DISCUSSION: New #ReadSoulLit Picks | Why I Don't Read Much Black Literature

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I'll admit that I don't read a lot of black literature, and as a young, black woman of color who wants to expand my reading tastes, I needed an outlet to help guide me. I grew up reading books that had predominantly straight white characters, with easygoing plotlines, characters that didn't really go anywhere. But I never questioned my reading because just the fact that I was reading whatever I wanted stood above me reading about white characters.

With that being said, I still read books with primarily white storylines. But then, this tag on social media called #ReadSoulLit captured my eye to see about opening my reading tastes to include black reads. Created by Didi Borie of Brown Girl Reading, she made this tag event to promote black contemporary writers of color during Black History Month in February 2015. Even though it's clearly not February today, I still wanted to share my appreciation for celebrating underrated writers and stories of color. 

From Didi's interview with folkloreandliteracy:

Ideally I’d love it if publishers expressed a desire to sponsor #ReadSoulLit.  I think this would allow them to see that there are more people out here than they think who are prepared to support black authors.  I hope that publishers will try to collaborate more often with black literary influencers like myself to promote all books in general. Publishers need to see that we are here, enjoy reading, and we’re talking about what we like and what we don’t like in books.

Homegoing by Ya'a Gyasi -  Synopsis: Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle's dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast's booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia's descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation. 

One of my Current Reads, this story revolves around family and how a long family line also means many secrets. I've been reading this slowly since last year, and it's very fascinating. Following every slave's story from beginning to end, even some of the slave owners, is something you really have to pay attention to, which is why I haven't finished it yet. 

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison -  Synopsis: The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison's first novel, a book heralded for its richness of language and boldness of vision. Set in the author's girlhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedloves' garden do not bloom. Pecola's life does change- in painful, devastating ways. What its vivid evocation of the fear and loneliness at the heart of a child's yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment.

This sounds so sad and heartbreaking and I'm so here for it! Plus, I don't get to read from a child's point of view too often because of their immaturity and naivety. However, with this book, I'm able to make an exception.  

Tar Baby by Toni Morrison -  Synopsis: Jadine Childs is a black fashion model with a white patron, a white boyfriend, and a coat made out of ninety perfect sealskins. Son is a black fugitive who embodies everything she loathes and desires. As Morrison follows their affair, which plays out from the Caribbean to Manhattan and the deep South, she charts all the nuances of obligation and betrayal between blacks and whites, masters and servants, and men and women.

This reminds me of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, not the police brutality against black people, but more how the main female black character, Starr, has a white boyfriend, Chris. Starr doesn't know how to navigate herself properly because on one hand, she's known in one way at home. On another hand, she's known for trying to be this conservative girl who's attracted to someone of a different race. Chris doesn't understand her points of view when it comes to hardships as a black woman in America, but he wants to at least try because he loves her. That's what I hope Tar Baby will represent; I'm all for supporting interracial relationships and love, but if Jadine's boyfriend shows more ignorance than compassion, then we're going to have a problem. But, I am still hopeful for a good read. 

The Mothers by Brit Bennett -  Synopsis: It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother's recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor's son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it's not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

At first, I wasn't going to pick this up because while I don't hate love triangles, I've outgrown them a bit. Everytime they're used as a plot device in a story, they turn into something corny or unrelatable. But with this one, I think it could be promising. 

The Nix by Nathan Hill -  Synopsis: Meet Samuel Andresen-Anderson: stalled writer, bored teacher at a local college, obsessive player of an online video game. He hasn't seen his mother, Faye, since she walked out when he was a child. But then one day there she is, all over the news, throwing rocks at a presidential candidate. The media paints Faye as a militant radical with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother never left her small Iowa town. Which version of his mother is the true one? Determined to solve the puzzle--and finally have something to deliver to his publisher--Samuel decides to capitalize on his mother's new fame by writing a tell-all biography, a book that will savage her intimately, publicly. But first, he has to locate her; and second, to talk to her without bursting into tears.

I've read orphan/founding family stories before, but they were mostly of fantasy genres. So seeing this new one come from a historical drama or fictional background piqued my interest. Hope I like it! 

What are some of your favorite new #ReadSoulLit picks? Comment below!

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