Last summer was the first time I created a reading list (and subsequent reviews) for every season, and with the close of this spring, it has officially been one year since I began. I thought it would be a good time to look back over all the books, and choose my top ten (though narrowing this list to just these was quite the feat I'll have you know, and I cheated a bit, as #2 is actually a trilogy). Here they are!
- White Oleander by Janet Fitch The best way to describe this book would be, beautifully tragic. It follows the all-encompassing relationship between a single mother, Ingrid, and her adolescent daughter, Astrid, as well as Astrid's own rocky relationship with herself.
- The Irin Chronicles (The Scribe, The Singer & The Secret) by Elizabeth Hunter If you have not heard of the amazing self-published author, Elizabeth Hunter, do yourself a favor and go to her website right this minute. This is a story of fallen angels, the children of forgiven angels and the battle between the two, but most of all this is a story about love. Despite it being a trilogy, when you come to the end, you know even three books, just weren't enough.
- Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie You could easily finish Americanah in a single weekend, or a single evening if you had the time. It's just that compelling. But, something about it forces you to exercise restraint. The words beg to be drawn out and savored rather than chugged. Adichie bounces between past and present, America and Nigeria seamlessly. By the end of the book you have the sense that you've known Ife and Obinze, the star crossed lovers that drive Americanah, for your entire life.
- Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones Silver Sparrow broke my heart in the best way possible. I sat there with the book in my lap turned to the last page feeling like I was going to cry, but also feeling like I understood something about myself that I hadn't before. The book centers around a girl who grows up knowing she is a "secret," because her father is married with another family. This book explores love, and betrayal and the complexities of legitimacy. This is a book that lingers in the corners of your mind long after you've put it down.
- (1)ne drop: Shifting the Lens on Race by Dr. Yaba Blay Every once in a while I'll read a piece of non-fiction that blows me away, but I am a fiction girl at heart. However, I stumbled upon the amazing Dr. Yaba Blay in an article about the Pretty Period project, a visual tribute to brown skin, and visional testimony of Black beauty, and I knew I needed to read her book. Nuances of identity and colorism are handled masterfully in this book. I devoured it like I would a fast-paced thriller, and found myself hoping there would be a second volume one day.
- God Help the Child by Toni Morrison Toni Morrison inspires me because she lives outside of any one particular genre in a space all her own that she has created, and she does it beautifully. One of the characters says "What you do to children matters," and it is amazing how that statement is carried throughout the entire book.
- The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow I think I knew I would love this book from the very first page. From that very first page I didn't want to put it down. The story of how this little girl fell from the sky, the lives her falling touched, and her own life post fall are incredibly intricate and interwoven.
- Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez Wench explores the relationships between four slave women and each other , as well as their masters. The atrocities suffered by all of the women: Mawu, Reenie, Sweet and Lizzie seem too awful to bear, and caused me to wonder more than once at the resilience of not only their spirits, but the spirit of my own ancestors. Perkins-Valdez writes about these women as though she walked among them, and the result is a story that is truly captivating.
- Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez Perkins-Valdez imagines America in the period immediately post-slavery and does so with a meticulous attention to detail. The world created in Balm is one where hope leaves alongside loss, and love co-mingles with despair.