My Reading in February 2019

We are now well into March and finally I’m taking a moment to reflect on what I managed to read during last month.  February was very active since I was celebrating Black History Month through #ReadSoulLit.  Firstly I’d like to thank everyone deeply for taking the time to post, to share, to encourage others to join in, to follow, to subscribe, to comment, and mostly to read and promote black authors in February. Thank you! Thank you! Every year #ReadSoulLit is growing and I’m really happy that people are reading and promoting black authors more and more.  We must keep it going all year-long not just for Black History Month.  Always remember to tag your posts and pictures with #ReadSoulLit so that they can be found.

As for my reading in February I didn’t do so badly. I read a total of 8 books.  Most of them were short.  The only book I didn’t finish was the short story collection called Black Enough.  I didn’t quit because I was bored.  I think I was just a bit too preoccupied with everything.  There was a lot going on between the read along, the Instagram Photo Challenge, Booktube  Black Chats, and book reviews.  Despite all that was going on I still feel like my reading was very good and most of all meaningful.  So here’s the break down:

Unforgivable Love by Sophfronia Scott was the read along pick for February.  This year I decided to choose something that was very different from what we usually read in February.  Unforgivable Love is a retelling of the 18th century French novel Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, set in 1940s Harlem.  What a stunning read!  The writing was beautiful and the characters were messy and kept me looking for what was going to happen next.  There were quite a few poignant, unforgettable scenes too.  The original French work was written in epistolary form but this was written as a novel allowing for more creative license to fit the story to 1940s Harlem.  I highly recommend it.  I also held a live discussion on my YouTube with a few Booktubers and the author Sophfronia Scott.  That was AWESOME!  If you’d like to watch it just click here.  I suggest not watching if you plan to read the book because the video contains spoilers.

We Cast A Shadow is by debut novelist Maurice Carlos Ruffin from my hometown New Orleans.  I was really excited to pick this one up but sadly it didn’t wow me as much as I thought it would.  I liked it because of the premise and the bold statements it makes but I felt like the main character’s voice was so domineering  that it took me away from the overall feeling of the novel.  The tone of  We Cast a Shadow is very particular. I’m not sure how to describe it – dystopian but not really.  The book explores the black unnamed main character who is married to a white woman and has a son named Nigel. The main character would like his son to undergo a demelanization(change his skin color and features to that of a white person’s) operation so that he can no longer have problems living in the world as a black person.  The book is full of hard, sad truths, even today.  You can see more about how I felt in my video review here.

Next I read The Negro Motorist Green-Book  which brought me back to the Jim Crow period. It was a book used by black people when they wanted to travel within the US. It gave them recommendations of hotels where they could stay, restaurants, and even gas stations that accepted black dollars.

The Post-Racial Negro Green Book is a must read. It gives the statistics on race relations in the United States state by state. It give the percentage of blacks per state in proportion to whites. The poverty rate, unemployment rate, imprisonment ratio are given as well as information on whether the state has an open permit and stand your ground law. The number of hate groups are numbered and it is mind-boggling the quantity per state. We have some serious issues to work through in the states if we ever want to improve and get to a peaceful existence. Finally the percentage of black victims of law enforcement killings from 2013 – 2016 are TOO DAMN high! Whether there are large demographic of blacks in the state or not racism is still rampant. Incidents of racism being perpetrated by not only police officers but by mayors, fire chiefs, sheriffs, etc. The book cites racist incidents after another throughout the union from racial slurs oral and written everywhere even universities and incidents that have led to deaths. White America when are you going to fix this? You’re in control!  This book left me feeling helpless, pessimistic, and dejected.

Dear Ancestors was the only poetry collection I read and it was a real treat.  I’ll link my blog review here.  It recounts the Trans Atlantic slave trade to today.  After I picked up Praise Song for the Butterflies which explores the terrible African tradition of religious shrines where young girls mostly are literally sold into slavery in atonement for the family’s misfortune. It’s a beautiful story of redemption and recovery.  You can click here for my video review.  Praise Song for the Butterflies has also been longlisted for the Women’s Prize 2019.

The last #readsoullit book I read in February was Eva’s Man by Gayl Jones. Wow! Wow! Wow!  Gayl Jones does NOT play.  Her writing is so direct and brutal.  Haven’t read that many writers that have that power in their writing.  Why is she so underrated? Corregidora was at the same level of potency. Eva’s Man tells the story of Eva Medina Canada who is serving time in prison for poisoning her lover Davis Carter.  This book essentially tries to uncover the effect of sexual abuse, trauma, exploitation, and promiscuity.  It’s for this reason I will warn you about the graphic sexual content of the book.  Powerful short read that says so much in so few pages.  Can’t wait to start The Healing by her next.

Finally the last book I read in February was The Tattooist of Auschwitz.  This book is a historical fiction novel based on the life of real people.  This was my book club’s March pick.  Sadly this one was not my cup of tea.  You can check out my Goodreads review here.

All in all, this was a fantastic reading month for me.  Wish February was 31 days, but #readsoullit is 365 day of the year. Hope you all had a great February reading month.  Let’s chat about that below!  What were some of your memorable #readsoiullit books from February?

 

 

 

 

Black History Month UK

October was designated as Black History Month in the UK by Akyaaba Addai Sebo in 1987. This was as a result to the riots of the 1980s in the UK when black Britons fought for tolerance and acceptance and their fight against racism and marginalization headlined. Black History Month was chosen to be in the month of October because it is the month when African leaders and chiefs get together to settle their differences. It also corresponds to the beginning of the school year and there was hope that it would instill pride in black children.

Since I host a month of videos, Instagram photo challenges, a readalong, and blog posts for Black History Month in February for the US, I felt like I needed to do something this year for Black History Month UK and I will continue to do things for October. I’m terribly disappointed that it is hardly mentioned in the book communities online, especially since there are many other different book activities hosted this month. So, I decided to spearhead a readalong of 26a by Diana Evans over on Goodreads.

I believe when readers are asked who is their favorite black British writer they either have a tendance to say Zadie Smith or they have no idea. I find that a little sad because there are a plethora of black British writers out there but I don’t think they are getting as much recognition and love as they should. So I decided to contribute these two extensive lists below of black British Women and Men Writers that you may not have even heard of.

Once during one of my Instalives someone asked me, «Who is your favorite British author? » I was taken aback because the only name that came to mind was Zadie Smith. It was in that moment that I realized I was lacking in reading Black British authors. There were other names I could have said that I’d read, but for some reason they weren’t coming to mind. That goes to show how important publicity is and why it’s important to not only read black writers but to talk about them and to gush about your favorites. Why is it we can name white men and women British writers’ names without hesitation? Their names are foremost in our heads because they are literally all over the net ALL THE TIME from Goodreads to YouTube to Instagram to Litsy and so on….

In order to encourage you to discover some black British writers check out my list below. I’ll highlight the authors and the titles I’ve read. I’m sure this is another literary journey I’ll attempt to go on eventually because the lists are rich. At the moment, I’m enjoying discovering literature from the Caribbean, which will overlap with these two lists. Concerning my Caribbean reading journey, the backlist has been where I’m finding the gems. The Backlist is where it’s at people. You’re chasing the new titles and missing out on the tried and true. Remember there will always be new titles coming out but the oldies are classics which stand the test of time.

Black British Women Writiers

Mojisola ADEBAYO

Helen OYEYEMI

Patience AGBABI

Joan ANIM-ADDO

Similar BEDFORD

Malorie BLACKMAN – Noughts and Crosses

Zena EDWARDS

Buchi EMECHETA

Diana EVANS – 26a

Bernadine EVARISTO

Laura FISH

Aminatta FORNAThe Memory of Love

Beryl GILROY

Jackie KAYRed Dust Road An Autobiographical Journey

Dorothy Koomson

Andrea LEVY

Sheree MACK

Dreda Say MITCHELL

Nadifa MOHAMED

Grace NICHOLS

Sharon DODUA

Winsome PINNOCK

Lou PRENDERGAST

Mary PRINCE

Joan RILEY

Mary SEACOLE

Khadijah (George) SESAY

Dorothea SMARTT

Zadie SMITHNW/On Beauty/White Teeth/Swing Time (curently reading Feel Free)

Adela SOLANKE

Su ANDI

Debbie TUCKER GREEN

Yrsa DALEY-WARDbone

Precious WILLIMAS

Oona KING

Irenosen OKOJIE

Hannah POOL

Yvette EDWARDS

Black British Men Writers:

Alex WHEATLE

Benjamin ZEPHANIAH

Caryl PHILLIPSCrossing the River

Courttia Newland The Gospel According to Cane

Diran ADEBAYO

Mike GAYLE

Paul GILROY

Ben OKRI

E. R. BRAITHWAITE

Gary YOUNGE

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows – Balli Kaur Jaswal

Today my book club met to discuss our second book of the 2018-2019 school year, Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows. The discussion was short but rich. There was an overall consensus that Jaswal did an excellent job depicting the complexity of the Indian community in Southall. Nikki the main character of the story is a young modern Indian origin woman looking for her correct path in life. She refuses her father’s expectations of her being lawyer halfway through the degree and winds up “teaching” English to Punjabi widows in the community hall in Southall.

In spite of the seemingly well-plotted out novel, Jaswal doesn’t deliver on making the characters meaningful. We can’t get close enough to them to like them. The story is guided mostly by Nikki and Kulwinder but neither of them are developed enough for the reader to care about them. I stopped wondering when the characters were going to become more interesting (because clearly it wasn’t going to happen) and I decided to focus mostly on the hard hitting themes and plot.

“We built Southall because we didn’t know how to be British… If you had any problems in this new country, your neighbors would rush to your side and bring you money, food, whatever you need. That’s the beauty of being surrounded by your community.” The younger women in the story view community as a prison. It can be supportive but it’s critical if you don’t comply to doing what is expected of you. It can even lead to death. However there are many different versions of this community which we compared to ourselves living here in France. As Anglophones, we adapt to French society as much as we can, while taking comfort in meeting amongst ourselves regularly. It’s our way of giving support and sharing our common culture, but we don’t pressure each other to behave or live in particular ways. The Southall community women, on the other hand, are repressed and made to believe that their lives are not successful without marriage and children. The repression isn’t just implemented by the men but also by the older women on the younger ones for the men; and that makes it all the more disturbing.

As a whole this book makes for a very good book club discussion, although it wasn’t all I expected. Lacking in character development, Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows comes off as a movie script, with wooden dialogue. As I was reading, I could actually imagine how it would look on screen. There is a lot of telling and not much showing. It’s not literary fiction because it doesn’t give you more to mentally chew on other than what is literally written on the pages. I don’t think this book will stick with me very long. Even though, I’d recommend this book to people who like community/immigrant stories and stories about Indian communities living in England. But, if you’re looking for a book that’s going to make you think deeply this isn’t the one.

Balli Kaur Jaswal was born is Singapour. Inheritance, her first novel, was published in 2013. She won the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelist Award. She has also written Sugarbread (2016) and her new release of 2019 The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, a novel about Punjabi sisters off on a pilgrimage to their homeland to lay their mother to rest.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, (Harper Collins) paperback 295 pages

Rating: ⭐️⭐️💫

https://youtu.be/brL4FZCWt2k

Literary Goals in 2018

                  

Hello All! I’m back and ready to write.  I took a very significant break from this blog and from my YouTube channel.  Needless to say, it was a lot.  I was everywhere and nowhere and that wasn’t what I wanted.  Having taken the time to reflect and to make some changes to my blog, I feel I’m more clear-headed about what I want to achieve through blogging.  But before I tell you all about those goals, let me take you back briefly through my year reading in 2017 because despite not blogging I was reading.

Now my reading goals for 2017 were specific and sadly I didn’t accomplish them completely.  However I’m still pretty happy about what I read and how much I read. I had a goal to read all of Bernice McFadden’s novels and I failed.  I read all of her novels except, My Name is a Butterfly (out of print but is being released this year :)) and Finding Amos.  I didn’t reread The Book of Harlan and Glorious.  Although, I’m sure I’ll reread The Book of Harlan one day.  As for  the others I read for the first time, they were all very good and each had something special about them. They are like her children.  McFadden really has a way with telling a story and inventing characters.  Of all the ones I read I think Glorious is the book I least preferred and that was because I felt it was too short.

I encourage you all to take a year to read one author in order of publication.  It’s a wonderful way to learn about writing and how an author hones her/his skills over time.  We are all passionate readers but when we sit down to write we forget about the challenge of the exercise of writing.  It’s not easy and it is quite a solitary activity for most of the time.

My next challenge was to read more Caribbean authors.  Unfortunately I didn’t read as many as I wanted to, but I’m not giving up on that one.  I also wanted to read more pages last year than I did in 2016 but failed at that too.  I was short about 200 pages. Oh well but I read 59 books and almost got to the page count so I read more big books this year.  That really showed for my Goodreads Big Book challenge last year when I read 13 and had pledged to read 10.  I was really happy about that.  I read some great big books and only 2 of them were disappointing – American Pastoral by Philip Roth and Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult.  Let’s just try not to dwell on those 2.  Two duds out of 59 ain’t bad!  Lastly I pledged to read at least one Russian novel and that just never happened.  Every time I culled my shelves for something to read, I skipped right over the Russian novels – too daunting.  One day…

Now on to my goals for 2018, I have set my Goodreads challenge to read 60 books this year.  I usually set my goal at 50 and always go over.  I hope this will push me to read more and watch less YouTube and television.  I’m primarily looking forward to increasing my page count significantly.   Next challenge will be to read more Caribbean authors. I hope to read at least ten. My last reading challenge is to participate in #readingblackout which is spearheaded by Denise D. Cooper at Art Books Live Denise D. Cooper on YouTube.  She’ll be reading only African – American writers this year.  I’ll be joining her for January, February, and March.  I may join in again later on in the year.  If you’re interested I encourage you to join in too if only for a month.

You know #readsoullit will be going on in February in honor of Black History Month as usual with a photo challenge on Instagram and a read along on YouTube.  I’ll be posting on that shortly.  Now another literary challenge will be for me to keep a bullet journal of my reading and my life and most of all to continue writing the novel I’ve been working on.  I’d really liked to write more and to eventually get to the point where I finish something – short story collection, novel, etc. anything!

 

So that’s all on what I’m reading and on what I’m doing literary wise for the year.  I hope I haven’t once again bitten off more than I can chew but I think I can make these challenges work for me.  What about you?  Have you decided to make any plans to read or to write something?  Or are you one of those people who clams up once the challenge has been announced?  If you are no worries.  I can be like that sometimes too.  You know I’m Fickle Fred. 😉

Happy New Year to you all!!! I wish you loads of excellent reading and writing in 2018!!!

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