REVIEWS

The title of Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler’s Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen is a phrase that masks the internal woes of existing as a Black woman in the world

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen reminds Black women that we are not superheroes, thus we should not treat ourselves or allow others to treat us as such. Sometimes you don’t realize that you have not been advocating for yourself until you see the proof on the page. Well, Burnett-Zeigler has written 256 pages to remind Black women to take care of ourselves. As a trauma-informed therapist, it is wonderful to see the work I do affirmed by another Black woman.

Grown: The Black Girls’ Guide to Glowing Up is a letter to the younger you and a map for the next generation

Written by Melissa Cummings-Quarry, Natalie A. Carter, and illustrated by Dorcas Magbadelo, Grown: The Black Girls’ Guide to Glowing Up is a true ode of love to Black girlhood. You are given practical advice from those who have been there and done the living to tell the tale. You may laugh, you may tear up a little, and you just might remember lessons from your younger self that were long forgotten.

Black Girl Finance: Let’s Talk Money offers us the vital tools we need for better financial well-being

Within a swarm of finance books like Rich Dad Poor Dad and How to Get Rich, it’s been difficult to find a beginner-friendly finance book that speaks directly to me. It is no secret that BAME women are uniquely impacted by both gender and ethnicity pay gaps. As a 23-year-old woman from a black single-parent household, Black Girl Finance finally made me feel seen.

Dear Black Girl: Letters from Your Sisters on Stepping Into Your Power by Tamara Winfrey Harris gives encouragement to Black girls at the time they need it the most

Have you ever read a book and just knew that it was going to be an experience you would remember forever? Have you ever read a book, got a little way into it, and already started recommending it to everyone you knew? It doesn’t happen often, but there is something so special about when it does. Dear Black Girl: Letters from Your Sisters on Stepping Into Your Power was just that for me.

A student’s published diary, #BlackInSchool moves the conversation about anti-Blackness in the education system forward

#BlackInSchool is a loud and fiercely vital document that moves forward the conversation about anti-Blackness in the educational system. Written by Habiba Cooper Diallo during her final two years of high school in Halifax and published by the University of Regina Press, this is a makeshift diary drawn from a wealth of personal journal entries documenting the experience of being Black in a Canadian school.

After a 20-year publishing hiatus, Gayl Jones is back with a heady historical fiction

After publishing to great acclaim in the 1980s and 1990s, Gayl Jones disappeared from the public eye. Somewhere in the last few pages of this brutal historical fiction that has been half a century in the making, our protagonist—the observational Almeyda—asks “how can one write such a history and live through it at the same time?”. A fragmented narrative of slavery and survival set in 17th century colonial Brazil, Palmares begs the same question.

Home is Not a Country: A novel-in-verse about identity, belonging, and the true meaning of home

Home is Not a Country, by award-winning poet Safia Elhillo, is a captivating novel-in-verse about identity and belonging in post-9/11 America. It is told through the eyes of Nima, a Muslim American girl who finds herself longing to be someone else.

Tami Charles’ Muted explores the music industry’s dark side

Muted is the perfect verse novel for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo. A fast-paced coming-of-age story about music, the loss of innocence, and the dangers lurking in the shadows of the entertainment industry, it is the type of story that feels slightly too real and leaves you thinking long after you’re done reading.

The Perfect Nine is the first-ever title originally written in an African language longlisted for the Booker

Having been longlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize, The Perfect Nine is the first-ever title originally written in an African language to have made the cut. A modern take on the origin story of Kenya’s Gĩkũyũ people, The Perfect Nine is one of those rare books about history that has, itself, made history.

Nadifa Mohamed’s The Fortune Men centres humanity in the midst of tragedy and injustice

The Fortune Men is a historical fiction set in 1950s Cardiff that explores the real and distressing story of Mahmood Mattan, the last innocent man to be hanged in Wales. A Somali seaman with a taste for gambling and petty theft, Mahmood is focused on reconnecting with his Welsh wife and being a father to their children. But after being accused of murder, Mahmood faces a legal system determined to find him guilty.

While Justice Sleeps: A stunning legal thriller with a medical conspiracy that will keep you on the edge of your seat

While Justice Sleeps follows Avery, a law clerk who’s just been made power of attorney over the Supreme Court judge she serves. But she has no idea why. As she begins looking for answers, she only finds more questions and a seemingly endless stream of puzzles that lead her to uncover a conspiracy that will put her at the centre of a deadly power struggle.

Accra Noir: Crime in a city of stories, legends, and allegories

Accra Noir is a thrilling addition to the Akashic Noir series, featuring 13 short stories by existing as well as fresh voices in the Ghanaian literary scene. With crime, cunning, and passion at the heart of it, it is being reissued by Cassava Republic.

Prolific romance author Alyssa Cole delivers a chilling thriller about gentrification

When No One is Watching is said to conversate with the likes of Get Out. A psychological thriller about gentrification, the comparison is at its strongest once readers understand they’re being asphyxiated in the protagonist’s psyche as forcefully as Black residents are being plucked out of Gifford Place.

Addis Ababa Noir: A dark, gritty collection of short stories set in the shadow of the city

Boasting fourteen dark, gripping tales, Addis Ababa Noir, an Akashic Books anthology reissued by Cassava Republic Press, comprises the work of some of Ethiopia’s most talented writers. These stories draw you to the side of a city that is filled with greed, power, death, and despair.

Parsing Freedom: A Review of Kaitlyn Greenidge’s Libertie

Coming of age as a free-born dark-skinned girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson lives in the shadow of her exceptional and exceptionally light-skinned physician mother. But Libertie, who finds freedom in music and motherhood, years for a regular life away from the burden of representation. Libertie is a novel of ideas that grapples with the meaning of freedom in a violently anti-Black and colorist world.

A Past That Breathes: How a murder case against a Black man sparks interest in the unjust system

Breathing life into the genre, A Past That Breathes introduces crime fans to a gripping case involving accusations and a whirlwind of suspense. In the late 1990s, a young musician, Goldie is found murdered in her apartment in Los Angeles and her ex-boyfriend, Paul Jackson is arrested on suspicion of murder. Though it’s more factual than hugely suspenseful, the story is a nice starter read for new readers of legal and true crime.

Deadly Sacrifice brings us the first Black female police detective in UK fiction

A unique thriller that dives deep into the world of human trafficking and African ritual sacrifices, Deadly Sacrifice is based on the true 2001 news story in which a Black boy’s torso was found in the Thames.

Chibundu Onuzo's third novel, Sankofa, comes at the right time

Following The Spider King’s Daughter and Welcome to Lagos, Sankofa marks a departure from Lagosian life and tells the story of a mixed-race British woman’s search for her long-lost West African father.

Dead Dead Girls: A dark serial killer thriller set in 1920s Harlem

Dead Dead Girls is a gripping mystery set in 1920s Harlem that looks into the murder of young Black women. And the investigator to these murders? A young heroine known as the “Harlem Hero” who just wants to dance her nights away and sip on gin.

The Booker-nominated Black Moses is a damning portrait of 80s Congo-Brazzaville

Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses zeroes in on corruption in late 1970s Congo-Brazzaville. In this cynical coming-of-age story, Mabanckou changes the narrative by troubling what is expected of the bildungsroman. Straddling an array of themes like orphan suffering, governmental corruption, and mental health in a seedy setting, this tale of endearing novice gangsters and charming sex workers offers a refreshing take on the well-worn tropes of urban fiction.

Abi Daré's debut charts a new path for Nigerian literature

Abi Daré’s was one of the many middle-class Lagosian families who hired house girls for various domestic chores, and she noticed growing up how poorly treated these girls were. The Girl with the Louding Voice gives voice to the silenced and is a timeless story about a strong girl chasing her dreams. While Abi Daré takes on a voice that is not hers, she does so in order to unveil one that has hereto been shunned in the canon of African literature.

The coming-of-age story of a Nigerian trans woman that will change you

The Death of Vivek Oji is primarily interested in all the ways that love manifests itself and how limited understandings of sexuality constrain a more expansive understanding of everything love can be. Akwaeke Emezi highlights the fallibility of social perception and the limits of what we think we know.

Bernardine Evaristo cuts her teeth on a fun verse novel

The Emperor’s Babe is an irreverent and salacious romp that merges together tradition and contemporaneity in a startlingly unique way. Published almost 20 years before Girl, Woman, Other and four years before the similarly daring Blonde Roots, The Emperor’s Babe offers a distinctively different Evaristo.

Maame Blue's debut romance is a breathtaking love letter to diaspora

Maame Blue’s astonishing debut is a tender portrait of diasporic community showcasing the resilience of love across time and space. One of Jacaranda’s Twenty in 2020, Blue’s exceptional gift for characterisation leads her to achieve something that very few do: a protagonist-led novel that makes you forget that it is.

Hari Ziyad’s debut memoir is a perfect blend of the personal and the political

Black Boy Out of Time is an eloquent and enlightening testament to the ways in which Black authors re-craft genre categories that are not truly interested in telling our stories. When Ziyad sat down to write it, that truth became quickly apparent. This memoir is essential because it dares to dream of a future that is not beholden to any of the systems and structures that many of us are afraid to transcend, even imaginatively.

A Black British exposé of Britain’s most prestigious school and the rotten system it heads

As it looks behind the beautifully imposing stone façades of the institution and dares to probe the heart of Britishness, One of Them is at once critical and lyrical. From the Etonian style of behind-your-back racism and the bloody secrets of its prestigious halls, to the unapologetic bigotry of the National Front and dangerous rhetoric of high-profile politicians, Okwonga’s unveils the multiple faces of British racism and traces how they are intricately linked in a system rigged for Eton’s white, upper-class graduates.

The winner of the 2020 Jhalak Prize is a pioneering travelogue about continental Black Europe

With Afropean, Pitts leads the way in spotlighting the flavour and entangled histories of Europe’s black communities through what may be one of the most transnational studies on the subject to date.

Orange Is the New Black star Selenis Levya co-authors a memoir with her trans sister

Many know Selenis Leyva from Orange Is the New Black where she plays inmate Gloria Mendoza. Fewer know that she and her trans sister, Marizol, co-authored a powerful and informative memoir released a couple of weeks into the Covid-19 lockdown.

Katy Massey debuts with a memoir about growing up mixed-race in Thatcher-era Leeds

Part of Jacaranda’s historic initiative to publish 20 Black British voices in 2020, Are We Home Yet? is an instant classic that stretches the idea of Black Britishness beyond the London-centric.

Homegoing provides an African response to the transatlantic slave trade

This critically acclaimed epic-like novel offers a wealth of insight into 300 years of transatlantic Black history. What sells many on Homegoing is how Yaa Gyasi insists upon something, palpable and yet elusive, that the ugly circumstances of history cannot lay claim to. Homegoing perfectly anticipates the zeitgeist and speaks perfectly to the idea that we are all, at the end of the day, family.

Daughters of the Stone is a pioneering debut in Afro-Puerto Rican historical fiction

Published in 2009, Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa’s Daughters of the Stone is finalist for the PEN/Robert Bingham fellowship and a pioneering example of recent trends in Black historical fiction. Divided into five sections each named after a new focaliser, this multigenerational tome begins the moment Fela arrives at a Puerto Rican sugar plantation. All these stories culminate in that of Carisa, a disillusioned writer who voyages back to West Africa in order to learn the truth about her people.

Clap When You Land is a fierce verse novel based on the other 2001 plane crash

Clap When You Land tells the story of two unwitting sisters—Camino in the Dominican Republic and Yahaira in New York—who learn of each other’s existence and their father’s secret double life when he dies in a tragic plane crash.

Bestselling romance author Donna Hill tries her hand at historical fiction

When the fiery, Malcolm X-loving urban poet, Anita meets a reserved, MLK-supporting Southerner, it is love at first sight. Confessions in B-Flat is a memorable tale about what makes us radical and, indeed, what that word even means.

Elizabeth Acevedo’s only prose novel is a culinary, coming-of-age delight

With the Fire on High is Acevedo’s first and only prose novel. It tells the coming-of-age story of Emoni, a Puerto Rican-American senior growing up in Philadelphia. A girl of few words who has no patience for the classroom, Emoni’s talent is in the kitchen where she makes magic with everything she touches.

"A Pride and Prejudice Remix" that packs a punch

It is always wonderful to see Black love poured into a timeless story of star-crossed love thriving against all odds. In spite of the weighty social issues that come with the territory, Pride is a deeply representative retelling that foregrounds Black people’s right to exist in a canon that has always pretended they do not. From the original’s classism to its silences on slavery, this novel gently gestures to Jane Austen’s prejudices in a fun, fresh way.

OPEN WATER: An ethereal meditation on Black love and art

In this slow and steady tale of Black love, we experience the world through the eyes of a young Londoner whose relationship buckles under the excruciating pressure occasioned by being a Black man in a white supremacist world that wants you dead. But don’t let generic phrases like black love fool you: this is also a novel about photography, mental health, pain, joy, music, vulnerability, and ultimately salvation.

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15 Coming-of-Age Novels in English Translation

Black people are everywhere and there is no universal Black experience. From Brazil and Haiti to Rwanda and Madagascar, travel the world via this list of coming-of-age novels in English translation. This list spotlights 15 lesser-known coming-of-age novels in English translation, bringing together the stories of Black youths from all four corners and moving away from the dominance of Anglophone voices.

"Black queerness gives us space to imagine": A conversation with Hari Ziyad

One of nineteen children raised by a Hindu Hare Kṛṣṇa mother and a Muslim father, Hari’s is a coming-of-story about growing up a Black queer boy in a carceral world that criminalises Black children for existing. In this interview, the bestselling author of the debut memoir titled Black Boy Out of Time talk at length about the limitations of writing, community care, the role of theory, and the global publishing industrial complex.

All I want for Christmas is the death of lazy, "diversity" language

All too often we scroll across well-meaning publishing people using POC when they mean Black, racism when they mean anti-Blackness. As the vengeful child of that late twentieth century’s identifier “political blackness” and the climate of strategic essentialism its legacy left behind, the publishing industry’s current approach to diversity is—by its very naturerooted in generality and therefore cultural ignorance.