All posts filed under: Reviews

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah opens with a hair salon and a major turning point. Ifemelu has decided to close her hugely successful blog, break up with her Black American boyfriend, sell her apartment and (after 13 years away) return to Nigeria. She tells herself there’s no specific cause for the move, just “layer after layer of discontent that settled in her, and formed a mass that now propelled her”. But while she sits in the hairdressers having her hair braided for this monumental trip home, she thinks of the Obinze, “her first love, her first lover, the only person with whom she had never felt the need to explain herself”, and it’s clear part of her homesickness is the longing to see her former flame. Impulsively she fires off an email to Obinze informing him of her return. Cut to Obinze who receives her email as he sits in Lagos traffic. From his reaction we know the feelings are mutual, which is complicated since he is now a husband and father. Amidst the turmoil Ifemelu and Obinze fall …

Getting To Happy by Terry McMillan

I wasn’t expecting a sequel to Waiting Exhale. Apparently neither was Terry McMillan. “All four of them got on my last nerve long after their shelf life,” she admits in the Author’s Note. Getting To Happy is a billboard sign advising middle-aged females to take the next slip road off the love quest But 15 years after Bernadine, Savannah, Gloria and Robin finally exhaled around that camp-fire, they’re back. Alas, the years have not been kind to them. Their money’s funny, work is unsatisfying and love has made a fool of them all. If Helena Andrews’ Bitch is the New Black suggested black love was tricky in your 20s, Getting To Happy is a billboard sign advising middle-aged females to take the next slip road off the love quest as they’re likely to have more success hunting down the Holy Grail. The book isn’t a difficult read. McMillan’s energetic, stream-of-consciousness translates into pages that practically turn themselves. But there’s a bitter edge that permeates too much of the novel. If somebody founded an anti-romance movement …

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

If you took GCSE English then chances are you’ve read a Mildred D Taylor novel. My sister and I were ahead of the curve. I read everything she read and since our Nigerian parents restricted our movements to school, Safeway and the local library, I’d read everything Taylor had published long before I stepped foot in secondary school. It was in her books I first heard of segregation. It took me a while to make the connection and understand that parallel to the dirt-poor Waltons who lived on Waltons’ Mountain and whom we watched religiously on a Sunday morning, were black communities languishing under the mass deception of ‘separate but equal.’ Yet while Taylor’s narratives engaged me, it was her authorial voice, the musicality of a unique English dialect that enthralled me. She stood on the shoulders of Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker in telling stories in that colourful, metaphorical voice intrinsic to the Deep South. I hadn’t planned on reviewing The Help for this site. A story about African American maids written by …

Fledgling by Octavia Butler

If you’re not an ardent science fiction fan you may not have heard of Octavia Butler. Suffice to say she is to sci-fi what Tiger Woods is to golf and Ozwald Boateng to men’s tailoring, an outsider whose talent bought her a ticket to the party then elevated her to VIP status. In Fledgling Butler’s final novel before her premature death, she works a remarkable transformation on the hackneyed vampire myth. Society is more likely to accept a vampire in your car than a young girl of a different race. Her protagonist, Shori is a young black girl who barely escapes a brutal attack on her family. She wakes from a coma to ravenous hunger and a black hole where her memories should be. When Wright Hamlin, a white man, drives by and stops to offer her a lift we quickly discover two things; firstly Shori’s food of choice is blood, secondly society is more likely to accept a vampire in your car than a young girl of a different race. Wright doesn’t deposit Shori …

Bitch is the New Black by Helena Andrews

The consequences of spending most of your time idling in the chick lit section of bookshops become apparent when you’re occasionally required to read something serious or based on real-life events. You find you’re primed to look out for the happy ending, that stories feel…incomplete without one. Thus I came to the end of Helena Andrews’ Bitch Is The New Black feeling a little short-changed – What? She doesn’t find a guy? What kind of story is this? But then maybe I should have paid more attention to the pundits who described the memoir as the ‘black Sex in the City,’ since being a black girl and living in the city, I happen to know there’s little sex but a great deal of cooling your heels with your girlfriends trying to conjure suitable men from the ether. Andrews sets out the uninspiring state of her love life in chapter one, Dirty Astronaut Diapers. The cryptic title refers to Lisa Nowak, a successful astronaut who upon discovering her man is cheating, google-maps the location of her …