Book Babble || She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore
Published 2018, Greywolf Press
294 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55597-817-4

Synopsis:

In the West African village of Lai, red-haired Gbessa is cursed at birth and exiled on suspicion of being a witch. Bitten by a viper and left for dead, she nevertheless survives. On a plantation in Virginia, June Dey hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. And in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Norman Aragon, the child of white British colonizer and a Maroon slave, can fade from sight at will, just as his mother could.
Gbessa, misunderstood by her own people, finds a new life with a group of African American settlers in the colony of Monrovia. When she meets June Dey and Norman Aragon, it isn’t long before they realize that they are all cursed – or perhaps, uniquely gifted, but only Gbessa can salvage the tense relationship between the settlers and the indigenous tribes. The all-seeing spirit of the wind weaves together their extraordinary stories. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.”
In her transcendent debt, Wayetu Moore illuminates the tumultuous roots of Liberia, a country whose history is inextricably bound to the United States. A spectacular blend of history and magical realism, She Would Be King is a novel of profound depts from a major new author.

Rating:
★★★★☆

Thoughts:

One of my favorite things about this book was that it reminded me of a spiritual mixed with “survival music” (essentially songs that helped those enslaved and those living through Jim Crow survive and continue to move forward). Moore’s writing style was so smooth and flowy that she makes magical realism feel as if it’s a part of everyday life and history seem as if it’s the fairytale.

The layers to this story were absolutely mesmerizing as it was told from the perspective of a wind spirit watching over the three main characters who each have different, yet similar, experiences with colonization and slavery. I thought it was a fantastic way to grapple with how widespread and connected the ideas of colonization and slavery are/were. The story travels from Africa, to America, to Jamaica and back to Africa showcasing each character’s experience and journey.

I was fascinated with the portion that covered Liberia since I hardly know anything about Liberia outside of it being set up by the American Colonization Society so that free blacks could have a better chance at life. It was fascinating reading about the ‘society women’ in Monrovia and how much of their livestyle and the way in which they carried themselves were similar to how Southern woman carried themselves. It was also interesting realizing that the free blacks who helped the ACS colonize Liberia were also colonizers by extension; that the land had one belonged to other tribes/people and was being taken from them by people who both looked like them and didn’t look like them. It was just an emotional trip.

Who Should Read This?

  • fans of magical realism
  • people looking to read historical fiction about Liberia
  • people who want to read magical realism but are unsure if they’d like it or not

What do you think of magical realism and what’s your favorite book from the genre? Also, if you’ve read this before let me know what you thought!

Borrow/Purchase

Borrow
WorldCat
Purchase
Book Depository (affiliate link – I receive a 5% commission)

Book Babble |Black Faces, White Spaces

(If you read my Nonfiction November post you already know that Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimaging the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney was on my TBR list under the wander/wonder portion of the themed challenges.)

Thoughts:

18640643Finney, in six brilliantly written chapters, examines why African Americans are so underrepresented in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism and the relationship that African Americans have with the environment vs white Americans.

She draws upon; collective memories of slavery and Jim Crow, the timing of the creation and passing of the Wilderness Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, how African Americans are often personified as being animals, and how hard it is for African Americans to see images of themselves engaging with outdoor recreation that goes beyond sports.

One of my favorite portions of this book, and the one that resonated with me the most, is when Finney goes into detail about how more often than not, in flyers or brochures that market outdoor activities African Americans are either not present, pictured terrified of an experience, or working while whites are pictured happily having fun in leisurely recreational activities. It’s something that I’ve actually noticed a lot during my own hikes and travels and it’s nice to see that I wasn’t going crazy or making a big deal out of nothing.

I absolutely loved this book and I loved every second of reading it. Finney’s writing style is incredibly academic and there were a few moments where I did have to pause and actually think about what it was that I just read; which is fantastic.

Let me know if you’ve read this book before, what your thoughts are on nature and the great outdoors, or what some of your biases are concerning outdoor recreation!

Read This Book If:

  • You are a PoC and curious about either other’s aversion to nature or your own.
  • Curious about the role that race plays in environmentalism.
  • Looking to diversify your environmental studies reading selection

Book Information:

Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimaging the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors | by Carolyn Finney | Published by The University of North Carolina Press, 2014 |138 pages (173 counting bibliography + index) | ISBN: 9781469614489

Purchase from: Book Depository (affiliate link) or University of North Carolina Press

Author Information

Carolyn Finney, PH.D (black effin’ excellence right thurr), is a writer, performer, and cultural geographer. She’s a professor of Geography at the University of Kentucky and serves on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board. Black Faces, White Spaces is her first book.

Book Babble: The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion was a legit cover grab for me. I mean, look at it! It just looks so creepy, but in that “ooooo this is gonna be good” way.

It’s a super short book, 112 pages, and follows a woman named Danielle who’s looking into the sudden suicide of her best friend. Her search takes her to a Utopian squatter town in Iowa named Freedom where a spirit in the form a red-eyed three antlered deer has been summoned to serve as a judge and executioner in the town. However, the deer is beginning to turn on its summoners and it’s up to Danielle and her new friends to figure out how to save the town and themselves.

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion was an insanely captivating mixture of fantasy and horror with an amazing element of commentary on police states and anarchism. I enjoyed Killjoy’s writing and found the majority of it to be well-paced and engaging. There were a few parts that I wish had been explored a bit more – such as how the summoning of the deer worked and how “magic” was discovered, but I’m hoping that since this is part of a series the magic system (or systems) will be explored in the next novella.

I would recommend this to people who want to read fantasy with a diverse cast of characters (PoC, queer, and trans), are interested in horror novels, and who are looking for a quick read that covers a lot ground in a realistic way.

If you’ve read this book, let me know what you thought about it! And if you haven’t, what are some of your favorite fantasy/horror novellas, books, or writers?

Hope you have a wonderful day & read a wonderful book!

Rae

Find “The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion” at a library near you | Purchase from Book Depository (I receive a 5% commission if you do!)

Book Babble: Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone has been all over my life. Patrons have been constantly checking it out, I’ve been constantly processing it for holds, and it’s been all over my YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter feeds since it’s release. At first, I wasn’t going to read it because I have hipster tendencies and tend to avoid reading things that end up being repeatedly shoved in my face and because I usually don’t enjoy YA fantasy novels.

Buuuuuut, I do occasionally feel like I have to read things by black authors, especially black women authors who are writing fantasy. You know, support the people and all that ish. Aaaaaand, the synopsis didn’t sound too bad, aaaaaaand, I’ve heard decently good things about it.

So, did I love it?

Not exactly.

I liked it. I could definitely see a younger me being absolutely in love with this. If this book had came out when I was in elementary or middle school I would have been all over it, but alas, it fell into too many of the YA tropes for me.

The main character, Zélie, is your typical “Chosen One”. She fucks up, gets in trouble, is insanely beautiful along with being a talented fighter, oh, and has a tragic backstory. Zélie, and her older brother, along with a runaway princess named Amari, embark on a quest to bring back magic via some magical artifacts and a celestial event and then aim to bring down the ruthless king (who happens to Amari’s father). To add more to the mix, the ruthless king has tasked Amari’s older brother, Inan to halt their quest, kill Zélie, and destroy the artifacts. Inan has to make some decisions, figure out who he is and who he wants to be, etc. – it’s almost like everyone in this novel was going through two forms of puberty and it was driving me crazy.

However, Adeyemi is a fantastic writer. Which is probably the main reason as to why I managed to finish the book. The story is told through Zélie, Amari, and Inan’s POV and each one is so drastically different that it works out excellently and makes for a very smooth blend. The world-building was on point, the plot was on point, and just the general subtle changes in the characters was on point.  Everything was on point, but as stated previously, it just didn’t appeal to me as an adult reader.

I would definitely recommend this book to fantasy lovers, black kids who thought Harry Potter was semi-wack, and people who just want to read fantasy from the African/African-American perspective.

Have you read Children of Blood and Bone yet? Or are you like me and avoiding it for as long as possible due to all the hype surrounding it? What did you think of it if you did read it? And who are some of your favorite PoC fantasy writers?

Hope you have a wonderful day & read a wonderful book!

Rae

_____

Find “Children of Blood and Bone” at a library near you |Purchase from Book Depository (I receive a 5% commission if you do!)

The Parking Lot Attendant | Book Babble

Taking a break away from Batwing because honestly…I totally just remembered why I don’t do the superhero comic book thing, but that will be discussed later on!

I picked up The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat from work on Thursday and started reading it on Saturday and finished it roughly 20minutes ago. I enjoyed the first chunk of it. I found it interesting, a tad bit creepy, and almost relatable.

The main character is a young Ethiopian girl who is the daughter of two immigrants who came to America to make better lives for themselves. Straight up, they are lowkey horrible parents. The father isn’t present for the first 6 years of the girl’s life and the mother disappears as soon as the father is semi-present.  The girl remains nameless throughout the entire story, which I actually didn’t mind that much. She felt like the kind of character who would have rebelled against a name anyway and just changed it depending on who she thought she was; which I thought was super cool writing on Tamirat’s behalf.

The girl forms a close friendship/bond with a parking lot attendant named Ayale who’s the unspoken leader of the Ethiopian community in Boston. The relationship is…creepy, but almost understandable as the story unfolds.

However, I started losing interest in the story as it became more and more about the main character’s feelings toward Ayale. I’m always uncomfortable being in the mind of a teenage girl, especially when that teenage girl reminds me occasionally of teenage me. The desire to be loved, to be special, to be something more to someone who you know damn well is dangerous for some reason is something that hit a little bit too close to home for me.

I did finish it though. I stuck it out and when I got the end I was just confused. The whole story became so insanely confusing and slightly unrealistic and just…odd. This was one of those books where I loved the author’s writing, I loved the way how the characters unfolded, but I didn’t love the story because I felt like it just fell apart and was only being held together by words that fit perfectly with each other but didn’t actually mean anything.

If you’ve read this book before, let me know what you thought about it! And if you haven’t, have you ever read a book that finished simply on the strength of the writer’s way with words even though the story made absolutely no sense?

Hope you have a wonderful day & read a wonderful book!

Rae.