February has been a busy month! In addition to reading some books I own and some books I borrowed from Netgalley, I also participated in #Blackathon for Black History Month by fulfilling their Contemporary/Literature/Nonfiction Challenge. I’m happy with the many reads I picked up this month, even if they weren’t all home-runs for me. I’m looking forward to March (Women’s History Month) and carrying over some books on my TBR list to the next reading challenge!
All photos courtesy of Goodreads
Calling in Black by Nicholle Ramsey
She will fall
Stick your hand out to help her up
If she is too weak to grab hold
Just lie with her on the bathroom floor
Short Description: A beautiful collection of poetry that is melancholic, cozy, and bright simultaneously, all focusing on the experiences of a black woman’s daily life.
Critic Quote: “It is sensational, celebratory, nostalgic, and rhythmic.” –Misse Jones
My Verdict: The writing itself is sonic and pleasant to follow, and while this particular collection may not be one of my personal poetry favorites, its short length makes it worth reading.
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
One of the biggest issues with mainstream feminist writing has been the way the idea of what constitutes a feminist issue is framed. We rarely talk about basic needs as a feminist issue. Food insecurity and access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues.
Short Description: Kendall breaks down what Intersectional feminism can be when we move past the narrow-minded White feminism that ignores the trials, structures, and histories of minority groups.
Critic Quote: “If Hood Feminism is a searing indictment of mainstream feminism, it is also an invitation. For every case in which Kendall highlights problematic practices, she offers guidance for how we can all do better.” –NPR
My Verdict: A great starting resource for those who want to understand the necessity of Intersectional feminism.
Read Full Review Here
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare
My mama say education will give me a voice. I want more than just a voice, Ms. Tia. I want a louding voice,” I say. “I want to enter a room and people will hear me even before I open my mouth to be speaking. I want to live in this life and help many people so that when I grow old and die, I will still be living through the people I am helping.“
Short Description: A fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl undergoes trials and mistreatment on her journey to become a teacher.
Critic Quote: “The novel is strongest when dealing with interpersonal relationships, especially between characters of different classes.” –The Guardian
My Verdict: A wonderful story following a brave girl’s dream to pursue an education. The writing flowed wonderfully and I consumed this book within days.
Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like “Journey” in the Title by Leslie Gray Streeter
I’m laughing so hard I can’t separate the happy tears from the sad ones, so I take them all together and hope I don’t drown in them.
Short Description: Following the sudden death of her husband, writer Leslie Gray Streeter recounts her story of grief and the adoption of her son.
Critic Quote: “This hopeful account will appeal to readers who enjoy stories of resiliency and new life chapters.” –Publisher’s Weekly
My Verdict: I enjoyed Streeter’s voice and found her story compelling, even if the writing itself didn’t stick to me as particularly memorable.
The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
This is only how it begins, I try to convince myself. We’re telling a story. That’s what radio is. The show will grow beyond our story—it has to. It’s the only way I can stomach our lie.
Short Description: Radio Producer Shay teams up with newcomer Dominic to start a podcast on exes and relationships . . . only to fall for each other in the process.
Critic Quote: “I wasn’t sure that this enemies-to-lovers trope book was going to work for me, and to be honest there are parts that didn’t, but overall I was surprised and pleased..” –Dear Author
My Verdict: I really liked this! Though some scenarios, pop culture references, and jokes felt somewhat forced, there were other scenarios, pop culture references, and jokes that landed. I was geniunely invested in Dominic and Shay’s growth and found the writing energetic and absorbing.
When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk
I haven’t spoken to my best friend, Layla, in twenty-seven days, but the snow is making everything feel a little less real—even that. As I look out at the blurry city, I embrace the illusion that everything is fine because it’s snowing. And in the snow, I can pretend that the sad things in my life are just dreams I’ve misremembered.
Short Description: Chloe and Layla have been best friends for years, but in high school their friendship has become strained and Chloe must accept the losses and changes in her life.
Critic Quote: “It’s a satisfying coming-of-age friendship story . . . and that change can be exhilarating rather than disastrous . . .” –Publisher’s Weekly
My Verdict: Considering its great structure and moving premise, even though this YA didn’t quite connect with me, I’m grateful for its presence and would recommend it to those who typically enjoy Contemporary YA novels.
Read Full Review Here
Diamond Doris by Doris Payne with Zelda Lockhart
Did I imagine some of this, make it up, elaborate it, polish it like a good diamond, make you want to look at it — make you smile?
You have to decide.
Short Description: International jewel thief Doris Payne tells all in her memoir recounting her tumultuous career and relationships.
Critic Quote: “Firstly, this book (and Zelda Lockart) succeeds in capturing Miss Payne’s voice. You can’t help but feel like you are in the same room, perhaps a living room, as she shares her life story. She has a very “it-is-what-it-is” vibe, which seems true to the woman you are reading about in this book. The book doesn’t come off like Miss Payne is trying to prove a point or change minds—she just wants to tell her story and leave the opinions and outlooks to the reader.” –So Booking Cool
My Verdict: Payne is a great storyteller, and despite the iffy pacing, I enjoyed her tale and would recommend it to those seeking a solid “anti-hero” themed memoir.
Regretting Motherhood by Orna Donath
Women, especially those over the age of 30, are caught within a mind-game of threats and warnings: Your time is running out for making a family. You may think that you’re not interested in being a mother, but you are wrong; the desire will strike you eventually, but then it will be too late. You are going to regret this.
Short Description: Sociologist Donath interviews a variety of Israeli women on their complicated feelings of regret over motherhood, arguing against the myth that motherhood is a universal delight and destiny for all women.
Critic Quote: “Orna Donath’s Regretting Motherhood is refreshing, bold, and a must-read for not only women but anyone considering parenthood.” –Feminism in India
My Verdict: A necessary, well-thought out read, if a bit overwritten at times.
Home is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo
. . . i’m sorry you got this storm cloud
for a daughter instead of the flowers
you deserved . . .
Short Description: Home is Not a Country is a lyrical novel-in-prose following a Sudanese Muslim teen coming to terms with her identity in the face of tragedy and discrimination.
Critic Quote: “Movingly unravels themes of belonging, Islamophobia, and the interlocking oppressions thrust upon immigrant women.” –Kirkus Reviews
My Verdict: Overall, while I’m pleased with my reading experience with this book, I can’t say the story will linger with me. Though the writing was beautiful, I often found myself a bit confused on what exactly was happening at a given moment and how certain scenes and characters related to one another. For this reason, I’m not entirely convinced of the cohesiveness of the narrative, the emotional impact of it less powerful for me than it was for other readers.
Wandering in Strange Lands by Morgan Jerkins
Reconsideration is what history is all about; history doesn’t care what you feel. I had to be OK with being uncomfortable with whatever I would find out about my family.
Short Description: Jerkin travels across the country to follow the tangled web of her family history, uncovering the complicated roots of African Americans throughout the US.
Critic Quote: “Jerkins’s careful research and revelatory conversations with historians, activists, and genealogists result in a disturbing yet ultimately empowering chronicle of the African-American experience. Readers will be moved by this brave and inquisitive book.” –Publisher’s Weekly
My Verdict: Interesting history but flat delivery, resulting in an educational (but dry) read.
Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende
. . . our demons lose their power when we pull them out of the depths where they hide and look them in the face in broad daylight.
Short Description: Following the death of her grandfather, young Maya follows down a spiral of drugs and crime as she attempts to find grounding for herself.
Critic Quote: “Allende is a master at plucking heartstrings, and Maya’s family drama is hard to resist, but the sentimentality and a lack of subtlety concerning politics, Chilean and American, can grate.” –Kirkus Reviews
My Verdict: Oof. I usually enjoy Allende’s works, but this story fell flat for me. I felt like I was reading one long run-on sentence. This book was 90% summary and 10% scene and it really burned me out (I found myself skimming paragraphs just to get by all the mountains of description). The characters were also difficult to connect to, especially Maya. Overall, just a disappointing read for me.
Meaty by Samantha Irby
But no, I came by these feelings honestly. And I don’t accept bitter. Wounded, yes. Traumatized, sure. Grieving, okay. Anything other than bitter. I put too much work in to be callously tossed aside as bitter. Bitter is for someone who hasn’t earned it.
Short Description: Writer Samantha Irby compiles her comedy blog into a series of essays about her life, covering romance, education, her Crohn’s diagnosis, family, and more.
Critic Quote: “The tone, like that of many successful bloggers and YouTubers, is immediate, seemingly unedited and wilfully oversharing.” –The Guardian
My Verdict: I like Irby’s voice and found her stories interesting, but not quite memorable. If you’re looking for a quick, comedic read, feel free to give this a try.
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
His lips pressed into hers, proving her theory that all it took was a millisecond for a world-changing discovery to take place.
Short Description: Prince Thabiso of Thesolo finds his missing bethrothed princess in New York. The only problem is that she doesn’t realize she’s royalty yet.
Critic Quote: “One thing I really enjoy about Cole’s books is the authenticity of her research. The biological details in this book are on point as are the world-building of cosmopolitan New York City and the Kingdom of Thesolo. I enjoy seeing characters who have interests and passions beyond their relationship with each other, so it’s wonderful to see how dedicated both Naledi and Thabiso are to their respective careers.” –All About Romance
My Verdict: It was alright! I liked the characters, but the pacing sometimes felt a bit off (and I am, overall, not a fan of longterm “deceptive identity” plot lines) and the ending, somewhat disappointing.
Read Full Review Here
Can We All Be Feminists? Edited by June Eric-Udorie
As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.
Short Description: A collection of diverse writers discuss their complex feelings on feminism and how Intersectional feminism must take precedence for future movements.
Critic Quote: “The collection contains fifteen essays, all of them offering thoughtful and incisive analyses written in masterfully beautiful prose.” –Pop Matters
My Verdict: A fantastic introduction to Intersectional feminism. Accessible enough for those new to the topic and diverse enough to teach even the well-versed. Highly recommend.
Invisible No More by Andrea J. Ritchie
I’ve retired the term “police brutality.” It is meaningless, as violence is inherent to policing.
Short Description: Ritchie covers the various ways current US policing targets and criminalizes BIPOC women, and what steps must be taken to create a justice system that values their safety and dignity.
Critic Quote: “Ritchie’s latest effort is a meticulously researched and often chilling book.” –NPR
My Verdict: Excellently researched and powerfully written. Anyone seeking to learn about police violence/corruption in the US must read this. Though the last few chapters could have been more tightly written, this was a fantastic, insightful read.
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
Take your feelings and hold them with softness, but also with power. And whenever you feel afraid, know you can ask your fear about itself.
Short Description: Two teens find their lives intertwined as they face mortality, sexuality, joy, and grief together.
Critic Quote: “Readers seeking a deep, uplifting love story will not be disappointed as the novel covers both flourishing feelings and bigger questions around belief and what happens when we face our own mortality.” –Kirkus Reviews
My Verdict: Poetically and lovingly written, a great read for those seeking a unique, thought-provoking YA Contemporary novel.
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin
A real woman must always do the things she wants to do, and in her own time too. You must never allow yourself to be rushed into doing things you’re not ready for.
Short Description: When Baba Segi introduces his fourth wife to his spouses, shocking secrets come to light.
Critic Quote: “Shoneyin handles the multiple points of view skillfully, each voice recognizably its own, and knows exactly where she’s weaving her plot threads, so that the alternating voices have an actual narrative purpose. This frequently hilarious novel develops moral depth, and everything wraps realistically and satisfyingly, with some sadness, some loss and some hard lessons learned.” – Shelf Awareness
My Verdict: This novel is full of buoyant and engaging writing, which does well in uplighting the well-characterized, complex women at the center of the story. Definitely recommend.