Reviews of Books by Black Women Authors — The Skidmore News
During those summer months, I read more non-fiction and fiction books written by black female authors. I found these novels to be moving, powerful, and relevant in unpacking this social climate surrounding the experiences of black women and men. These novels educated me about feminism in the world, challenged me to reflect on myself, and empowered me to find ways to help do my part in promoting the Black Lives Matter movement and the feminism. If you’re looking for books to add to your TBR (to read) list, read on!
bad feminist by Roxane Gay
Bad Feminist is part memoir, part literary criticism, and part commentary on a wide variety of topics including race, gender, sexual abuse, entertainment, media, and politics surrounding abortion and women’s bodies. . Gay’s essays are insightful, poignant and honest. I found each essay sparked much-needed conversations and made me think deeply about current events, privilege, our racial biases, and the debate surrounding feminism. Gay writes about how feminism is widely misunderstood due to the many expectations placed on the subject, such as there being a “correct” way to be a feminist. After reading Gay’s writings, I felt encouraged to unabashedly be who I am, to continue to stand up for women’s equality, and to educate myself on the intersectionality of feminism and being BIPOC & POC. And that we should never settle for less.
difficult women by Roxane Gay
Each chapter revolves around a “difficult” woman, and the stories are woven around common themes: racial and sexual discrimination, sexuality and women’s bodies, sexual abuse, lust and greed, and a complicated view. and honest about family and marriage. The stories comment on how women are labeled “difficult” when they don’t fit the feminine standards that society imposes on them, when they speak their mind, and when they don’t just settle. I found the stories heartbreaking, and they proved necessary to be addressed and known for change to happen. I highly recommend reading difficult women because Gay captures the voices of many women to show that they are heard and that their experiences are valid. “Difficult women” are beautiful, brave, independent, self-sufficient, and smug. The term “difficult” is reclaimed and used to describe women who have the courage to step out of traditional female roles and expectations.
We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In Adichie’s book essay, she details her personal experiences growing up in Nigeria as a woman, and she highlights the double standard that exists between men and women. Through this book, she defends the idea of feminism as the norm for gender equality and as an end to gender expectations. She explains how men are brought up differently than women and that to drive change we need to reject and stop the persistence of traditional gender expectations. Adichie writes “[my] her own definition of a feminist is a man or woman who says, “Yes, there is a gender problem as it is today and we have to fix it, we have to do better” (48). Adichie teaches us that we all have to “do better”. I found this short novel filled with powerful insights and reflections on her childhood experiences and her adult experiences as a woman in Nigeria and the United States. Reading this novel, I found myself thinking about my own gender biases, my expectations and experiences as a woman, and how I can play a role in advancing gender equality. How can I “do better”.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
This novel tells the story of twelve black British women: their experiences as black women in Britain through the lenses of race, gender, relationships and family. Each story is told from a different point of view and many characters are related to each other. This book is intergenerational, as the narration moves from the mother’s point of view, to the daughter’s point of view, to the grandmother’s point of view, etc. The stories have commonalities and character connections, but each woman’s story is distinct. What I appreciated in Evaristo’s novel is the fact that his experimental writing does not conform to a particular form, it is a mixture of prose and poetry. Just like how his characters are non-conforming. She experiments with page spacing, punctuation marks and capitals. The diversity of Evaristo’s voices and stories in the novel overcomes the “danger of one story” as writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns. Each woman owns her space in the story and the ability to be who she is.
The evanescent half by Brit Bennett
Brit Bennett’s novel, The evanescent half, is an intergenerational novel that tells the stories of Désirée, Stella and their daughters Jude and Kennedy. Desiree and Stella are twin girls from a fictional town of Mallard, Louisiana, where colorism is rampant – the locals prefer light-skinned black people. The twins run away from home in hopes of living a better life. Bennett writes about the many layers of racism that black people endure, through racist personas, and how Stella, who is of mixed race, also propelled racist beliefs and tendencies. Stella learned to hate dark-skinned people even though she was also black because she wanted to be white and, more specifically, to free herself from hatred towards her own skin color.
All the characters focus on different parts of the novel, allowing for intimacy and for the audience to see things from their perspective – to understand them, love them, and care for them. Desiree, Stella, Jude and Kennedy are flawed, honest and human – they aren’t defined by their mistakes. This novel succeeds in showing the complexity of family and romantic relationships. The novel’s themes are identity, race, gender, overcoming, beauty standards, performance, and lying. I noticed how the metaphors of performance and lying, related to overcoming and the feeling of being in another body that does not belong to you or of wishing to be in another body. It is a performance to pretend, to forget, to create a new identity and a new life, and to survive.