Book Review: Fingersmith-Sarah Waters


Scandal wrapped in twisting lies, a hidden countryside manor, and a smoky London, make for a novel that is worth sifting through. Waters does it again with her Victorian setting, with of course two lovers at the center of the novel. Although the novel is a hefty 582 pages long, towards the end, you wont even realize how many pages you’ve sifted through as the mystery pulls you in. It’s no secret Sarah Waters  loves a good scandal and is particularly noted for the use of lesbian lovers during the Victorian age. I admire how Waters writes two female lovers during a time where that subject was quite taboo and frowned upon. Fingersmith has been adapted to  film one in English and recently a  South Korean rendition of the movie called 아가씨(Handmaiden). A beautiful novel that has many hidden untruths, Fingersmith is definitely a Waters novel that shouldn’t be overlooked.

South Korean adaptation 아가씨
BBC two part series Fingersmith

Susan Sue Trinder, an orphan, is raised in the mist of lower working class and grows up amongst thieves and traders and those whose work must be hid from the law. Her home includes interesting characters, and under the matriarchy of Mrs. Sucksby,  they live a simple yet duplicitous life. Sue’s life changes from one of plebian status to a being lady’s maid to a wealthy young women of an astute country side manor. The plan to change Sue’s life is conducted by a man, Richard Rivers (Gentleman as the London streets deem him) as he has the idea to take Sue to be the  of a woman and convince her to marry Mr.Rivers, thus swindling her of her inheritance. Sue agrees, and together both her and  Mr. Rivers set off to the country. It is here where we meet Maud, a simple woman living a recluse life with her uncle. Maud is made to accompany her uncle with writing certain “ribald” texts. When Maud and Sue and Mr. Rivers meet, the plan comes to fruition and the relationship between  the women grow deeper. The story of course becomes more contorted as the scheme to take Maud’s fortune goes awry. The novel is very reminiscent of all of Water’s writing with plot twists, loose characters, and a very befitting Victorian romance.

I’ve been a long time fan of Sarah Waters and I really admire her writing style. She sticks to what she knows and does a fantastic job at it. The novel is broken into thirds told from the different perspectives of the two women. Sue’s perspective was the most interesting in my opinion, and it offered more of the twisted plot. Water’s does well in setting the scene and the supposed disposition of the characters. Fingersmith has been referred to as Dickens-esque novel, and I would agree that Sarah Waters does a fine job in emulating yet creating a new Victorian London. This novel wasn’t my favorite of hers, but I did enjoy the mass of it. It takes a while to get through the first third, and it is quite slow. I had high expectations of the  novel after viewing the South Korean movie version 아가씨, but I was a little disappointed in the novel as it read dry and dull, leaving  me feeling lackluster at the end. Waters could have done more in this novel to make it more exciting, but it fell short with often boring repetition and characters who were less than fascinating. The character development doesn’t extend beneath surface level, and the “villainy” is scooped together and placed towards the end, making the reader dredge through the first half of the novel, being teased for what is to come. While I wouldn’t recommend to the general reader, I would suggest it to a person who like Victorian literature or is a Charles Dickens fan.


Book Review: We Love You, Charlie Freeman-Kaitlyn Greenidge


I’ve been really enjoying reading books by blacks authors this summer. Each author has delivered a unique and interesting perspective into black ancestry, history, and culture. When it comes to African American ancestry, it often turns into a painful reminder that so much of our culture and history was eradicated by white people.  This summer has been about loving, embracing, re-seeking and reclaiming our history through the various types of books I have read. Diversifying your reading is so important on many different aspects as it allows you to gain a better perspective on a multitude of races. In her debut novel We Love You, Charlie Freeman, author Kaitlyn Greenidge ties race, family, sisterhood, ancestry into a story that is both interesting and enlightening.

The Freemans family journey to the Toneybee Institute in Massachusetts to take part in a social experiment by raising Charlie, a chimpanzee as a part of their family.  Part of the research and experiment is to teach Charlie sign language which the family is well versed in. The Freemans must start a new life in a secluded neighborhood and apartment, quite different from life they had previously known. The story focuses on a few perspectives, but the primary narrator Charlotte gives the reader her perspective on how she deals with being the only black girl in a very white surrounding, as well as adjusting as a freshman at a new school. Each family deals with the research experiment in their own way, but when a deep secret is revealed about the project, everyone is affected and reacts differently. Greenidge uses many literary devices to raise important questions about race and black ancestry. Throughout the story there are flashbacks to a woman named Nymphadora who helped the Toneybee Institute, although in a grotesque and exploitive way. Greenidge places heavy weights on the pages, but does it in a way to not deter her readers and keeps them intrigued throughout the duration of the novel.

When I read this was Kaitlyn Greenidge’s debut novel, I was so impressed with the quality of writing she exemplifies. You can tell she did her research; and she writes so thoroughly and clean she easily can pass as a seasoned writer. I love that she talks about race and ancestry in a unique way, that doesn’t seem to scream a very wearying rhetoric of “American slavery during the nineteenth century.” She doesn’t write about a family raising a chimp, but a black family raising a chimp which draws interesting comparisons scientists have conducted throughout the ages on black people. I also enjoyed how she brought up race in way that didn’t feel like a hammer hitting your head, but you definitely felt the weight of her words. This book is layered, and although some of the layers are hard to understand, they are vital and necessary in order to tell this story. Charlotte’s narration was by far my favorite as she was so introspective and inquisitive. There was also the layer of Charlie the chimpanzee being a family member but also a science project, loved but also probed. The relationships and themes in the novel seem to be placed in a petri dish and peered at through a microscopic lens which allows the author to conduct an experiment on her readers as well. How science and history often go hand in hand, and the author does a fantastic job drawing these two things together. Greenidge is one to watch, and I’m thrilled to have taken part in her first novel. I’m a fan of this book and would recommended this to anyone wanting something out of the ordinary. Praise to the author Kaitlyn Greenidge and her novel that is both progressive and nods to the historicism.

Book Review: Between the World and Me-Ta-Nehisi Coates


  They made us into a race. We made ourselves in a people.

The reality of a black person is vastly different than that from a white person. Our worlds are separated, and our bodies hold different weight within the universe. With fists and teeth clenched, we move through the world. You saunter through life, whereas we  briskly walk, trying not to hesitate too long. Our moments in this world are brief and often over looked, which is why we shine so bright-we must fully experience everything before our light is snuffed out. To understand us, is to understand an arcane and hidden secret. Yet, not many seek to bear the weight of the secret, for that would mean stripping one’s self down to humanity. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essay and memoir Between the World and Me looks at the reality of racial relations in America and what it means to be black in America in today. If willing, this book hits you in the core. If listening, this book will awaken you and bring you into touch with reality. If looking, this book with refocus your attention on an ailing matter in America.

Structured as a letter, Between the World and Me Coates’ writes to his teenage son Samori about the reality of growing up black in America.  He intertwines it with his own personal memory of growing up in Chicago and his experience of police brutality. He refers to white people as “Dreamers” people unwilling to connect with their humanity. He writes about the heritage of black folks, the oneness we inherently  have with one another. He contemplates race relations in America and ties them in with his experience of being out of America. The book is a collection of emotions and people  and stories that have helped shaped his curriculum vitae. Although it does dive into black culture and heritage, it is an  exposé on how humans are treated different in the world based on skin color. Coates’ passionately bears all when educating his son on his responsibilities.

And you know now, if you did not before, that the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. It does not matter if the destruction is the result of an unfortunate overreaction. It does not matter if it originates in a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction springs from a foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without the proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be destroyed. Turn into a dark stairwell and your body can be destroyed. The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions. And destruction is merely the superlative form of a dominion whose prerogatives include friskings, detainings, beatings, and humiliations. All of this is common to black people. And all of this is old for black people. No one is held responsible.

This book has been deemed important by many, and I can only agree. It contains so many important facts about the way life is, how black bodies have no importance in the world, even when we shaped and built the world. I thought it incredibly endearing but also somber that one has to warn their child about how the world does not see value in their life. However, through the exact realness of it all, Coates reminds and encourages his son to never break or bend on who he is. To be rooted in his blackness as he writes, “You exist. You matter. You have value. You have every right to wear your hoodie, to play your music as loud as you want. You have every right to be you. And no one should deter you from being you.” I can foresee this book being on English AP lists everywhere, as it can reach a wide array of audiences. Coates is a fantastic writer, and I can only imagine more great things coming from him.

But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversation.

What to Read When the World Crashes Down and You Need Some Love


Flashing screens displaying brown bodies piled up. Tears running down tired and blood stained faces. Screams and fists pumping in the air with anger. What do you do when your bones ache from being torn apart day in and day out? What do you do when  people tell you your skin color makes you in invaluable, when they say your life is invaluable. I too am sick of being reduced to a #hashtag or temporary Facebook post; I want more, I want to be valued. In the mist of such turmoil and police brutality, it’s vital we take care of our mental health. We need to string together any last bits of hope and love ourselves. To bask in the essence, the presence, and spirituality of us. It’s okay to be strong but it’s okay to also be human and let those emotions be felt. It’s okay to take time for yourself. It’s okay to step back from social media or the world, and invest in your mental clarity. Many expect black people (especially black women) to hold it all together, because essentially that is what we have done for centuries. But when we do that, we don’t allow ourselves to heal and grow, instead we become desensitized to horror, to pain. I encourage anyone who is left feeling stripped, crippled, voiceless, or tired to just take a breath. When I say breath, I mean a life breath, one that puts things in pause long enough to stabilize yourself. I’m angry and sad just like you, but I fear for the health of my self being if I don’t stop to pause and invest in my self care. Self care comes in many shapes and forms, and it ultimately what makes you feel the best and most whole. One of my self care practices is reading; reading books that fill me to the brim. When I read books that confirm how validated I am, it allows me to then take that knowledge and apply it to my everyday life. I have curated a list of books that inspire me and might be of some help to you. Let’s get rooted in ourselves again. I hope you feel better, wherever you are in the world or in life. Happy reading!

  1. Freedom: The Courage to Be Yourself-Osho


2. The Diamond in Your Pocket: Discovering Your True Radiance-Gangaji


3. Communion: The Female Search for Love-bell hooks


4. One Day My Soul Opened Up-Iyanla Vanzant


5. Eat, Pray, Love-Elizabeth Gilbert


6.The Alchemist-Paulo Coelho


7. Afro Vegan:Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed-Bryant Terry




Book Review: Summer of the Cicacadas-Cole Lavalais


Home. What do you think about when you hear the word ring in your ears? Is it a physical place, a spiritual one, something intangible? Home strikes deep beneath our veins; our cords where our spirits lie. It is something that can be found and lost at the same time. Home has been stripped from people of many races. It has been picked, pried into, destroyed, built, restructured, refurbished. Home has been cooked into a ball that we swallow, unsure of the taste, or place, or face. Do you know your home and where you come from?

This summer is all about self care, and reading books by black authors. Diving into titles and authors that are skimmed over at the bookstore, this summer is about creating a space for the many voices of literature.  Cole Lavalais has created a book that left me completely speechless and in awe. Summer of the Cicadas is an enchanting story about a girl defining home and in the process, dealing with a darkness that lurks in every corner. The strong yet fragile Viola Moon enters into a small and southern black college in an attempt to gain a part of her sanity. However she finds it difficult to adjust to life outside of her mother’s home. Viola is intrigued with those that have a legacy and a sense of home, which is why she connects with Perry, the son of an elite black family. Their relationship symbolizes something for each of them. Viola is searching for a father figure to give her life validation, it’s the idea that home starts at the root, and Viola is searching for the beginning. Throughout the novel, Cole Lavalais brings us up many issues that are faced by black families, black men, and black women. This story is riveting, difficult, and deep.

I am not what I pretend to be, so that means I can never stop pretending. I am not what I pretend to be, so if I stop  pretending they will know and I will be stuck in between here and there.

I must admit, that although this book was not long, it did take a while to read, because it is extremely thought provoking and at times difficult to sift through. Lavalais is an extremely talented writer, and I hope more people can read her novel. This novel resonated deep with me, and I really liked the character of Viola Moon. She is someone who is troubled and is just searching for a connect with roots, a history. My only critique is I wish the editor edited more carefully as there were slight grammatical errors and misspellings. This one is a treasure, and is definitely a favorite of the year so far. This book is great for self healing, as it might answers some questions to those wondering about “home.” Summer of the Cicadas is a passionate yet distant look at the mental health of an individual and how it affects the past, present, and future. Filled with symbolism and mysticism, Lavalais buries history, legacy, and gender into a novel that should be read and re-read.

Book Review: Ain’t I a Women:Black Women and Feminism-bell hooks


Racism is the barrier that prevents positive communication and it is not eliminated or challenged by separation.

Labeling oneself as a feminist has its demands and repercussions. People constantly challenge your ideas, your stance on feminism, picking and preening you until you become “their” idea of what a feminist is and should do. But part of being  a feminist is being able to open your dialogue to be inclusive, to challenge yourself, and the world’s ideology. While taking on the term feminist, I’ve known that many a times there is a clear distinction between white feminist ideology and black feminist ideology. Although there has been significant changes to the “feminist doctrine,” white feminism still is clinging to much of its sexist and racist paradigms. It raises the question if  you can still be a feminist if you strive to acquire white patriarchal privilege, or if you mold your feminist dogma to fit just one race, while leaving out the other voices and races. Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism breaks down the underlying problems in the feminist movement and discusses the brief history of the African American woman’s role in society. We get to see the eye opening view of how America and the rest of the world truly view black women, and we get to stand in awe of the progress they have made on behalf of the black community and for feminism itself.

Sexist-racist attitudes are not merely present in the consciousness of men in American society; they surface in all our ways of thinking and being.

bell hooks is a genius for creating this piece of work. Ain’t I a Woman is everything you need to know about how black women have evolved in American society and how the feminist movement purposely excluded them from the changes made in society. The book is broken into five parts: 1. Sexism and the black female slave experience, 2. Continued devaluation of black womanhood, 3. The imperialism of patriarchy 4. Racism and feminism 5.Black women and feminism. Each section hooks compiles all of her research and writes about the plight of the black woman. She addresses sexism, racism, appropriation, stereotypes, social injustice, and economic welfare. It’s interesting to see how the “feminist movement” didn’t really include everyone. Instead it focused on how white women should progress in America. “Unfortunately , despite all the rhetoric about sisterhood and bonding, white women were not sincerely committed to bonding with black women and other groups of women to fight sexism,” hooks writes. She puts into perspective every feminist theory that surfaced and really calls on women, specifically white women to look at their feminism, to examine their goals of their cause. The book is not a light read , and will have you questioning and researching more into what being a true feminist means.

Change occurs only when there is action, movement, revolution.

This book definitely shook me, and even though I consider myself abreast on black feminist theory, it dove deeper into things I myself was unaware. This was not an easy read, as it is extremely academic and very analytical. I literally held a highlighter in one hand and took in each and every word bell hooks wrote. It’s educational and such an important book not only for black women but for all women everywhere. It will make your head swim with answers to your unanswered questions. I challenge everyone to give it a try; your outlook will definitely change as did mine. This particular body of work really allows me to see that I’m not the only one that thinks many feminist arguments leave out the black and other minority groups’ voice. hooks wrote this while she was just an undergraduate, and to see how “woke” she was at such an early age, gives me hope for the kind of work I intend to do. She pushes black women to continue being pioneers for womanhood. If you’re interested in feminist critique and theory, I urge you to read this book. It’s for everyone and every voice.

… I choose to re-appropriate the term “feminism,” to focus on the fact that to be “feminist” in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female, and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.




Book Review: A Gathering of Shadows-V.E. Schwab


Schwab did it again. She looped me in with just a few words in her previous novel A Darker Shade of Magic, and she has managed to do it again with her latest sequel A Gathering of Shadows. V.E. Schwab  does fantasy extremely well, and has a real talent for the genre. Although I’m not sure if people would classify her book as YA or Adult (based on the content and slight language I would say Adult), this story is one that can be enjoyed with various ages. Now that I have finished reading A Gathering of Shadows, I only want more of Schwab’s magic touch and can’t wait to read the next novel in the series. This novel is on the brink of something great, and it may be the next big fantasy monomania.

Something in the air and water change from the last time we read about Lila Bard and Kell’s adventure. They are both in Red London, however they have parted ways; Kell staying close to the throne and to Rhy whose life is bound to his, and Lila wandering the seas and finding trouble per usual. New friends and enemies are made, a past is awoken, pirates set sail, and a tournament brings everything and everyone together; all the while ripping everything apart. I don’t want to give much away, as it is becomes easy to do as I soon I start discussing it. If you were a fan of A Darker Shade of Magic then no doubt you will enjoy A Gathering of Shadows. The characters are back and better than ever, drawing you in with every fight, kiss, scream, and spell.

What I like about A Gathering of Shadows, is that Schwab focuses on the magic and action in the story, and makes any romantic notions very small and minimal. It’s almost an undercurrent in the book. So many times in fantasy novels, the love interest completely dominate the story and snuff out the plot. Schwab does something different for her audience. She creates a ploy heavy novel and draws the reader in by how fast paced the actions is. The characters are deep and complex, and they all have a history to them. My favorite is Kell, as he seems to be most complicated and mysterious of them all. However this novel was extremely Lila focused as she drove most of the story. I liked the perspective of Lila, and although at times her predicable unpredictable ways are a little irksome, she really shines as a standalone character. Schwab spends time on the characters, and you can experience the fruits of her labor when you read her work. There is a major cliffhanger that  will probably upset you, or if you’re like me, biting your nails to sheer nubs. I don’t have any complaints about this novel, and it received five stars on Goodreads from me. This is definitely a series worth getting in to.

Did any of you read A Gathering of Shadows? Let me know your thoughts!

Happy reading!