Top Ten Tuesday: Black History Month Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

We are in the run up to Hallowe’en in the Book Lover’s household: Sleepy Hollow, Hocus Pocus and The Nightmare Before Christmas are on the TV; a giant spider is draped in the front room; pumpkin carving tools are lined up in the kitchen; and the little one’s trick-or-treat outfit is on order. Jana’s list of themes does offer this week as a freebie, albeit a Hallowe’en Freebie, but I am going to skip out of the Hallowe’en theme, having done

2021: Hallowe’wn pumpkins and gothic books.

2020: funky Hallowe’en themed book art and pumpkins, spooky reads.

2019: A list of gothic reads.

Rather than regurgitate the same images of pumpkins, or recommend the same books, I thought I’d turn my mind to Black History Month which comes to a close on 31st October and by way of celebrating that, focus this week’s list on black authors.

John Agard

The grandaddy of the GCSE syllabus, greeted with warm applause and genuine affection.

Born in British Guiana, his poetry speaks to identity and celebrates and raises the value of his heritage, a heritage and history which is often overlooked in our western world.

Checking Out Me History (2004)

Dem tell me
Dem tell me
Wha dem want to tell me

Bandage up me eye with me own history
Blind me to my own identity

Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat
dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat
But Touissant L’Ouverture
no dem never tell me bout dat

a slave
with vision
lick back
and first Black
Republic born
Toussaint de thorn
to de French
Toussaint de beacon
of de Haitian Revolution

Dem tell me bout de man who discover de balloon
and de cow who jump over de moon
Dem tell me bout de dish run away with de spoon
but dem never tell me bout Nanny de maroon

see-far woman
of mountain dream
fire-woman struggle
hopeful stream
to freedom river

Dem tell me bout Lord Nelson and Waterloo
but dem never tell me bout Shaka de great Zulu
Dem tell me bout Columbus and 1492
but what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too

Dem tell me bout Florence Nightingale and she lamp
and how Robin Hood used to camp
Dem tell me bout ole King Cole was a merry ole soul
but dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole

From Jamaica
she travel far
to the Crimean War
she volunteer to go
and even when de British said no
she still brave the Russian snow
a healing star
among the wounded
a yellow sunrise
to the dying

Dem tell me
Dem tell me wha dem want to tell me
But now I checking out me own history
I carving out me identity

Akwaeke Emezi

Emezi is well… amazing!

Their voice and language and characters throughout their novels are astounding from the semi autobiographical Freshwater which was deeply embedded in their Ibo culture and mythology, to the astounding young adult Pet to the heartbreak that was The Death of Vivek Oji.

I have their most recent novel, You Made A Fool of Death With Your Beauty queued up to read when I feel I have the time to do it justice!

Emezi – born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria – is one of those writers who so often appears on list like the “5 to watch under 35” that they make us old folks feel rather inadequate

Noviolet Bulawayo

Born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria, Bulawayo has the title of first black woman to appear on the Booker Prize List twice, and is another of the “5 under 35″s!

Her novel Glory was perhaps the standout novel for me in this year’s Booker Shortlist, an imaginative and courageous reimagining of the 2017 coup against Mugabe in the style of Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Wole Soyinka

I wrote my university dissertaion on Soyinka back in 1995 and, looking back, I think the vast majority of this man’s incredible intellect went over my head! I recall dramas that explored the edges and boundaries and tensions between the traditional and the modern in Nigeria. The Road, Jero’s Metamorphoses, Death and the King’s Horsemen

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

I loved The First Woman, set over two generations in Uganda as modernity and traditional value come into conflict, and a modern nation is forged… I found that, whilst Kirabo was charming and the prism through which we saw them, the main characters who stole the show were her grandmother and Nsuuta – erstwhile friends, rivals and almost sisters.

Raven Leilani

Leilani’s Luster was one of those novels that has grown on me since reading it: Edie, struggling to survive in a New York that largely ignores her, and ending up in a somewhat strained living arrangement, living with the married white man she was dating along with his white wife and their black adopted daughter….

Her acerbic, witty, sharp observations on life – oh the critics loved to throw the term flaneur at the novel! – were poignant and barbed. And Leilani’s own background in the visual arts gave her depiction of Edie’s art a wonderful symbolic potency.

Walter Mosley

I loved the Easy Rawlins novels when I finally – and it did take a while and I still need to review them – came across them a couple of years ago. Devil in a Blue Dress introduced us to Easy Rawlins, and his distinctive speech and language, and the tensions within Los Angeles.

The setting and genre are familiar enough from Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler – the hard boiled detective – but giving that role to a black protagonist and alloweing him to inhabit it so fully really injects new life into an old genre.

Oyinkan Braithwaite

I adored My Sister The Serial Killer when I read it – and, I mean, just the title is exquisite!

The family dynamics, the toxic effect of the domineering father, the bond between the sisters that allows one to accept the other’s violence and dangers… and the tension when the dangerous sister you love tangles with the man whom you also love. And all embedded in a modern, difficult Nigeria.

Namina Forna

Namina Forna is an author whom I am regularly recommending at school: wonderful fantasy plots that are populated with vibrant and powerful black female protagonists. It is no surprise that The Gilded Ones is already in the process of a film adaptation.

Tomi Adeyemi

Alongside Forna, Adeyemi is another regular recommendation at school: fantastically written fantasy novels in The Children of Blood and Bone and now The Children of Vice and Virtue.

Nigerian by heritage, albeit American by birth, Adeyemi’s parents chose not to expose her to her Nigerian heritage or culture and she chose to embrace it.

Elizabeth Acevedo

I loved her verse novels The Poet X and Clap When You Land – books which explicitly explore the struggles of finding your identity in terms of both race and gender and sexuality in the modern world.

Sometimes for me verse novels can feel gimmicky, but Acevedo manages to write in a way where the verse and the rhythms contribute as powerfully as the words.

There are so many many more black writers whom I love and whose works I want to champion, not because they are black authors but because they are fantastic authors and these are just a handful from a range of genres and audiences.

As always, have a fantastic TTT and enjoy whatever it is that you are currently reading!

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

November 1: Unlikable Characters You Can’t Help but Love (These are villains, criminals, jerks, etc. that make you fall in love with them anyway, perhaps because they evolve by the end or they’re secretly wonderful and have been all along.)
November 8: Series I’d Like to Start/Catch up on/Finish
November 15: Favorite “Aww” Moments In Books (Share those sweet/cute moments in books that give you warm fuzzies.)
November 22: Thankful Freebie
November 29: Cozy Reads (Share books that give off a cozy vibe, whether through atmosphere, setting, or some other factor. Please tell us why they’re cozy for you, too!)
December 6: Freebie
December 13: Books on My Winter 2022-2023 To-Read List
December 20: Books I Hope Santa Brings This Year
December 27: Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection (What books did you get as presents this holiday season? Or what did you buy with gift cards?)

16 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Black History Month Freebie”

  1. Wonderful twist this week! I think I’ve only read Acevedo’s books—which I loved—but I have several others on my tbr. Thanks for sharing these amazing authors with us!

    Liked by 1 person

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