I’m a voracious and indiscriminate reader. I read everything from romance novels to mysteries to graphic novels to memoirs. I read high literature, low literature, beach reads, and pulp fiction. I just like to read. Each year I try to read about a book a week, but the panini press did not let me be great last year. I’ve also had a TinyLetter devoted to my reading interests and have hosted The Black Feminist Book Club at Charis Books and More for years. Now I’m bringing my book recommendations over to The Remix to share with y’all.
Here are some of my favorite books of 2021 so far.
· P. Djeli Clark’s Ring Shout
Yo. Y’all. This book right here started my year off with a bang! If you liked Misha Green’s adaptation of Lovecraft Country on HBO Max, this is for you. The novella’s subtitle is “Hunting Ku Kluxes in the End Times.” Our protagonists are tough, take-no-shit Black women who hunt the KKK, who in the world of the novella are not just white supremacists but shape shifting, demonic monsters. Nuff said.
Clark is a wordsmith; his prose is lithe and limber. Ring Shout is part adventure, horror, magical realism, and Romance, with a capital R. He writes the main characters—mostly women—adeptly. No damsels in distress over here!
· Edwidge Danticat’s Everything Inside
Danticat is one of my favorite writers. Period. She’s just consistently brilliant and does not disappoint in her most recent short story collection. She had me hooked from page one with “Dosas.” Many of the stories are set in South Florida and feature Haitian immigrant communities, which had me feeling very nostalgic. There are also lots of different narratives—some sympathetic, some angering, all with some sort of deep sadness. All very human.
Her language is both poetic and prosaic. Sometimes “high literature” can have characters work solely on a symbolic level and make their language overly grand, but Danticat has such a deft hand that she elevates the ordinary and still makes it feel real. What a gift.
· Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing
Jesmyn Ward be taking it me through it. Like, I have to put the book down and stare off into the middle distance and get my life together. The thing about her work is that the prose is as lush and lovely as the Mississippi gulf coast she depicts, but the plots will wreck you. My goodness. This novel, like everything Ward writes, is beautiful and devastating, exploring interracial love, incarceration, intimate partner violence, and addiction in frank and complicated ways.
In many ways the plot of the book is quite simple. We follow a family on their way to pick up another family member newly released from prison. But, baby, Sing, Unburied, Sing is anything but simple. It’s about our deepest wounds, regrets, and vulnerabilities and the ghosts—literal and figurative—that haunt us.
· Tim Fielder’s Infinitum: An Afrofuturist Tale
Talk about an epic, sweeping saga! The novel begins in ancient Africa and takes readers to the farthest reaches of the universe and time. We follow immortal King Aja Oba, a brilliant, arrogant monarch and general, and his several lifetimes worth of battles, loves, and losses. Infinitum is part sword and soul, part epic adventure, and part Afrofuturism, but it’s also a heady, existential rumination on what it means to be human.
Fielder is a gifted storyteller, who excels both as an illustrator and a novelist. Plus, the book itself is simply gorgeous. This is the first graphic novel I’ve read this year, but it won’t be the last!
· Octavia E. Butler’s Mind of My Mind
I’m currently writing a biography of the late, great Butler so I’m rereading all of her works. I know you envy me but, calm down…because you too can reread or read her works for the first time! I’m shouting out Mind of My Mind, the second book in the Patternist saga, because I don’t think it gets enough love and it should. In the novel, patriarchal parasite body snatcher Doro seems to have succeeded in creating his “master race,” but his daughter, Mary, an indomitable young Black woman, has plans of her own. It is a power struggle for the ages.
Let me tell you something. Butler can write the hell out of a fight scene, even if that fight scene is between telepaths moving ish around in their minds! But, besides the action that will keep you on the edge of your seat, Butler just really invites us to consider how our anemic ideas about hierarchy and control are the bane of our species. Whew.
· Briona Simone Jones’ Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought
You need Briona Simone Jones’ edited collection Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought for your library tuhday—and I’m not just saying that because I have a piece in there! The anthology is a companion piece to Beverly Guy-Sheftall’s definitive collection, Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought. Mouths of Rain is masterfully edited and includes poetry, fiction, and essays on, by, and about Black queer women from folks such as Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Pat Parker, Jewelle Gomez, and many more. Get into it!
This summer we’ll be hosting the #SummerPeachRead here on The Remix and we have big plans! We’ll be reading and talking about three fire books: a political thriller, Stacey Abrams’ While Justice Sleeps, a hot, steamy queer romance, Alyssa Cole’s How to Find a Princess, and an around-the-way girl classic, Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever. Keep your eyes peeled for the dates of the upcoming #SummerPeachRead conversations.