Since I started getting back into reading last year, I decided to make two changes to my reading habits. First, to read a more diverse range of books, which has lead me to comics, thrillers and science fiction.
For the second, I was inspired by an article by Gal-Dem, which had a list of comics with BME protagonists. (I’ve now read all the comics on this list but that’s a post for another day) It made me think about my favourite authors and books, how many of them had been an black or Asian? Probably about 5%. I started using an account called wellreadblackgirl to explore books written by black women.
I know there’ll be those people that will say does race matter when reading or writing a book? And the answer is yes, as with everything, equal representation matters and it makes a difference if you see or can imagine people like yourself doing things you want to do.
If fiction is about alternate realities then why can’t those characters be black or Asian?
So I thought I would share with you some of my favorite some of my favourite BME authors and characters.
The list begins with the living legend Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A Nigerian author who has achieved so much in these last few years. She’s been featured in Beyonce’s epic album Lemonade; quoted at UN meetings; and of course released some pretty amazing novels. She takes pride in her Nigerian heritage and centers a number of her novels around this. I actually read Half a Yellow Sun a couple of years ago but it’s still relevant! There’s also a feature film starring Thandie Newton.
The book focuses on two very different sisters Olanna and Kainene and is set just before the civil war in Nigeria, when for a short moment in history, Biafra existed within it. It explores this dynamic of tradition vs modernity, a common theme in many contemporary Nigerian novels.
Saga is a beautiful graphic novel, it was one of the comics I picked up from that Gal-Dem article. I was reluctant to read at first but I’ve completely fallen in love with the series. I’ve been wanting to write about it for a while now because I have so many praises to sing and would thoroughly recommend this to all! It’s created by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.
It focuses on an interracial/inter-species couple and their mixed child. Science fiction has this habit of commenting on reality in subtleties and metaphors and this series does that in such an eloquent way. It’s illustrations and multi-strand plot gives it a lively and cinematic feel.
Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀ is another on my list. I found this book by chance, I went to the town library that I don’t normally go to and in the entrance there was a carousel of books with shiny gold stickers. These books were all nominations for the Baileys prize award, for fiction written by women (Naomi Alderman’s The Power won). Nigerian authors seem to be really making a splash, I must find more Zimbabwean stuff!
If there was any overarching message from this it’s that communication is key and without it things fall apart. It deals with themes of infidelity, superstition and motherhood. I don’t want to give too much away but it’s a very good commentary on the dynamics in Nigerian relationships – the pressures applied by mothers/families on a couple.
If you want some more ideas of what to read, check out my Goodreads! I’m currently on book 57/100 and only slightly nervous I won’t meet my goal.