Passing by Nella Larsen

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Paperback, Penguin Classics, 122 pages

Published April 24th 2003 by Penguin (first published 1929)

“It’s funny about ‘passing.’ We disapprove of it and at the same time condone it. It excites our contempt and yet we rather admire it. Why shy away from it with an odd kind of revulsion, but we protect it.”

In roughly 120, some odd pages, is a story that will remain with me forever; a story that I plan to reread so that I never forget this particular residual of slavery; colorism. Written into the Jim Crow law was a plan to keep people of African descent divided - the lighter slaves were preferred over the darker slaves. This form of psychological destruction was written as a long term plan in order for whites at the time maintain superiority over African Americans by making certain to plant a seed of inter-cultural self hatred.


Irene Redfield, the novel's protagonist, is a woman with an enviable life. She and her husband, Brian, a prominent physician, share a comfortable Harlem town house with their sons. Her work arranging charity balls that gather Harlem's elite creates a sense of purpose and respectability for Irene. But her hold on this world begins to slip the day she encounters Clare Kendry, a childhood friend with whom she had lost touch. Clare—light-skinned, beautiful, and charming—tells Irene how, after her father's death, she left behind the black neighborhood of her adolescence and began passing for white, hiding her true identity from everyone, including her racist husband. As Clare begins inserting herself into Irene's life, Irene is thrown into a panic, terrified of the consequences of Clare's dangerous behavior. And when Clare witnesses the vibrancy and energy of the community she left behind, her burning desire to come back threatens to shatter her careful deception.

A law written for slave masters would prove ironclad before, during and through the civil rights era. This ideology is still present even today. The aforementioned quote speaks directly to this. People often protect and revere, what should not be protected and revered, when it benefits them. This story takes place during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, a pivotal time for African Americans. As a way to get ahead and separate herself from the societal struggles that plague her African American counterparts, Clare, a light skinned African American woman who is completely washing her hands of the fact that she is in fact “black”. She is living her seemingly “privileged” life by “passing” as a white woman with her husband who happens to be a hardcore white supremacist. How much self loathing does person have to have to marry someone who hates their heritage? He doesn’t know.

“Lies, injustice, and hypocrisy are a part of every ordinary community. Most people achieve a sort of protective immunity, a kind of callousness, toward them. If they didn’t, they couldn’t endure.”

Her childhood friend, Irene, who is also the narrator of this story and also of lighter skin, is on the other end of the spectrum. Although she lives in a middle to upper class African American neighborhood in a loveless and pointless marriage, she is in tune with the all of the social political problems her people face no matter the socio-economic status. This aspect of Irene’s life brings her fulfillment. As their relationship progresses, Irene begins to struggle with her sexuality as well and her feelings for Clare. Clare, who often enraged me with her blatant self hatred, is a manipulator.

“The trouble with Clare was, not only that she wanted to have her cake and eat it too, but that she wanted to nibble at the cakes of other folk as well.”

She keeps Irene just close enough not to lose touch with her “blackness”, but would never truly immerse herself. The connection they have is based on emotional voids that both of them have being married and completely unhappy. What I love most about this story is how beautifully written it is. Larsen’s prose is short, but impactful. The narrative is a theoretical infrastructure of how deep an inferiority complex can be under the umbrella of hatred and racism. Both Clare and Irene are trying to figure out who they are and what their place is in society?? This may be a completely out of the box thought, but I really felt that Clare’s need to completely forget her heritage and marry a white supremacist was actually a warped form of escapism. The hatred projected by her husband made her feel increasingly disconnected from her reality. It helped her to continue to live a lie.

This book reflects, in grand detail, the grave affects of postcolonialism. Prepare to be jarred and surprised and educated as well!! This is also being adapted into a film which I can’t wait to see!!

Rating: 5/5

"They Can't Kill Us All' by Wesley Lowery

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Where do I begin?

"They Can't Kill Us All" was very high on my anticipated reads list for this year. I am so happy I had my wonderful friend @coffeeandbookss to read it with. This book is extremely heavy but also VERY necessary. Because it covers the #BlackLivesMatter movement, its origin and many of the high profile cases of unarmed African American males being gunned down by police there is no way I can give a standard review for this book. 

This book is good and tabbed, dogeared, annotated and everything else. There are so many profound points and ideas to really sit and think about from the longstanding history of racism in America, the turbulent relationship between African American males and law enforcement and the movements to combat it and the tireless effort to create policing reform. There are so many quotes that stood out to me from the simplest notion to the most difficult to swallow so I will highlight a few and provide you with my thoughts on them.

Conducting hundreds of interviews during the course of over one year reporting on the ground, Washington Post writer Wesley Lowery traveled from Ferguson, Missouri, to Cleveland, Ohio; Charleston, South Carolina; and Baltimore, Maryland; and then back to Ferguson to uncover life inside the most heavily policed, if otherwise neglected, corners of America today.

p. 14

"Despite the talks so many of us of this generation received from parents, teachers, and coaches - Don't run from the cops. Keep your hands out of your pockets. Be conscious of where you're wandering...-the young black bodies we kept seeing in our Facebook newsfeeds could have been our own. How could we explain this to ourselves or each other?

This is one of the things that stood out to me right at the beginning of the book; the conversation. Every black person is aware of "the conversation". A parent's responsibility to their children is to warn them of the dangers in the world; to make certain that they are mindful and aware. A parent can physically protect their child up until a certain point to which they will begin to maneuver independently despite "race". However, it is difficult for anyone outside of the African American community to understand the additional talk that black parents have to have with their children particularly their sons.

The idea is to just be compliant. Do not talk back and be respectful. Do not run and if you are asked to put your hands up, DO IT. In the current climate, this tough talk is necessary, but I began to wonder how this conversation takes on a different shape when we have watched countless videos of unarmed African American males who followed all the rules and were murdered anyway. How then does the mother of a young black boy, the same age as Tamir Rice, explain that in hindsight those things may not save you? It's such a heartbreaking thought.

To add insult to injury, many black boys are seen as adults proven through vilification in the media. There is no childlike innocence in the face of certain authority figures/law enforcement in America when there is brown face standing in front of them. 

p. 17

"I'm a black man in America who is often tasked with telling the story of black men and women killed on American streets by those who are sworn to protect them but who historically have seen and treated those men, women and even their children as anything but American. The story didn't start or end on the streets of Ferguson."

I think it is a fair assessment to note that the killing of unarmed black men by law enforcement is nothing new. The difference now is that we are in the digital age where everything is recorded by everyday citizens. One would think that filming these incidences would bring about change or at least be a huge part of policing reform, but that is not the case. I have wondered what is on the law books that we don't know about? What policing loopholes are we completely in the dark about?

Why is it that unjustified shootings by police officers bare no consequences other than suspension or firing {with severance}. Where does the conversation ACTUALLY begin? More than likely it begins with a cycle of distrust. If you have  "white" officers that harbor in their minds very racist, prejudice and preconceived notions about "blacks" they are going to carry these beliefs with them while "policing" black communities which in turn is the basis of racial profiling. Those being racially profiled don't feel "served" or "protected" and so on and so on. 

Anyone committing any sort of crime or breaking the law should be promptly reprimanded even if that means long term incarceration, but what we are dealing with is beyond "you do the crime. you do the time." Execution is happening on the street so there is a wider net being cast.

"If we--and now I mean the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the other--do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the world." ~ James Baldwin, 1963


"The abdication of responsibilities."

"One of the government's major jobs is to protect us. How can it protect us. How can it protect us if it doesn't know what the best practices are? If it doesn't know if one local department is killing people at a higher rate than others? When it can't make decisions based on real numbers to come up with best practices?"

This hit me like a ton of bricks. There absolutely cannot be reform if there are no real numbers to work from. The disproportionate number of blacks killed by law enforcement versus other races has to be seen as a major flaw in the system, but if you have a government that is not willing to consider this is an issue, it is going to be impossible to make changes. Change has to start at that top.


p. 154

"The role of the press in the civil rights movement also points to our larger failure as a nation to validate and trust the "black" experience. Why did it take "white" reporters writing for "white" audiences to finally address the inequities that "black" communities had for decades been fighting!? Was the lens of "whiteness" required for the nation to accurately recognize the "black" experience?" 

{NOTE: I put quotations around black & white because not the author}

The first thought that I had when reading this was the way in which the media has portrayed the Black Lives Matter movement as some "black alternative" version of the KKK where there is NO comparison. The KKK is an openly hateful group that represents, supports and promotes white supremacy. Their history details the heinous and tortuous deaths of hundreds and probably thousands of African Americans. I am reminded that ANY protest about ANYTHING ANYWHERE in the world can birth danger & rioting. People forget this. However, the MAJORITY, of BLM protests have been peaceful and almost reminiscent of the walk to Selma lead by the late honorable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but...


What the media also doesn't share, which Lowery details a bit is that BLM has also protested for the killing of NON African American citizen, but again it is difficult to sensationalize the positive. Humans are naturally drawn to chaos and media outlets feed of of this. I HIGHLY recommend this book as required reading if you are trying to GENUINELY understand BLM, why and how it started and the history of law enforcement's relationship with "black" communities.  I loved Lowery's approach from a journalistic perspective. He reported every story fairly while being able to express his raw emotions as a "black" man in America. This book is heartbreaking and reminded me all over again about Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddy Grey and the list goes on, but I didn't want to not read it just because these things make me angry, uncomfortable and sad. How can I be a voice and be properly armed with knowledge if I hide from these things. This is NOT just a book for "black" people but for all people and so important.

p. 195

"But the protest chants were never meant to assert the innocence of every slain black man and woman. The protests were an assertion of their humanity and a demand for a system of policing and justice that was transparent, equitable and fair."





African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou

This book was just vile, disturbing and very dark. WARNING: It is not for the faint of heart.

“No gesture is as simple as that of bringing someone’s life to an end."

I almost discontinued reading this book because it was RIDICULOUSLY graphic, but Mabanckou's writing was superb. He really made me feel like I was experience the developing psychosis of the main character Gregory.

I wrote a Bookstagram {Instagram} caption review this time around. Read here!

Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta


"At about this time, something happened that showed her that her dream was just suffering a tiny dent, just a small one, nothing deep enough to destroy the basic structure. The dream had by now assumed an image in her mind, it seemed to take life, to breathe and to smile kindly at her."

 photo cred: cici ford 

photo cred: cici ford 

I recently joined an ongoing challenge in the bookstagram community called #readaroundtheworld. I have been on the hunt and researching and have come across so many synopses that have peeked my interest; different stories, from different perspectives, from authors of different cultures.  Buchi Emecheta was recommended to me by my friend @emzbooksandco. Emecheta is a Nigerian author, who actually just passed away just last year, and I knew after reading reviews of her work and researching her personal life, I wanted to immerse myself in her stories. I ordered The Joys of Motherhood , her most well known novel & this, Second Class Citizen  . I loved this story so much and saw pieces of myself in the main character although our cultural backgrounds are polar opposite. I am super private and do not share personal things about myself but I was so moved by Adah and felt myself rooting for her that I decided to be a tiny bit transparent in my review. Keep reading below!


A poignant story of a resourceful Nigerian woman who overcomes strict tribal domination of women and countless setbacks to achieve an independent life for herself and her children.

This is really a story of perseverance in the face of obligation to ones culture and traditions, racism and broken family dynamics while finding your own independence and identity while. The main character, Adah, is a young Nigerian girl from Ibuzu. When she was born, she was a disappointment to her family simply because she was not born a boy. I don't know why this particular aspect of the story stood out to me, once I finished it, in understanding Adah's character as a whole. She is strong in one way, especially when it comes to her children, but extremely insecure all the same. There was never any faith, any trust put in her to be the very best from the beginning. She was born into a tribe that maintained patriarchal customs so she was discounted without reason. She carries this with her throughout life. I couldn't imagine then carrying those insecurities into another culture, an unfamiliar and foreign culture, that discounts you because of the color of your skin. 

Adah is a dreamer. She is a hard worker and wants to have a certain level of education and she wants to live a certain life. She desires to go to the UK to attend school. The “Presence”, as noted in the very beginning of the story, represents her passion.  She earns a scholarship to Methodist Girl’s school where she meets & marries Francis. She does not marry Francis for love, but for shelter and to have a secure place to study. Francis in no way is a likable character. He was controlling, overbearing and continues to pour salt in Adah's insecure wounds. She supports Francis as he pursues his dream to become an accountant, but most certainly loses sight of hers along the way. 

Adah is met with the harsh reality of a very cold England. Not just the physical climate, but with the way in which people of color are viewed and treated. It is a rude awakening for her; a girl who just wants to live the best possible life in a society that deems her a second class citizen because not only is she a woman but a black woman. Her education means nothing. White supremacy trumps black privilege particularly back then. It is a difficult adjustment for Adah, especially with the lack of support from Francis, but she does what is necessary for her children even taking jobs as a maid. This is where I see myself in her. Transparency: I have a masters degree in journalism. Am I a "journalist"? Absolutely not, so over the years I've taken low wage jobs to support myself; jobs that did not reflect my level of education, but I never stopped working and took pride in the work I did because it served a greater purpose. As insecure and as broken Adah is, she's a worker bee. She adapts under the toughest circumstances.

“Adah could not stop thinking about her discovery that the whites were just as fallible as everyone else. There were bad whites and good whites, just as there were bad blacks and good blacks! Why then did they claim to be superior?” 

Adah wants to be appreciated, loved and recognized. I felt such sympathy for her searching for these things and not receiving it from her parents, from Francis nor society. I loathe Francis with every bone in my body. He is verbally and physically abusive. He also uses various religions to suit whatever his particular need is in addition to being unfaithful.  He is the worst kind of man; low count in every way. Adah literally drives me insane with her loyalty to his nonsense and desperate need to be loved by him. Run girl!!. He continuosly failed his accounting exams and sponged off of his wife while being a part time father to their children. I was so happy for Adah when in the end she got away from him and began to live the life she dreamed with her children. 

Second-Class Citizen is translated from French but the narrative is written to reflect the African diaspora. It tackles so many ideas about customs and traditions, assimilation, relationships as well as existential questions that we deal with everyday trying figure out our place in the world. I love this book so much and HIGHLY recommend you add it to your TBR. 

Rating: 5/5

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

Last year sometime the lovely folks over at Aaknopf  were kind enough to send me Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo. I had heard so many wonderful things about this book and I couldn't wait to dive in. This story was a complete surprise. I wasn't certain what was going on with the main character, in the very beginning, but quickly realized she had such a deep maternal desire that overshadowed everything in her life as the story unfolded.

"Saanu mi, malo, Omo mi, joo nitori Olurun, Saanu mi, Duro timi // Have mercy on me, don't go, please. Stay with me."

 photo cred: cici ford

photo cred: cici ford



Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage--after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures--Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time--until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin's second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Measks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family. 

Adebayo took me on journey through Nigerian traditions, customs and folklore. I loved this story in its totality without loving any of the characters, but that’s okay because they were authentic and flawed in a way that any us can find identifiable. They were completely selfish with the exception of Yejide and Akin's third child, Rotimi. What I thought was just going to be a traditional story about marriage, love and loss actually turned out to be a story much more complex and this story had more twists and turns than I expected. This story is in four parts and it takes the reader through a series of tragedies without much explanation at first. With every turn of the page I kept wondering why and how. This story kept me waiting until about the end to understand the sequence of events, but in a good way that kept me intrigued.

In the beginning I found myself feeling sympathy for Yejide. All she wants is to be a mother and she even went as far as seeking a "priest" in the mountains. Her desperation to be a mother knows no boundaries. When she comes from the mountains and tells her husband, Akin, that she is "pregnant" and can just "feel it", I was just as skeptical as he was. I thought may be she was suffering from pseudocyesis (phantom pregnancy), but sure enough she was pregnant with their first child, Olimide, who subsequently passed away suddenly. She was clearly devastated and mentally in a place of no return. 

 photo cred: CiCi Ford

photo cred: CiCi Ford


"We often as the Lord to deliver us from evil [...] And we should. However we must also consider the unspeakable evils that we seek out by ourselves. What are we doing about the terrible evils that we can deliver ourselves from? Why must we always wait for the Lord when we are perpetrating so much evil with our own hands? Have we stopped to think about the evil we deliver into the world? [...]

I found, as I was reading this story that I needed to take myself out my westernized thinking about marriage and relationships to better attach myself to these characters and story. All cultures are different. Some aspects of the Nigerian culture in regards to marriage include polygamy (I don't say this with confidence because I have not done enough research on the subject. I don't think polygamy is recognized under civil law, but may be recognized under a more traditional law in Nigeria). Akin's meddling moomie (mom) arranges for Akin to take another wife for fear that he and Yejide will never conceive a child. Her name is Funmi and she becomes a live in part of their existence and a threat to Yejide. Akin is not pleased but feels obligated to adhere to his mother's wishes. The twist is that Funmi ends up falling down the stairs and dying. Later on Akin admits to pushing her in a drunken rage. Funmi was no fool and she knew that Akin was impotent and couldn't have possibly gotten Yejide pregnant. 

Here is where my mind is completely blown. Akin's had persuaded his brother, Dotun, to have sex with his wife to give her the baby she desired because he knew that he couldn't. What Akin does not expect is for his wife and brother to have a lustful sexual desire for one another and without fail they continue to have an affair throughout the marriage. This results in a BRUTAL fight between the two brothers and a tense distance between them. Yejide gets pregnant a second time with Sesan, but Sesan also dies of sickle cell disease. Yejide's third child, Romiti, gets sick as well, but Yejide, to filled with grief over the loss of her other two children flees war torn Ilesa. She leaves her husband and Romiti behind only to return to Ilesa to find Romiti has survived her illness and grown up. She wants to sincerely make a connection with her daughter and her daughter who loves her mother despite the circumstances wants to be loved by her.

"The reasons why we do the things we do will not always be the ones that others will remember. Sometimes I think we have children because we want to leave behind someone who can explain who we are in the world when we are gone."


I think that Yejide and Akin are such well developed characters. They are incredibly unrelenting in their  "pursuit" to keep secrets all in the name of "family". Even in the end, it was clear that the admiration and love they had for one another when they first met at university in their youth was completely gone. It is replaced by their forelorn feelings for each other and even that didn't matter when it came to still wanting to have a picture-esq life as Yejide tells him in the end that they should “discuss how to work it all out.” They both longed for something that maybe they weren’t supposed to have. That’s a hard pill to swallow and one factor, of many, that I am still pondering over after reading this story. They both were accountable in compromising personal “morals and principles” to achieve it. Her one desire, through it all, was not only to BE a mother to someone but FEEL like a mother to someone.

"I understand how a word others use every day can become something whispered in the dark to soothe a wound that just won't heal. I remember thinking I would never hear it spoken without unravelling a little, wondering if I would ever get to say it in the light. So I recognize the gift in this simple pronouncement, the promise of a beginning in this one word."

This story is heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time. The only downside is that about three or four chapters before the last two it gets a bit slow. I felt that Dotun trying to make amends with his brother through hand written letters could have been a bit more condensed as well as when Yejide was making a life for herself apart from her husband and child. Not to mention Akin casually gets away with murder and Yejide becomes an outcast for abandoning her family. Patriarchal society never fails to excuse the behavior of men for their shortcomings no matter how heinous and the woman is blamed for not holding it all together. This story had me wrestling with thoughts of marriage and how much sacrifice it entails. How many believe having a child fixes things or fulfills some void. I loved this book so much!! If it weren't for the slow parts in the end, this book would have been a perfect read for me.

Rating: 4.5/5


Human Acts by Han Kang

Quite honestly I was a bit nervous going into my second Kang novel. The Vegetarian was the first and it was incredibly disturbing to say the least. I was still thinking about that story for a long time after I read it. Click here to read my review. I felt like I understood her to be a raw in your face kind of storyteller meaning that if she was going to paint a picture for you of death or abuse or any human sadness or atrocity, she was going to paint that picture in every color and even mix those colors to create new hues. Her words haunt you.  


In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed.

The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho's best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho's own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice.

An award-winning, controversial bestseller, Human Acts is a timeless, pointillist portrait of an historic event with reverberations still being felt today, by turns tracing the harsh reality of oppression and the resounding, extraordinary poetry of humanity.

I can assure you that this book is not for the faint of heart. Kang tackles death at its core. There's blood dripping from nearly every other page and I only say that as a vivid warning to you before you read this. This story takes place in the city of Gwangju in South Korea during a student uprising in the 80s which in turn lead to a bloody massacre. Although the genre of this book is historical fiction, this is Kang's sort of recollection of what she heard about the 10 days of hell from family and friends growing up. In the prologue Kang shares her personal story of photos she saw of the dead and how those photos stayed embedded in her mind and made her question humanity.  This book sort of parallels one of my favorites, Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. You can read my review here. They are not so much alike in context nor gory detail, but both authors have a personal connection to historical tragedy. I am still trying to figure out why I knew about neither one. Both Sepetys and Kang also wrote these stories from the POV of different characters and each character's story was riddled with heartbreak.  

 photo cred: cici ford

photo cred: cici ford

The character's perspective that made me more emotional than the others was the mother of a murdered boy. From her POV “After you died I could not hold a funeral, and so my life became a funeral.” Kang wrote the boy's mother in a way where the reader understands that she has a pain that cannot be healed. I was chatting with my good friend Helory @_wolfandmoon  {do give her a follow on Instagram} about how, historically, it is always the underdog, those deemed as second class citizens in society that rise up against tyranny.

 I cheered for the fearlessness of the women who worked in the factory. It continues to be perplexing that there are still protests, still grassroots mobilization; we are still fighting tooth and nail for simple things like fair treatment and wages and in the midst lives are lost. These women were educated and underpaid but talked fervently about what needed to happen as if their lives would not be in danger. 

 I thought it was so interesting how Kang wrote the narration of each character. For example, Dong-Ho. His story actually reads as if it's from the perspective of someone watching him; his soul. Only a brilliant writer can pull that off. He is surrounded by violence as he searches for the body of a friend who was shot in front of him. I could not fathom walking outside of my door and seeing makeshift graves and bodies everywhere; frantically searching for my family and friends in the carnage. I cannot mentally escape Kang's depiction of bodies butchered with bayonet's stacked atop one another, exposed bones, pools of blood and stinking, rotting flesh. 

As I watch and read the news, like most people, ponder about the "acts" of humanity. Can we save ourselves? Why it so easy to take a life? Why are we desensitized to death? Kang addresses how we think and feel about death through this story that spans 30 years. I think the fundamental question is an existential one. Are we humans being have a spiritual experience or are we spiritual beings having human experience and how does this tie in to the way we process death? Kang asks these questions through her characters.

"Looking at that boy's life, Jin-su said, what is this thing we call a soul? Just some non existent idea? Or something that might as well not exist? Or no, is it like a kind of glass? Glass is transparent, right!? And fragile. That's the fundamental nature of glass. And that's why objects that are made of glass have to be handled with care. After all, if they end up smashed or cracked or chipped, then they're good for nothing, right, you just have to chuck them away.

Before, we used to have a kind of glass that couldn't be broken. A truth so hard and clear it might as well have been made of glass. So when you think about it, it was only when we were shattered that we proved we had souls. That what we really were was humans made of glass." ~ Human Acts

Dong-Ho has a restless soul. The way I would describe it is he's trapped, in so many word, between heaven and hell. He doesn't realize that he is dead and trying to make sense of the ongoing violence. He is outside of himself and not understanding his circumstances. He is finally free when he senses the death of his friend and his sister. He needed to find those he was connected to. This story is distressing and sad. I had a feeling of vacancy as I was reading it. I loved nothing about this story obviously because of the narrative. It's impossible to "love" - murder, death, destruction, lonliness, poverty etc. Han Kang gives you all of this through the window of these suffering characters AS IS, but her writing is magnificent and she is a master storyteller. It was slow in some parts which stops me from rating it a five. 

Also I have been stalking Goodreads lately and someone shared an amazing interview with Han Kang that she did with The Writer Review. It's such a good interview so I thought I would share it with you here. 

Rating 4/5

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

 photo cred: cici ford

photo cred: cici ford

I heard so many wonderful things about this book. Not only about this book, but Ward as a writer in general. After reading Sing, Unburied, SIng I went straight to Amazon and added a few more of her books into my cart. I fell in love with her writing. If you are a fan of Toni Morrison or Alice Walker, you may NEED to add Ward to your literary arsenal. Ward writes, so authentically, the Mississippi's Gulf Coast dialect, the ragged rural and racist south, both past and present, as well as a very heart wrenching and unvarnished account of a dysfunctional southern family. Check the synopsis below!


An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds. 

Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. 

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.   

This story imparts, in grand detail, the constant struggles of a black family trying to keep their heads above water while dealing with poverty, sickness, drugs and the never-to-unravel fiber of racism and hatred in America. Ward writes these characters in such a palpable way. I felt every emotion they felt especially for Jojo. Jojo is the thirteen year old son of Leonie, a drug addict, who also hallucinates about her murdered brother, Given, when she falls into drug fueled euphorias. Throughout the story I felt like I wanted to rescue Jojo. He has to leave his childhood behind and learn to become a man rather quickly. He is exposed to the chemical co dependency of his mother, he becomes a father figure to his baby sister, Michaela, because of the strain between them. He has to witness his maternal voo doo practicing grandmother, Mam, dying of cancer and deal with an incarcerated father, Michael, who happens to be white and Michael's parents are bleed red, white and blue good ole' southern racists who disapprove of their sons choice for a partner for no other reason than color.

Jojo's character reminded me of the constant conversation that tackles how young black boys have to also carry the weight of the world when growing up in toxic environments. Alot of the time, they don't have the chance to decipher what their place or purpose in the world even is. Subsequently creating feelings of inadequacy. This causes Jojo to resent his mother.  Jojo has a very close knit relationship with Leonie’s father, River. He cares for Jojo and Michaela as if they are his own, but River is a proud man whose heart has been hardened and in any situation he thinks with his head first. He is constantly haunted by a decision he made in his younger years to take someone's life in mercy while at Parchman Penitentiary. This is where Jojo's father is held up but is soon to be released. Leonie makes the decision to take a road trip to pick him up upon his release. It's better for her to pretend to have a stable nuclear family than to deal with the pain of her current circumstances and death of her brother than constantly looms over her when she's high. Not to mention, her brother was murdered by Michael's cousin. 

 photo cred: cici ford

photo cred: cici ford

The most interesting aspect of this story is Richie, the ghost of a boy who was once incarcerated at Parchman. He follows the family home and begins to detail the horrid tales of his own history and other detestable things that occurred during that time to Jojo in particular.  I really felt that Ward used Richie as a metaphor for the way in which the history of African Americans people affects the present. Richie represents the past and Jojo the present. Richie (history) is seeking to find a place of peace, understanding, a family, a different kind of life in the present, but racism, hate and systemic depravity stem from the things of the past so there is no freedom for either of them.

I could go on about this book for days. Her writing is captivating and this was such a unique approach to outlining the juxtaposition of past and present in terms of the affects of slavery and racism. This books is a must read and should be required reading for both high school and college students particularly college students studying Sociology, Women or African American studies.

My Rating 5/5