ISCLAIMER: I am not a bookstagrammer, nor am I a classic bookworm. I decided to become a functional reader because I realised that I didn’t know a lot about my history as an Ibibio West African from the Southeastern Riverlands of what is now known as Nigeria.
Over the last few months, I decided to give in to Alessandra’s constant persuasion – to give fiction a chance (since until then, all I had read fell within the boundaries of non-fiction). In my assessment, I’ve read a lot of good fiction, a few great ones, but by and large, I don’t think fiction is for me – at least not yet.
This month, I read 5 books. I loved one, liked another and only just managed to complete the remaining three.
‘Small Island’ by Andrea Levy
‘Small Island’ was a five star read. I hated Hortense at first but loved her in the end. I saw a lot of myself in Gilbert, and the characters of Queenie and Bernard reminded me a lot of the quintessential Brits of the present day, especially in their gendered roles (which I found interesting, considering the fact that this book was set around 1948).
‘The Confessions of Frannie Langton’ by Sara Collins
‘The Confessions of Frannie Langton’ was a four star read. For starters, it was refreshing to read a book that was written about a slave but made little to no mention of America. It was also great to see a Black and Female character who subverted a lot of the tropes that one would normally associate with the 19th century Black Woman. Would she have been the same character (learned, well read, bold, daring, and full of confidence) if she was the child of two slaves as opposed to the child of one slave and one slaveholder? That, we’ll never know.
‘She Would Be King’ by Wayétu Moore
‘She Would Be King’ was a three star read. I expected so much from this book but in the end it was only just good for me. ‘She Would Be King’ touches on one too many subjects. Unfortunately, this means that certain aspects (for example, the paternalistic relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous Africans) that deserved more attention were not really explored. But then again, it is a work of fiction so much can be excused. Do I recommend? Yes. Would I read again? No.
‘Queenie’ by Candice Carty-Williams
‘Queenie’ was a two star read (I know Alessandra isn’t going to like this). I found the titular character too hard to relate to, especially given my West-African upbringing. There were some good aspects like that of raising awareness of mental health issues, which I definitely subscribe to. But as many Nigerians would say, ‘heaven only helps those who help themselves’. Queenie didn’t look to me like someone who was helping herself. She was doing the same things but expecting different results. Making the same mistakes but not seeming to learn from them. That, unfortunately, made her difficult for me to relate to.
‘Washington Black’ by Esi Edugyan
‘Washington Black’ was a two star (I know. Most people I know loved this one). Again, this may have a lot to do with my upbringing but I find it hard to relate to someone (Wash) who makes a conscious effort to find and stick to someone else (Titch) who clearly isn’t reciprocating the same actions. Throw in the fact that the former is Black (the embodiment of the enslaved in those days) and the latter is White (the embodiment of the slave owner), and it just spins my head out of proportion. Mind you, this is the same Washington who didn’t even spare a second thought when the time came to leave Big Kit behind – the very same woman who did pretty much everything for him. So why the sudden care for Titch? Anyways, I also found it quite hard to believe that in slavery’s heyday, a Black man could refer to a White man by his nickname with little to no consequences. Not saying it didn’t happen. It’s just a bit much for me to wrap my head around.
And that’s it for this month. Thanks for reading.