I’ve seen a number of black reading lists for summer 2016 and I have to say, they feature an overabundance of weepy, traumatic or painfully intellectual recommendations.
It doesn’t take a data analyst to find the causal link between the dearth of black genre fiction and the lack of light-hearted (yet clever) summer reads. Here, I’ll draw the correlative line for you.
Luckily, my spidey senses are always attuned to the light-read frequency so here are five genre novels for you to enjoy in the sunshine.
- The Perfect Find – Tia Williams
I’ve just finished this novel and I read it with the kind of joyful gusto Cookie Monster might employ when devouring a basket of baked goods.
It’s about Jenna Jones, a 40-year-old, black, Anna Wintour, fashionista. Jenna’s been out of the fashion game for a few years battling depression after a devastating break up. Unfortunately, a few years for regular humans is about a century in fashion, so Jenna has been forced to work for her arch nemesis in order to make her comeback. With all this professional drama, what she doesn’t need is to fall for her 22-year-old colleague. Even if he is sexy as hell and wise beyond his years.
Will they? Won’t they? Exactly how tricky is sex in a stationary cupboard? I’ll let you find out.
2. The Girl From Nowhere – Dorothy Koomson
Dorothy Koomson’s books are about riddles and clues and peeling onions back layer by layer. You never get the whole picture until the very end. And even then, you can’t share it with anybody without ruining the plot. So instead you say – just read it. It’s brilliant.
Koomson’s tenth novel is about a girl who was adopted. Now a 30-something-year-old woman, she’s met somebody who knows what happened to her birth parents. As the tangled truth of her adoption and childhood emerge, a series of shocking events make her question if she should have left the past undisturbed.
Just read it. It’s brilliant.
3. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
If, like me, you believe we need more black people in space. Here you go. *holds out platter*
This year Binti won the Nebula Award for Best Novella, and was a finalist for a British Science Fiction Association Award. Understand, these are two organisations filled with geeky white guys, so if they were forced to acknowledge its awesomeness you can assume it’s outrageously good.
The central character, Binti is 16-years-old and a maths prodigy. She’s the first of the Himba people to ever win a place in Oomza University – the most prestigious university in the galaxy. But accepting that place means defying her family and sneaking away to make the space journey to campus
Alas, luck is not on her side and her flight is attacked by a warmongering, alien race. They take her hostage and she must use her wits to find a way to save herself and possibly her people.
Binti is a story that works wonderfully at a surface level, but can also be mined for much deeper meaning. ie Critics have drawn parallels between the themes and Germany’s treatment of Namibia during the colonial years.
Make of it what you will, it’s a fantastic read.
4. Sweet Medicine – Panashe Chigumadzi
” You cannot fight an evil disease with sweet medicine” ie sometimes you gotta do wrong to do right.
The setting is Harare in 2008, the height of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis. The country is crumbling and Tsitsi’s family is drowning in poverty. She’s a young woman with a degree in economics and dreams of working in the reserve bank. But the country’s fiercely patriarchal system means she can only get assistant jobs, and the crappy economy means the money goes nowhere. She is the breadwinner for her family and she is failing.
Feeling desperate, Tsitsi opts for survival, she has an affair with her married boss, the wealthy Mr Zvobgo. It compromises her Catholic values but catapults her up in society and eventually into the role of trophy wife. But nothing in life is simple and when she feels her meal ticket slipping away, she employs a witch doctor to help her maintain the good life. After all, God helps those who help themselves.
5. I Almost Forgot About You – Terry McMillan
Terry McMillan’s new novel is about a black woman who feels stuck and restless and decides to shake things up.
Now let’s be honest, this is the plot of How Stella Got Her Groove Back, The Interruption of Everything, Who Asked You and (arguably) A Day Late and a Dollar Short. McMillan has cornered the market on women who take a sledgehammer to their lives and build something glorious on the debris.
And that’s A-OK with me. I love her long, winding sentences, her straight-talking characters and her stories of smart women in transition. I can’t imagine a better beach book.
In this instance, Dr. Georgia Young has friends, family, and a successful career. But she’s feeling ‘meh’, so she quits her job as an optometrist, moves house, and makes some moves that may or may not give her a second chance at love.
You’re hooked right? Go buy it.
Have you read a wonderful, light-hearted, book you’d recommend for vacation reading? Please share below.