Going into this blog post, I spent a long time dithering on my words, and an introduction that doesn’t come across self-gratifying or preachy. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to those holding important, needed conversations around me, saving links, creating my own spreadsheets, interrogating my own inherent biases, and what I need to do and grow to make sure I’m using my voice and platform to amplify and centre conversations from BIPOC voices, but to also nurture and protect the community who shouldn’t have to do the heavy lifting in a time when mental health (continues) matters.
Part of me worries that creating a blog post laying out all these things I will do is the wrong sort of allyship. I’ve seen enough of them around; people listing the ways that they will be better in the future, what exactly you’ll see in the coming weeks on their feeds, but it doesn’t sit right for me to list out all my actions as if I’m expecting a pat on the back and a tick – whew, I passed the test. Ignoring and restarting my blog in this current climate without acknowledging the amount of work we need to do at home here in Australia and the rest of the world however is also just as complicit. As the last few weeks have taught me, silence equates violence just as much.
What we’ve also seen in the past few weeks is just how important literature can be in shaping our minds and educating us beyond social media, solidifying the vital importance of having a world where our media is as diverse as the world we live in. As readers, if we do not shift our lens beyond our own scope, our worlds become small and narrow. To quote theconciouskid:
‘White supremacy is a system of structural and societal racism which privileges white people over everyone else, regardless of the presence or absence of racial hatred. White racial advantages occur at both a collective and an individual level’.
Personally, it’s not good enough just to focus reading texts around why you shouldn’t be racist, or to read non-fiction about the history of slavery in the US or how western history has whitewashed the history of BIPOC. We should be uplifting BIPOC voices in all forms, whether it’s in the stories we read children at bedtime, or the romance you read as a beach escape. BIPOC have many stories to tell beyond trauma and pain, and we need to do better lifting those voices up as well.
There are already some fantastic lists circulating that you can sink your teeth (wallet and library card) into. The Stripe’s personal Anti-Racist Reading List is a great starting point for anyone not sure where to begin, as is Buzzfeed’s collection here. Casey Moses has a drawn some incredible book recommendations over on her IG which YA fans will love. LoveOzYA continue to improve and seek Indigenous YA for their school, library + bookstore posters. There are many commentators and posters across social media cultivating their own lists, and I’d encourage everybody to seek these out.
I have a lot of improving to do in diversifying my bookshelves, especially in fiction, as most of the BIPOC titles I have on my shelves are non-fiction. My own current reading interests – romance, contemporary women’s fiction, thrillers and YA – deserve a bit of shaking up, so I’m pledging to myself to read more diversely within my interests.
Here are 10 reads from black authors I’m looking forward to reading; while this isn’t a true reflection of BIPOC authors, it’s one way I’m planning on diving into it. If you’re considering purchasing any of these titles, I highly recommend checking your local independent bookstore first with #backyourbookshop (AU), Bookshop.org (US) and Books Are My Bag (UK).
Samiah Brooks never thought she would be “that” girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date just revealed the painful truth: she’s been catfished by a three-timing jerk of a boyfriend. Suddenly Samiah-along with his two other “girlfriends,” London and Taylor-have gone viral online. Now the three new besties are making a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves. No men, no dating, and no worrying about their relationship status . . .
For once Samiah is putting herself first, and that includes finally developing the app she’s always dreamed of creating. Which is the exact moment she meets the deliciously sexy, honey-eyed Daniel Collins at work. What are the chances? When it comes to love, there’s no such thing as a coincidence. But is Daniel really boyfriend material or is he maybe just a little too good to be true?
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
This stirring love story is a deeply insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward- with hope and pain- into the future.
A short, darkly funny, hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.
Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead.
Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.
Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items? Enjoy a drunken night out. Ride a motorbike. Go camping. Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex. Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage. And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written out step-by-step guidelines. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job: Redford ‘Red’ Morgan. With tattoos and a motorbike, Red is the perfect helper in her mission to rebel, but as they spend more time together, Chloe realises there’s much more to him than his tough exterior implies. Soon she’s left wanting more from him than she ever expected . . . maybe there’s more to life than her list ever imagined?
In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
The first in an fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.
For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom. But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck.
Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition. When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?
Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.
But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised. When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?
Alaine Beauparlant has heard about Haiti all her life…
But the stories were always passed down from her dad—and her mom, when she wasn’t too busy with her high-profile newscaster gig. But when Alaine’s life goes a bit sideways, it’s time to finally visit Haiti herself. What she learns about Haiti’s proud history as the world’s first black republic (with its even prouder people) is one thing, but what she learns about her own family is another.
Suddenly, the secrets Alaine’s mom has been keeping, including a family curse that has spanned generations, can no longer be avoided. It’s a lot to handle, without even mentioning that Alaine is also working for her aunt’s nonprofit, which sends underprivileged kids to school and boasts one annoyingly charming intern.
But if anyone can do it all…it’s Alaine.