Today I am going to share with you all a few mini book reviews of the books I read in honor of #BlackHistoryMonth 2019!
In case you missed it, I also shared a few book lists of recommended Black History Month reads…
» Akata Witch(Akata Witch #1) by Nnedi Okorafor
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
I first fell in love with Nnedi Okorafor’s writing after reading her Binti series. I knew I wanted to read more of her work, so I decided to give her Akata Witch series a go. While it was going to be hard to top the Binti series for me, I really enjoyed this book! It even gave me mild “Harry Potter feels.” Akata Witch has been called “The Nigerian Harry Potter,” which I can see because of similar elements, but Akata Witch stands on it’s own.
One of the most intriguing things about this book when I read the book description was that the main character is albino. I have never read a character with albinism before, so I was delighted to read a new perspective. I cannot imagine there are many books out there with an albino main character, but I can guarantee that if there is, that character isn’t a bad ass Leopard person.
Sunny, our main character, felt so realistic to me. Sunny must overcome many internal struggles throughout the book, and I was rooting for her the entire time. Speaking of characters, I also really enjoyed the group of friends in Akata Witch: Sunny, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha. The members of the group didn’t always see eye-to-eye on everything, but they definitely balanced each other out well & they worked well as a team.
Also, hooray for family dynamics in a YA fantasy! It drives me bonkers when family dynamics are skipped over in YA fantasy. Families are complicated & messy at times. I liked that Okorafor was not afraid to go there.
Books set in Africa is a gap in my reading, so I really enjoyed the Nigeria setting. I really enjoyed learning about the culture & West African influences. The idea of Leopard people in Akata Witch are influenced by a West African warrior society.
Also rooted heavily in West African influence was the magic system. The magic system in Akata Witch was totally awesome! A magic system with juju, masquerades, and where you are rewarded with currency for learning? Brilliant! Also, sign me up!
I could have done with a touch more world building in Akata Witch. I wanted to know more about the Leopard People & their world. I also wanted to know more about the Scholars & mentors. I am hoping I will see more in the next installment, Akata Warrior.
» Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz
Betty Before X is the story of Betty Shabazz’s childhood. Betty is best known for being the wife of human rights activist, Malcolm X. I knew nothing about Betty Shabazz going into this novel, but I really enjoyed reading about her childhood & how it influenced the person she would become.
Betty’s early years got off to a rocky start. After her Grandmother suspected Betty was being abused by her teenage mother, she was sent off to live with an Aunt. Betty lived with that Aunt until her death, at which point Betty, now aged 7, is returned to her biological mother. After a few rough years, Betty ends up going to live with another family in their church, the Malloys.
Once Betty goes to live with the Malloys, Betty’s life really starts. Mrs. Malloy, an active member of the Houswives League, encourages Betty to participate in the Jr. Housewives League. The Housewives League was an organization that spread awareness about businesses that did not hire black employees. These women felt that if black people were not able to work in a business, that business did not deserve their money. The League went door-to-door spreading awareness & recruiting members. The Malloys ignited a spark inside of Betty that would burn her entire life as a human rights activist.
Betty and Ollie Mae’s relationship is a key theme throughout the book. It was heartbreaking to watch a child desperate for her mother’s love & acceptance. Betty was very fortunate that the Malloys were generous enough to take her in and ultimately adopted her. I think things would have turned out much differently for Betty had she not had the positive influences of the Malloys in her life.
One of the best parts about this book is that Betty & Malcolm’s daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, actually wrote it. It is a beautiful tribute to her mother’s early life. I especially appreciated the author’s note at the end. I’d definitely be interested in reading more about Betty’s adult life before, during, and after Malcolm.
» Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary by Walter Dean Myers
I haven’t read many biographies before, so I don’t really have much in the way of comparison, but I think this was a well executed biography. I don’t read many biographies because I worry they will be dry & dull, but that was not the case here. Myers approached this biography in a way that was both engaging for the reader and very easy to follow.
Malcolm X is someone that I learned almost nothing about in school, which isn’t surprising as I attended very conservative (and overwhelmingly white) catholic schools in the 90s and early 2000s. Many of Malcolm’s earlier ideals & beliefs were considered radical & extreme, so I can see why I was not educated about his mission. I really hate how censored the education system can be here in the United States.
I feel like after reading this biography on Malcolm X, I can better understand his beliefs and actions. Malcolm was very much a product of his tragic childhood and struggles. Honestly, I do not blame him for feeling as he did. Despite the fact that I do not agree with many of Malcolm’s early philosophies, I can appreciate his passion & intelligence. He was, and still is, such an inspiration to all those seeking equal human rights.
I really enjoyed watching Malcolm’s personal growth & development throughout his life in this biography. The fact that he came from such a heartbreaking childhood yet became a world-known name is very impressive.
The saddest part, for me, is the fact that Malcolm was just starting to come around to the idea that it could be possible for white people & black people to coexist and live in peace. He was 39 years old when he was murdered in front of his wife & children. I can’t help but think what he could have accomplished had he not been taken so soon.
» When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bendele
This book is so heartbreaking for so many different reasons. To say that Patrisse has had her fair share of hardships throughout her life would be an understatement. Patrisse grows up with a single mother that worked multiple jobs to make ends meet, a military veteran father in and out of prison due to drug use, and a brother also in and out of prison because of mental illness… All while dealing with poverty, racism, and homophobia.
Patrisse’s passion, resilience, courage, and determination was so inspirational throughout the entirety of the book. She is not one to sit still while injustice is served, Patrisse is a woman of action.
For me personally, the hardest part of When They Call You A Terrorist was reading about Patrisse’s brother’s struggle with mental illness. It is absolutely disgusting how mental illness is dealt with here in the United States. Instead of offering mental health services to all people, we simply lock up those that are not able to afford it. The way in which Patrisse’s brother was absolutely heartbreaking, and I’m sure is not uncommon for those with mental illness in incarceration.
I docked a star because I wanted more about Patrisse’s co-founding of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. I wanted more about her work & the logistics of the movement. This book is very much a memoir, which was important and fascinating in and of itself, but I was expecting more about the start of the BLM movement.
What books did you read for #BlackHistoryMonth 2019?
Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think?
Comment below & let me know 🙂