[Review] Spook Lights II: Southern Gothic Horror

spook lights II

Aaand I’m back with a review of an another excellent read. Damn body kept me from doing much gushing on here the last couple weeks, but be prepared for more awesomeness (aka ALL the reviews)! And fittingly, these last 2 weeks of April are Spring into Horror, a themed readathon, and Spook Lights II would be a perfect choice for it. You can find the sign-ups and more info here.

I’ve always loved creepy tales that make for good reading to cozy up with under the blankets. But I only discovered Southern gothic horror a couple of years back when I found Tananarive Due’s works. Those made me fall pretty hard for the stuff, so I jumped at the chance to read Spook Lights II, and I’m glad I did.

Eden Royce’s second collection of Southern gothic horror tells the stories of powerful Black women of the South. For those of you who don’t do well with the brutal stuff, mostly these stories aren’t very gory, but instead the horror comes quietly creeping up on you while you’re reading. And then Royce is excellent at creating tightly packed narratives with endings that pack a punch.

As with any collection, some stories are better than others, but Spook Lights II is a remarkably strong collection overall. Let me try to awkwardly gush about some of my favorite stories without giving anything away.

Spook Lights II opens with “Carolina Blue,” bringing with it a strong sense of place with the crops and wet marshlands and oppressive heat. And it’s not just the rice that’s blue. The uncanny here is quite unexpected but I also loved this story for the atmosphere and tone it set for the rest of the collection.

“To-do list” was pretty epic, I mean I love lists, so that’s a sure way to get me excited. But that story is genius, from the seemingly mundane lists about grocery shopping to couples arguing, read it and tell me what you think!

Meanwhile in “Grandmother’s Bed,” a young woman contemplates her dying grandmother’s powerful role of head of family and her own position of possible successor. The solution to her problem is both ingenious and horribly creepy.

I very much enjoyed how many of these stories focused on women and their relationships with family, especially mothers and grandmothers. There’s a give and take of love but also obligation as well as roles and powers that are passed onto the next generation.

By the way, both Spook Lights and Spook Lights II are <3€ on Amazon Kindle at the moment! Naturally, I had to get the first Spook Lights collection, too. Those warm nights spent bundled up alone on the terrace late at night are coming up, and I want to be ready heh. (that’s how I do horror in summer 😀 )

add-to-goodreads

Disclaimer: I received a free e-version of this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review.

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10 Works of Black Lesbian Short Fiction

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Recently, I was asked about short story collections by women of Color, and what a timely thing, too, since I’m planning on reading more short fiction this year. Collections are always a bit complicated for me: on the one hand I want to take my time and savor each story, treat it as a complete work by itself (as should be, unless it’s interconnected stories), but on the other I usually fail and pressure myself to read the whole collection quickly. So this year, I will again start an extra page in my menu for short stories I’ve read. I used to do this a few years ago, but have sadly let it slide. That way I hope to concentrate on a variety of stories,  giving each the same attention I would give a novel.

Now, short story collections by women of Color, that covers a lot of ground! So I’m starting with this list of Black lesbian short fiction:

1.Does Your Mama Know?: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Coming Out Stories by Lisa C. Moore, ed. gr-pic

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This important 1998 collection showcases Black lesbian coming out experiences. Many of the contributions are short stories but you can also find poems, interviews and essays. Edited by Lisa C. Moore who is also the founder and editor of the amazing RedBone Press, which publishes Black lesbian and gay literature. Note: There is now a second edition that comes with 17 new stories!

2.Speaking in Whispers: African-American Lesbian Erotica by Kathleen E. Morris gr-pic

speaking-in-whispers

A 1996 collection of erotic short fiction, celebrating Black lesbian sexuality and sensuality, also available from RedBone Press! Kathleen E. Morris identifies herself as a militant total femme dyke.

3.Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing by Catherine E. McKinley, L. Joyce DeLaney, eds. gr-pic

afrekete

First published in 1995, the Afrekete anthology also includes poetry and nonfiction. It features works by Audre Lorde, Jewelle Gómez, Jacqueline Woodson, Alexis De Veaux and more and was nominated for the Lambda award in 1996.

4.Don’t Explain by Jewelle Gómez gr-pic

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In her short story collection, American writer and cultural worker Jewelle Gómez (of The Gilda Stories fame) presents Black lesbian speculative fiction set in 1960s Boston and other futures.

5.Longing, Lust, and Love: Black Lesbian Stories by Shonia Brown, ed. gr-pic

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A 2006 collection of erotic short fiction about Black lesbian love at different stages., edited by Shonia Brown, author of a novel and independent book publisher.

6.Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction by S. Andrea Allen, Lauren Cherelle, eds. gr-pic

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A recent addition, this collection presents stories about the range of Black lesbian experiences in such genres as romance and SFF. Editor S. Andrea Allen is also the founder and publisher of Black feminist press BLF Press, take a look!

7.Two Moons: Stories by Krystal A. Smith gr-pic

two-moons

This collection isn’t out yet, but will be released June 20, 2017 ( also by BLF Press)! Krystal A. Smith is a “Black lesbian writer of poetry and speculative fiction.”

8.Callaloo & Other Lesbian Love Tales by LaShonda K. Barnett gr-pic

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LaShonda Barnett is an author, radio host and scholar, and also the author of the novel Jam! On the Vine. Her short story collection from 1999 presents tales of Black lesbian women from different walks of life.

9.Black Girl Love by Anondra “Kat” Williams gr-pic

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Anondra “Kat” Williams is a writer and poet as well as a radio host and the author of another collection, SistaGirl. Black Girl Love collects more than 25 short stories and poems about Black lesbians on love, life and sex.

10.Once and Future Lovers: A Collection of Short Fiction by Sheree L. Greer gr-pic

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Sheree L. Greer is an author and the host of Oral Fixation, an LGBTQ Open Mic series. Her 2012 book is a short collection about the courage, joy, pain and pleasure of love and relationships.

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How do you read short story collections? And have you read any of the works above? 

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Further reading:

For all the Black lesbian lit recommendations, visit Rena’s excellent blog Sistahs on the Shelf.

For more generally diverse short story collections, see for example Naz’ wonderful list “Give Short Fiction A Chance” here.

The Diverse Books Tag

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This year Naz at Read Diverse Books started his own book tag, The Diverse Books Tag, which was predictably awesome! I took part on instagram but thought with the new blog focus I’d do a proper tag post. Since my focus is on reading women of Color I thought I’d look for/recommend a book for every category at the intersections of WOC. Also, as far as I’m aware these books are all #ownvoices. Lastly, I’m basically treating this as a personal tbr 😀

Here are the rules:

  1. Credit the original creator, Read Diverse Books.
  2. The Diverse Books Tag is a bit like a scavenger hunt. I will task you to find a book that fits a specific criteria and you will have to show us a book you have read or want to read.
  3. If you can’t think of a book that fits the specific category, then I encourage you to go look for oneA quick Google search will provide you with many books that will fit the bill. (Also, Goodreads lists are your friends.) Find one you are genuinely interested in reading and move on to the next category.

1. Find a book starring a lesbian character.

Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett gr-pic

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A Black lesbian lit classic about the first female-run African-American newspaper, Jam! On the Vine, set during the Jazz age. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

2.Find a book with a Muslim protagonist.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik gr-pic

sofia-khan-is-not-obliged

Basically romance but I want to read more fun lit and I’ve heard good things about it from Muslim book bloggers, so will give it a try.

3.Find a book set in Latin America.

Malambo by  Lucia Charun-Illesca,translated from Spanish by Emmanuel Harris II. gr-pic

malambo-latinam

It’s important to seek out Afro-Latina voices and I read barely any Peruvian lit so this one sounded like a good start.

4.Find a book about a person with a disability.

Dirty River by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha gr-pic

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Love her poetry and have a copy of her memoir waiting on my shelf.

5.Find a Science-Fiction or Fantasy book with a POC protagonist.

The Stars Change by Mary Anne Mohanraj gr-pic

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This is set on a South Asian settled university planet on the brink of war between humans, aliens and modified humans. This book is “an erotic science fiction novel-in-stories” and sounds pretty cool. If you’ve read this let me if it’s romance heavy please!

6.Find a book set in (or about) any country in Africa.

Go Tell the Sun by Wame Molefhe gr-pic

go-tell-the-sun

The stories in this collection are set in Botswana and I’ve read that there’s lesbian rep in at least one of them. The author also contributed a story to the Queer Africa collection.

7.Find a book written by an Indigenous or Native author.

Not Vanishing by Chrystos gr-pic

not-vanishing-chrystos

Menominee poet Chrystos is a “warrior, writer, and arrow in the throat of colonization.”

8.Find a book set in South Asia (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, etc.).

The Quilt & Other Stories by Ismat Chughtai gr-pic

ismat-chughtai

Ismat Chughtai was a feminist Urdu writer exploring gender, sexuality and caste in Muslim India’s middle-class. So happy my friend Vishy gifted me one of her books!

9.Find a book with a biracial protagonist.

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow gr-pic

girl-fell-sky

The main character Rachel is the daughter of a white Danish mother and an African-American father and goes to live with her grandmother after a tragedy. I reviewed this book here.

10. Find a book starring a transgender character or about transgender issues.

Me Hijra, Me Laxmi by Laxmi gr-pic

me-hijra

This is the memoir of Indian hijra activist Laxmi. Though it has been translated from Marathi and apparently also slightly edited by the translators. Still on my tbr!

Have you read any of these? Where to start? Let me know in the comments!

Basically, everyone’s done this tag already but if not, consider yourself tagged! 🙂

Review: Yetunde + Author Interview

yetunde

Remember that I wanted to try to read some works of self-published writers and make sure these writers knew they would get the same chance at reviews here as traditionally published authors? Well, here we are! 🙂 Also, make sure to scroll down to the author’s interview after the review!

Yetunde by Segilola Salami is a story about caring and family, that will make you want to hug your mother (figure) and/or your daughters. Unconventionally, Yetunde is told through the eyes of a 9 month old baby, the titular Yetunde. The narrative voice is more complex than that of course, but it presents readers with an interesting new angle from which to explore mother-daughter relationships and Yoruba folktales. Yetunde is also a lovely character, she is fierce, curious and loves freely. With just under 30 pages, this is a short story that also functions as a piece of Yoruba praise poetry, in which Yetunde’s mother tells an ode for her mother who died recently.

We learn a bit about the Yoruba language and the first part of the story translates terms into English so readers should have no trouble following the story. And during the folktale part, sentences are presented in both English and Yoruba. I found this quite accommodating but I think this approach should manage to draw in readers willing to actually learn from context or look up words and those that expect to be catered to. But this is not a story for people who cannot deal with bilingualism, but it will provide those of you who grew up bilingual with points of recognition. Identity, here Yetunde’s Yoruba Nigerian-British identity, is intrinsically linked with language. If you’re interested in Yoruba language, check out the author’s book about learning to count, it’s for children but might help you get started or connect if you’re Yoruba and have children.

The story’s main part consists of Yoruba folktales and through the focus of motherhood, these tales explore the role and importance of women in Yoruba culture. From water benders to Orishas, I especially loved these sheroes who summon deities and save their daughters. These folktales are a tad darker than the charming first section focusing on Yetunde, but they provide depth.

What I enjoyed most about this story was the centrality of women’s close relationships and positive representation of women of color, especially Black women, as loving mothers. Yetunde is about three generations of women: Yetunde, her mother and her grandmother. It’s also about working through your grief and teaching the next generation, about passing on your history and culture.

I found this a lovely story even if I am not a mother, however I am close with mine. You’ll probably enjoy this story if you value close relationships between women and are interested in learning about Yoruba culture. I love that between this story and Nnedi Okorafor’s fiction I am learning more about the different people and culture of Nigeria.

The story shines when it presents Yoruba folktales and depicts the loving relationship between Yetunde and her mother. I found the final section a bit confusing, but overall recommend this story. I’m glad to hear there will be more Yetunde stories and will be following Yetunde’s as well as the author’s development.

Make sure to enter the goodreads giveaway to win a paper copy of Yetunde! The giveaway ends August 31st!

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book by the author, but never fear I remain my opinionated self!

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Author Interview Segilola

Segilola Salami is a “Mom first, author, host of The Segilola Salami Show and Self Publishing strategist (helping aspiring authors navigate the minefield that is self publishing).”

Bina: What made you start writing and who do you write for?

Segilola: I think of myself as an accidental writer. Writing just sort of fell into my laps. I write the types of books I would like my little girl to read.

Bina: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Segilola: My little girl . . . being a mom changes or should I say helps you refocus.

Bina: What is your process with regard to feedback and editing as a self-published author?

Segilola: I ask as many people that I see online that show an interest in reviewing books. I take every critical and complimentary comment on board. It helps me know what I need to do more of and what I need to improve on. After every feedback I receive for my unpublished manuscript, I go back to the drawing board and see how the feedback best fits in with the story. I don’t always use all feedback, especially if they don’t fit in well with the story.

Bina: Yoruba culture is a central aspect of Yetunde. Can you tell us a bit about your own background and your stance on representation in (children’s) literature?

Segilola: I am a Yoruba woman, Nigerian-Brit. I spent my early years in Nigeria, so was exposed to the diverse cultures in Nigeria. As a mom bringing up a little girl in London, I want my daughter to identify with her roots. There’s this saying “you don’t know where you are going, if you don’t know where you are coming from.”

Also importantly for me, there are hidden snippets of wisdom in my books (well I think so). I hope when my daughter is old enough to read them herself, she can learn something. Rather than me just telling her everything.

Bina: Do you feel that self-publishing gives you more leeway with regard to diversity?

Segilola: Absolutely . . . I write the way I feel is best . . . I think I would not have a single book published now if I was waiting for a trade publisher.

Bina: Lastly, are you currently working on a new project and will there be more Yetunde stories?

Segilola: Oh my gosh yes . . . so I have taken a short break from writing children’s books. I wanted to do something for myself. So I wrote an adult book (that no one under 18 should read). It’s called Abiku: A Battle Of Gods, you can read about it here http://www.segilolasalami.co.uk/abiku-a-battle-of-gods/

Once this book is released, I hope to start writing the next Yetunde book. So watch out next year.

Bina: Thanks for answering my questions!

-> You can connect with Segilola Salami on twitter @iyayetunde1 or visit her website.