Book recommendations for Black History Month

October is nearing its end and I couldn’t let it end without acknowledging Black History Month β€οΈπŸ–€πŸ’š Black History Month is a time to share, educate and celebrate black history, culture and identity. Books written by black authors are a crucial part of this as they give voices to the lived experiences of black people across the globe. I’ve been so pleased to see black authors becoming visible and spoken about in mainstream publishing and the book community, but there is still more to be done.

I’m always conscious of being diverse and inclusive with my reading because so much of the value of reading for me is gaining insight into the lives and experiences of others and developing greater empathy. I’d encourage all readers to also be mindful of the authors they’re reading and to read and support books by black authors, not just during October, but all year round.

Now let’s get into the recommendations. I have seven books (sorry to those of you that are a stickler for even numbers!) and it’s a varied selection from non-fiction to YA to historical fiction, so hopefully there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

12 Years a Slave

I’m starting with 12 Years a Slave because if there is any book you should read off this list, it’s this one. This is a harrowing and authentic insight into slavery in South America through the eyes of Solomon Northup, who was born a free man and kidnapped and sold into slavery as an adult. Northup’s writing immersed me completely into the hell that he was living and his compassion, astuteness and determination connected me deeply to him. His account shines a light on the realities of slavery exclusively from the black perspective and provides an interesting perspective since the narrator experienced living as both a free man and a slave. As expected, it’s an emotionally challenging read, but books like this should make us uncomfortable. This is our history and the pain and trauma that resulted from generations of slavery continues to impact black people and families today.

Giovanni’s Room

James Baldwin is one of the best known black authors of all time, so it seems fitting that he made it onto this list. Set in Paris, this book is an exploration of queerness in the 20th century. The protagonist, David, is faced with a choice between two people he loves. However, it’s not just a struggle of choose between two people he loves, it’s a struggle between a man and a woman, who symbolise two vastly different possibilities and futures for David.Β  Baldwin’s writing is raw, honest and complex. He doesn’t attempt to gloss over the messiness of figuring out your identity and sexuality, he dallies in the grey areas and explores the spectrum of sexuality. This book is a truly fascinating insight into the intersection between same gender desire amongst men and masculinity. It fleshes out the conflict between manhood and the perceived imasculating desire for another man in the context of race. It also explores male bisexuality in a way that few classics do.

Noughts and Crosses

If you read My Favourite Children’s Book post, you’ll already know that this is one of my all time favourite books. It has be recommended a lot in recent years, particularly with the rise of Black Lives Matter, but that won’t stop me from recommending it again. Noughts and Crosses is a tale of racism, interracial love, oppression, family and division written for a young, modern audience. By switching the roles in the book’s universe so that the white characters are the oppressed and the black characters the oppressors, it enables white readers to empathise with the black experience more deeply. The genuine connection and love between the two main characters Callum and Sephy is the foundation that the story is built on. They exist in a world that not only divides them based on the colour of their skin, but actively tells them they should hate each other, yet they continue to love each other no matter how much the world tells them they shouldn’t. It’s a hard-hitting and emotional read, and the fact that it is categorised as YA and aimed at younger audiences, doesn’t in anyway detract from the valuable insight, commentary and messages the book contains about race.

The Vanishing Half

This multi-generational historical fiction follows identical twin sisters Desiree and Stella, one of whom lives life as a white woman and the other whom lives life as a black woman. Through contrasting the twins’ lives against each other, this book sheds light on the tenets of racsim that exist in every area of daily life. Similarly, it explores that blackness is more than the colour of someone’s skin, it is a fundamental part of identity. Stella’s privilege as a white-passing woman is contradicted by the constant fear and discomfort she feels at living a lie and having to conform to the white surburban community she is part of, which actively perpetuates the racism that convinced her to live her life as a white woman. Admittedly, I did have some minor issues with some of the plot conveniences in the book, but it’s nonetheless a fantastic read and provides insight into the complexities of race and the way racism evolves over time through the voices of generations of a family.

All Boys Aren’t Blue

If you’ve spent any time on my blog, you’ll have most likely seen this book at least a few times. I love this book so much and will recommend it whenever I get the chance. This memoir is honest in a way that no other memoir I’ve ever read has been. Johnson bares his soul, revealing the most vulnerable parts of himself and most intimate details of his life. Thematically it shares a lot of similarites with Giovanni’s Room, discussing constructions of gender, masculinity, sexuality and the intersection of being black and queer. It’s a short read but so educational, valuable and touching. I’d highly recommend the audiobook which is narrated by Johnson.

Stay With Me

Set in Nigeria, Stay with Me is an explosive, dramatic and surprising story that provides a detailed examination of marriage and family. It pushes the boundaries repeatedly and challenges expectations, taking the story into directions I didn’t expect. It’s steeped in Nigerian culture, and is educational in this regard for readers like myself that are unfamiliar with Nigerian culture.. As a modern couple, Yejide and her husband struggle against the Nigerian traditions and expectations surrounding, particularly regarding polygamy. The main character, Yejide, is an immensely nuanced, layered character that felt so real. Her emotions and motivations were easy to understand and empathise with, even when I didn’t agree with her actions. First and foremost, this is a family drama (one might even call it a domestic thriller of sorts) and is driven by deeply flawed characters. However, there is also so much valuable context and commentary about Nigerian history, culture and society. Unlike many other books in this list, race isn’t used as a lens of critical analysis, this is simply a story about the lived experience of black people living in one of the most populated black nations in the world.

Eloquent Rage

Eloquent Rage is an intersectional feminist memoir about social injustice, political discourse and the many facets of womanhood and race which impact the lives of black women. It strikes the perfect balance between discussion, academic research, reflection and personal experience. Unlike other memoirs, it doesn’t get too bogged down in personal anecdote nor does it become too clinical with endless statistics. It’s educational but also captures Cooper’s personal identity, experience and views. Her view on race is black-centric and focused on the ways in which black men hurt black women and the black community hurt each other in general. This perspective is rarely depicted in racial discourse since it’s generally reliant on the polarisation of the races, with the central theme being “black versus white”. It’s an insightful, thought-provoking and powerful read, which covers a lot of ground and does it very well. Cooper expresses her views and opinions candidly and clearly, and supports them with academic research.Β It’s by far the most informative and interesting feminist text I’ve read from both a gendered and racial perspective.

Happy Black History Month, my lovelies and keep reading β€οΈπŸ–€πŸ’š

Spooky book & film recommendations

Where has this year gone?! I feel like I’ve been in a weird time warp since Covid hit. Who am I? Where am I? When am I? Who knows? πŸ˜‚ To mark the beginning of October, I decided to make a very unpredictable and unique post (/sarcasm) to share some spooky book and film recommendations for the autumn and Halloween season πŸŽƒπŸ‘» Since I am an avid horror fan and almost exclusively watch horror films, I couldn’t resist adding some films into the mix. So here are 8 recommendations for horror/thriller books and films, 4 for each.

BOOKS

I Am Legend

This novella makes for a fast read and is ideal for a dark, spooky evening. It’s a unique vampire story with an intelligent, quick-witted and resillient protagonist. The post-apocalyptic setting is haunting and emotionally impactful and gave me The Walking Dead vibes when I read it.

Pet Sematary

Stephen King is generally not an author for me, and of all the King novels I’ve read, Pet Sematary is the only one I would recommend. It’s haunting, disturbing and provides a gruelling insight into the meaning of death and grief. There are scenes in this book that are genuinely spine tingling. The honesty and emotion that is depicted combined with the horror elements makes this an unforgettable and terrifying read.

If We Were Villains

This dark academia is the ideal autumnual read. It’s set at a performance university that specialises in Shakespeare and, like all dark academia’s follows a group of students in the aftermath of the mysterious deaths of one of their friends. It’s fast paced mystery that’s both dramatic and hard-hitting with Shakespearian influences running throughout.

Dracula

It’s a classic for a reason. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the epitome of vampire gothic fiction. With it’s slow building plot and atmospheric setting, it continues to pile on the suspense and mystery throughout. Admittedly, it loses some of its impact since the nature of Count Dracula is common knowledge and cemented in pop culture, but it’s a thrilling and enjoyable read if you’re looking for a slow paced and intense gothic horror.

FILMS

Hell House LLC

Hell House LLC is a stellar example of the found-footage genre and why it works so well. It follows a group of friends that visit a haunted house to investigate a tragic accident that happened there years previously. The tension is slowly built and the atmosphere is effectively creepy. There’s an authenticity to the story that makes you feel invested and it doesn’t rely on cheap scares and tricks. It’s a must-watch for any fans of found-footage and haunted houses.

Triangle

One of the most unique, mind-bending and thrilling horrors I’ve ever seen. The film begins with the main character Jess, heading off on a sailing trip with a guy she knows from work and a few of his friends, but things don’t quite go to plan. You might think you know what’s going to happen but I guarantee you won’t. Triangle continually takes twists and turns, keeping you guessing and forcing you to question what you think you know.

Identity

This one is for those of you that don’t like the more hardcore horrors and are looking for more of a thriller-mystery. Identity is the older film out of the four I’ve chosen, but a true gem. Ten strangers find themselves stranded at a motel in the middle of a storm and are killed by an unknown killer one by one. It’s an unpredictable and genuinely intruiging plot that will keep you guessing throughout.

Haunt

Haunt has gained some recognition in horror circles recently and it’s well deserved. Although it may first appear to be another teen-scream horror maze film, it exceeds that. It’s entertaining and steeped in tension with strong performances. Of all the films on this list, it’s the perfect Halloween watch.

Happy October, my lovelies and keep reading.

Female-centric book recommendations for International Women’s Day

In celebration of International Women’s Day ♀️ (8th March), I wanted to share some of my favourite female-centric books. As someone that identifies as a woman, reading books that capture the diverse voices and experiences of women across the globe is very important to me. In these recommendations there will be a mix of books from different genres so hopefully there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

Emma (Jane Austen)

Genre: Classic/Romance

Most of you are probably familiar with Emma even if you’ve never read it. But for the benefit of those that aren’t familiar with it, this novel follows the title character, Emma, a wealthy young girl living with her father who enjoys match-making couples. Like all Austen novels, there’s lots of romance but the focus is on Emma’s character and her development throughout. There’s also a lovely female friendship between Emma and Harriet and fantastic social commentary on issues surrounding gender, feminism and marriage.

Eloquent Rage (Brittney Cooper)

Genre: Nonfiction

Eloquent Rage is a memoir which interweaves discussion, academic research, reflection and personal experience to explore intersectional feminism from the perspective of a black woman. Cooper’s voice is fresh and distinctive and she discusses topics which are often neglected in other feminist literature such as the toxicity in the black community (particularly the abuse of women at the hands of black men), the place of men in feminism and the judgement that comes with being a straight feminist in a relationship with a man . She also examines racism and sexism from a structural perspective which I appreciated, since a lot of literature on the topic of race and gender tends to place blame for the existence of prejudice and discrimination on the individual and fails to recognise how the sytems in our society perpetuate certain ideologies and favour particular groups.

A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)

Genre: Historical Fiction

This is the only book on this list which is written by a male author, but it is 100% deserving of making a feature. Set in Afghanistan, it follows two women – Mariam and Lilah – who are in a plural marriage with the same husband. It is a heartbreaking and emotional tale about female solidarity, facing adversity, motherly love and the importance of hope even in the darkest of times.

The Yellow Wallpaper (Charlotte Perkins Stetson)

Genre: Classic

This novella is short enough that you can fly through it in an hour or less. Despite how short it is, it packs one hell of a punch. It’s a fascinating tale which draws on metaphors and imagery to deconstruct ideas surrounding female mental health in the 19th century. Women’s mental health is a topic which of personal interest to me historically speaking, and so this spoke to me directly. There’s so much to deconstruct and analyse with this book and it has so much hidden depth and meaning.

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies (ed. Scarlett Curtis)

Genre: Nonfiction

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies is a collection of (informal) essays from a variety of public figures who identify as female. Each contributor was given freedom to write on a topic related to feminism that meant something to them so there’s a wide variety of topics and styles. The quality of the essays differs quite a lot with some being fantastic and others underwhelming, but I appreciated this for the range of voices it captures. It’s also accessible for general audiences and a great introduction to feminism for those that are perhaps intimidated/dislike academic feminist texts.

Girl, Woman, Other (Bernardine Evaristo)

Genre: Contemporary

I shared this book in my previous recommendation post for LGBT History Month, but I had to share it again, because in terms of feminist fiction this is a shining example. It has a wide cast of female characters from a variety of backgrounds, each with their own unique story, voice and characterisation. There’s so many well-written relationships between women and every character is fleshed out.

There we have it, my recommendations of female-centric books. What female-centric books would you include on your list? Please share in the comments, I’m always on the hunt for new feminist/female-centric books!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.


5 LGBTQIA+ book recommendations for LGBT History Month

In celebration of LGBT History Month (UK) πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ, I wanted to share 5 LGBTQIA+ book recommendations. LBGT History Month is celebrated every February as a dedication to the abolishment of Section 28 in 2003. Section 28 prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” and legalised discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals and groups. The fight for LGBT rights is ongoing and being both LGBT and an educational professional myself, LGBT-inclusive education in particular, is a cause that’s close to my heart. I’d urge everybody to read more about the cause and do anything you can to support it.

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Set in 1960s Nigeria amidst the civil war, Under the Udala Trees follows Ijeoma in this coming of age tale. Ijeoma struggles to navigate life as a gay woman in a country where same sex relationships are illegal and extreme violence is brought against anyone found to be engaging in homosexuality. This is a hard-hitting and emotional story which explores the conflict between being LGBT and true to yourself whilst also battling against discrimination and misunderstanding based on religious and societal beliefs and values.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla follows Laura and her father who welcome Carmilla into their lives after she has a carriage accident outside their home. Isolated and alone, Laura quickly strikes up an intimate relationship with Carmilla, until strange occurrences begin to take place leading Laura to question who and what Carmilla is. This novella is a fantastic exploration of lesbian eroticism and groundbreaking for the time in which it was written (1872). It’s the lesbian gothic story I never knew I needed.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Felix Ever After is a YA book which tells the story of a young trans man (FTM) as he fights against online transphobic attacks, navigates love and relationships and tries to get a place at an art college of his dreams. Although there’s some upsetting content, it’s primarily a story of identity, love and acceptance; of being true to who you are and accepting the love you deserve. This book is special to me because it helped me to be proud of who I am.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

At this point I think this book has been spoken about in almost every bookish corner of the internet and for good reason. Girl, Woman, Other seamlessly weaves together the lives of twelve black female characters many of whom are queer. Each character feels authentic and fleshed out and so many hard-hitting topics are covered. It’s a truly breathtaking example of feminist fiction and few other books I’ve read have ever depicted female characters in such a vivid way.

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

This book rescued me from a slump over Christmas-time and I’m very grateful for that. It’s a WLM romance set in Regency England and one of the few romances that I’ve read that I truly enjoyed. Not only was the relationship between Lucy and Catherine very authentic and well-developed, but the social commentary was interesting. I loved that Olivia Waite created Lucy as a stereotypically un-feminine woman and Catherine a stereotypically feminine woman but completely shattered all of those stereotypes. It’s a tad steamy in places, which isn’t usually to my tastes, but the romance, tenderness and trust between the characters completely sold me on their relationship.

There we have my 5 LGBTQIA+ book recommendations in celebration of LGBT History Month πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ. Have you ready any of these books or do you plan to read them? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.