Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July links

Since I'm busy overpacking for the National Association of Black Journalists' Conference in San Diego this weekend, I just have time for links. Luckily, there's lots of interesting stuff to link to!

If you're a woman writer, you probably know about SheWrites.com. (And if you didn't, now you do.) There's been lots of discussion about race & writing & publishing there, including:

A call for action from one of the SheWrites founders.

A black author asks for help from white people. Some people think it's funny. Some don't.

After Tayari Jones called for readers to "rise up," a white author starts to question what's going on with racial divisions.

Some other links:

Interesting interview with Nnedi Okorafor (whose book Who Fears Death Anika reviews below).

NPR reviews Bernice McFadden's Glorious.

Many congratulations to Olufunke Grace Bankole on winning the Glimmer Train new writer award!

Huffington Post names the most anticipated books of the rest of 2010.  I'd be curious to know: what books are you eagerly anticipating?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Guest review of WHO FEARS DEATH

I am grateful to Anika of WriteBlack for this review:

In Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor invites you on a trip to post-apocalyptic east Africa, a world where computers and e-books are mostly just trash, cactus candy is a treat and oceans are considered myths.

If you elect to take the trip, you won’t regret it.

Your guide will be Onyesonwu,  a young girl whose name means “Who fears death?,” born to a woman of the Okeke people who is raped by a man of the Nuru, an enemy tribe. Children like Onyesonwu who are products of the two tribes are known as Ewu and are easily distinguished by their sand-colored hair and skin.

Okorafor is best known as a young-adult novelist (The Shadow Speaker came close but did not end my probably unreasonable prejudice against young-adult books). She used this, her first book for adults, to muse on the nature of bigotry, love, faith, sex and independent women -- all wrapped in a shell of magical realism.

Onyesonwu, who is a  young child when we meet her, is trying to understand why most people  hate her on sight. She’s something of an outcast even in Jwahir, the town where she grows up. Luckily, she’s much loved by her mother, stepfather and eventually Mwita, the mysterious Ewu boy she meets one day. After a fateful decision, she even has three close girlfriends.

Her world has less technology than ours, but is no less complex, especially because everyone she knows accepts the reality and role of juju, or magic, in their lives. Onyesonwu soon finds she has a facility for shapeshifting and traveling between the physical and spirit worlds, so she seeks training from people who know more about sorcery than she.

It is through this training and her exploration of her abilities that she realizes that her Sauron-like biological father, Daib, himself a powerful and violent sorcerer, wants her dead. She spends the next eight years dealing with the ramifications of her discovery and coming to terms with her terrible -- wonderful --  fate.

This is the origin story of a mystical but fatalistic superheroine, driven to redeem her family and her people. She is Jael, in the tent with Sisera, raising a spike. She is Neo, manipulating the Matrix. She is Eli, a vessel for the world’s most important book. She is the Dark Knight, betrayed, but willing to face her fears and her betrayer for the good of others. She is (a more fully developed) Storm, the wind-rider.

She is still a teen with all the confusion native to that state, though. Onyesonwu and the world she inhabits are not pleasant to get to know. Her blistering temper tests the reader’s patience. Violence and rape are everpresent in this world, both thematically and as explicit text.  It’s shocking to western eyes when Onyesonwu justifies female circumcision -- a procedure so hated in the western world that it’s been rebranded as genital mutilation -- and even more shocking to read about characters accepting and even anticipating their own eventual deaths.

But Okorafor balances dark with light where she can. When Onyesonwu takes flight over the desert with a dragon-like creature, it’s almost impossible not to feel her wonder. Mwita’s declaration of his love and his quiet steadiness make him as impressive as any romance-novel hero.

Some elements of Who Fears Death are dubious or incredibly frustrating. A secondary character whom we’re meant to take quite seriously at one point intones a phrase that is the chorus to a Schoolhouse Rock song (I won’t spoil the moment for you, but if it doesn’t distract you, you’re a better person than I). Far too much of the story is set in Jwahir, an unfortunate development that makes the final third of the book and the climactic battle seem terribly rushed.

Those failures are minor irritants.

Ultimately, Who Fears Death is a taste of something really good, but not quite delicious. Promising, tantalizing, but just a sprinkle or two of spice away from being truly transcendent.

Grade: B-

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Look at your grades. Now look at mine.

This has nothing to do with the topic of this blog (except for yay libraries!), but I couldn't resist. Thanks Tara Betts, author of Arc & Hue, for the link. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reader love

GOG BLACK AUTHORS Look what the nice women of the Go On Girl! Book Club have come up with to show their love for black authors! They were inspired by my gear to make their own using their own logo. Well done ladies! And thanks for all you do to support authors!

If you're looking for some great reads check out the GOG reading list for 2010 and past years to 1991.

If you like book- and writing-related stuff, check out this Black Library Girl tee. When I finish my next project, this will be my reward.

FYI, I'm guest blogging at Nubian Lit tomorrow. I have a piece about how writing and gardening are alike. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


BrownGirl Speaks is hosting the African Diaspora Readathon this coming Saturday (July 10). 12 hours of reading books by authors of African descent. Participants can check in with each other and hear about good books from one another. Also, Ms. BrownGirl will be giving away a prize (to be announced the day of the readathon).

If that doesn't sound great enough, she recommends making a donation to the charity of their choice as part of the Readathon. So like give $5 or $10 for every hour you read.

Cheers to you, BrownGirl for a great idea!

A suggestion for the readathon: you can definitely finish A Taste of Honey by Jabari Asim in 12 hours and it will be a day spent with wonderfully funny and warm people. (When you're done, go over to Amazon and leave a review.)

Here's a quote:

"As soon as I decided to have a crush on Polly she had to go and change my mind. Shom said it's just as well because fat girls ain't worth a pretty boy's time. Of course he was talking about himself, not me. He said he wouldn't give the time of day to her even if she had been as fine as Diahann Carroll because he could never trust a black girl named Polly. This from a black boy named Schomburg."