understatement. I gave up on all my normal podcasts just so I could keep listening to the audio. Both belly-laugh hilarious and heartbreakingly sad, this YA novel, narrated by a 14 year old Spokane First Nation Indian, is absolutely everything a good book should be, in my opinion. Don’t let the fact that it’s a YA book deter adults from reading it, this is a book for absolutely everyone. The audio is narrated by the author himself, Sherman Alexie, and that made for an even more satisfying experience. Alexie himself grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and this book draws heavily on the pain and triumph of his own experience.

My least favourite book:

The Age of Magic by Ben Okri

The Age of Magic : Ben Okri : 9781784081485

I listened to The Age of Magic on audio and was really looking forward to it as had heard great things about Ben Okri, namely through his Booker prize winning novel The Famished Road (which I have yet to read but want to.) I had also read a few excellent essays by Okri. But The Age of Magic just didn’t do it for me – it was well written but meandering, with a heavy reliance on existential and metaphysical questions yet without a discernible plot. I am, however, still keen to give The Famished Road a whirl sometime!

Thanks for reading this. Have you read any of these books from my list? Are there any that you think I should add to my list as must-read’s for April – December?

Rebecca Stonehill

If you enjoyed this blog post, compliment it with my Top Ten Books of 2020; my favourite reads from 2019 & the best children’s books out there, according to kids themselves.

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