As the season changes bookworms around the globe, will be excited to cosy up on the sofa, with a comfortable blanket, their favourite beverage and of course an enjoyable book. Here are some recommended novels and blurbs, from ethnic authors from diverse backgrounds. The novels touch on issues that impact the black and ethnic community. All books have been read by our CTM columnist, and highly recommended!
Daddy Was A Number Runner- Louse Meriweather (fiction).
This beloved modern classic, documents the lives and hardships of an African American family living in Depression-era Harlem. While 12-year-old Francie Coffin’s world and family threaten to fall apart, this remarkable young heroine must call upon her own wit and endurance to survive amidst the treacheries of racism and sexism, poverty and violence.
CTM: A touching story that was read quickly, and wanting more.
A Piece of Cake- Cupcake Brown (memoir).
You have before you the strange, heart-wrenching, and exhilarating tale of a woman named Cupcake. It begins as the story of a girl orphaned twice over, once by the death of her mother and then again by a child welfare system that separated her from her stepfather and put her into the hands of an epically sadistic foster parent. But there comes a point in her preteen years—maybe it’s the night she first tries to run away and is exposed to drugs, alcohol, and sex all at once—when Cupcake’s story shifts from a tear-jerking tragedy to a dark comic blues opera. As Cupcake’s troubles grow, so do her voice and spirit. Her gut-punch sense of humor and eye for the absurd, along with her outsized will, carry her through a fateful series of events that could easily have left her dead.
Young Cupcake learned to survive by turning tricks, downing hard liquor, partying like a rock star, and ingesting every drug she could find while hitchhiking up and down the California coast. She stumbled into gangbanging, drug dealing, hustling, prostitution, theft, and, eventually, the best scam of all: a series of 9-to-5 jobs. But Cupcake’s unlikely tour through the cubicle world was paralleled by a quickening descent into the nightmare of crack cocaine use, till she eventually found herself living behind a Dumpster.
CTM: Mind blowing! Powerful and inspiring read. A long one though.
Black And White- Ben Burgess (fiction).
When the prestigious law firm of Wayne, Rothstein, and Lincoln catches two major cases—a rape case where a White NBA star allegedly raped a Black stripper, and a murder case where a Black rapper allegedly killed a gay couple and two policemen—Bill O’Neil and Ben Turner are tasked to handle these racially charged litigations. The cases hit emotional chords with the two lawyers and force them to reckon with their interracial relationships and families. Will the racial tension of their cases destroy them or make them stronger?
This novel was reviewed by the CTM columnist, and the author was interviewed regarding his inspiration for this novel. You can read more here.
CTM: This book touched me on so many levels, it’s raw, gritty and food for thought.
Women of The Silk- Gail Tsukiyama (historical fiction).
In Women of the Silk Gail Tsukiyama takes her readers back to rural China in 1926, where a group of women forge a sisterhood amidst the reeling machines that reverberate and clamor in a vast silk factory from dawn to dusk. Leading the first strike the village has ever seen, the young women use the strength of their ambition, dreams, and friendship to achieve the freedom they could never have hoped for on their own. Tsukiyama’s graceful prose weaves the details of “the silk work” and Chinese village life into a story of courage and strength
CTM: A real powerful tear jerker. If you’re not familiar with this part of the world, or the hostile occupation of the country, this is an excellent read to learn something from historically. For female readers this is a good empowerment novel, to see what these women endured.
Language of Threads- Gail Tsukiyama (historical fiction).
Readers of Women of the Silk never forgot the moving, powerful story of Pei, brought to work in the silk house as a girl, grown into a quiet but determined young woman whose life is subject to cruel twists of fate, including the loss of her closest friend, Lin. Now we finally learn what happened to Pei, as she leaves the silk house for Hong Kong in the 1930s, arriving with a young orphan, Ji Shen, in her care. Her first job, in the home of a wealthy family, ends in disgrace, but soon Pei and Ji Shen find a new life in the home of Mrs. Finch, a British ex-patriate who welcomes them as the daughters she never had. Their idyllic life is interrupted, however, by war, and the Japanese occupation. Pei is once again forced to make her own way, struggling to survive and to keep her extended family alive as well. In this story of hardship and survival, Tsukiyama paints a portrait of women fighting the forces of war and time to make a life for themselves.
CTM: Just beautiful! In every way.
Purple Hibiscus – by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (fiction).
Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They’re completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home-a home that is silent and suffocating. As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together. Purple Hibiscus is an exquisite novel about the emotional turmoil of adolescence, the powerful bonds of family, and the bright promise of freedom.
CTM: First ever book read by the author, left me wanting a lot more. A tear jerker how it ends, but an excellent read.
Half A Yellow Sun- Chimamamanda Ngozi Adiche (historical fiction).
With effortless grace, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s. We experience this tumultuous decade alongside five unforgettable characters: Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old houseboy who works for Odenigbo, a university professor full of revolutionary zeal; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful young mistress who has abandoned her life in Lagos for a dusty town and her lover’s charm; and Richard, a shy young Englishman infatuated with Olanna’s willful twin sister Kainene. Half of a Yellow Sun is a tremendously evocative novel of the promise, hope, and disappointment of the Biafran war.
CTM: You’ll learn so much, while following a story that touches on everything from race, love, sex and war.
Americanah- Chimamamanda Ngozi Adiche (contemporary fiction).
Ifemelu and Ovine are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
CTM: Page turner!
A Thousand Splendid Suns- Khaled Hosseini (historical fiction).
After 103 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and with four million copies of The Kite Runnershipped, Khaled Hosseini returns with a beautiful, riveting, and haunting novel that confirms his place as one of the most important literary writers today.
Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.
A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heart-breaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.
CTM: Beautiful, educational, engaging, dramatic and well written historical fiction at its best.