Kathleen Collins: Notes from a Black Woman’s Diary

We did it guys! After three weeks of continuous rescheduling, we finally had our first book club meeting!

[And today is the 1st of July. Where has the time gone? Next thing you know it’ll be Christmas!]

But let me tell you…this book wasn’t a hit.

I’m always going to be honest with you because I value the time you spend with me here. This was a difficult read for me. It took almost two months of stop-and-go reading to get through this. There were pieces I enjoyed, but first let me tell you what the book club ladies thought.

In general, there was a lot of confusion about what was happening in the short stories at the beginning of the book. So much so that most of the ladies (and there were only four of us) didn’t finish the book.

The consensus was that reading the pieces in Notes from a Black Woman’s Diary reminded them too much of trauma and hardships they’d already experienced, and none of the characters seemed happy in the least.

Many people don’t like reading literature that reminds them of their lives. Instead, they want to escape from their stresses and be transported to worlds and lifestyles that are very much different from their own. It’s fair.

For me, it wasn’t so much reliving trauma, it was just that my attention wasn’t drawn in by most of the pieces.

I was into the short stories, though “Raschida” left so many questions…particularly about the farting. I couldn’t get into the novel excerpt “Lollie” at all, even after going back to read it again. The journal entries prompted a lot of questions about my own journaling habits, and one of the entries even prompted an interesting book club discussion about interracial relationships. “Remembrance” was the one play I really liked, especially this quote

“Colored people remember something from somewhere, sometime, someplace, and cry because they know it and recognize it at the same time.” (p.143)

which also prompted a good discussion with the ladies. I did like the screenplays the most out of all the pieces in the book, and I would like to watch Losing Ground at some point.

Overall this one was tough.

Our next book club meeting will be to discuss The Handmaid’s Tale. Since I’ve already read this one, I’m going to wait until the week before our meeting and borrow it from my local Library for a quick refresh.

In the meantime, I’ll be reading Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. It’s an anthology of science and speculative fiction, and it’s parallel to my favorite author, so I’m really excited to read it.

Well there it is folks, the review I’ve been promising for a month [smacks forehead emoji]. I’ll let you know how it goes with Octavia’s Brood.

Happy Reading!


Tomi Adeyemi: Children of Blood & Bone

Happy Monday! I feel like talking about books is the best way to begin the week, don’t you?

First, what I added to my “To Read” list last week:
Betty Shabazz, Surviving Malcolm X – Russell J. Rickford

Now for the meat & potatoes (though I’m currently limiting my meat to fish only. #thestruggleisreal)

Children of Blood and Bone is set up in a real but fictional Nigeria. It’s about the main character’s quest to bring magic back to her people, but it’s not Magical Realism by any means.

The main character, Zélie Adebola, is a divîner—the child of a Maji who has not yet come into her powers. Zélie’s mother was a Reaper, a maji who wielded power over the spirits of the dead, but her father and brother, Tzain, are Kosidán—common citizens who have no magical powers. Maji and divîners are characterized by their stark white hair, but kosidán have unassuming dark hair.

Under the rule of King Saran, who has a personal vendetta against maji, magic has been taken away. The Maji—including Zélie’s mother—have been murdered, and the artifacts that sustain magic have been destroyed so that divîner children can never develop their powers and become Maji—which typically happens around age thirteen. The divîner children are treated as the lowest caste of the population, and are referred to as “Maggots” by those in power. Kosidán parents and teachers, really anyone who houses or supports divîner children, are regularly and outrageously taxed by the monarchy.

When Zélie’s father almost drowns trying to catch fish (without her) to make enough money to pay the recently raised tax, she goes to the capital (Lagos) with her brother to sell a special fish in order to make money to pay the taxes. She goes inside the gates of the capital alone, makes enough money selling the fish to an arrogant noble to pay the taxes and last her little family for a while, and then finds herself in a bit of trouble on her way out. This trouble sparks her own powers as a Reaper and sends her on a quest to bring magic back to the people or lose it forever.

That’s all I’m giving you.

Children of Blood and Bone is a big book. Just north of 500 pages. However, it was a quick read. I read about 80% of the book in a day and a half. Granted, one of those days was a full day—I wasn’t feeling well and could only manage to lay out on the patio sofa and read. The story grabs you and moves you along.

Children of Blood and Bone is the kind of book you choose over your favorite TV drama. The characters, the emotions, the adventure, it’s all presented so well. And the place the story comes from…well you’ll just have to get to the end of it and find out. It’s a powerful notion for the people who need it most.

I was so pulled into this book that I felt like a piece of me was missing when it was over. A good book does that to you—leaves you full and empty simultaneously. I was spent, and it was beautiful, and when it ended I wanted more. The book did not come to a solid end. It ended well-enough, but left me with questions about what would happen next. There’s definitely room for another book to follow.

I’m so glad I put Children of Blood and Bone on my reading list! I think you will be too.

Happy Reading!



The Year of Black Books: What I’ve Read So Far

Holla Holla and we’re back!

You guys! I’m so excited to be back here with you. I’ve totally missed writing about the books I’m reading, especially since I am actively, and successfully, working through a pretty decent reading list this year!

I made it a point at the beginning of the year to make a list of twelve books by Black authors that I wanted to read in 2019.  I decided on one book per month because I knew I could maintain that, and there would be room to add more titles as I went along. I tend to be a pretty indiscriminate reader, and I haven’t read many new Black authors, so I decided 2019 would be the Year of Black Books for me.

Books I’ve read can be found here, and books still on my reading list can be found here. Below are the books of 2019 that I’ve read as of todayl:

If Beale Street Could Talk – James Baldwin  This story was decent. I watched the movie afterwards as well. The book did not end the way the movie did—there was a lot left unanswered in the book, and it left me wanting more of a conclusion. I enjoyed the dialogue and interaction between the characters. Honestly, I think I’m just tired of the Black-boy-gets-falsely-accused-of-rape narrative (which, by the way, resurfaces two books down).

Barracoon – Zora Neale Hurston This was interesting. It’s the story of a man who was taken to be a slave on the last Transatlantic ship to the US after the slave trade had been abolished. He talks about growing up and being taken and living in the states. Hurston writes the story in his words which lends to the authentic feeling of the story. She also includes bits of their interaction during her interview process with him that give insight into the kind of man he was. It was a quick read, and I would read it again, which is saying a lot because I don’t often re-read books.

An American Marriage – Tayari Jones Another Black-man-gets-falsely-accused-of-rape story. This one is more developed, though, and more about the relationship between he and his wife—especially as the narrative around his conviction and sentencing had lots of holes and left much to be desired. The story is mainly about how their relationship grew, and changed, and ended. It’s about their individual, and collective, parts in the dissolution of their marriage and how they end up in the arms of others. It’s not a story that surprised me. I saw most of it coming. It was a good read though. I finished it in a day. But, like, an entire day. Like, nine straight hours.

Well-Read Black Girl – Glory Edim, ed.  A collection of essays by Black women authors telling of the first time they saw themselves in literature. Throughout, the editor includes lists of works by Black women writers organized by genre—Classic Novels, Black Feminism, Black Girlhood and Friendship, Science Fiction and Fantasy, etc. I’ll be honest, I did not read all of the essays in this collection. However, I did take pictures of the book lists in order to add them to my overall reading list. It is a great resource if you’re look to read more books by Black women.

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi I really liked this one. There were so many characters though. So many characters. And I get why—the author is building a lineage that connects the past and present—but it was challenging to keep up with who was who. However, there’s a handy little family tree at the front of the book to reference, and I used it often. The story-telling made me feel things, and that’s exactly what I look for in a good book. Highly recommended.

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi I’m into it so far. It’s a big book though. Lots of pages, small print. This is my first book of the year that deals with fantasy and magic, and I’m here for it. It’s one of those books that you wish you could see as you read it. I fell like I have a pretty good imagination, but some of the animals are difficult to create in my head. I’d love to watch this on screen, and that’s a really good thing. I look forward to whatever is going to happen in this book, and it’s such a big book that I know a lot is going to happen.

So that’s my recap! Going forward, I plan to let you in on books that I’ve added to my reading list. I’m following the #BlackLiterature tag on IG so I often see new things I want to read. I screenshot them and add them to a “Books to Read” folder in my phone’s picture gallery. I’ll also be writing about the books I read as I finish them, or as they frustrate me, whichever comes first.

For now I’ll be linking book stuff through my main blog‘s IG page @insert_adventist (in a fit of chaotic indecision I converted the previous CBC IG page into the [Adventist] IG page, and haven’t had the heart to start a entirely new IG for this blog since I post so sporadically). I’ve also got some new stuff going on over there too, but if you’re only in it for the books that’s cool.

Anyway, I’m glad to be back.

Happy Reading!