With protests against racism and police brutality continuing to grip many countries around the world – several folks are asking themselves what more, beyond that, they can do to be better allies to the black community in this necessary, crucial fight for equality.
Outside of donations and signing petitions, one such means is the amplification of black voices through supporting their work. As an avid reader, many of the best books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading were written by tremendously talented black novelists and, in a bid to do my minute part in supporting the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, I would love to increase awareness of some of these outstanding stories.
Green Days by the River, written by Michael Anthony
Michael Anthony bestows upon us a grand coming-of-age tale of a young boy called Shellie Lammy, as he, and the various supporting characters around him, leave their childhoods behind them and begin adjusting to adult responsibility. The story begins with tranquillity and innocence but progressively builds into a devastatingly beautiful cyclone of joy, excitement, divergence, pain and betrayal. Anthony’s novel, set in 1950’s Trinidad and published in 1967, gives perfect insight into what the life of a teenager growing up in rural Trinidad during that timeframe was like, while also concurrently exploring themes that are still very much prevalent in modern teenagers’ lives as well.
Things Fall Apart, written by Chinua Achebe
Chinua Achebe’s 1958 classic explores both pre-colonial life in Nigeria, as well as the arrival of the European colonizers to the country, through the perspective of a character known as “Okonkwo”, a member of the fictional Nigerian clan “Umuofia”. Achebe structures the book in a superb, well thought out manner; first making readers very familiar with Nigerian society, culture and traditions, then introducing the influence of British colonialism and Christianity into the fold, eradicating the way of life we initially learned about. Things Fall Apart was one of the first African novels to gain worldwide acclaim, and it does a terrific job at illustrating the psychological effects that colonialism had on the Africans.
‘Til the Well Runs Dry, written by Lauren Francis-Sharma
Introducing readers to the fierce, spunky 16-year-old Marcia Garcia; Francis-Sharma’s debut novel is a story chuck full of emotions and heart. The story begins in 1943 Trinidad, where young Marcia – the mother of two young children – falls in love with an enterprising young man, but eventually certain circumstances threaten to ruin everything for her. Marcia is a gritty, determined character whose flaws only serve to make her an even greater heroine – as she juggles her love for her family with deep secrets and, eventually, when she migrates to the United States of America, discrimination based on race, class and gender.
Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves, written by Glory Edim
This anthology of essays, written by several black, female writers, is primarily focused on answering the question “When did you first see yourself in literature?”. The vast majority of black girls growing up during time periods such as the 1950s did not see themselves represented in popular media, and the authors explore the challenges and tribulations they faced being brought up in such conditions. They had no one who looked like them or had similar experiences to them in books to draw inspiration from and consequently, Well-Read Black Girl seeks to provide a platform to bring black female voices to the forefront and to provide that inspiration and representation they never had, for the young girls in the black community today to benefit from.
Behold the Dreamers, written by Imbolo Mbue
Published by Imbolo Mbue in 2016, this is the story of Jende and Neni Jonga, a couple who migrated from Cameroon in hot pursuit of the “American dream”. However, when they get they, they soon realise that although there are many more opportunities present in the United States that they did not have access to in Cameroon, it still provided its very own set of hurdles to clear. As Mbue is an immigrant to the United States from Cameroon herself; her writing is tinged with a sharp dose of realism as she drew from her own experiences and struggles in migrating, making the battles the Jonga family have to endure all the more intimate.
In these dark and arduous times – we’ve all got to do our part in helping to create a new world order, one where equality, justice and acceptance exist for persons of all creeds and races. Augmenting the reach and influence of black creators’ voices is most certainly one small way we can all aid this cause, and so I urge you all to immerse yourselves in these sublime stories – you won’t regret it.
Words by Nicholas Bayley
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