black literature · book review · books · diversity · Family · own voices review · reading

Little Family by Ishmael Beah {Mystery Book Club Review}

Blurb:

Hidden away from a harsh outside world, five young people have improvised a home in an abandoned airplane, a relic of their country’s chaos. Elimane, the bookworm, is as street-smart as he is wise. Clever Khoudiemata maneuvers to keep the younger kids—athletic, pragmatic Ndevui; thoughtful Kpindi; and especially their newest member, Namsa—safe and fed. When Elimane makes himself of service to the shadowy William Handkerchief, it seems as if the little family may be able to keep the world at bay and their household intact. But when Khoudi comes under the spell of the “beautiful people”—the fortunate sons and daughters of the powerful—the desire to resume an interrupted coming of age and follow her own destiny proves impossible to resist.

A profound and tender portrayal of the connections we forge to survive the fate we’re dealt, Little Family marks the further blossoming of a unique global voice.

Review:

What a story. This book packs punches and lands feelings where you least expect. This story shows that family doesn’t mean you have to be blood related to be there for one another. It means the situation that you are in and how you come together to protect, provide, and love each other. Each of the five members( Elimane, Khoudiemata, Ndevui, and Namsa) bring something to the table no matter how small it may have seemed to an outsider’s perspective. The sacrifices they each make in order to survive. The chances they take to be their own beings.

After Elimane takes up company with William Handkerchief things start looking up for the family. But even then, they know that not everything is as it seems. You see the internal conflict Khoudiemata starts developing once she realizes that she may want more in life than what she is experiencing with her family. When things unexpectedly come crashing down, they handle it in a way most “real” families never could.

This is a short novel, but it is so intense from beginning to end.

I will be checking out Ishmael Beah’s other novel as well as his memoir. His style of writing is so captivating.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

 

A special thank you to the Mystery Book Club and Riverhead Books for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

book review · books · crime · diversity · mystery · own voices review · reading · suspense

The Missing American by Kwei Quartey

Blurb:

When her dreams of rising through the police ranks like her late father crash around her, 26-year-old Emma Djan is unsure what will become of her life in Accra. Through a sympathetic former colleague, Emma gets an interview with a private detective agency tracking down missing persons, thefts, and marital infidelities. It’s not the future she imagined, but it’s her best option.

Meanwhile, Gordon Tilson, a middle-aged widower in Washington, DC, has found solace in an online community after his wife’s passing. Through the support group, he’s even met a young Ghanaian widow he really cares about, and when her sister gets into a car accident, he sends her thousands of dollars to cover the hospital bill—to the horror of his only son, Derek. When Gordon runs off to Ghana to surprise his new love and disappears, Derek chases after him, fearing for his father’s life.

The case of the missing American man will drag both Emma and Derek into a world of sakawa scams, fetish priests, and those willing to keep things secret through death.

 

Review:

I want to start off this review by saying that I usually try to steer clear of series, but I allowed myself to get sucked into this story and I am not mad about it. I am only mad that I have to wait for the next one to come out.

I loved the different perspectives that you see throughout the story. Quartey writes most of the story from Emma’s point of view. Even though he is a male writer, I feel that he did an excellent job. He was able to write about her feelings and insecurities without making her seem whiney or needy. He was also able to write her as a strong-willed woman without making her seem too aggressive. Most male writers are not able to do that with a main female character. That is always something that I am hesitant about when reading a story told from a woman’s perspective but written by a man.

The mystery that surrounds the story of the sakawa and the involvement of Gordon was engrossing. You immediately find yourself trying to protect the innocent involved while also wanting to shake some sense into them. This story showed how Americans can easily find themselves in false security. That is what put Gordon in his situation. The sakawa are trained enough to be able to spot this in their victims.

While this is happening, Emma has her own conflict to deal with and own decisions to make about what is going to happen in her life and with her career. She doesn’t let an inconvenient detour lead her from her dream. She just begins a new road to get there. And while doing so, she discovers even more strengths about herself.

This story takes you on such a ride and introduces so much culture at the same time. You’re trying to solve a crime and at the same time you are learning.

I highly recommend this story to anyone who loves a good mystery that will keep you thinking and engaged. Everything is not what it seems in this story. I am too excited about the next installment but until then, I am hoping to get my hands on Kwei Quartey’s previous works.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover and ebook

 

I would like to send a special thank you to Kwei Quartey for sending me a gifted copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

abuse · black literature · book review · books · contemporary fiction · diversity · Family · Historical fiction · love · own voices review · reading

Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Following the fate of one family over the course of two decades in Nigeria, this debut novel tells the story of each sibling’s search for agency, love, and meaning in a society rife with hypocrisy but also endless life

“I like the idea of a god who knows what it’s like to be a twin. To have no memory of ever being alone.”

Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyike are enjoying a relatively comfortable life in Lagos in 1996. Then their mother loses her job due to political strife, and the family, facing poverty, becomes drawn into the New Church, an institution led by a charismatic pastor who is not shy about worshipping earthly wealth. 

Soon Bibike and Ariyike’s father wagers the family home on a “sure bet” that evaporates like smoke. As their parents’ marriage collapses in the aftermath of this gamble, the twin sisters and their two younger siblings, Andrew and Peter, are thrust into the reluctant care of their traditional Yoruba grandmother. Inseparable while they had their parents to care for them, the twins’ paths diverge once the household shatters. Each girl is left to locate, guard, and hone her own fragile source of power. 

Written with astonishing intimacy and wry attention to the fickleness of fate, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s Black Sunday takes us into the chaotic heart of family life, tracing a line from the euphoria of kinship to the devastation of estrangement. In the process, it joyfully tells a tale of grace and connection in the midst of daily oppression and the constant incursions of an unremitting patriarchy. This is a novel about two young women slowly finding, over twenty years, in a place rife with hypocrisy but also endless life and love, their own distinct methods of resistance and paths to independence.

Review:

What an intense and heart-wrenching story that follows four children, Bibike and Ariyike(who are twins) and their younger brothers, Andrew and Peter. You follow them throughout their childhood and into adulthood after both their parents abandon them. Their father makes a very bad business decision and their mother is jobless and fed up. They are then dumped at their grandmother’s house and basically left to raise themselves. The story is told thru each of their points of view. Although they all experienced the same heartbreak, they each cope with it differently.

I love the underlying theme of religion that is present in the story. Each child has a different view of religion and life in general. There is no real stability or guidance in their lives as they grow up and are left to learn about so many important milestones in life by ways of their own actions and decisions and the actions of others.

Tola tells this story in such a lyrical way that is both enchanting and raw. She doesn’t hold anything back with her characters and their choices.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

A special thank you to Catapult books for my free copy in exchange for an honest review.
book review · books · crime · Literary Fiction · own voices review · reading · social media

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Lydia Quixano Perez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with four books he would like to buy–two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed. It is a page-turner; it is a literary achievement; it is filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. It is one of the most important books for our times.

Review:

This was the perfect book to end my reading year of 2019. Such a compelling and heart-wrenching story about a mother and her son fleeing from the home they know and love in order to survive, to a place that won’t openly welcome them but advertises freedom and safety.

This is felt like a non-fiction read although it is fiction. The author puts you in Lydia’s and Luca’s shoes as they trek across Mexico into unknown territory with strangers because that is safer than what awaits them at home. They have lost their entire family and basically have nothing else to lose.  The people they meet along this journey will make you realize that people trying to make their way into this country aren’t always what the media makes them out to be. You begin to question yourself about what you would do or risk in order to find solace and safety. The risk of losing your life while trying to save it. Losing it physically, emotionally, and mentally. They don’t know who to trust and they really don’t know where they are going. They only know that they don’t want to go back to where they were.

I think this was an important story to be told. You can tell the author took great care in researching and presenting this story. This is one of the few books that I actually read the author’s note after finishing the and I highly recommend others doing so.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook January 21, 2020

 

A very special thank you to Flatiron Books for my gifted copy.

black literature · book review · books · contemporary fiction · diversity · own voices review · reading

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid {Early copy review}

Blurb:

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make it right.But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.With empathy and piercing social commentary,

 Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Review:

I loved this story. It was a light and a deep read at the same time. So many issues were addressed from the point of view of a black woman that aren’t expressed all the time in novels. Emira is a realistic representation of a young woman her age. Not very often are young women portrayed in the sense that they don’t really know what they want to do in life and are very complacent in their situations. Emira wants to make a decent living and enjoy life. Alix’s point of view as a white woman is also realistic. Her views and expressions are some that I am sure readers will find themselves relating to and then being angry because they can relate to her.
Alix is a woman who is too sure of herself and she ultimately forgets what it is like being a regular human. She is constantly trying to overcompensate while in reality she has a subconscious motive.
The connecting shock factor for Alix and Emira was almost too good to be true but so fitting for their relationship as employer and employee. It takes an almost life changing event for Alix to see that Emira is a real person with real problems. But the way she tries to build a bridge to Emira is sickening.
This is the type of story that is meant to bring someone out of their comfort zone when it comes to the type of situations that are addressed. But it is written with such grace that you can’t help but enjoy reading it even if you are sitting there in your feelings. You want to shake the characters at some of the things they say and do but you also don’t want to put the book down because you want to know what the outcome is going to be.

I highly recommend this book. A great read to start your 2020 reading journey.

Rating:

5 stars

Availability:

Available December 31, 2019 in ebook, hardcover, and audiobook

I’d like to say a very special thank you to G.P Putnam’s Sons for my free gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
book review · books · diversity · Family · Historical fiction · love · own voices review · reading

The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton {ARC Review}

Blurb:

In 1925, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm. As a child, she channeled otherworldly power to free herself from slavery. Now, her new neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, and an uneasy friendship grows between them. But Charlotte has also sought solace in the Ku Klux Klan, a relationship that jeopardizes Josephine’s family.

Nearly one hundred years later, Josephine’s descendant, Ava, is a single mother who has just lost her job. She moves in with her white grandmother Martha, a wealthy but lonely woman who pays her grandchild to be her companion. But Martha’s behavior soon becomes erratic, then even threatening, and Ava must escape before her story and Josephine’s converge.

The Revisioners explores the depths of women’s relationships—powerful women and marginalized women, healers and survivors. It is a novel about the bonds between a mother and a child, the dangers that upend those bonds. At its core, The Revisioners ponders generational legacies, the endurance of hope, and the undying promise of freedom.

Review:

What a story. It was gripping and engaging. I had both a difficult time reading it and not wanting to put it down. What made it difficult to read is that so many things hit close to home but that’s what also made it hard to put down.

Sexton explores and presents a part of the black culture that is sometimes overlooked. What I am talking about is the belief system some slaves had. They didn’t necessarily believe in the “Christian” way but their beliefs helped them survive and maintain hope.

The story has three separate timelines. Present day and two from the past. We learn about Ava(present day) and her great grandmother, Josephine(both past timelines).

Ava(who is mixed race) is at a point in her life where she needs more help than she cares to ask for but is naive enough to accept help from her white grandmother, Martha. This help comes with stipulations and costs. At first Ava tries to overlook the small, but hurtful jabs but soon has to come to her senses to protect herself and her son.

Josephine is telling her story about growing up in slavery and her life after slavery. She reflects on events that occurred with her parents as well as her owners. As Josephine’s story progresses, you see how her view of white people changes from how she viewed them as a child to how she viewed them as an adult. Prime examples are her relationship with Miss Sally as a child and her adult interaction with her neighbor Charlotte.

There is also a supernatural element to the story which I found intriguing. Some would say that the spiritual beliefs of Josephine and her parents and the beliefs of Ava’s mother would be considered witchcraft or even voodoo. The senses of seeing or deja vu are prevalent in both women’s stories and play a strong role in how their lives are lived.

This is a story about self preservation, sacrifice, and family dynamics and relationships.

There were quite a few quotes and passages that stood out to me while reading this story. That is not something that usually happens when I read. I look forward to reading more by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook

A special thank you to Counterpoint Press for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

black literature · book review · books · diversity · Family · own voices review · reading

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Two families from different social classes are joined together by an unexpected pregnancy and the child that it produces. Moving forward and backward in time, with the power of poetry and the emotional richness of a narrative ten times its length, Jacqueline Woodson’s extraordinary new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of this child.

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s birthday celebration in her grandparent’s Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, escorted by her father to the soundtrack of Prince, she wears a special, custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own sixteenth birthday party and a celebration which ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives—even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

Review:

Where have I been while Jacqueline Woodson has been out here dropping literary gems in the book world? I feel like I have missed out on so much from her . I can’t even say what drew me to this book. It clearly wasn’t just the fact that Jacqueline Woodson wrote it, it was the content. Being written by Ms. Woodson was the ultimate plus.

Woodson explores the dynamic of black families in such a mesmerizing way. You see that within the black family there is still the defining difference of class and even skin color. How some blacks try so hard to get above where they have come from and some are content with just being able to survive. How love isn’t just enough to keep one happy.

Melody is the end result of everything her parents and even grandparents had to go thru. She has a plethora of history to look back on when it comes to making decisions about her future. At the same time she also has to build her own identity without wiping away her history.

So many difficult choices are made by the characters in this story.

I am so grateful to have been able to experience it.

This is a small book that packs such a big punch. It’s short but still so complex.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available September 17th in hardcover, ebook, and audio.

A special thank you to Riverhead Books for allowing me to read and review this title.