Book Chat :: Do you lend your books?

Hey everyone!

From time to time, I’d like to pick your brains on different topics that I think interest and affect all book lovers. Today, I’m really curious to know from you all: Do you lend your books to others?

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Image via EpicReads

Let’s chat, shall we?

There have been times when friends have NOT returned the books I lent them. To this day, one of my best friends still has one of my favorite books in her possession (I gave it to her back in 2009 and I eventually had to stop asking for the book back, since she didn’t seem to know where she put it -_-). Other friends who eventually returned books I lent, brought them back with either oil smudges on the pages, discombobulated book spines or limp-looking, torn paperback covers – basically, damaged books.

I feel very connected to the (physical) books I own – am I alone here? I’ve connected with various characters, places and incidents from the books I read. Some of my books have notes I jotted down on the pages, some passages are underlined and some pages are marked for future referencing and whatnot. So right now, I do not like to lend my books to anyone anymore (well, I do share my books with my Mom. She’s an original book lover, so she respects books! And I usually read her books, so its only fair to share mine too haha).

I’m learning to say ‘no’ to lending my books. But it’s not easy to say no – I don’t want a friend or family member to feel offended or think I’m being selfish for not wanting to lend them. Books shouldn’t be the cause of sour relations between individuals… but honestly, after all the bad experiences I’ve had with lending, I’d rather purchase the book of interest for a friend, instead of loaning my copy.

How about you all:

Do you let people borrow your books? Are you attached to the physical books you own? Have you had similar instances where loved ones misplace or ‘abuse’ your cherished books? How would you tell others that you don’t usually lend out your books?

I’d love to hear your opinions, experiences and tips on your book lending policy!


By the way, I’m currently (slowly) reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest novel: In Other Words. It’s very passionate thus far!

I also attended a book reading for Elnathan John last weekend (he was shortlisted twice for the Caine Prize) and I purchased his debut novel – Born On A Tuesday, as well as Fela: This Bitch of a Life by Carlos Moore which I spotted at the bookstore where the reading was being held (Vidya Bookstore; Accra). I hope to enjoy them during summer break!

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Image via my Instagram: @AwoDeee

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

RhimesDate Read: January 14th 2016

Published: November 2015

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 311

 

The Blurb

In this poignant, hilarious and deeply intimate call to arms, Hollywood’s most powerful woman, the mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How To Get Away With Murder, reveals how saying Yes changed her life- and how it can change yours too.

 

Review –  ★★★★ (4 stars)

Who would have thought Shonda Rhimes’ sister’s six words: ‘You never say yes to anything’ during their Thanksgiving dinner preparations in 2013 would push her to a Year of Yes Challenge? Shonda Rhimes – television producer, writer and Hollywood powerhouse is a hard worker and used to drown herself in work to keep her two, super popular television shows –Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal on ABC (television network). Work was Rhimes’ excuse to avoid attending interviews, red carpet events, speaking engagements and the like. Shonda Rhimes was just your typical introvert: focused on reading, writing and just sticking to herself without being in the spotlight. Her sister’s words pushed her out of her comfort zone to dare to say yes to everything and all the invitations that came her way. Through this challenge, she learned to become more comfortable with herself, to love herself more, to have less awkward conversations, to take her health seriously and to even speak at Dartmouth College – her alma mater, during commencement in 2014.

Year of Yes: How To Dance It Out, Stand In The Sun And Be Your Own Person was a relatively easy and entertaining page-turner. I finally understand the magic behind Rhimes’ badass career (in the book, she coins the word ‘badassery’ haha), especially after her Year of Yes challenge to herself. This was an inspiring read with lots of positive affirmations and quotes. Some of my favorite quotes were:

Lucky implies that I was handed something I did not earn, that I did not work hard for. Gentle reader, may you never be lucky. I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me badass. (pg. 181)

An awesome quote on what she wishes to achieve through her television shows:

The need to hear the words: ‘You are not alone’. The fundamental human need for one human being to hear another human being say to them ‘You are not alone. You are seen. I am with you. You are not alone’. I get asked a lot by reporters and tweeters why I am so invested in ‘diversity’ on television. ‘Why is it so important to have diversity on TV?’ they say. I really hate the word diversity. It suggests something… other. As if it is something…special. Or rare. Diversity! As if there is something unusual about telling stories involving women, people of color and LGBTQ characters on TV. I have a different word: NORMALIZING. I’m normalizing TV. I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of color, LGBTQ people equal way more than 50 percent of the population. Which means it ain’t out of the ordinary. I am making the world of television NORMAL. I am normalizing television. You should get to turn on the TV and see your tribe. Your tribe can be any kind of person, anyone you identify with, anyone who feels like you, who feels like home, who feels like truth. (pg. 235)

 

I especially appreciated the commentary on the challenges of balancing motherhood and being a successful career woman. Having 3 successful shows on prime time television AND being a mother of 3 young girls are not easy feats! Rhimes constantly has to find balance when it comes to either being in the studio during writing and filming sessions or finding time to attend her daughters’ recitals and simply spending enough time with them at home. With more women in the workforce nowadays, I feel a lot of women readers who balance motherhood and their careers would identify with Rhimes’ hilarious and thoughtful discourse on finding balance.

I have been a faithful fan of Grey’s Anatomy since 2009, and the writing style of this book is quite similar to that of the show – chatty, funny and conversational. But one thing that bugged me about Year of Yes was how chatty Rhimes’ thought process was in the beginning of the book. It reminded me of the ever so annoying Dr. April Kepner character of Grey’s Anatomy and I was almost put to sleep at times by this. But all in all, I admire Rhimes and I can’t wait to see what other groundbreaking projects she has up her sleeve in the future. Even if you aren’t a fan of her shows, please do read this – its a motivating, brave memoir by an incredible black woman. You might even want to try the Year of Yes challenge for yourself!

★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!

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Purchase Year of Yes on Amazon

African Love Stories: An Anthology edited by Ama Ata Aidoo

aidooDate Read: January 23rd 2016

Published: 2006

Publisher: Ayebia Publishing

Pages: 249

 

The Blurb

African love stories? Is that not some kind of anomaly? This radical collection of short stories, most published in this edition for the first time, aims to debunk the myth about African women as impoverished helpless victims. With origins that span the continent, it combines budding writers with award-winning authors; the result is a melting pot of narratives from intriguing and informed perspectives.

These twenty odd tales deal with challenging themes and represent some of the most complex of love stories. Many are at once heart breaking yet heart warming and even courageous. In Badoe’s hilarious ‘The Rival’, we encounter a 14 -year-old girl who is determined to capture her uncle’s heart. His wife, she decided would just have to go. Mr. Mensah the uncle is all of sixty years old.

Crafted by a stellar cast of authors that includes El Saadawi, Ogundipe, Magona, Tadjo, Krog, Aboulela, Adichie, Oyeyemi, wa Goro, Atta, Manyika and Baingana, there is hardly any aspect of women’s love life untouched. From labour pains to burials, teenagers to octogenarians, and not to mention race-fraught and same-sex relationships, the human heart is all out there: beleaguered and bleeding, or bold, and occasionally triumphant.

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

I think I have a soft spot for anthologies. Anthologies help me discover new writers. African Love Stories: An Anthology is the second African women’s anthology I’ve enjoyed. In 2014, I reviewed Opening Spaces: Contemporary African Women’s Writing edited by Yvonne Vera (1999) and was thrilled by the diverse stories and cast of African women writers. I even took interest in the writers who were unfamiliar to me at the time, like Leila Aboulela and Lília Momplé.

I know what you were thinking when you saw the title, ‘African Love Stories’ – no, this is not a collection of sappy, romantic, unrealistic, happily-ever-after tales. African Love Stories: An Anthology is a collection of 21 contemporary short stories laden with breathtaking originality. The stories speak on: the issues inter-racial couples face, a woman’s wrath when she discovers her lover is married, the lengths a village boy goes to rescue his wife-to-be, domestic violence, a child born out-of-wedlock who is scorned at her father’s funeral, same-sex relationships, sisterhood, a mother’s love, sacrifice and so much more. There are layered complexities in all 21 stories and the writers skillfully consummate each short tale such that readers ponder and cherish them, even days after enjoying the stories.

The women writers and the stories of this anthology span across the African continent – from Egypt to South Africa. Well-known authors such as: Nawal El Saadawi, Veronique Tadjo, Chimamanda N. Adichie, Leila Aboulela, Sindiwe Magona, Sefi Atta, Monica Arac de Nyeko, Helen Oyeyemi amongst others, are featured in the anthology. But I expected more diversity with respect to the countries represented in this collection. I didn’t expect a lot of the stories (11 of them) to be written by Nigerian women – this is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong! I just wish there was a better mix of countries represented, as was in Opening Spaces: Contemporary African Women’s Writing edited by Yvonne Vera (1999). (I’m not comparing… but I’m comparing haha)

Anyways, I enjoyed all the stories from this collection (well, except two) and my faves were:

“Something Old, Something New” by Leila Aboulela (Sudan) – This is a story that chronicles the events that occur prior to a wedding between a young, muslim, dark-skinned Sudanese woman of the diaspora and a white, muslim man from Edinburgh. During their trip to Khartoum for the ceremony, several events occur that threaten their impending wedding. I really admire the calm manner of Aboulela’s storytelling, especially in this tale.

“The Rival” by Yaba Badoe (Ghana) – The Rival has got to be the most absurd story I’ve ever read! In this story, a wife tries her best to keep her marriage from falling apart by the twisted, affectionate love of her husband’s niece. Since when did nieces start falling for their uncles and dreaming of being the ‘madam’ of the house? How awkward! Yaba Badoe created a masterpiece with this strange story.

“Tropical Fish” by Doreen Baingana (Uganda) – University student – Christine, finds herself sleeping with a British expat who exports fish to the UK. The story takes us through the inner thoughts of Christine as she tries to find herself – because she truly seems lost. I was disgusted and at times mad at Christine for tolerating the intolerable in this story. I loved how Doreen Baingana kept me on the edge of my seat while reading this! (I have Doreen Baingana’s novel Tropical Fish which this story is an excerpt from, and I’m excited to read it soon!)

“Needles of the Heart” by Promise Ogochukwu (Nigeria) – I enjoyed the easy, simple nature in the writing of this story. A woman marries a man who she discovers is a chronic abuser. She constantly finds herself making excuses for her husband, even while she suffers on hospital beds from his fury. The ending of the story had me wondering if the author actually condones domestic violence… This story is pretty scary, but holds a great message if you read in-between the lines.

The editor, Ama Ata Aidoo urges readers to enjoy this collection slowly:

Dear reader, it is highly recommended that you take these stories one at a time, so that you meet these African women properly and individually, and listen to them and their hearts: whether Sudanese, Kenyan, Ghanaian, Nigerian or Zimbabwean… (pg. xiv)

and I totally concur with her. I read these stories slowly and savored them. Why rush through such a rich anthology? That’s no fun!

Even though this anthology was published in 2006 – about 10 years ago, I believe the content is ever so relevant to this day. I wholeheartedly recommend this collection to everyone. These contemporary stories may be set in countries in Africa, but the theme of love is universal to all!

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

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Purchase African Love Stories: An Anthology on Amazon


GIVEAWAY ALERT!

February is the month of love, and I’d like to give away one brand new copy of this lovely anthology! Enter the giveaway below to stand a chance at winning African Love Stories: An Anthology. The winner will be announced a day after Valentine’s Day – so you have about 10 days to try your luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway TERMS & CONDITIONS:

  • Giveaway starts Feb 4th 2016 at 12am GMT & ends Feb 15th 2016 at 12am GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
  • This is an international giveaway – it is open to everyone, worldwide.
  • You must be 18 years and older to participate in this giveaway.
  • The winner will be selected by Random.org, through Rafflecopter and will be notified by email.
  • The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the email before a new winner is selected.
  • If you are the lucky winner of the book, Darkowaa will be shipping your prize to you directly.
  • Once the winner is notified via email, providing shipping details will go to Darkowaa only and will only be used for the purpose of shipping the prize to the winner.
  • The item offered in this giveaway is free of charge, no purchase is necessary.
  • If there are any questions and concerns about this giveaway, please email: africanbookaddict@gmail.com

Good luck, everyone!

Update: This giveaway has ended. Thanks to those who participated! Congrats to the winner! 

salt. by Nayyirah Waheed

saltDate Read: October 2nd 2015

Published: September 2013

Publisher: Create Space Independent Publishing

Pages: 259

 

The Blurb

(no blurb)

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Who is Nayyirah Waheed? Where is she from? (I hear the Nigerians have claimed her already hahaa). These are the questions I’ve been asking myself and other lovers of her work ever since I finished this masterpiece called salt. I’ve searched almost everywhere on the internet, trying to figure out anything about her but there is absolutely no information on her. I guess this could be a good thing, so that Waheed’s work speaks for itself – and I must say, I was very fond of her beautiful way with words.

I’m not a big fan of poetry so I rarely indulge in it. But THIS book is a collection of words that can heal. salt is a super fast read, but the poems just make you sit and think. The poems gently speak on a mother’s love, knowing your worth, loving yourself, being kind/caring for yourself, immigration, mother Africa, colonization, black beauty and much more! This collection was one of my top 5 reads of last year and I will buy the paperback, just for keepsake because it is worth it! (salt. is usually on sale and sometimes free on Amazon Kindle, so keep an eye out for that if you don’t mind ebooks).

Below is one of my favorite poems from the collection:

 

i bleed

every month.

but

do not die.

how am i

not

magic

 

– lie (pg. 27)

After reading salt, I purchased Waheed’s second collection of poems which was published in 2014, entitled nejma. nejma wasn’t as refreshing and cohesive as salt, but nevertheless I believe Nayyirah Waheed has a gift with words. Definitely consider reading this collection of poems – it is full of original, brave, healing words. I promise, you will love yourself a little more after reading this!

Follow Nayyirah Waheed on Twitter for more excerpts from salt.@NayyirahWaheed

[There has been a new wave of talented poets taking the literary scene by storm. Some of these poets include: Warsan Shire, Alexandra Elle, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Phillip B. Williams, Ladan Osman, Rupi Kaur, Ijeoma Umebinyuo, Bilphena Yahwon(gold womyn), Upile Chisala just to name a few. I hope to enjoy some of these contemporary poets’ works in the future].

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

Purchase salt. on Amazon

2016 New Releases to Anticipate!

2015 was a great year for African and Black Literature. 2016 promises to be pretty amazing too! Some great books have already been released (late 2015) – like Sweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi, The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela, Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta just to name a few.

Check out the blurbs of some African, Black (African-American) and Caribbean novels I’m exited for:

(this post contains some Amazon affiliate links)

Jowhor IleAnd After Many Days by Jowhor Ile

Release Date: February 16th 2016

An unforgettable debut novel about a boy who goes missing, a family that is torn apart, and a nation on the brink.

During the rainy season of 1995, in the bustling town of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, one family’s life is disrupted by the sudden disappearance of seventeen-year-old Paul Utu, beloved brother and son. As they grapple with the sudden loss of their darling boy…

…read more

 

In the meantime, enjoy one of Ile’s short stories here: “Somewhere Between The Borders: Supersonic Bus”


OyeymiWhat is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

Release Date: March 8th 2016

From the award-winning author of Boy, Snow, Bird and Mr. Fox comes an enchanting collection of intertwined stories.
 
Playful, ambitious, and exquisitely imagined, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is cleverly built around the idea of keys, literal and metaphorical…

…read more 

 

 


We Are All BlueWe Are All Blue by Donald Molosi

Release Date: January 2016

We Are All Blue (Botswana) is a collection of two plays – Motswana: Africa, Dream Again and Blue, Black and White – by the actor and playwright Donald Molosi, including an introduction by Quett Masire, former president of Botswana…

…read more

 

 

 


DanticatA Walk Through Carnival by Edwidge Danticat

Release Date: January 26th 2016

Growing up in Haiti, Edwidge Danticat kept well clear of carnival—terrified by the stories of danger and debauchery that her uncle told her. Decades later, a grown woman and accomplished author, she returns home to find out what she’s been missing…

…read more

 

 

 


 

AffluenzaAffluenza by Niq Mhlongo

Release Date: March 20th 2016

Niq Mhlongo returns with a collection of short stories that cover the span of our democracy – the euphoria of 1994, the AIDS pandemic, xenophobia, the madness of Marikana and the Zuma presidency. The stories have been published to critical acclaim in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the USA but remain largely unknown in South Africa. Affluenza offers us a chance to savour Niq Mhlongo’s take on the madness of the last twenty years…

…read more

 


Kiini SalaamWhen the World Wounds by Kiini Salaam

Release Date: August 9th 2016

Writing of the “other,” Kiini Ibura Salaam honed her perspective from growing up in an activist family eschewing TV, sugar, meat, convention, while centralizing self-worth, intellectual rigor, and the value, importance, and rights of black folk…

…read more

 

 

 


Here Comes the SunHere Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Release Date: July 19th 2016

In this radiant, highly anticipated debut, a cast of unforgettable women battle for independence while a maelstrom of change threatens their Jamaican village.

Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis- Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school…

…read more

 


born-on-a-tuesdayBorn on a Tuesday by Elnathan John

Release Date: May 3rd 2016 (this has already been released by Cassava Republic Press, late 2015)

From two-time Caine Prize finalist Elnathan John, a dynamic young voice from Nigeria, Born on a Tuesday is a stirring, starkly rendered first novel about a young boy struggling to find his place in a society that is fracturing along religious and political lines.

In far northwestern Nigeria, Dantala lives among a gang of street boys who sleep under a kuka tree…

…read more

 

In the meantime, check out Elnathan’s satirical blog here: Elnathan’s Dark Corner


Charcoal JoeCharcoal Joe: An Easy Rawling Mystery by Walter Mosley

Release Date: June 14th 2016

Walter Mosley’s indelible detective Easy Rawlins is back, with a new detective agency and a new mystery to solve.

Picking up where Rose Gold left off in L.A. in the late 1960s, Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins finds his life in transition. He’s ready to—finally—propose to his girlfriend, Bonnie Shay, and start a life together…

… read more

 


imbolo mbueBehold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Release Date: August 23rd 2016

For fans of Americanah and The Lowland comes a debut novel about an immigrant couple striving to get ahead as the Great Recession hits home. With profound empathy, keen insight, and sly wit, Imbolo Mbue has written a compulsively readable story about marriage, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream.

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son…

…read more


McMillanI Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan

Release Date: June 7th 2016

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting To Exhale is back with the inspiring story of a woman who shakes things up in her life to find greater meaning

In I Almost Forgot About You, Dr. Georgia Young’s wonderful life–great friends, family, and successful career–aren’t enough to keep her from feeling stuck and restless…

…read more

 


Kwei QuarteyGold of Our Fathers by Kwei Quartey

Release Date: April 26th 2016

Darko Dawson, Chief Inspector in the Ghana police service, returns in this atmospheric crime series often compared to Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels

Darko Dawson has just been promoted to Chief Inspector in the Ghana Police Service—the promotion even comes with a (rather modest) salary bump…

…read more

 

 


Greenidge_WeLoveYouCharlieFreeman_HC_jkt_FINAL_PRNT.inddWe Love You Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Release Date: March 8th 2016

“Kaitlyn Greenidge’s debut novel slips a very skillful knife under the skin of American life. This is a story about family, about language, about history and its profound echoes.” —Colum McCann

Frustrated by the limitations of cross-race communication in her predominantly white town, Laurel, a young African American girl, teaches herself to sign–a skill she later imparts to her two daughters…

…read more


The Shameful StateThe Shameful State by Sony Labou Tansi

Release Date: January 3rd 2016

Set in a fictitious African nation, this novel by the distinguished writer Sony Labou Tansi takes aim at the corruption, degeneracy, violence, and repression of political life in Africa. At the heart of The Shameful State is the story of Colonel Martillimi Lopez, the nation’s president, whose eccentricity and whims epitomize the “shameful situation in which humanity has elected to live.” Lopez stages a series of grotesque and barbaric events while his nation falls apart…

…read more

 


Yaa GyasiHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Release Date: June 7th 2016

A riveting, kaleidoscopic debut novel and the beginning of a major career: a novel about race, history, ancestry, love, and time that traces the descendants of two sisters torn apart in eighteenth-century Africa across three hundred years in Ghana and America.

Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into different tribal villages in eighteenth-century Ghana…

…read more

 

In the meantime, enjoy a short story (which I loved!) by Gyasi here: “Inscape”


 Jazz Moon by Joe Okonkwo 

Jazz Moon

Release Date: May 31st 2016

In a lyrical, captivating debut set against the backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance and glittering Jazz Age Paris, Joe Okonkwo creates an evocative story of emotional and artistic awakening.

On a sweltering summer night in 1925, beauties in beaded dresses mingle with hepcats in dapper suits on the streets of Harlem. The air is thick with reefer smoke, and jazz pours out of speakeasy doorways. Ben Charles and his devoted wife, Angeline…

…read more

 


 Elizabeth NunezEven in Paradise by Elizabeth Nunez

Release Date: April 5th 2016

Peter Ducksworth, a Trinidadian widower of English ancestry, retires to Barbados, believing he will find an earthly paradise there. He decides to divide his land among his three daughters while he is alive, his intention not unlike that of King Lear’s who hoped, “That future strife / May be prevented now.” But Lear made the fatal mistake of confusing flattery with love, and so does Ducksworth…

…read more

 


 

MogosAmid the Chaos by Nathan H. Mogos

Release Date: January 9th 2016

Some people call Eritrea the “North Korea of Africa.” But to two friends Chenkelo and Misghe, it is home.

In the picturesque capital of Asmara, these two educated young men are forced to choose between poverty and hustle as they hide from a national service conscription that would send them to the front lines…

…read more


  • And finally, watch out for the much anticipated Maya Angelou DOCUMENTARY which will be released at some point this year!

What new releases are you excited about for this year? Please do share!

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

ayana mathisDate Read: August 5th 2015

Published: 2013

Publisher: Hutchinson

Pages: 241

The Blurb

A debut of extraordinary distinction: Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family.

In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage and the journey of a nation.

Beautiful and devastating, Ayana Mathis’s The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is wondrous from first to last—glorious, harrowing, unexpectedly uplifting, and blazing with life. An emotionally transfixing page-turner, a searing portrait of striving in the face of insurmountable adversity, an indelible encounter with the resilience of the human spirit and the driving force of the American dream, Mathis’s first novel heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

I randomly bought The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (the UK edition) in 2014 from my local bookstore. I didn’t even plan on reading the book this year, but it was smiling at me from my bookshelf, so I finally decided to pick it up!

Hattie, a ‘high yellow’ girl from Georgia escapes Jim Crow to Philadelphia with her mother and sisters in hope of a better life in the North. Hattie and her forbidden boyfriend, August Shepherd (also a Georgia native) get married and she gives birth to twins – Philadelphia and Jubilee at the age of seventeen. Due to the harsh winter in Philadelphia and poor living conditions, Hattie’s twins catch pneumonia and eventually die, only three months after their birth. The death of the twins, August’s poor paying job and Hattie’s helplessness up North taint her soul and morph her into a cold, resentful, miserable woman. Despite their strained relationship (as a result of infidelity from both parties), Hattie and August have nine children over the years. This book follows the Shepherds – Hattie, her children and grandchild from 1948 to the 1980’s.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie was a wonderful page-turner! I honestly do not have any issues with this book because it was simply an excellent read. I read each chapter as a short story, since each chapter focused on one of Hattie’s nine children, intertwined with Hattie and her husband August’s history. Each chapter had its own twists and turns as readers got acquainted with Hattie’s children and whatever issues they faced in their lives.

I loved that all of Hattie’s children had diverse lives and they all faced real joys and pain: Floyd dealt with conflicting homosexual desires; Six found solace in religion and preaching; Billups was molested as a child; Franklin was a soldier in Vietnam and battled with alcoholism; Alice was a controlling middle-class housewife who was perpetually on tranquilizing medication (given to her by her doctor husband); Ruthie may or may not be August’s daughter; Baby Ella was reluctantly sent to live with Hattie’s barren sister in Georgia as Hattie was struggling to make ends meet; Bell was self-destructive – mentally and physically and Cassie was schizophrenic. Cassie’s daughter, Sala (Hattie’s granddaughter) is the last one of Hattie’s brood and readers witness her desires to become a born-again Christian, at the tender age of 10. Hattie’s demeanor definitely played an important role in the future of her children’s lives. Yes, Hattie may seem to be an unlovable, stern, sometimes cold woman – but I understood her character.

One thing I found intriguing was that Hattie and her children were described to be ‘the color of the inside of an almond’, which suggests that they were a light-skinned, black family in Philadelphia. August was described as the color of cinnamon – which is obviously darker than the color of the inside of an almond. Clearly, Jim Crow did not discriminate – whether you were dark or light-skinned, all black people faced discrimination and endured hardships; readers ultimately witness this in the lives of all the characters.

Some readers of this novel feel that Mathis’s development of the characters was brief and that there is little or no interaction between the children in the various chapters. This was not a problem for me. As I mentioned before, I read each chapter as a short story and was content with Mathis’s depiction of all the characters – they all felt very real! Apparently, new writer – Angela Flournoy’s 2015 debut novel, The Turner House (which is a recent finalist for the 2015 National Book Award – winner will be announced tomorrow!) is a similar, ‘better’ historic novel compared to The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. I haven’t read Flournoy’s novel yet, but I finished The Twelve Tribes of Hattie feeling satisfied. Be prepared for a long, powerful ride.

NoteThe Twelve Tribes of Hattie is adult fiction. Ideally, readers should be 18 years and older to indulge.

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

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Purchase The Twelve Tribes of Hattie on Amazon

Challenge Update (summer); Currently Reading

Hey everyone!

Summer is basically over (this year, the first day of Fall is Wednesday – September 23rd) and real life is back in full effect :(. In my last challenge update I stated that I planned on reading at least 15 books this year. As the summer rolled along I realized that I would surpass this goal, so I challenged myself to read 20 books this year…. and I ended up surpassing that as well! During the summer I read 9 books; some were light reads, others were more on the heavy side. I enjoyed most of my summer reads to the point where my reading-tank is quite full… and I may be experiencing a reading slump!

Books I read during the summer: 

May 23rd 2015: The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

June 4th 2015: The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

June 10th 2015: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

June 28th 2015: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

July 8th 2015: Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat

July 12th 2015: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (re-read)

July 22nd 2015: Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit by Austin Clarke

August 5th 2015: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Aug 11th 2015: Matigari by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Reviews for the rest of the books will be posted as the months go by!

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I’m slowly reading my 22nd book of the year – Interpreter of Maladies by Indian-American author, Jhumpa Lahiri. I’m a mood-reader so I’m currently in the mood to enjoy a non-African literature novel this month, and so far, I like Lahiri’s work! I’m quite behind on the Lahiri bandwagon, but oh well! I recently found her books (Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake) at a used bookshop in Accra called Ghana Book Trust. There were so many gems in that bookshop and I ended up buying 15 books! Majority of the books I purchased are from my favorite genres (African Lit, African-American/ Black Lit, Caribbean Lit) and are classics. They were cheap too – 3 Ghana cedis (GHC) per book! Check them out below:

 

 

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[Books not shown in the picture above that I also bought are: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, To Be Young, Gifted and Black by Lorraine Hansberry and When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago]

Lots of good books added to my bookshelf :). Have you read any of them?

What books did you enjoy during the Summer? What are you currently reading? Please do share!

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

Date Read: May 25th 2015Issa Rae

Published: January 2015

Publisher: 37 INK / ATRIA books

Pages: 204

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

Being an introvert in a world that glorifies cool isn’t easy. But when Issa Rae, the creator of the Shorty Award – winning hit series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, is that introvert – whether she’s navigating love, the workplace, friendships, or ‘rapping’ – It sure is entertaining. Now, in this debut collection written in her witty and self-deprecating voice, Rae covers everything from cyber-sexing in the early days of the Internet to deflecting unsolicited comments on weight gain, from navigating the perils of eating out alone and public displays of affection to learning to accept yourself – natural hair and all.

Reflective of the millennial experience yet wholly universal, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is a book no one – awkward or cool, black, white (or other) – will want to miss.

 

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

I love Jo-Issa (aka: Issa Rae) even more after reading this book! I wouldn’t call this book a memoir… its more like a collection of essays where Issa Rae talks about her life happenings. From the reviews I’ve seen on Goodreads, some readers seemed disappointed that this book wasn’t as funny as they had expected, since Issa Rae is hilarious on Youtube. I started this book with no expectations at all; I am simply a fan who wanted to support Issa Rae’s brand, and I must say I was not disappointed! I learned a lot about Issa Rae from The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl: Issa Rae is fluent in French, she grew up in Maryland, Los Angeles and Senegal, she went to Stanford University, she has 4 siblings (they are the Diop 5!) and her father is a Senegalese doctor in Los Angeles.

My favorite chapter, entitled ‘Halfrican’, is where Issa Rae talks about her (half) Senegalese heritage and upbringing (in the United States and frequently in Dakar, Senegal). I commend Issa Rae for writing a chapter on her father – entitled ‘African Dad’, where she discusses her family dynamics and the divorce of her parents. She really poured her heart out in some of these chapters, and I was impressed! Another thing I like about this book is how Issa’s claim to fame ‘awkwardness’ lingers throughout every chapter, even as she candidly discusses her college experiences (where she produced and directed four theatrical productions), love life, experiences of being a black actress/writer and weight issues (once you read the book, you will understand what I mean by this).

It was great to finally read a narrative of a black woman, who is of a privileged background. The ‘started from the bottom’, impoverished childhood narrative most people of color claim is not generic to all people of color. Some black folks actually grew up well-off, and that is perfectly okay! The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl was a great jump-start to my summer reading as it was enjoyable, light-hearted and of course some bits were hilarious – duh, it’s Issa Rae!

 

More on Issa Rae

Issa Rae 3With her own unique flare and infectious sense of humor, Issa Rae’s content has garnered more than 20 million views and hundreds of thousands of YouTube subscribers (and counting). In addition to making Glamour magazine’s ’35 Under 35’ list as well as Forbes’s ‘30 Under 30’ list, and winning the Shorty Award for best Web Show for her hit series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Issa Rae has worked on web content for Pharrell Williams, Tracey Edmonds, and numerous others. Issa has received national attention with major media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN, Elle, Seventeen, Rolling Stone, VIBE, Fast Company, MSNBC, Essence, Fader and more.

 

If Issa Rae 2you are not familiar with Issa Rae, please watch her YouTube web-series: The Misadventures of AWKWARD Black Girl and have a good laugh. I eagerly look forward to Issa Rae’s future projects and her breakthrough to television!

 

 

 ★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!

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Purchase The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl on Amazon