Women of Color & Horror: 10 On My TBR

Women of Color & Horror: 10 On My TBR

woc horror blog pic final

It’s September and for me finally the beginning of the creepy season, huzzah! I’ll just ignore that last small heat wave this week, go away please summer, I have my tea and candles and creepy reads ready! I have a lot of books on my tbr that fall under speculative, horror and mystery, but I’m also working towards seeking out and supporting more women writers of Color. I’ve chosen horror because it’s a genre I’ve been wanting to explore more and because, like science-fiction and fantasy,  horror can offer women of Color a space in which to disturb social conventions and transgress boundaries.

This here is a list of 10 works by WoC writers that can be considered horror (often also fantasy) and some of which may be new to you as well. Let’s start with a better known one:

white-is-for-witching

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi gr-pic

Haunted house story and a reworking of the gothic trope, Oyeyemi’s work is a psychological fest around trauma, racism and a sentient house set in Dover, England. I hope I’ll get to read it finally for RIPXI.

fabulous beasts

Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma gr-pic

This is a novelette or short story about two sisters or cousins and childhood abuse set in gritty Liverpool. Apparently it’s super disturbing and comes with trigger warnings for abuse, rape and incest, yikes! It’s published by TOR though.

alyssa wong

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong gr-pic

Silicon recommended Alyssa Wong’s stories to me and I’ll definitely read at least one this fall since her recs are always on point. This story has also received the Nebula Award for Best Short Fiction. It’s got a vampire and is about dating and relationships!

rena mason

The Evolutionist by Rena Mason gr-pic

Set in the suburbs of Las Vegas, Stacy keeps dreaming about killing and dismembering people. She feels she’s just a normal person having very vivid nightmares and so Stacy goes to see a psychiatrist, he turns out to be not quite so normal.

unhallowed graves

Unhallowed Graves by Nuzo Onoh gr-pic

“Oja-ale is the night market run by the dead. Everything can be bought for a deadly price. Alan Pearson is a sceptical British diplomat, contemptuous and dismissive of native superstitions…Until the day he receives a terrifying purchase from the Night Market, which defies Western science and logic.” (GR) Onoh is “queen of African horror.”

solitude

Solitude by Sumiko Saulson gr-pic

“Solitude is the riveting tale of diverse individuals isolated in a San Francisco seemingly void of all other human life. In the absence of others, each journeys into personal web of beliefs and perceptions as they try to determine what happened to them, and the world around them.” (GR) Saulson also curates a Black women in horror list here.

crescendo

Crescendo by L. Marie Woods gr-pic

 James’ comfortable life changes when he begins having nightmares after his lover’s death. A family curse, can he do anything or is this his destiny? Everyone in his family has secrets. Set in tranquil Rockland County, New York.

kristine ong muslim

Age of Blight by Kristine Ong Muslim gr-pic

“What if the end of man is not caused by some cataclysmic event, but by the nature of humans themselves? In Age of Blight, a young scientist’s harsh and unnecessary experiments on monkeys are recorded for posterity; children are replaced by their doppelgangers, which emerge like flowers in their backyards; and two men standing on opposing cliff faces bear witness to each other’s terrifying ends.” (GR) A collection of short stories with illustrations.

linda ddison

How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison gr-pic

“From the first African-American to receive the HWA Bram Stoker award, this collection of both horror and science fiction short stories and poetry reveals demons in the most likely people (like a jealous ghost across the street) or in unlikely places (like the dimension-shifting dreams of an American Indian). Recognition is the first step, what you do with your friends/demons after that is up to you.” (GR)

due-soul to keep

My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due gr-pic

And of course one of my favorite writers! Last year I read Due’s The Good House and it was wonderfully atmospheric and I will make to read this one in broad daylight.

“When Jessica marries David, he is everything she wants in a family man: brilliant, attentive, ever youthful. Yet she still feels something about him is just out of reach. Soon, as people close to Jessica begin to meet violent, mysterious deaths, David makes an unimaginable confession: More than 400 years ago, he and other members of an Ethiopian sect traded their humanity so they would never die, a secret he must protect at any cost. Now, his immortal brethren have decided David must return and leave his family in Miami.” (GR)

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And a great opportunity to read horror and more with other book bloggers is Carl’s wonderful yearly challenge, R.I.P. – Readers Imbibing Peril, going on right now! It’s a book blogging institution and now in its 11th year. The challenge takes place from September 1st, 2016 through October 31st, 2016 and offers many different levels and genres, there’s something for everyone in it. Sign up here. I’ll be doing Peril the Second, but I hope I’ll read much more than two creepy reads.

Definitely take a look at Sharlene’s wonderful recs for a more diverse R.I.P here, she has great recommendation for all RIP genres, I know I’ll be reading The Hunter.

Lastly, check out my Queer Horror post for some creepy reading with LGBTQIA+ themes.

What are you all reading this creepy season? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: Yetunde + Author Interview

yetunde

Remember that I wanted to try to read some works of self-published writers and make sure these writers knew they would get the same chance at reviews here as traditionally published authors? Well, here we are! 🙂 Also, make sure to scroll down to the author’s interview after the review!

Yetunde by Segilola Salami is a story about caring and family, that will make you want to hug your mother (figure) and/or your daughters. Unconventionally, Yetunde is told through the eyes of a 9 month old baby, the titular Yetunde. The narrative voice is more complex than that of course, but it presents readers with an interesting new angle from which to explore mother-daughter relationships and Yoruba folktales. Yetunde is also a lovely character, she is fierce, curious and loves freely. With just under 30 pages, this is a short story that also functions as a piece of Yoruba praise poetry, in which Yetunde’s mother tells an ode for her mother who died recently.

We learn a bit about the Yoruba language and the first part of the story translates terms into English so readers should have no trouble following the story. And during the folktale part, sentences are presented in both English and Yoruba. I found this quite accommodating but I think this approach should manage to draw in readers willing to actually learn from context or look up words and those that expect to be catered to. But this is not a story for people who cannot deal with bilingualism, but it will provide those of you who grew up bilingual with points of recognition. Identity, here Yetunde’s Yoruba Nigerian-British identity, is intrinsically linked with language. If you’re interested in Yoruba language, check out the author’s book about learning to count, it’s for children but might help you get started or connect if you’re Yoruba and have children.

The story’s main part consists of Yoruba folktales and through the focus of motherhood, these tales explore the role and importance of women in Yoruba culture. From water benders to Orishas, I especially loved these sheroes who summon deities and save their daughters. These folktales are a tad darker than the charming first section focusing on Yetunde, but they provide depth.

What I enjoyed most about this story was the centrality of women’s close relationships and positive representation of women of color, especially Black women, as loving mothers. Yetunde is about three generations of women: Yetunde, her mother and her grandmother. It’s also about working through your grief and teaching the next generation, about passing on your history and culture.

I found this a lovely story even if I am not a mother, however I am close with mine. You’ll probably enjoy this story if you value close relationships between women and are interested in learning about Yoruba culture. I love that between this story and Nnedi Okorafor’s fiction I am learning more about the different people and culture of Nigeria.

The story shines when it presents Yoruba folktales and depicts the loving relationship between Yetunde and her mother. I found the final section a bit confusing, but overall recommend this story. I’m glad to hear there will be more Yetunde stories and will be following Yetunde’s as well as the author’s development.

Make sure to enter the goodreads giveaway to win a paper copy of Yetunde! The giveaway ends August 31st!

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book by the author, but never fear I remain my opinionated self!

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Author Interview Segilola

Segilola Salami is a “Mom first, author, host of The Segilola Salami Show and Self Publishing strategist (helping aspiring authors navigate the minefield that is self publishing).”

Bina: What made you start writing and who do you write for?

Segilola: I think of myself as an accidental writer. Writing just sort of fell into my laps. I write the types of books I would like my little girl to read.

Bina: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Segilola: My little girl . . . being a mom changes or should I say helps you refocus.

Bina: What is your process with regard to feedback and editing as a self-published author?

Segilola: I ask as many people that I see online that show an interest in reviewing books. I take every critical and complimentary comment on board. It helps me know what I need to do more of and what I need to improve on. After every feedback I receive for my unpublished manuscript, I go back to the drawing board and see how the feedback best fits in with the story. I don’t always use all feedback, especially if they don’t fit in well with the story.

Bina: Yoruba culture is a central aspect of Yetunde. Can you tell us a bit about your own background and your stance on representation in (children’s) literature?

Segilola: I am a Yoruba woman, Nigerian-Brit. I spent my early years in Nigeria, so was exposed to the diverse cultures in Nigeria. As a mom bringing up a little girl in London, I want my daughter to identify with her roots. There’s this saying “you don’t know where you are going, if you don’t know where you are coming from.”

Also importantly for me, there are hidden snippets of wisdom in my books (well I think so). I hope when my daughter is old enough to read them herself, she can learn something. Rather than me just telling her everything.

Bina: Do you feel that self-publishing gives you more leeway with regard to diversity?

Segilola: Absolutely . . . I write the way I feel is best . . . I think I would not have a single book published now if I was waiting for a trade publisher.

Bina: Lastly, are you currently working on a new project and will there be more Yetunde stories?

Segilola: Oh my gosh yes . . . so I have taken a short break from writing children’s books. I wanted to do something for myself. So I wrote an adult book (that no one under 18 should read). It’s called Abiku: A Battle Of Gods, you can read about it here http://www.segilolasalami.co.uk/abiku-a-battle-of-gods/

Once this book is released, I hope to start writing the next Yetunde book. So watch out next year.

Bina: Thanks for answering my questions!

-> You can connect with Segilola Salami on twitter @iyayetunde1 or visit her website.

 

Thoughts: Malice in Ovenland Vol.1

Thoughts: Malice in Ovenland Vol.1

Malice

In middle school, I was one of those kids going through all the adventure books the library had to offer. From the The Famous Five to kid detectives to opening that wardrobe, I loved it all and then had fun with my friends digging holes, running away from imaginary bad guys and hidden doorways. After that, a lot of “grown-up” books were a disappointment to me at first until I learned to embrace speculative fiction and started to consider other topics exciting as well. But this is a very long-winded way of saying that I still am that kid looking for adventure stories and when I heard about Malice in Ovenland, I knew I had to give it a go. And yes, middle-grade books still deliver the same fun and no, I did not try to explore behind my kitchen oven, cause that would be weird. (it was very dusty!)

Malice in Ovenland is a middle-grade comic by Micheline Hess and published by Rosarium. The first volume introduces fierce young, Black Lilly Brown, who does not get to spend her summer at camp like her friends but instead has to take care of her mother’s organic garden and a list of other chores. Already, and with adult eyes, I find this positioning important: Lilly lives with her mom and loves fast food but her mother has chosen to grow organic food to take care of her daughter and herself and Lilly also has responsibilities that she might not enjoy but takes care of nonetheless. This is not your spoiled middle-class kid and I love this glimpse of Lilly’s mother. And then, when Lilly attempts to clean the oven she tumbles into Ovenland, like Alice once fell into Wonderland.

malice1

How fantastic are those colors and especially that last panel!?  I love all the details like the cracked glasses and the horribly-green Bleh! Now in Ovenland, Lilly is locked into the dungeon, meets a queen and finds a kingdom in crisis over the lack of incoming grease. Yup people, if you’re going organic, make sure you’re not cutting off the kingdom behind your oven!

Lilly is everything I’ve always wanted from a heroine in an adventure story and I was in turns delighted and grossed out with her. There is a lot of monologuing going on initially but keep on reading it’ll get better and I did not find the message overly preachy, so hopefully middle-graders won’t either. I think there is a lot of potential in this story and I look forward to future volumes and Micheline Hess’ next project. I wish I’d had more female characters of color to look up to when I was younger, especially ones so visually present as in comics, and Malice in Ovenland totally delivers. It makes me want to get some kids from somewhere just to push this comic on them. And since I don’t have and don’t want kids, this is high praise indeed.

Malice in Ovenland Vol.1 will be out August 31, get it for your kids and your inner child! Also make sure to check out Rosarium Publishing here, they specialize in multicultural speculative fiction, comics, and a touch of crime fiction.

Disclaimer: I received an egalley of this book from the publisher. But never fear, I remain my opinionated self!

Thoughts: Coffee Will Make You Black

coffee will make you black

April Sinclair’s Coffee Will Make You Black is the coming-of-age story of young Jean “Stevie” Stevenson who grows up in the Chicago Southside of the 1960s, in the midst of the Black Power and Civil Rights movements. As a bildungsroman, the novel follows Stevie from age eleven until seventeen and her journey of self-discovery  as well as her and her community’s place in the US. If, like me, you’re not from the US, the title may have you confused. Coffe will make you Black is explained by Stevie’s grandmother as:

“The old folks in the South used to tell that to children so they wouldn’t want to drink coffee. The last thing anybody wanted to be was black.”

Horrible isn’t it? As you can see, and important part of the novel revolves about racism and racial identity. Sinclair also critiques the colorism inside and outside of the Black community. For Stevie is very dark-skinned and among her group of friends they like to compare their skin color to see who is the lightest. Alongside these notions of colorism is the rise of the Black Power movement through which Stevie comes to reject anti-blackness. Instead, she decides to wear her hair in a ‘fro and refuses the skin-bleaching cremes her mother offers her. Sinclair further demonstrates the generational conflict at work as Stevie’s mother strives to emulate white people in that she straightens her hair, bleaches her skin and insists on ‘proper’ English. Stevie, however, fights her mother and embraces Black vernacular and insists on staying friends with a girl who is ‘nothing but trouble.’

But square Stevie also longs to be part of the cool group, which leads to boyfriends with misogynistic attitudes and nearly having sex before she is ready. Growing closer to white school nurse Horn, Stevie comes to re-evaluate her sexual identity and also her community’s attitudes towards interracial friendship and homosexuality that she had previously accepted without question.

In the end, the novel proudly declares that ‘Black is beautiful’ and Stevie’s grandmother offers an other saying, ‘The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice’ as counterpoints to the titular racist idiom. Sinclair for the most part wonderfully connects and interrelates the coming of age story and the Civil Rights narrative, even if some moments could’ve done with a lighter touch. But this is a debut novel and it spoke to me on so many levels. I can only imagine what this book might mean to all the Stevies out there. And apart from its obvious importance in telling the story of growing up a Black girl in the 60s, a lot of the book is uproriously funny! I can only draw from other readings and movies about the time and community for comparison, but I think Sinclair’s use of vernacular is fantastic and lends the book much of its charm.

Luckily there is a sequel, Ain’t Gonna Be the Same Fool Twice, which follows Stevie’s exploration of her sexual identity in her college years in San Francisco. I can’t wait to read it!

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

What’s your favorite coming of age story? Tell me in the comments!

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!

Thoughts: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

lagoon

Lagoon is my second book by Nnedi Okorafor and one I chose for Sci-Fi Month. I didn’t manage to post this short review last month, but having really gotten into science-fiction and fantasy this year I feel that every month should be sci-fi month 🙂

Lagoon is the extremely imaginative story of a first contact, where an unidentified object crashes into the ocean in Lagos, Nigeria. Three people are at Bar Beach when the crash occurs and become embroiled in saving Lagos: Adaora is a marine biologist, Anthony is a rapper from Ghana and Abu a soldier. The three are asked for help by the alien ambassador Ayodele. Of course, word gets out that aliens are about and chaos breaks out in Lagos. The aliens calling themselves – and claiming to seek change, inspire everything from war and scamming to LGBTIQ adoration (Ayodele can shift genders amongst other things).

Lagoon has everything: a superhero story, magic, folklore, Nigerian mythology, eco-warriors and Okorafor has a lot of fun imagining fantastical creatures and giving many a voice, too.  The story is chaotic and teeming with ideas and concepts all happening at the same time. There is a wonderful multiplicity of narrative voices. It might take a few chapters to get used to, but this really works in the book’s favor, creating complexity and chaos, while simultaneously connecting different strands, different voices of the city.

While this may seem a fun romp and riff off District 9 (it is! and seeks to break the film’s stereotypical representation of Nigerian villains), Lagoon is rife with weighty issues that pack a punch. Okorafor explores everything from racism and domestic violence to the treatment of the LGBTIQ community. I wish there had been a chance to get to know many of the characters in more depth, as it is the female main characters are wonderfully complex and the other characters remain walking ideas and aspects of Lagos life. But Adaora and Ayodele are amazing characters, I’d love to meet them in other works. As usual, I am left wanting more so I’m glad Okorafor is such a prolific writer. My advice is to take a deep breath and jump, and you’ll love Lagoon!

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

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon

24hourreadathon

Ahhh, I signed up for the readathon this Saturday! In all my years of book blogging I’ve never participated in the readathon, either the timing didn’t work or it just seemed too daunting. But I’ve always loved the tbr stacks participants posted and then I read Sharlene’s readathon post and was inspired to just jump in.

The best thing is that the readathon is from 2pm till 2pm in my time zone, which works great for me. I want it to be pretty relaxed, so I’ll definitely want to get some sleep and just curl up after brunch with the last book for some quick reading. Also, might actually get some laundry and work done before the readathon starts. I’m with my family over the weekend, so will need to be a bit social in-between obsessive reading bouts, but they’ll be readying the garden for winter anyway.

The prep stage appeals to me so much, I’m gonna swing by the market for snacks and such, perhaps even the small library (no hopes whatsoever) and the bookstore (only top 50 bestsellers in English), but that way I can remind myself why I chose the Scribd e-book flat. I also need more candles and not-really-but-always more tea. What? That’s completely normal reading prep!

Of course, I spent most of the day thinking of books to read during readathon. I’ve heard that lighter reads and shorter books as well as comics go a long way and while I’m not a slow reader, I hate to rush through and still want to feel accomplished, so that seems like a good idea. Since I don’t have access to all the books, my tbr consists mainly of Scribd ebooks. Well, drumroll, here it is:

readathon stack

Nope that is not what I think I’ll manage to read! My personal goal is to finish two books 😀 But I want a good selection from which to choose, depending on my mood. I chose Salsa Nocturna (which I’m a couple of pages in, but will just start again Saturday), because it’s the only Daniel José Older I have access to and it’s on Scribd till the end of October 17th only, so I’ll definitely be reading this one. Also by Mail is my second Diversiverse read and the event ends on Saturday, so my plan is to read and review it during readathon (sometimes you just got to be efficient).

I’ve also chosen two comics, that I’ve heard lots of great things about, Lumberjanes and Zombillenium, and since each part is very short I want to have them on hand to change things up. I was so disappointed that Binti was only available as audiobook, but then I checked the length and it’s only 2 and something hours and when my eyes get sore I’ll put on Binti and take a walk to get some air. In case I want some nonfiction, I’ve added I Mix What I Like to my stack, it’s about the decolonial and revolutionary potential of hip hop and mixtapes and that’s right up my alley. And two other books that I’ve been wanting to read, Artistotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and Zahrah the Windseeker are there waiting for me to get bored or restless with the other books. But I think I might want to take my time with them. That’s the plan anyway, Saturday might go very differently though (wish me luck that I don’t end up with a migraine). But I’m super exciting!

Have you read these books? Are you joining the readathon? If so, what’s on your reading stack?