Book Club- Books By Black Authors To Read Right Now

Hello and welcome to another instalment of my blog's Book Club which is fast becoming my favourite thing to type about. I was actually aiming to have a new Book Club post up every two or three months and with my last post published not too long ago, this one probably seems a little early. I really wanted to this post up as soon as possible because it looks at a particular topic we should all hopefully be exploring right now. In this instalment I wanted to discuss a number of incredible books specifically by black authors. The last few months have been so educative for many of us on the issue of BLM and as I continue to inform myself on this topic, I wanted to make sure I'm sharing my resources as much as possible with you guys. As an avid reader one of the most effective ways I've found to truly educate myself is to make the extra effort to diversify my reading list. No one is saying you have to exclusively read factual books in order to truly learn, personally I struggle reading outside of fiction and I've found it ends up being a real counterproductive use of my time because what I read doesn't always seem to stick. There are plenty of incredible fiction books available out there for you to grasp of a real understanding of race and allyship. Here is a look at some contemporary books which I personally feel you should read right now...

Girl, Woman, Other By Bernardine Evaristo

Starting things off with a bang. Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives of twelve very diverse, predominantly black/female characters, often entwined or connected with one another (in sometimes the most poetic way) to give a real sense of unity on what it means to be a woman today. We are transported to different parts of Britain, often to different countries and we even travel between various decades as we explore the stories of British black women and ultimately the life experiences which define them. This is a book which rarely cushions the blow, unapologetically dealing with hard hitting topics head on such as sexuality, domestic abuse, sexual assault, class, sexism and of course race. 

Bernardino Evaristo's ability to draw you in and endear you to each character is second to none, with each individual story enlightening, uplifting and empowering the reader in it's own unique way. There's no doubt about it, Girl, Woman, Other is at times a difficult read which deals with social taboos, complex characters and the struggles they've overcome, that said I was pleasantly surprised to find Bernardino Evaristo's writing often witty. Many of the stories are laced with hints of humour, most notably that of Penelope's, one of the only "white" characters in this book. Penelope is a bitter character full of contempt and dissatisfaction, Bernardino approaches this character's oblivious racism in a really clever, ironic way. This is a book which ticks a lot off; it will make you laugh, cry and crave more past the last page. A force to be reckoned with and a wonderful celebration of what it means to be a mother, daughter, friend, foe and above all a woman.

Ordinary People By Diana Evans

This one was not the easiest of reads if I'm being brutally honest, with the story unfolding at an often slow and drawn out pace, you'd be excused for taking your time with it. That said this is a book with a great premise and a detailed insight into what it means to be a modern British black family. We are introduced to the lives of two separate marriages, their dissatisfactions and their shift in dynamics over the years - arguably at the arrival of parenthood. For me the real beauty of this book is just how poetically written it is, particularly when exploring the relationship of Melissa and Michael both of whom feel lost within the life they lead. Diana Evan's has such a talent for creating tension so brilliantly and I found there were various moments with these two characters where you felt like you could quite easily cut the atmosphere with a knife. 

Throughout Ordinary People, the story alludes to a supernatural element which manifests into a dramatic climax towards the end and as a reader it throws you, seeming slightly off topic and tone from the rest of the book. My take was that this supernatural element was possibly a metaphor for Melissa's ultimate breakdown and possibly a reference to postnatal depression, although this really is merely a suggestion as you never quite feel like you get the explanation you need and much like a lot of this story, you are left with more questions than answers. If I had to summarise Ordinary People I would say it's an atmospheric story, beautiful in parts whilst other areas fell a little short.

Such A Fun Age By Kiley Reid

This was a book I enjoyed from start to finish, reading in lightning speed over a handful of days. Such A Fun Age tells the story of two very different female protagonists. The first being Amira, a young twenty something black woman who is feeling dissatisfied with life, lost with her purpose and ultimately falling behind on her circle of friend's achievements. Currently settling with a babysitting job for three year old Briar (whom she adores), this is where we meet our second key character. Alix is Amira's boss and the mother to adorable Briar. To put it plainly, Alix is your typical privileged, white, millennial woman. Living a charmed upper middle class lifestyle as a influencer/writer, Alix is self accomplished in many ways whilst being completely naive, often self obsessed and at times excruciatingly insecure. The story starts with a clear insight into systemic racism as Amira takes Briar to a local supermarket where she is then accused by the store security of kidnapping. Subsequently we follow Alix as she becomes obsessed with making Amira like her and is determined to forge a friendship, to me this was a really clever, unique exploration of both white saviour and white fragility I'd never really seen in fiction before. 

The likability of both characters is what really drew me into this book. Where I was continually rooting for Amira, I found myself pitying Alix and cringing at her good intentions turned toxic. This is a great book for really questioning what it mean's to be anti racist in 2020 and the hypocrisy of white privilege. It approaches topics of race and class in an accessible way with lessons I think everyone could learn from and a resolution filled with some serious drama. utterly unputdownable.

An American Marriage By Tayari Jones

One thing I really appreciate about all four books within this post is the variation between British and American experiences, with this selection only highlighting how systemic racism manifests itself in very different ways. An American Marriage in particular shows the heart breaking affects of one man's experiences and how the lives of those around him are also torn apart and disrupted. Told from the perspective of three different characters we are introduced to Roy and Celestial, newly weds of one year and both hopeful for the future. Roy has big aspirations and clear plans which are abruptly cut short as he is wrongfully accused of sexual assault. Sentenced to twelve years in prison but only serving five, we look at the breakdown of Roy's marriage and the course of his life which he is completely powerless to repair.

Of course above anything this is a story which highlights the many racial injustices of America's prison system there is no denying that, however this is also a moving and tragic exploration into relationships, loyalty and duties, played out in a really tragic love triangle. I really loved the detailed character development of this book and continually felt torn between each character's perspective as they each struggle between doing the "right" thing and following their hearts. This is a book which not only perfectly articulates the domino effect of systemic racism on so many people's lives, but it will urge the reader to empathise and put yourself in each character's shoes. A really heartfelt story which had my questioning "what would I do if that was me?".

Sophia x

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