10 YA Books By Black Authors To Add To Your TBR

10 YA Books By Black Authors To Add To Your TBR

Last week I joined a Twitter chat, talking about the Black Lives Matter movement, which then evolved into talking about media by Black artists and creators. As we were discussing books, The Colour Purple by Alice Walker in particular, one member said something that stuck with me – to read books that focused on Black joy rather than simply trauma.

It got me thinking about all of the fantastic books I’ve read with Black protagonists living their lives. There are some in this list that deal with racism and police brutality but not all.

I’ve pulled together some books that I’ve enjoyed personally and that you will hopefully enjoy. If you have any more please do recommend them in the comments.

The Black Flamingo – Dean Atta

Dean Atta wrote a beautiful novel in verse about a young man growing up, exploring his sexuality and learning about drag culture. A quick read but one that’s incredibly well written. You can read a full review here.

Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon

It’s been a long time since this came out but Nicola Yoon has a way for writing stories that involve romance that make you think about the bigger picture. The novel follows a teenager who has a rare medical condition meaning she can’t leave her home and her journey of falling in love with the boy next door. It’s adorable.

The Sun Is Also A Star – Nicola Yoon

Another romance but set over a day if I remember rightly between two young people who are trying to deal with forces outside their control. Natasha is fighting the deportation order against her family and Daniel is feeling the pressure from his parents standards. Another truly wonderful love story that will make you think about possibilities. You can read a review here.

With The Fire on High – Elizabeth Acevedo

The first Elizabeth Acevedo novel that I read and I devoured it as much as I wanted to devour the cooking that is described. It follows a young mother trying to juggle high school, caring for her daughter, her future dreams and career. A really wonderful book that you should not read on an empty stomach.

Clap When You Land – Elizabeth Acevedo

I was lucky enough to recieve an early copy of this book and it was absolutely brilliant. The story of two young women who lose their father in a plane crash. What they don’t know is that they have the same father, they didn’t know the other existed. This is probably one of my favourite reads of 2020 so far. Review here.

Dear Martin

Dear Martin – Nic Stone

A story of police violence and the first I read (I think). Justyce begins to question the world around him after being faced with discrimination from a police officer. He begins writing letters to Martin Luther King jr as he tries to navigate being a young black man. A really interesting read and especially poignant. You can read a review here.

Tyler Johnson Was Here

Tyler Johnson Was Here – Jay Coles

After Marvin’s twin brother is found dead after a house party he and his mother think that is bad enough, that is until a recording surfaces that changed everything. Tyler was murdered by a police officer. As his brother becomes a hashtag, he needs to pick up the pieces of a family left behind. Get your tissues for this one, review here.

Piecing Me Together – Renée Watson

I think this sentence from the blurb sums up this novel perfectly ‘Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.’

Full Disclosure – Camryn Garett

Full Disclosure is about a young woman living with HIV and trying to live her life as a normal teenager, while also trying to keep her status a secret. It covers friendship, romance has LGBT characters and is about a topic I hadn’t read about before. It an incredible book you can read a review here.

We Will Not Be Erased: Our Stories About Growing Up As People Of Colour – Gal-Dem

I’m not entirely sure that this is YA but it is a really great read, especially for those of us who have grown up with White Privilege. The people who have written for this book identify as people of colour, but I would still include it in this list. I read this back in May and it was eye opening, I’d highly recommend picking it up.

Book Review: Letters On Motherhood - Giovanna Fletcher

Book Review: Letters On Motherhood – Giovanna Fletcher

Giovanna Fletcher is a best selling author, award winning podcast host and is known for her down to earth social media channels. As well as all that she’s raising three small humans alongside her husband Tom (yes, Tom Fletcher from McFly). She writes letters to her sons, her family and her husband in this beautiful collection.

I love the idea of writing letters to children while they’re growing up, it’s something I’d like to do for children that I have in the future. While I’m sure there are so many more that aren’t published (because privacy!) this gives an insight into motherhood that I feel will bring light to others who may feel like they’re alone.

This isn’t Gi’s first book about being a Mum, her previous non-fiction book Happy Mum, Happy Baby was also a firm favourite of mine. That book birthed an incredibly popular podcast as well. What works well is that in no way does she pretend she knows it all or even knows what she’s doing half the time.

There is a kindness within the pages of this book and a calming nature. Giovanna doesn’t make out that motherhood is all sunshine and rainbows, she shares the moments of self doubt, times when she felt overwhelmed and what it is like to raise 3 little boys who are so different.

As well as warming my heart there were a few times where I really, really laughed – which I often do as Gi share’s her musings on her Instagram page. It really does feel like a light that shines. I intend to get these books out again in the future, as well as buying them for friends who have little ones/are expecting.

This is a 5 star read, there is no doubt. There is so much honesty, love and warmth through these pages. While I may not have children myself, reading this made me feel so much towards my own mother, towards the children I hope to have in the future.

Racism Is Everyone’s Problem

The video of George Floyds murder is not an easy watch, nor should it be. It’s the latest in a number of videos we’ve heard from the US about an unarmed black person being killed by the very people who should protect them.

Racism is alive and well – it never went anywhere.

I am aware that I’m writing this as a white woman. I’ve never had to fear for my life because of the colour of my skin. I cannot tell you what it feels like to be treated different because of my race and I’m not going to try. We need to listen to people who live the experience every day.

Listening is one part but also we need to recognise our privilege, now, some people have a problem with that statement. If you are oppressed or are living in difficult conditions it’s hard to feel privileged but realise that none of your problems are made worse or caused because of the colour of your skin.

When I was younger, I naively thought that we didn’t have a racism problem in the UK. I was so incredibly wrong that it brings me shame now to admit it. Racism is alive and well and we have our own history to recognise as well as what people are going through in this country today.

Claiming that there’s ‘nothing you can do’ about racism or that it’s ‘not that bad here’ is part of the problem. Not knowing doesn’t make you a bad person but living in ignorance does. Take the time to learn about the issues, have an understanding and change your own thoughts and behaviours. It’s not easy and you won’t be perfect but you can do your part.

We need to work together, listen and understand.

Book Review: The Near Witch - V.E Schwab

Book Review: The Near Witch – V.E Schwab

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

Lexi has grown up with the stories of the Near Witch with little thought to them other than to scare children. But not long after a mysterious stranger arrives and children start to go missing from their beds, Lexi needs to find out the truth – and make sure her sister doesn’t become one of the missing children.

I meant to pick this up a while ago but it slipped my mind, it was only when I saw the gorgeous sprayed edges edition that I knew I needed to buy and read it. I also managed to persuade my book club to read it too!

Lexi is an excellent character, she’s intelligent but also has a softer side, it’s great to see a character that has both. While she’s dealing with the death of her father and what is expected of her in her village she’s also fiercely determined and wants to do the right thing.

I was also fascinated by Cole (this edition also included a short story about him at the end which I wish had been a whole book in itself), the element of mystery really kept me reading. Who was he? Was he the Near Witch? Could he be trusted? So many questions.

I’m not entirely clear when or where in the world this is meant to be set but it gives me a old worldy vibe because of the way the town acts and the types of jobs that are mentioned – which I enjoyed.

When you consider that this is her debut and something that she was writing while at university it’s even more impressive. I lost myself in this story and this world once I started reading.

This was a 4.5 star read for me. An engaging story and while at the beginning it was slightly slower than I’d have liked, when it picked up it was an enjoyable read. I’d actually quite like to know what happened after.

The End of Livin’ La Vida Lockdown – Day 63

We’ve now been in lockdown for 9 weeks, when I started the Livin’ La Vida Lockdown posts, I didn’t expect it to go on this long – not in this way at least. You might have noticed that I haven’t been posting under that title as much and I’ve been considering whether I’ll carry on in this way.

We don’t know how long lockdown is going to last – and part of me wants to return to some form of normality on the blog at least. I’ll still be following the rules, still be social distancing and mainly staying home but do I want all of my content to be about this? No, I don’t think so anymore.

So, after this post I’ll primarily go back to writing about more general topics – will there be updates and some posts related to lockdown and what’s going on? Of course! But I’m planning on a little bit of normality here again and more variety.

Being Kind To Myself During Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

At the start of the week I wrote my post to announce that it was Mental Health Awareness Week and my intention to publish a post every day…you might have noticed that it didn’t happen.

I spoke about the theme being kind to yourself and to others. In the end it was something that I needed to do for myself – which also meant not posting online. I was struck by a particularly nasty migraine earlier in the week and felt pretty rough physically and mentally for the rest of it.

One evening I was trying to write a post on ways to be kind to yourself and it just wasn’t working. Ali pointed out that I wasn’t being kind to myself – that quality was more important than quantity. I agreed and said I would take the time and see what happened. Today is the first time I’ve felt up to writing a new blog.

I had to remind myself that while I love writing the blog and interacting with people, if I’m not up to it nothing bad is going to happen. If I take time off, no one will hate me. It’s also part of the work I’ve been doing within therapy sessions – to be more compassionate to myself and mostly give myself a break.

Writing this is partially because I wanted to say what happened and to show that you need to practice what you preach.

Be kind to yourself.

Book Review: Roomies - Christina Lauren

Book Review: Roomies – Christina Lauren

While Holland has watched her favourite street musician for months with deepening feelings she’s never had the courage to talk to him, until he rescues her from a drunken attack and disappears. She decides to find him again after her Uncle is desperate for an incredible musician and she knows that Calvin could fit the bill. While everyone falls in love with his talent there’s one catch – he’s in the US illegally after overstaying his student visa.

Fed up of being a second character in her own story Holland decides to take a risk and marry him – even though he has no ideas of her feelings. They’re going to have to put on the show of their lives, but at one point does it stop becoming an act?

I’d heard about Christina Lauren a few times and this is the second book of theirs that I’ve picked up and I’m so glad I did. This is a romance that includes music, theatre and a protagonist that isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life. That ticks a lot of boxes for me!

I listened to the audiobook of this on Scribd and it was a really enjoyable experience, particularly as the narrator has a knack for the variety of accents that this story needs. It’s worth nothing as well that the characters lend themselves to the diversity that a city like New York would have.

While you cannot hear the music and performance that is being discussed, it didn’t matter – it was as if I could feel it through the page. The heart and the soul that these characters were connected by felt second nature to me. Now, I don’t know if this is the case because I have a passion and love for music myself but it touched my heart.

I also found myself feeling connected to the characters – I cared deeply about their lives and wanted the very best for them. I felt like I knew them. I was constantly rooting for Holland and Calvin to find love in each other and have a shot at happiness together. It’s safe to say I was wrapped up in this book from the first page.

This was a 5 star read for me. It’s a fantastic romance that I could not put down. I needed to know what was going to happen, was the relationships going to stick? Would Calvin fall in love with Holland? Would the law catch up with them? Of course, I won’t spoil anything for you but I really enjoyed this book. I’d also recommend the audiobook as a fun read.

Welcome To Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

Writing about mental health isn’t anything new on this blog. While it may have changed in recent years to being about how I’m doing mentally in regards to chronic health conditions it’s still very important to me.

This years Mental Health Awareness week is very different and it’s likely that more people are aware of their mental health. We’re living through a time that none of us could imagine. As simple affection is limited or, for some, impossible I feel like now more than ever it’s important to discuss how we’re feeling.

This years theme is kindness, something we can all give but could all do with receiving too. While the world might seem like the most anxiety inducing place right now, and it is, there are also signs of hope and generosity.

During the last few weeks I’ve received messages, family members and neighbours have helped when we couldn’t go to the shops, strangers on the internet have sent me things from my amazon wish list and so have friends. I’ve tried to do things for others too in the ways I can.

I know that, for me, it’s felt at times like we’re stuck in a reoccurring nightmare. That it takes more effort than I have when things are hard. It’s normal to have days where it’s all too much, especially now. Taking it day by day, even hour by hour we can get through it together.

I’m going to be posting hopefully every day this week about mental health. Even though it’s a different kind of awareness week. I hope you find the posts helpful.

Book Review: Clap When You Land - Elizabeth Acevedo

Book Review: Clap When You Land – Elizabeth Acevedo

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance – and Papi’s secrets – the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

After reading Acevedo’s novel With The Fire on High I knew I needed to read Clap When You Land. I was fascinated by the idea of a tragedy bringing together unknown family members and the difficulties they have after learning the truth. 

This is ultimately a story about grief, family and secrecy. While both Camino and Yaharia share a father, their lives couldn’t be more different. One is used to living in New York in reasonable comfort, while the other is keeping her head above water with her aunt in a struggling neighbourhood. 

As with Acevedo’s other book I read there are a number of diverse characters in terms of race and sexuality as well as looking at forms of intimidation women may face around the world. 

The way in which this is written is beautiful, I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the Dominican Republic and Camino’s sense of community and love for those around her. Overall I think I felt more connected to Camino, simply because I was rooting for her the whole time. That’s not to say I wasn’t rooting for Yaharia, it was just a different kind of connection. 

For me this was a 4.5 star read, I can’t talk about the ending without risk of spoilers but I wanted to see more of that happened after the endpoint. I would definitely read a second book about the girls. I wish I could say more but I refuse to spoil this wonderful book for anyone. 

Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for review. 

Livin’ The Vida Lockdown: Day Fifty-One – Things I Want To Keep

I know my last few lockdown posts have focused a lot on struggles that I’ve had in particular. I think it’s a pretty accurate representation of where my brain has been for a little while. We’re over 50 days in now and that is a long time to go without being able to hug your family or friends, right?

That said, when people talk about going back to ‘normal’ I think there are a few things I’d like to keep, a few positives that I’ve found and enjoyed. I hope I can carry these forward and I think other people are thinking along the same lines.

Having time to enjoy as a couple

While the entire sound industry shutting down is not ideal in the slightest it has meant that I’ve had Ali home for a long time. Normally I’m used to him working until late in the night or going away on tour.

We’ve had time to curl up and watch films together which is just really nice in itself. He might need to drag me off of my laptop to do it but it is calming. I know that he will go back to work, and I want him to because he loves his job but I think I’d like to make sure we spend the time differently.

Catching up with old friends

I’ve found myself talking to people I haven’t in a while and I’ve realised how much I’ve missed their company. While I can’t see my little introvert self meeting up with people all the time when we’re allowed it’s nice to catch up and see how people are doing. I want to do more of that.

Making weekends less digital

I don’t need to have my laptop or phone on to catch messages and emails about any potential work at the weekend so they’ve actually become a lot less digital. They’re for reading, sleeping and maybe writing some blogs if I feel up to it.

I’ve really enjoyed just using the weekend as quiet time for me and my brain to just log off for a bit, particularly when I wake up and have some quiet.

Going for walks when I can

It’s not always possible for me to go for long walks, depending on my pain levels but it has been quite nice to go out for a little walk to my local parks. Obviously I won’t be going it in the winter when it’s pissing it down but while the weathers nice I quite enjoy it.

Is there anything you’d like to keep after lockdown? Let me know below!