Thoughts: The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett

liminal people

Taggert, the main character of Ayize Jama-Everett’s debut novel The Liminal People, is one of a growing number of people with supernatural powers, called the liminal people. Taggert’s power is his ability to heal, which also gives him the abilitiy to read body functions, change and stop them. The Liminal People reads like a superhero comic told in a noir prose style. Now, there are a lot of superhero stories in lots of mediums available at the moment, and I’m usually hesitant when it comes to this trope. But The Liminal People gripped me and drew me in, and I found Jama-Everett’s work manages to offer a fresh spin on the genre.

Taggert is part of the razorneck crew in Morocco, hired muscle to the mysterious and extremely dangerous Nordeen. When his ex-girlfriend calls for his help in finding her missing daughter, Taggert asks for leave and flies to London’s seedy underbelly. In a smart move, the author tells the story in the first person perspective from Taggert’s point of view. He presents something of an anti-hero, acting in a morally ambiguous area between his power as a healer and his work interrogating and harming others and liminal people with his abilities under Nordeen. His relationship with his boss is more of master-slave than mentor-mentee relationship, and over the course of the story, Taggert comes to seek freedom and his own version of a family.

In a genre that still loves white characters, a Black superhero main character is a welcome change. And not only is Taggert a complex character but he is furthermore allowed to be an anti-hero. I also loved the global aspect of the book, showing us characters of color as on the move and at home in different countries, travelling and making connections in all of them. The whole cast of characters is diverse and the author’s willingness to adress such issues as racism and slavery is one strong aspect of what sets The Liminal People apart from most superhero stories we are flooded with everyday. Because Taggert’s powers over bodies also means that he is capable of altering his appearance, and so he is very aware of how stature and lightening his skin tone allow for entering different spaces. This is a wonderful perspective from which to comment on issues of race and class. This is how you demonstrate the perspective of characters of color, the everyday issues, without it being the plot of the story.

I may have one or two nitpicks with Taggert’s approach to the female characters but overall this is a strong story with good pacing and wonderful world-building. Having the stomach for genre-typical violence is a requirement but other than that definitely recommended, I am looking forward to seeing this author and his stories grow. The one benefit to always being late to reading exciting books is that there’s already a sequel out. The second book is called The Liminal War and there’s also a spin-off, The Entropy of Bones, available already. This is the second novel I’ve read in a short time that was published by Small Beer Press. I’m happy to see some of their books offered on Scribd, so that I get to try them. I think I need to browse their catalogue!

The Liminal People counts towards the Diversity on the Shelf challenge as well as the #weirdathon.

What’s your favorite superpowers novel? 

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

Advertisements

Thoughts: The Hairdresser of Harare

hairdresser

The hairdresser of Harare is Vimbai, the best in Mrs. Khumalo’s salon. Vimbai is unmarried with a young daughter, but with a place in a good neighborhood, a house help and her job, things are going well and her talent draws customers to the salon. That is until another hairdresser, the smooth-talking Dumisani starts at Mrs. Khumalo’s salon. Initially theratening her job security and losing Vimbai her role of queen bee, she loathes Dumisani, but slowly the start becoming friends and when Dumisani needs a place to stay, Vimbai becomes his landlady.

Huchu’s first novel is set in post-apartheid Zimbabwe during mounting economic problems and a 90% unemloyment rate. Vimbai and the other women in the salon are trading petrol and sugar and there are problems with white farmers trying to hang onto their farms after independence while government officials are seizing the property. These issues are very much present but the “issue” focus of The Hairdresser is on homosexuality, its illegality and views of gay men as “lower than pigs and dogs.”

I very much enjoy characters that are not easily likeable and Vimbai with her pride and some terrible mistakes is a complex character and it is great to see her grow and become more aware. Her views will often be hard to take but the author shows where she is coming from and presents the difficulty women like Vimbai experience at the hands of men.

While Vimbai and Dumisani become closer and Vimbai is enthusiastically embraced by his family, as readers we can see where their thoughts on their future diverge. Dumisani brings larger issues into Vimbai’s life and from there things begin to unravel. I feel that perhaps the ending could have benefitted from a few more pages, it is a bit sudden but perhaps the salon life and little power struggles between the hairdressers in the first half of the book were just that well-written. The novel has been described as “bittersweet,” and this is a fitting term, so enjoy this one but be prepared for some bitterness.

This is a difficult one to write about without spoiling too much! I hope you’ll give the book a try, I know I’ll look out for Tendai Huchu’s future works! I chose The Hairdresser of Harare for Kinna’s Africa Reading Challenge and I think it might actually be the first book set in Zimbabwe and also written by a Zimbabwean author that I’ve read. But I do have another one, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo, on my list.

Other thoughts:

Reading on a Rainy Day

Have you read this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

Thoughts: The Sisters Are Alright by Tamara Winfrey Harris

sisters are alright

The Sisters Are Alright is first of all a love note Tamara Winfrey Harris has written to other black women. It’s a warm, welcoming book that celebrates their complexities and humanity. I hope Harris’ book will be a gift given to many young black girls. I read this book to understand the specific lived experience of black women in the United States, become a better ally and just rejoice in the celebration of women of color.

“Black women’s stories look a lot different from what you’ve heard. And when black women speak for themselves, the picture presented is nuanced, empowering, and hopeful”

Some of you might know the author from her blog What Tami Said or from her editor work on Racialicious. In her first book, Harris starts by introducing the history of propaganda against black women and the major harmful stereotypes that were introduced during slavery and have become the backbone of the current racist, sexist society of the US. This first part will be very educational for anyone not part of the target audience, but it is tough reading as Harris covers everything from Sapphire to the welfare queen and the Moynihan Report to hurtful current beauty and marriage double standards.

Harris shows how stereotypes of the ‘angry black women’ are still pulled out even on successful women like Shonda Rhimes or Michelle Obama. Or how the myth of the ‘strong black women’ hurts black women emotionally or physically, causing stress and serious health issues when they try to appear strong all their lives.

But Harris writes engagingly and encouragingly, dismantling these misogynoir traps and interspersing them with little boxes called ‘Moments in Alright,’ which shows that black women are indeed alright. Here Harris presents snippets about black women as successful business owners, achieving amazing educational goals and more.

There’s one caveat, but Harris is very upfront about it, the women she interviewed and focused on are largely well-off middle-class and for the most part straight. Make sure to read about these experiences, too. Recommendation: Black Girl Dangerous on Race, Queerness, Class and Gender by Mia McKenzie.

If you’re on a tight budget, like me, the book is even available on Scribd. And isn’t the cover the best thing ever? The Sisters Are Alright is also my first read for the Diversity on the Shelf Challenge this year.

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

Reading Challenges 2016

books

I have to admit that I have a sort of off-again- on -again relationship with reading challenges. On the one hand, I hate assigned reading and feel immediately restricted in my reading choices, on the other hand I love the community effort in challenges and that they help me stick to reading resolutions, if I make them.

After finally getting back to blogging regularly halfway through 2015, I feel a bit more confident that I’m here to stay and I missed the book blogging community, so I want to participate in a few more events and challenges. So, for 2016 I want to commit to 2 all-year challenges and then see what smaller events happen during the year.

girl with the dragon tattoo readalong

I decided to start 2016 with a bang and catch up with one of the hyped books I still haven’t read. So for January wonderful Deepika of Worn Corners and I will be doing a readalong of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Everyone’s welcome to join in!

book riot

The 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge sounds fantastic. I’ve been following the 2015 challenge and it looked like a blast plus this one challenges you to read more diversely and outside your comfort zone and since I had a wonderful time exploring new genres this year, I want to continue in 2016. Here’s a list with the 24 tasks, which challenge you to read a collection of essays, a book from the Middle East and a book by/about a transgender person among others.

hosted-by-Akilah-@-The-Englishist1

Diversity on the Shelf Challenge, hosted by Akilah of The Englishist

I read a good amount of literature by and about People of Color already, but I’m going for 3/4 of all books I’ll read in 2016, so I thought I’d join in this important challenge. There’s 5 different levels, so everyone can take part really, and I’ve decided to go for the 5th Shelf: Read 25+ books.

Here’s 5 books on my tbr that would count for the challenge, but I know I’ll have lots of fun looking for all the works that would count for this challenge, so be prepared for more list posts.

9780756410193_TheBookof_Phoenix_JK.indd

dirty river

bambera

haritaworn

Ashala wolf

What’s important to me is to read books by authors of color and non-white non-Western authors and not just books where white authors include characters of color. Hopefully I’ll read mostly books that are intersectional in their approach and include other axes of oppression, such as gender, sexuality, disability and empire. And I’m sure there’ll be lots of fun books, I know now that I’ll definitely find such diverse books in fantasy and YA literature.

I think 2016 will be a great reading year. Have a wonderful start to the new year!!! And let me know about your reading plans in the comments!