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Louisiana life is bittersweet in Queen Sugar

Charley Bordelon is a widow and single-mother. When she inherits a sugarcane farm from her father she opts to leave her failed life in LA behind, pack up and move in with her grandmother in Louisiana. Unbeknownst to Charley her grandmother has also invited her half-brother, Ralph Angel, to stay – a bitter man angry at being excluded from his father’s will. As tensions escalate at home, Charley must also contend with a host of problems on her new farm. Between the acres of neglected and dying crop and her hostile neighbours both black and white, she soon wonders if this is a feat she can pull off. The notion of a black woman owning a sugarcane farm in the Deep South a century after The Great Migration lends itself wholly to drama and conflict. When you throw in a bunch of charismatic relatives the stakes get even higher and the end result is highly compelling. I found Charley flawed and relatable and could only admire her tenacity: “She joined the crew, pulling armloads of …

2014 Black Reading Challenge

There’s nothing like a reading challenge to get your creative juices running. Maybe you have a list of authors you’ve been longing to try, or you’d like to discover some new voices. You don’t need a reason to take part in the 2014 Black Reading Challenge, just a library and the ability to read. Don’t adjust your set, I have 10 brilliant books to brighten your year. Plus, there’s a downloadable, printable version of the 2014 Black Reading Challenge. Pin it on a wall, stick it in your notebook, do whatever you want, but get reading! * March We Need New Names – NoViolet Bulawayo This debut novel centres around 10-year-old Darling, a girl growing up amidst the political decay and social devastation of Zimbabwe. Darling gets the chance to live with her aunt in America but discovers that along with new opportunities comes a deep longing for home. A brilliant novel that’s been nominated for every award going. * April A Cupboard Full of Coats – Yvette Edwards When an old friend turns up …

Beyonce

Beyoncé quotes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on new album

Beyoncé’s new self-titled album has succeeded in surprising the world not only in its unexpected appearance, but also in the choice of collaborators. Specifically the inclusion of excerpts from the speech, We Should All Be Feminists, by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. When you look at the two artists there are certain similarities: they’re both female, black, and outstripping the competition in their respective fields. It’s not surprising that one would choose to reference the other in a creative piece. And yet I was surprised. Not only that Beyoncé had heard of my favourite author – I imagined that between the stage shows, studio sessions, video shoots, press interviews, film sets, product endorsements, high-end shopping and mothering a toddler, Queen Bey wouldn’t have time to read literature – but more that she’d chosen to include a feminist speech from Chimamanda. Chimamanda Adichie wears her feminism plainly on her sleeve and is always waving the flag for equality of the sexes. Beyoncé’s stance on feminism has been less clear, even to herself. When asked if she considered …

Malorie Blackman laughs at the camera

10 things you never knew about rock star author Malorie Blackman

Malorie Blackman has written over  60 books, was appointed Rock Star of All Things Bookish – ie Children’s Laureate – in June 2013, and has now added a little icing to all that cake by being named the most influential black person in Britain.  Pour yourself a cuppa, get comfortable in that chair and let’s learn a little more about this literary powerhouse. One: She was first published by The Women’s Press It took two years and a staggering 82 rejections before Malorie got her first book deal. It was with the feminist publisher, The Women’s Press and she submitted a collection of short stories for teenagers that blended horror and science fiction. The collection was published in 1990 and called Not So Stupid. Alas, the same can’t be said about all those publishers who originally passed on her. Two: She read her first black book at 23 Malorie has said that it never crossed her mind to be a writer until her mid-20s when she read The Colour Purple. The Alice Walker novel was …