#FoylesFive: Writers of Colour
26th June 2016 - Sofia Hericson
Though I believe myself to be an open minded, inclusive and fair person, I have to admit that I still sometimes have moments of (white) privilege that cloud my judgment. I could say it’s not my fault, it’s society’s fault and so on, but there’s only one person that can change the way I see the world and that person is me. I have to educate myself to think more intersectionally. So this year I made it my goal to only read books written by writers (mainly women) of colour to really try to learn more about other cultures and immerse myself in other voices.
Luckily enough I work with a bunch of interesting and knowledgeable people, and I sent a quick email explaining my project and asking for recommendations. Soon enough my inbox was full of recommendations sent by staff from all our shops, and I learned of other people doing the same thing. It fills my heart with joy, to be surrounded by these amazing minds so eager to share their love for books. I have filled a bag with titles written on little slips of paper from which I pick a random slip anytime I need a new book to read. This journey is not even half way through and I already feel its benefits. I want to tell you about all the books I've read so far, the wonderful metamorphoses lived in the pages of The Vegetarian, the simple but warm love story of Strange Weather in Tokyo (recommended by Marion), the daring and hopeful lives of two Iranian girls who fall in love in If you Could be Mine (recommended by Andi), and the surreal, captivating and unputdownable Panty (recommended by Gavin) which I'm reading right now.
But I can only choose five so here they are...
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto - recommended by the team at For Book's Sake in the article 10 Women Writers of Colour You Have to Read published in GEEKED Magazine - The Intersectionality Issue.
This novel tells two stories of how two women grieve after great losses and the role other people play in their survival. Yoshimoto’s masterful writing depicts family, love and trans-sexuality through the devastating and transformative lens of grief in such a natural way that though heart-breaking it fills you with hope. Magnificent.
The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami - following Marion's recommendation of Strange Weather in Tokyo by the same author.
To follow a book such as Strange Weather in Tokyo is quite a challenge and many of us wondered if Kawakami could pull it off, but in my honest opinion she has! Once again the reader is presented with a simple yet warm and gentle story about love, friendship and the wonderful little things in life that tie us together as a community. With the weather and the curiosities sold and bought in the shop setting a background to the different chapters we witness Hitomi and her co-worker Takeo fall in love and her relationship with him and the other characters (Mr. Nakano and his sister Masayo) develop through the book. A truly heart-warming story, available in the UK in August.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Amandeep, Khadra and Jeff all recommended Americanah to me. But I thought I would start with Adichie's first book, and go from there.
In Purple Hibsicus we follow Kambili's life as a fifteen year old daughter of a deeply religious father, who sets extremely rigid rules in the household in the name of god. When invited to spend the holidays at her aunt's house Kambili and her brother are faced with a reality they never knew existed, one full of colour, laughter and warmth. With this debut Adichie shows us the heart-breaking reality of fanaticism and fundamentalism its violent nature and the strength and silence involved in surviving in this environment. But she also offers love, hope and freedom making this a story that will stay with you for a long time after you have finished the book.
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyim - recommended by Amandeep.
Anything I say about this book won't do justice to Shoneyim's truly incredible writing. Her ability to capture the idiosyncrasies of the different character's speech and by breaking the story into chapters narrated by their own voices, Shoneyim brings these people to life. At times funny, other times heart-breaking, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives talks about motherhood, conflict, partnership and the challenges of a polygamous marriage. In a completely different style to Adichie, the author captures an equally colourful and deeply diverse Nigeria.
Aya: Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie- recommended by Heather and Funsho.
Fantastic graphic novel loosely based on Abouet's childhood in Ivory Coast, tells the story of Aya a determined and studious 19 year old and her free-spirited friends Adjoua and Bintou and their families in Yop City. Light and funny writing pairs with vibrant and warm colours from Clement Oubrerie's art. This book not only focuses on simple pleasures of everyday life but also denotes women’s emancipation in the Ivory Coast in the 1980s.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Marguerite Abouet; Clement Oubrerie
Han Kang; Deborah Smith
Hiromi Kawakami; Allison Markin Powell