This weekend, happenstance led me to my dog eared copy of Chinua Achebe’s amazing book Things Fall Apart. It was an old friend, the story of Okonkwo’s exile from his tribe, and the shattering changes that come to him and his family with the arrival of European Imperialism.
February is Black History month and after revisiting Okonkwo’s story I wanted more ‘local’ voices.
Octavia Butler wrote Kindred in the 1970s and died too young in 2006. She made her name as a science fiction writer and she brought time travel to Kindred, the story of a mixed race couple who are pulled from contemporary California to ante bellum Maryland. Back and forth through time, together and separately, they navigate the incomprehensible world that was American slavery, seeing it not ‘in the past’ but as active participants with their modern day preconceptions.
I’m now partway into a new find, Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. The story begins in 18th century Ghana, and – I know only from scrutinizing the book jacket – will follow the parallel lives of a pair of sisters, one sold into slavery and one married into culture of the occupying whites.
None of these are mysteries in the purest sense – although I was on the edge of my seat wondering how Butler’s heroine, Dana, would survive the obstacles thrown at her. (That ARM!)
Next, I plan to re-read Tayiri Jones’ An American Marriage. Throughout the narrative her voice rang with the truth of what happens when a crime is committed and you have black skin. There is truth, and it doesn’t matter. Nothing will ever make it right again.
There are many other books on my list written by talented men and women of color – I’d love to hear what you are reading, and I’ll add them to my list.