February is Black History Month in the US and Canada and so I chose for this month´s #bookclub three colourful books by Black and coloured authors, telling stories of identity, heritage, belonging and one´s roots. Noah´s autobiography follows his South African upbringing as a coloured person, while Wayétu Moore´s fictional story accompanies three Africans reuniting from different parts of the world in what will one day be Liberia. Bernardine Evaristo traces the story of twelve black women in Britain. And despite two out of three being fiction writings, I found all three books highly educational, touching in their own way and essential to anyone seeking to become an ally and educate themselves on this matter.
PS: I am still finishing a fourth book of this month, but since it will be the topic for this Sunday´s digital book club conversation, I am not adding it here, and instead reserving it for a future article perhaps.
Trevor Noah´s Born a Crime
So I didn´t think I could love Trevor Noah more, and then I read his book. And if you too, have grown up outside of Africa, his stories of growing up in apartheid and post apartheid South Africa will shake you. I am not completely ignorant of what apartheid did to South Africa, but these stories of a coloured young boy, born illegally from a Black mother and a White father, have been truly touching and have driven me to have a proper, deep look into the history of colonisation in those areas. Noah relates with humour what it meant to get by in those times and that place, while offering a sharp analysis into what the social and economical effects of the political situation of South Africa are, or whether crime can really be regarded as binary. The humour and rawness that this book are written with, the content itself and Noah´s brilliant insight into a fascinating culture will surely make this book one of my favourite of 2021.
Wayétu Moore´s She Would Be King
Wayétu Moore´s She Would be King tells the story of Liberia´s formation through a magical realism narrative that blew me away. The three characters in the novel, all as much blessed as they are cursed with supernatural powers, are bonded in a most formidable way. At first, apparently completely unrelated, and in different places of the world even, the characters slowly but surely come together on the African continent, a land both foreign but utterly familiar to two of them. Gbessa, the witch, from the village of Lai, June Dey, the strong, from Virginia and Norman Aragon, the invisible, from Jamaica. The destinies of the three are intertwined and in the case of She Would Be King, they all lead to Liberia. At times, the book reads slowly because of the orality of the English language spoken in Africa at the time, but the story itself is so magical and magnificent, that one easily gets used to it and reads the book within a couple of days.
Bernardine Evaristo´s Girl, Woman, Other
Bernardine Evaristo´s book is one of those books that you´re perfectly allowed to judge by the cover. The stories Evaristo tells are as colourful as the book cover itself. Twelve stories of twelve women. All black, all living in the UK, all interconnected and all different. Format wise, I was intimidated to read this book because of the partial lack of punctuation, but I have to say I got past that rather fast and felt it was a quite poetic add-on to the content of the book, forcing you to constantly pause and reflect. What was hard to digest though, were some of the stories, particularly the ones at the beginning that I had difficulty relating with because of their radical characters. I would have probably given it more stars if it wasn´t for my partial inability of creating empathy with some characters and for some perceived artificiality – I occasionally felt that the writer is going against anything that is mainstream, even in human traits and reduced its very colourful characters to the archetype that they´re meant to represent.