10 WOC Releases in April 2018

Happy holidays to all celebrating! Hope you had a lovely weekend! 🙂

I’ve got some reading plans this month but I’m so bad at sticking to them, so have a new books post, much more satisfying all around, I hope! While March was an outstanding month in terms of new releases, April has some gems waiting for you as well!

april image releases

 

1)The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard GR

detective tea

April 2nd, 2018 by JABberwocky Literary Agency

Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.

A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her.” (GR)

 

2) America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo GR

america is not the heart

April 3rd, 2018 by Viking

“How many lives can one person lead in a single lifetime? When Hero de Vera arrives in America, disowned by her parents in the Philippines, she’s already on her third. Her uncle, Pol, who has offered her a fresh start and a place to stay in the Bay Area, knows not to ask about her past. And his younger wife, Paz, has learned enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. Only their daughter Roni asks Hero why her hands seem to constantly ache.

Illuminating the violent political history of the Philippines in the 1980s and 1990s and the insular immigrant communities that spring up in the suburban United States with an uncanny ear for the unspoken intimacies and pain that get buried by the duties of everyday life and family ritual, Castillo delivers a powerful, increasingly relevant novel about the promise of the American dream and the unshakable power of the past.” (GR)

 

3) Eye Level: Poems by Jenny Xie GR

eye level

April 3rd 2018 by Graywolf Press

“Jenny Xie’s award-winning debut, Eye Level, takes us far and near, to Phnom Penh, Corfu, Hanoi, New York, and elsewhere, as we travel closer and closer to the acutely felt solitude that centers this searching, moving collection. Animated by a restless inner questioning, these poems meditate on the forces that moor the self and set it in motion, from immigration to travel to estranging losses and departures. The sensual worlds here―colors, smells, tastes, and changing landscapes―bring to life questions about the self as seer and the self as seen.” (GR)

 

4) Black Girl Magic by by Mahogany L. Browne, Idrissa Simmonds, Jamila Woods, eds. GR

black girl magic

April 3rd 2018 by Haymarket Books

“A BreakBeat Poets anthology, Black Girl Magic celebrates and canonizes the words of Black women across the diaspora. Black Girl Magic continues and deepens the work of the first BreakBeat Poets anthology by focusing on some of the most exciting Black women writing today. This anthology breaks up the myth of hip-hop as a boys’ club, and asserts the truth that the cypher is a feminine form.” (Haymarket)

 

5) Dread Nation by Justina Ireland GR

dread nation

April 3rd, 2018 by Balzer + Bray

“Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.” (GR)

 

6) Waiting for Tomorrow by Nathacha Appanah, (Geoffrey Strachan, translator) GR

appanah waiting

April 3rd 2018 by Graywolf Press

“Anita is waiting for Adam to be released from prison. They met twenty years ago at a New Year’s Eve party in Paris, a city where they both felt out of place—he as a recent arrival from the provinces, and she as an immigrant from the island of Mauritius. They quickly fell in love, married, and moved to a village in southwestern France, to live on the shores of the Atlantic with their little girl, Laura.

In order to earn a living, Adam has left behind his love of painting to become an architect, and Anita has turned her desire to write into a job freelancing for a local newspaper. Over time, the monotony of daily life begins to erode the bonds of their marriage. The arrival of Adèle, an undocumented immigrant from Mauritius whom they hire to care for Laura, sparks artistic inspiration for both Adam and Anita, as well as a renewed energy in their relationship. But this harmony will prove to be short-lived, brought down by their separate transgressions of Adèle’s privacy and a subsequently tragic turn of events.” (GR)

 

7) Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith GR

wade water

April 3rd 2018 by Graywolf Press

“In Wade in the Water, Tracy K. Smith boldly ties America’s contemporary moment both to our nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting. These are poems of sliding scale: some capture a flicker of song or memory; some collage an array of documents and voices; and some push past the known world into the haunted, the holy. Smith’s signature voice—inquisitive, lyrical, and wry—turns over what it means to be a citizen, a mother, and an artist in a culture arbitrated by wealth, men, and violence. Here, private utterance becomes part of a larger choral arrangement as the collection widens to include erasures of The Declaration of Independence and the correspondence between slave owners, a found poem comprised of evidence of corporate pollution and accounts of near-death experiences, a sequence of letters written by African Americans enlisted in the Civil War, and the survivors’ reports of recent immigrants and refugees. Wade in the Water is a potent and luminous book by one of America’s essential poets.” (GR)

 

8) Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires GR

heads of the

April 10th 2018 by Atria / 37 INK

“Each captivating story plunges headfirst into the lives of new, utterly original characters. Some are darkly humorous—from two mothers exchanging snide remarks through notes in their kids’ backpacks, to the young girl contemplating how best to notify her Facebook friends of her impending suicide—while others are devastatingly poignant—a new mother and funeral singer who is driven to madness with grief for the young black boys who have fallen victim to gun violence, or the teen who struggles between her upper middle class upbringing and her desire to fully connect with black culture.” (GR)

 

9) Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes GR

ghost boys

April 17th 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

“Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.

Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.” (GR)

 

10) She Called Me Woman by Azeenarh Mohammed, Chitra Nagarajan, ‎Aisha Salau,eds. GR

she called me woman

April 26th, 2018 by Cassava Republic Press

“This stirring and intimate collection brings together 30 captivating narratives to paint a vivid portrait of what it means to be a queer Nigerian woman. Covering an array of experiences – the joy and excitement of first love, the agony of lost love and betrayal, the sometimes-fraught relationship between sexuality and spirituality, addiction and suicide, childhood games and laughter – She Called Me Woman sheds light on how Nigerian queer women, despite their differences, attempt to build a life together in a climate of fear.” (GR)

 

*****

What new books are you forward to? Let me know in the comments!

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5 Reasons to Read: Reenu-You by Michele Tracy Berger

reenu

“New York City, August 1998. On a muggy summer day, five women wake up to discover purple scab-like lesions on their faces—a rash that pulses, oozes, and spreads in spiral patterns. City clinic doctors dismiss the women’s fears as common dermatitis, a regular skin rash. But as more women show up with the symptoms, one clear correlation emerges: an all-natural, first-of-its-kind hair relaxer called Reenu-You.

As the outbreak spreads, and cases of new rashes pop up in black and latino communities throughout New York, panic and anger also grows. When the malady begins to kill, medical providers and the corporation behind the so-called hair tonic face charges of conspiracy and coercion from outraged minority communities and leaders across the country.” (GR)

*****

I recently read Michele Tracy Berger’s science-fiction novella Reenu-You and it was excellent! So here are 5 reasons to read the story, in no particular order:

 

1

It’s a quietly creepy and atmospheric (post-) apocalyptic SFF story. Between the muggy weather and the 90s lack of smartphones, Berger creates an outside/inside and us/them divide that feels in turn safe or claustrophobic.

2

The characters are all women of color, mostly Black women, and all differ in background, age and class. And the main character Kat is a biracial Black ski enthusiast and instructor, how cool is that!

3

The story is very much about the politics of Black hair. It targets Black women as consumers, promising an all-natural relaxed hair. The company comes up with the name, asserting they need to use “ebonics,” something simple for the customers to understand and buy the product. Also, the company that betrays their trust used to be Black owned and is now under white management. It’s the women who figure out they’ve all been using this product that must have caused the horrible rash, the authorities are useless.

4

A central aspect of Reenu-You is that of sisterhood and community. With the breakout of the virus happening mostly in Black and LatinX neighborhoods, the officials’ racism first fails the women and also of course fails to keep the virus contained. And so the women, despite their differences, connect with and care for each other.

5

It’s a short book, a novella, and perfect to read on a Sunday afternoon. I took my time, choosing to savor the story, but it would also be a perfect choice for the next readathon!

 

What do you think? Is this something for your tbr?

Also, does this review format work for you?

 

*****

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5 On My TBR

5 on my tbr

Welcome, welcome to another listicle! My tbr is almost toppling over, but without access to a well-stocked library and a tight budget, a lot of my reading these days is done via kindle and on Scribd. Which is back to being unlimited, hurrah! Here are five works I hope to get to very soon:

1.A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta

GR

sefi atta

“At thirty-nine, Deola Bello, a Nigerian expatriate in London, is dissatisfied with being single and working overseas. Deola works as a financial reviewer for an international charity. When her job takes her back to Nigeria in time for her father’s five-year memorial service, she finds herself turning her scrutiny inward. In Nigeria, Deola encounters changes in her family and in the urban landscape of her home, and new acquaintances who offer unexpected possibilities.” (GR)
I always seem to be drawn to Nigerian authors, but this is my first Sefi Atta! Hope it’s a good one to start out with! Have you read her works?

2.Black, Brown, Yellow, and Left by Laura Pulido

GR

black brown yellow and left

“Laura Pulido traces the roots of third world radicalism in Southern California during the 1960s and 1970s in this accessible, wonderfully illustrated comparative study. Focusing on the Black Panther Party, El Centro de Acción Social y Autonomo (CASA), and East Wind, a Japanese American collective, she explores how these African American, Chicana/o, and Japanese American groups sought to realize their ideas about race and class, gender relations, and multiracial alliances.” (GR)
I love works that explore solidarity and shared struggles along racial and gender lines! This one looks at activism in Los Angeles in the 60s/70s, hope it’s a good one.

3.Inherit the Crown by Jayde Brooks

GR

inherit the crown

“Eden Reid is not interested in prophesy. The problem is that a doozy of a prophesy is bearing down on her. Such is the case when you’re a twenty-five-year-old from Brooklyn, New York who is about to discover she is an ancient god. A truly formidable demon is gunning for her; a zombie-like pandemic is spreading across the country; and there is the mysterious, handsome stranger with powers of his own who claims to have been her lover from a time and a life that Eden cannot remember.” (GR)

This book collects two novels in one: Daughter of Gods and Shadows and the sequel City of Dark Creatures. The series sounds pretty epic, about a young Black woman who tries for normalcy but also happens to be a reincarnated warrior god!

4.Nameless Woman by ellyn peña, jamie berrout & venus selenite, eds.

nameless woman

“Nameless Woman, the Collective’s first publication, is an expanded edition of An Anthology of Fiction by Trans Women of Color, which was originally published as an ebook by editors Ellyn Peña and Jamie Berrout on March 31, 2016. Nameless Woman is twice the length of the original anthology and features the contributions of eleven more people, including editor Venus Selenite and artist Luvia Montero.” (GR)

It’s here and I’m excited to delve into this collection! It’s wonderful to see this anthology collect even more stories and contributors. I’ve also got a poetry collection by Venus Selenite waiting for me, so I might read those in tandem with the anthology.

5.Belle City by Penny Mickelbury

GR

belle city

“This interracial, intergenerational saga of love, land and loss is told from the disparate perspectives of Ruth Thatcher, who is Black, and Jonas Thatcher, who is White, and spans nearly a century. The story, told in three parts, begins in Carrie’s Crossing, Georgia, in 1917 on the eve of World War I, when Ruth and Jonas first meet as 12-year-old farm children, and ends in 2005 as their descendants struggle to unravel and understand the legacies of this star-crossed pair. Ruth and Jonas have left behind them two astounding wills and a century of oral and written family history to tell the stories of their respective families against the backdrop of Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan, two World Wars, Jim Crow, the Great Migration, and the Jazz Age, segueing ultimately into the strange new digital world of the Twenty-First Century.” (GR)

Penny Mickelbury writes excellent mysteries! But she’s also published Belle City, a sprawling family saga. To be honest these sort of books scare me off, somehow I rarely manage to connect with each generation, but I haven’t given up yet and I do love her detective stories, so once more into the breach! Sounds like the book for epic, family saga readers though!

***************

What’s waiting in your ebook queue / on your tbr? Let me know in the comments!

Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

cobb cover

“Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.” (GR)

*****

 

Children of Blood and Bone is set in the land of Orïsha, where the maji once wielded their magic and ruled the elements. But our heroine Zélie lives in an Orïsha where ‘magic has gone away,’ where ‘the Raid’ happened and her mother and countless other maji were murdered by king Saran’s army. Zélie is living with this trauma of genocide in a world of systemic oppression, resisting where she can, without magic and fearing for her non-maji brother and father. Marked by their dark skin and stark white hair, dîviners are harassed, abused and killed by the lighter-skinned ruling kosidán. The parallels to the white supremacist US and Black resistance movements such as #BLM are clear. She also explores colorism and the privileges that come with it.

Adeyemi has created a stunning piece of speculative fiction with detailed world-building. She has drawn on West-African and especially Yoruba culture to create the world of Orïsha and it’s never not going to be a relief and pleasant surprise to get to read non-Western fantasy. Also, there are snow leoponaires! There is an overview of the maji clans at the beginning of the book and I hope we’ll get to meet more of them in the sequel.

The book is told in alternating points of view from Zélie, Amari and her brother Inan. It’s quite easy to follow despite that and allows us to see their doubts and how they influence each other. For example we get a Zélie that will do everything to change the system but in her chapters we also get to experience her as traumatized, as having huge doubts about her own role in the revolution and the love and hope she holds for her family and her people. With Amari we get an inkling of how she came to support the cause and of the fighter behind the shy, privileged princess. Quite a surprise was also Inan, but I don’t want to say much more except I’m glad how his role and the relationships he formed were handled. The women in this book are amazingly complex and I’m so glad teens get Black feminist reads like CoBB.

This a hyped book (and I am so glad this book got all the hype), but let me tell you, the hype is real! Children of Blood and Bone is a fast-paced, Black fantasy that’ll leave you breathless. While the pacing was excellent, my reading was purposely slow. Because I loved this book so much that even 600 pages weren’t enough. And I’m usually meh about books longer than 350 pages. So, read it now, if you haven’t already! Brace yourself for quite a bit of violence though.

Finally, fair warning: Take a deep breath before you read the last page! 😀 The wait for book 2 will be rough, but remember we’re getting to see the movie adaptation before (I think). I’m so excited! There’s a scene where Zélie finds other dîviners and there’s celebration and can you imagine how amazing that will be to see on the screen!?

 

Other thoughts:

Stitch’s Media Mix

The Shrinkette

Word Wonders

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Fierce Reads in exchange for an honest review.

 

Indianapress.co

Blog Tour Q&A + Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X blog tour image

GR The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo ・Pub. Date: March 6th, 2018 ・YA/Poetry 

“A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.”

 

QA image

 

WOCreads: Can you tell us a bit about your inspiration for writing The Poet X?

Elizabeth Acevedo: As someone who was a writer and performer as a teenager, there was so many fascinating facets to participating in poetry slams that I wanted to capture, but as I got to know my character more I realized that slam was a vehicle, but that the main point of the story was to tell the story of what it means to struggle with your family, your faith, your body, and the societal expectations people have of you.

WOCreads: You’re a slam champion with amazing video poems and the fierce chapbook Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths. How did you come to the novel form and how did your process differ from writing poetry?

EA: I’ve always been a big reader of fiction and had aspirations to write a book but I had to write several manuscripts before I was able to teach myself how to write this narrative. Writing a poetry manuscript is a bit different than a novel because in the former, the poems are often self-contained, even if they are in conversation with one another. But a novel requires a plot arc and character development that forced some of the verses to be transition pieces; I had to learn how to keep all the different pieces balanced.

WOCreads: I love Xiomara’s character and the way her voice just leaps off the page. How did you go at creating her character, did you draw inspiration from different media or people you know?

EA: Xiomara is an assemblage of a lot of girls I know, some that I’ve taught, some that I went to school with, and of course, myself. I wanted to ensure she had an authentic voice and I borrowed from parts of my life to make a character who felt and sounded real.

WOCreads: Your poetry is fiercely feminist, tackling issues like hair, sexualization and anti-Blackness central to the intersection of Afro-Latinidad. How did you have Xiomara engage with these issues?

EA: Xiomara doesn’t always name that she’s engaging with these issues; more often the reader sees her questioning gender roles, rape culture, beauty standards, and the symbolism of white saints and saviors and what that means for dark-skinned congregations, but I think I keep her engagement with these issues central but subtle. She is still figuring out the language to name those things.

WOCreads: Young Adult literature is currently experiencing a much-needed rise of diversity, but there’s still a lack of Afro-Latinx stories. What particularly appealed to you about YA and do you have some favorite YA books?

EA: Growing up I wished for more representation, for characters that looked like me. And then when I was a schoolteacher (I still work closely with teens), I realized that although I had grown older the canvas of literature in regards to its representation of a diverse Latinx experience had not expanded enough. I really wanted to help bridge that gap, especially for such a critical age where young people are affirming their self-importance in the world.

WOCreads: Do you have any advice for LatinX teens on writing and navigating the publishing industry?

EA: I think I would advise teens to form good relationships with other teens that are writing; my best critique partners have been my peers. I also strongly advise mentorship. So much of the publishing industry can be confusing, but having one or two writers who are one step ahead of you really helps shine light on what you can be doing to better your craft. I think this can be done by taking online or in-person workshops, and engaging with writers, agents, and editors on social media. Demystifying the industry is the first step to learning how to navigate it.

WOCreads: What’s next for you? Are you working on a new project?

EA: Yes! My second novel is slated to come out with HarperTeen in Winter of 2019!

WOCreads: I can’t wait! Thanks so much for answering my questions!

 

↓↓↓

Win a copy of The Poet X!

The giveaway is open internationally! Enter till March 26th!

*****

review banner

Elizabeth Acevedo’s debut novel The Poet X is a coming of age story told in verse. The main character Xiomara Batista is an Afro-Dominican teen living in Harlem with a twin brother, devout Catholic mother and emotionally absent father. She doesn’t fit the space which society and her parents have designated for her, but X is determined to carve out her own place in the world. It’s from filling her notebooks with all the words she cannot utter freely to finding her way to the world of spoken word poetry that Xiomara comes into her own.

The Poet X deals with sexualization, rape culture, religion and complicated families. While Xiomara’s mother is very religious, she’s also taken in the virgin/whore dichotomy that Catholicism espouses and attempts to mold her daughter accordingly. I found these scenes difficult to read, but we also get X’s memories of an earlier version, of mother as heroine, who takes her children ice skating and loves them fiercely.

Xiomara feels that her body as “un-hideable,” growing curves and being sexualized make her feel ambiguously about her body and she learns to make her fists do the talking instead. She comes to question religion, especially the whiteness of Catholic figures, as “not one of the disciples look like me: morenita and big and angry.” X also criticizes the patriarchal nature of Catholicism: “When I’m told to have faith/ in the father the son/ in men and men are the first ones/ to make me feel so small.”

It was great to see how close Xiomara is with her twin and their childhood friend Caridad. I loved her relationship with her gay brother Xavier, who is super smart but who she grew up protecting from others and with whom she builds a unit against their parents. And while Caridad chafes less against her family and the good girl role, she’s a wonderful friend. X’s crush Aman is Trinidadian and shorter than her.

I love how X’s voice just leaps off the page and you can almost hear her perform as you read. I adore spoken word, so I will be rereading this one in the audiobook version. It was amazing to see X come into her own, to find a place where she fits and which she makes fit her. This is a powerful work, loved the Brown girl feminism! It’ll mean the most to Afro-LatinX folx, as it should, but I found a lot to connect with. Give this book to all the marginalized teens you know! Suffice it to say, I was absolutely blown away by this book and I hope you will be, too!

TW: Sexual harrassment, abuse, body shaming, homophobia.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the publisher and Karina from Afire Pages for the opportunity.

*****

about the author

 

10 WOC Releases in February 2018

pic releases feb

How did January pass by so quickly? I feel very old saying this but there you go. On the upside a new month means new releases to enjoy and there are some truly excellent WOC reads coming out in February (all links go to goodreads):

Fiction:

1)Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith – (Feb. 6th)

zadie

“Gathering in one place for the first time previously unpublished work, as well as already classic essays, such as, “Joy,” and, “Find Your Beach,” Feel Free offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith’s own life. Equally at home in the world of good books and bad politics, Brooklyn-born rappers and the work of Swiss novelists, she is by turns wry, heartfelt, indignant, and incisive–and never any less than perfect company. This is literary journalism at its zenith.” (GR)

 

2)Freshwater by  Akwaeke Emezi – (Feb. 13th)

freshwater

“Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves- now protective, now hedonistic- move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.” (GR)

 

3)The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton – (Feb. 6th)

belles

“Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.” (GR)

 

4)All the Names They Used for God: Stories by Anjali Sachdeva – (Feb. 20th)

all the names they used

“Anjali Sachdeva’s debut collection spans centuries, continents, and a diverse set of characters but is united by each character’s epic struggle with fate: A workman in Andrew Carnegie’s steel mills is irrevocably changed by the brutal power of the furnaces; a fisherman sets sail into overfished waters and finds a secret obsession from which he can’t return; an online date ends with a frightening, inexplicable disappearance. Her story “Pleiades” was called “a masterpiece” by Dave Eggers. Sachdeva has a talent for creating moving and poignant scenes, following her highly imaginative plots to their logical ends, and depicting how one small miracle can affect everyone in its wake.” (GR)

 

5)A Dangerous Crossing by Ausma Zehanat Khan – (Feb. 13th)

crossing

“For Inspector Esa Khattak and Sergeant Rachel Getty, the Syrian refugee crisis is about to become personal. Esa’s childhood friend, Nathan Clare, calls him in distress: his sister, Audrey, has vanished from a Greek island where the siblings run an NGO. Audrey had been working to fast-track refugees to Canada, but now, she is implicated in the double-murder of a French Interpol agent and a young man who had fled the devastation in Syria.” (GR)

 

Non-Fiction:

6)Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch – (Feb 1st)

brit-ish

“Brit(ish) is about a search for identity. It is about the everyday racism that plagues British society. It is about our awkward, troubled relationship with our history. It is about why liberal attempts to be ‘colour-blind’ have caused more problems than they have solved. It is about why we continue to avoid talking about race.” (GR)

 

7)Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom by Keisha N. Blain – (Feb 1st)

keisha n blain

“Gordon, Allen, and Jacques Garvey–as well as Maymie De Mena, Ethel Collins, Amy Ashwood, and Ethel Waddell–are part of an overlooked and understudied group of black women who take center stage in Set the World on Fire, the first book to examine how black nationalist women engaged in national and global politics from the early twentieth century to the 1960s. Historians of the era generally portray the period between the Garvey movement of the 1920s and the Black Power movement of the 1960s as an era of declining black nationalist activism, but Keisha N. Blain reframes the Great Depression, World War II, and early Cold War as significant eras of black nationalist–and particularly, black nationalist women’s–ferment.” (GR)

 

8)Ezili′s Mirrors: Imagining Black Queer Genders by Omise′eke Natasha Tinsley – (Feb.9th)

ezili

“From the dagger mistress Ezili Je Wouj and the gender-bending mermaid Lasiren to the beautiful femme queen Ezili Freda, the Ezili pantheon of Vodoun spirits represents the divine forces of love, sexuality, prosperity, pleasure, maternity, creativity, and fertility. And just as Ezili appears in different guises and characters, so too does Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley in her voice- and genre-shifting, exploratory book Ezili’s Mirrors. Drawing on her background as a literary critic as well as her quest to learn the lessons of her spiritual ancestors, Tinsley theorizes black Atlantic sexuality by tracing how contemporary queer Caribbean and African American writers and performers evoke Ezili. ” (GR)

 

9)The Pursuit of Happiness: Black Women, Diasporic Dreams, and the Politics of Emotional Transnationalism by Bianca C. Williams – (Feb. 9th)

pursuit of happiness

“In The Pursuit of Happiness Bianca C. Williams traces the experiences of African American women as they travel to Jamaica, where they address the perils and disappointments of American racism by looking for intimacy, happiness, and a connection to their racial identities. Through their encounters with Jamaican online communities and their participation in trips organized by Girlfriend Tours International, the women construct notions of racial, sexual, and emotional belonging by forming relationships with Jamaican men and other ‘girlfriends.'” (GR)

 

10)Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper – (Feb. 20th)

eloquent rage

Eloquent Rage takes up this politics of critical dissent, asking: How do Black women resist stereotypical portrayals of them angry, aggressive, scary and violent? How do Black women dissent from a national narrative about heterosexual Black intimacy that says we are undesirable, unlovable, and unfit for partnerships or marriages? How do we dissent from religious patriarchy? How do we use our participation in politics to resist the march of fascism? How does our embrace of Beyoncé act as a kind of dissent against those who would dismiss as frivolous Black women’s pursuit of pleasure and joy? Drawing together her funny, poignant, and often heartbreaking experiences of friendship, family, and intimate relationships, with insights from her career as a professor of women’s and gender studies, Cooper writes compellingly about how Black women’s critical dissent shows up in the everyday lives of women.” (GR)

 

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finger icon Which February release are you looking forward to most?

Review: Two Moons – Stories by Krystal A. Smith

cover two moons(Gorgeous cover art by Mirlande Jean-Gilles)

 

Happy very belated 2018! Hope you had a great start to the new year! Mine started with a flare-up unfortunately, but I’m back now and I’ve got such a good book rec for you.

Krystal A. Smith’s Two Moons GR is a Black speculative short story collection published by BLF Press. Founded by Stephanie Andrea Allen, Ph.D, it’s an excellent independent Black feminist press promoting the voices of women of color.

You may be familiar with Smith’s titular story “Two Moons,” if you’ve read the anthology Lez Talk from 2016. Her own new work collects 14 short stories of speculative fiction centering Black lesbian characters. As with any collection, I have my favorites of the bunch, though I pretty much loved them all. Here are some that particularly stood out to me:

Smith draws the reader into the collection with “Search,” a story in poetic style about a Black woman searching for her own self and setting out to find St. LaDonta. This story got me hooked right away, as it’s written in the second person, which I love and don’t come across often enough. It’s not easy to pull off, but when done well it’s something extra and Smith delivers.

In the titular “Two Moons,” Selene has always been drawn to the moon and when she’s grown up falls in love with her. But the Moon, so many miles away, loves her too. This story was very sweet and I loved the positivity of the relationship.

Meena & Ziyah meanwhile is about Ziyah, a healer priestess, and her lover Meena who is gifted with herbal medicine. The story stood out to me because it presents spirituality outside of Western religion and also shows the ways in which Black women care for and heal their community.

“Harvest” is an amazing story about Korinthia who also helps her community by growing plants and vegetables and is blessed by plentiful harvests. However she experiences several miscarriages and stillbirths and fears her current pregnancy will end the same way. This time around will be quite different though and it involves talking rabbits of all things!

“What the Heart Wants” is more whimsical even though it’s about Saachi who is unlucky in love. Deciding that she would be better off without her heart, Saachi pulls it out of her chest and asks it to leave. But it’s her heart that ends up taking care of her. A very cute and funny and weird story.

“Cosmic” is about the star Esme who is burdened by her family’s expectations and battling with drug addiction. Finally passing her exam and put on patrol duty, Esme believes in herself and takes a chance to redeem herself to her family and friends.

Now, these stories are quite short short stories. I really enjoy works that are concise, but just a heads-up if that’s important to you. I read one story before bed every night and it was a wonderful way to really focus on and savor each story. Hope to continue this new routine with other collections as reading more short stories is a reading resolution of mine this year.

The stories may be short but the characters come to live through unique voices. Finding themselves in difficult situations or at the cusp of change, Smith’s characters seek connections and relationships with the elements down on earth and up in space, but above all they find strength and magic in themselves. Much of Two Moons shows how happy and playful speculative fiction can be and gives happy endings to women loving women. I feel greedy saying this, as the book has not even been released, but I can’t wait to read more by this author!

finger iconTwo Moons: Stories comes out March 20th, you can pre-order directly from BLF Press or amazon and such of course!

Disclaimer: I received a free e-book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Trigger warnings: Miscarriage, stillbirth, terminal illness, addiction.

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About the author:

A North Carolina native, Krystal A. Smith, (i.e. K.A. Smith) is a Black lesbian writer of poetry and speculative fiction. Her poems have appeared in Tulips Touching (2011) and recent short stories have appeared in Ladylit Publishing’s Summer Love: Stories of Lesbian Holiday Romance (2015) and Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Fiction (2016). Krystal holds an M.A. in English from Western Carolina University, and a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University.