Ivoe Williams is one of the most driven characters you'll ever read. As a black woman working as a journalist and newspaperwoman in the time of Jim Crow, she has to be. Her struggles, achievements, and loves come about in a pervading atmosphere of oppression that's both catastrophic and banal, and often violent. But Ivoe's story is is also about incredible strength and joy, animated by vibrant prose and a truly rewarding depth of historical detail that lifts up the work of early African-American newspapers. I didn't expect to be so surprised, challenged, and moved when I began this book, but Jam on the Vine is that kind of book.
Zami is an achingly beautiful autobiography that explores poet, essayist, and activist Audre Lorde's childhood and early adulthood, growing up as a Black lesbian poet in New York City in the 30s and finishing before her rise to fame in the 60s. Her language is sensual and frank as she writes of the smell of pounding garlic in her mother's mortar and pestle, the sound of her sisters whispering stories to each other late at night, the taste of the apricot brandy passed among friends at a New Years' Eve party in a cold-water walk-up. Lorde's experiences in the Greenwich Village lesbian bars of the 1950s are fascinating, as is reading about how relentlessly many of the women in even those spaces try to define her by whatever part of her identity is most comfortable for them. Ultimately, the book is a tender and unflinching homage to the women who've shaped Lorde's life.
One of the most exciting and haunting novels I've had the privilege of reading. Who Fears Death tells the story of Onyesonwu, a girl and powerful sorceress born into a terrible legacy in near-future dystopian Africa. Onyesonwu undertakes a quest for revenge that turns into something much more complex; along the way, she must fight for acceptance, equality, friendship, and to make peace with her fate. Okorafor believably writes scenes ranging from brutal violence to exceptional tenderness with sincerity and care. This is a must-read for anyone who craves sci-fi & fantasy novels that don't flinch from exploring and illuminating realities of our own world in fantastical settings.
The last sentence of this book gave me shivers. In addition, it contains a short chapter written from the perspective of a small bat that is so achingly, hauntingly beautiful it made my heart hurt.
And now I want to go to Nigeria, but I think I'll stay away from the water.