hope you all had a successful, peaceful, and productive February! I cannot believe the second month of this year is already over. For me, it’s been slightly stressful but I’ve also gotten a good amount of books read and audiobooks listened to. Yes – about those audiobooks. This month was the first time I actually listen to an audiobook, it’s Instagram’s fault, because I kept seeing people listen to and enjoy audiobooks so I decided to give it a go – and loved it!
Apart from being busy and rather stressful, this month was also kind of special. Many people in my real-life and online surrounding have come to me, privately or publicly, to let me know that my reading suggestions and the books I’m reading myself have inspired them to read more or have given them ideas about what to read next, but some of them have also pointed out that sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the readings and the recommendations. So I thought a blog post with all the reads and short reviews would be a good idea! So here is February reading and listening roundup and my thoughts on the individual works:
‘Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl’, by Harriet Jacobs
‘Never Caught’, by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
ince it’s Black History Month in the US in February, I tried to focus on American literature and history. This book tells the story of the female slave Ona Judge who belonged to the Washingtons and who managed to run away from the First President of the US without ever being caught. I expected something heartbreaking like Harriet Jacobs’ tale of her own ordeal. Instead, Dunbar takes us halfway through the book, with lots of details about the Washingtons, and a fair amount of conjecture and speculation surrounding Ona Judge, her reactions, actions, or feelings. I think the book is good, but I guess reading Harriet Jacobs’ account just before this one rose my expectations to a super high level. Dunbar’s account of Ona Judge’s life felt like she sometimes struggled to fill the pages with actual facts about the runaway’s life, probably because of the lack of surviving archival material, which is understandable. My main problem with this book is that it’s sold as the tale of a female runaway’s life to freedom, but the first half of it feels more like an account of the Washingtons and their position towards slavery and their slaves. I’d still recommend it for a casual weekend read, but I would not recommend reading it just after Harriet Jacobs’ book like I did.
‘They Can’t Kill Us All: The Story of Black Lives Matter’, by Wesley Lowery
his book was fascinating, insightful, interesting, and gripping. It was completely different in terms of style and subject to what I’d been reading this month, and the change was very welcome. If you’re looking for a detailed, insider-perspective of the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement then this book is a must! A more recent account of the movement has been published last month: ‘When They Call You a Terrorist’ by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, but I have not read it yet so I can’t comment on it.
‘Milk in my Coffee’, by Eric Jerome Dickey
hoosing this book was a bit of an ordeal. I didn’t know what I wanted to read, nothing in my library seemed appealing, and I even went to the bookshop to see if I could find something new there. I did not. I came home frustrated. I picked up Dickey’s book, which had been on my shelf for a while, started reading the first page and instantly loved it! It’s very different to what I have been reading or what I normally read, but his style is awesome! It feels like being in a really good movie, you’re transported into the scene and feel like you’re becoming part of it. If you’re looking for a well-written fiction book, then this one is for you. The plot revolves around a black man from the South to New York, who is conscious of his blackness and celebrates it, but who falls in love with a white girl. Without giving too much away: there is bound to be trouble. It’s a light-hearted and well-written novel with a serious message and some interesting insights.
‘The Good Immigrant’, edited by Nikesh Shukla
ow! This is a great collection of personal, convincing, biting, and deeply honest essays spiralling around various aspects of being ‘other’, of not belonging. My favourite essays include: ‘You Can’t Say That! Stories Have To Be About White People!’, by Darren Chetty; ‘Shade’ by Salena Godden; and ‘The Ungrateful Country’, by Musa Okwonga. I was really looking forward to Reni Eddo-Lodge’s essay, since I am a huge fan of her ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’, but I was a little disappointed by this essay, to be honest. It ended really abruptly, just when I thought it was about to get really good. I definitely recommend this book, and I especially like the diversity in perspectives, ensuring that a wide panoply of readers can relate to the experiences are shared in the book.
‘I’m Judging You’ by Luvvie Ajayi
My first audiobook ever! Luvvie Ajayi eased me into the world of audiobooks with this honest but funny book. She talks about different aspects of our lives as a society or as individuals and throws major shade at our misbehaviour. At times it’s really funny, and even superficial (discussing the use of Hashtags for example), but in other parts she touches on very serious topics such as race and gender and makes some excellent points. I certainly don’t regret listening, and if you’re looking for someone to tell you what’s wrong with our world in a funny and tongue-in-cheek manner, without depressing you, then this one is for you!
‘We Should All Be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Adichie Ngozie
I’m sure most of you are familiar with this book, but I just wanted to mention that I enjoyed the brief reading and think it’s great as a starter into feminism and issues of female equality in Africa. My recommendation would be to be weary of sticking to white or white-oriented feminists ideas and also tackle the issue with the origins of feminism and its struggle with intersectionality (with race) as well.
‘We Are Going to Need More Wine’, by Gabrielle Union
This one was kind of a hit and miss for me. At times, she had me sitting upright, nodding to an invisible audience, agreeing with her points. At other times, however, I almost dozed off as she went on tell me about aspects of her personal life that really did not interest me. I think if you’re a fan of hers this book is amazing from cover to cover, but since I was more interested in generic ideas and issues, I did not enjoy the personal stuff as much.
‘Born a Crime’ by Trevor Noah
This audiobook was definitely a hit! I have the print version on my shelf but have not gotten around to reading it yet, but some people on Instagram mentioned that the audiobook is amazing, that it’s read by him, and that the book itself really comes to life in the audio version. I purchased the audiobook, started listening, and have enjoyed it from the first to the last minute. Oah narrates his own life, spares no details and comes up close and personal (some of the incidents made me feel sorry and embarrassed for him, they were THAT bad). I also learned a good deal about Apartheid in South Africa from a more personal and less politicised perspective. I would definitely recommend this audiobook, especially because there are different languages used in the book, which Noah brings to life in his recital – something that would probably go missing if I read it myself, since I don’t speak Zulu or Xhosa.
‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’, by Gail Honeyman
So, this book has been talked about widely in the press and among my friends, it has been a best seller and was awarded various awards. I usually steer clear of super hyped up books, because I know that my taste generally does not match the popular taste, but this time, I let myself be convinced by friends and ended up getting the audio version of ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’, and let’s just say: it’s not for me. There were some parts that I liked and was bemused by, but I could not really relate to the protagonist or to the storyline more generally. Maybe if I had read the book – I did not care much for the style of the reader – my opinion would have been different, who knows. Generally speaking, though, I was happy when I had gotten through it and could move on to the next one (and yes, I finished listening to it, I am not quitter 😉 ).