The Perfect Nine by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi

The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first experience with an epic poem from African origin. This is also my first experience with this author. However, this book is quite extraordinary. I could not find any fault in this retelling of the first man and woman from Kenyan culture. The Gĩkũyũ are one of several peoples that make up the Kenyan nation. The Gikuyu people trace theirs to Gĩkũyũ (man) and Mumbi (woman). God put the pair on the snowcapped Mount Kenya, from where they surveyed the lands around. They made their home in a place called Mukuruweini. They had nine daughters, but they were actually ten, hence the Perfect Nine.

This retelling of this African folklore is from a feminist perspective, and how the 10 daughters (nine were perfect) founded the nine clans of Gĩkũyũ. The Perfect Nine is an immersive epic poem that showcases the power of women and how the daughters have attracted 99 men from cultures abroad and have to choose their suitor after embarking through a perilous journey to help their sister (the last born and not perfect) find a cure for her ailment. This journey helps to distinguish the men from boys and help the daughters learn about themselves and each other and how to survive through danger. There are morals to the story, allegorical examples, and poetic prose that helps the reader truly dive into this epic poem and not come up for air until after it’s over.

“The journey of life is not a shortcut to knowledge; it is a long learning process. One cannot hurry it, and one does not travel on it alone.”

“Woman is the mother of life,
For she is the one who carries the womb of life.
Woman is the carrier of creation. We show her gratitude always.”

This myth has all the things that you need to make this retelling of origins to be perfect; ogres, lions, sacred mountains, prowess in welding weapons, suspense, adventure and plot twists. The story was very rich in mythological tradition, and I could not put it down!

Thank you to New Press and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o for providing me with this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. Full review can found in link in bio.

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The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

The Girl with the Louding Voice

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that seems hopeless, dire, impossible to survive, and bereft? Adunni found herself in just that type of predicament. At 14 years of age, Adunni, young Nigerian girl, finds herself going to be married off to a much older man, who already has 2 wives. She is still grieving her mother’s death when her father is unable to pay his rent or provide for her and her siblings. His late wife made him promise to keep Adunni in school so that she could receive an education and have a louding voice for herself. However, faced with poverty, her father dismisses his wife’s dying wish and marries Adunni off for a hefty bride price. We then go on a journey with Adunni, looking and hearing about this new life from her own words and how her life is shaping as she’s dropped into this life-changing situation.

Adunni shares her life with the reader as if she’s talking directly to us from an observatory perspective. The dialogue shared can be off-putting at first because you are basically reading broken English, but you have to remember this is from a 14 year old who has not been afforded the education she needed or has wanted. Her story reads very childlike, naive, and lacking of a worldview, and I believe the author intentionally wrote it in this manner to make the reader understand that this is coming from a child, and how the child is processing all that is happening to her in the best way that she can.

“I want more than just a voice… I want a louding voice. I want to enter a room and people will hear me even before I open my mouth to be speaking.” (p. 263-264)

This book was heartbreaking, shattering, powerful, and remarkable. I cannot understand how Adunni was so courageous, fearless, and hopeful in her experiences, but I’m so glad that this book uncovers so many important topics that needs to be constantly discussed and investigated so that the world can be a much more peaceful place.

Topics that were discussed in this book were:
– Patriarchal society and how that societal mindset destroys everything around it
– Child/Teenage bride (illegal marriages with children)
– Poverty
– Capitalism
– Abuse, rape
– Village justice
– Domestic slavery/human trafficking
– Importance of affirmations/self-confidence
– Feminism
– Education (value of education)

This book is very important for a young woman to see how even though you may face adversity, that you have to believe in yourself no matter what and continue to speak up for what you want and need in your life. Don’t give up on yourself no matter what the circumstances may be. Keep fighting for the right things.

I would recommend this book to read, and I rate this a 5. I could easily re-read this book over and over just finding more out about Adunni and her will to live and survive life.

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Smash It! by Francina Simone

Smash It! (Smash It! #1)

Smash It! by Francina Simone

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Smash It! An #ownvoices, mature YA novel, that is a retelling of Othello, while also recreating Othello as a high school musical.

Black teenager in a predominantly all-white high school, trying to throw caution to the wind and find confidence and a passion in life so that she can be less shy, less quiet, less invisible, and grab life by the horns. Her life revolves around her 2 best friends, Dré and Eli, along with her mother, sister, and old coworker, Al.

Olivia, the main protagonist, is taking the advice of Shonda Rimes, after her book, “The Year of Yes,” and is taking the jump into the land of “fck it!” to become someone she’s never been to achieve things she’s never had the guts to try. The book focuses on Olivia’s growth and progress she makes in this year of “fck it” and all the mistakes along the way.

“I”m not wasting another moment standing on the sidelines. I’m not just going to try out. I’m going to say yes to everything that scares me. I’m not gonna let anyone – most of all, myself, punk me anymore.”

1. “Be bold – do the things that scare me. 2. Learn to take a compliment. 3. Stand out instead of back.”

It’s very mature for a girl in high school to realize her deficiencies and want to work on them to get better and more well-rounded. I do appreciate that fact, but I think that’s where it ended for me. The rest of the book, and the stream of consciousness narration really put me off while reading this book. I honestly didn’t really like the dialogue, and I felt that the premise of this story has already been done. There are a ton of clichés, overused tropes, insensitive jokes, and micro/macroaggressions that aren’t dealt with, and I just couldn’t enjoy this book like I wanted to. It was cringe-y to read in some places, and I felt bad for all the characters who had to deal with Olivia.

One thing that I did appreciate was the body positivity that happens with Olivia and her female friends. The discussion surrounding self-affirmations, sexual freedom, avoiding fat shaming, loving on yourself, and just taking care of who you are, was nicely done.

Overall though, there was too much white gaze in this book for me to enjoy, and I didn’t like the stream of consciousness narration. Although it was an #ownvoices author, the book had 2 black people in it?? Aside from Olivia’s family, including her cousin, mother and sister, Olivia was like the only black character? Lennox and Jackie may have been of color, but not sure if they were black. I honestly had to look again to see if the author was black because I didn’t really get “authentically black” from reading this book. The main protagonist also mentions how scared she was about how others see her blackness, and there is that care for the white gaze that just didn’t do it for me.

There are some entertaining parts, and of course the high school drama, but I wasn’t that impressed and I don’t think I will be reading the next installment. I rate this book a 3.5.

Thank you to Inkyard Press and Francina Simone for providing me with this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson


Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book makes you want to hide your daughters. The content in this book is heartbreaking, necessary, and scary. We were all kids once, and we all did things we hid from our parents, which makes it even more terrifying because even though we try to prepare our kids for things like this, we can’t prevent everything from happening. You may even want to say, “not my child! My child will never…” – wrong. You do not know what your child will do because they are their own person and they have desires, wants, and needs as well. You can raise them to be the best person in the world, but if they get lured down a path that seems like their wildest dreams are about to come true, there is no telling what they will do to get there. Kids lie, kids pretend, kids manipulate, kids play their parents against one another, kids are deceitful, kids bully, kids are mean, kids love, and kids are real people! As good of a job you think you’ve done raising them, at the end of the day, people are going to do what they want to get ahead, and that includes your children.

This book discusses how even a two-parent family, kids in private school, kids in a “Jack & Jill” type organization for affluent families, who live in the suburbs can even have something like this happen to one of their children. Fame and fortune + dreams coming true is pretty hard for anyone to turn away from, and no amount of home training (in this author’s opinion) will deter a teenager away from accomplishing their goals, especially if someone famous is paying them attention and offering to financially ease their parents burdens.

*One word of caution though, if you want to be surprised by this book, do not read the “Dear Reader” letter. If you read that letter, your thoughts may be clouded and prejudge the book before you even get a chance to develop your own opinions about what you read.

However, the author does a tremendous job at showcasing how a teenager, who has a gift of singing get caught up being preyed upon by a grown man, who is a famous celebrity. We see how Enchanted, tries to figure how she can have it all, help her parents financially, and not let her parents find out or her friends. We also see how this “secret relationship” traps Enchanted in this precarious situation where she is unable to reach out for help until it’s too late. This book made me fear for my daughters. I remember what it was like to have older guys like you, be into you, try to date you, and me try to hide it from my parents. There is nothing that can prepare the parents for this from happening. You can raise your child in church, be strict, be understanding/flexible, be best friends with your kids, it doesn’t matter… Grown men are not supposed to prey on children. They know better. However, since they know better, they try to treat these teenagers like this “secret love affair” and make it all special and pretty and just for them, that the child’s judgment is incapable of seeing how disgusting these men are being. I feel like the best thing you can do is talk to your children about grown men like this, and impress upon them that men are not supposed to like children. That you are worth it to wait for. That even though what these men say sounds like gold, everything that glitters ain’t gold.

There is some obvious triggers in this book:
– Rape
– Molestation
– Abuse
– Drugs/Alcohol
– Manipulation
– Murder
– Exploitation

Topics discussed in this book:
– Race
– Mental illness
– Statutory rape
– Age of consent
– Power/abuse
– Fear
– Rape Culture
– Misogynoir
– Vulnerability of young Black girls

Although some teens want to make grown decisions, present themselves as grown women, they are still minors. They are still children. These grown ass men KNOW BETTER. Also, believe Black women! When women come forward with these allegations, the authorities need to believe Black women. Also, friends, parents, acquaintances, etc. all need to be able to believe Black women. When women don’t feel like they will be believed, or they get attacked because they came out with allegations, they won’t tell what is happening and endangering their lives even more. Their lives shouldn’t feel threatened. Due to this rape culture that doesn’t believe women who are telling the truth about rape, this distrust allows these men to wield abuse and power over them even longer because no one is helping or believing them until someone gets massively abused or killed.

I couldn’t really decide on what to rate this book. A 4 is not sufficient and a 5 is too much. This book is a 4.5. I really would have liked a backstory on Jessica and Richie. I wish we could flush out more of Korey Fields’ backstory. I wish I knew more about Enchanted’s grandmother, her best friend Gab, and Derrick.

I highly recommend this book to all parents, but especially those who have daughters. This book is more geared towards a high school student or 1st or 2nd year college student, but the messaging in this book is highly important for them to learn: Stay away/Run away from grown ass men, period.

Thank you to HarperCollins and Tiffany Jackson for providing me with this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. Full review can found in link in bio.

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On the Way to Reign by Dervé J.

On The Way to Reign – Dervé J.

Disclaimer: Poetry is very subjective, and you can take or not take something away based on your own personal feelings.

That being said, Dervé J. has organized her book of poetry into 3 separate sections:

– The Acknowledgments

– The Pin Points

– The New

This book is like a journey from self-reflection to self-awareness. Expressing to self and to others how to get on the road to self-love, self-discovery, knowledge, self-care, and strength. Although in life we go through ups and downs, and surprising situations that we didn’t really plan for, this book helps to keep all of that into perspective and acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers, but we do have way to be proud of our journeys, and continue to trust in your ourselves to a better day.

This book of poetry supports self-empowerment, self-reliance, and acknowledging the past for what it is, and picking yourself up to move forward in a resilience we all have needed at some point in our lives. This book is great for a young woman looking to gather some tools for the future, or for the woman who needs to be reminded in the power of herself. Don’t be discouraged in what has happened, but look forward as to what you can do to make YOU a better version of yourself. m man j

Thank you to the author Dervé J. for providing me with this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn (Legendborn #1)

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tracy Deonn put her foot in this one!

If you like strong character development, great, rich worldbuilding, African culture/spirituality/ancestors, BLACK GIRL MAGIC, edge of your seat suspense, FANTASY, magic, high octane action scenes, PLOT TWISTS, rooted in Arthurian Welsh legends, this book is your NUMBER 1 choice this year. BOOM! I said it. NUMBER 1 CHOICE! This book is everything!

Tracy Deonn does a phenomenal job on her thought-provoking novel about intergenerational trauma, traumatic grief, American enslavement of Black people, oppression, micro/macroaggressions at a PWI, exploitation of the South, racism, Legacy kids, entitlement, and classism. Oh and mix in clap backs for the century! Tremendous job in bringing together all of these delicate pieces of the interwoven issues dating back 15 centuries, and how a Black Girl is making a name for herself to last a lifetime.

Legendborn tackles so many issues in such a unique way that you learn lessons, you share pain, you laugh, you cheer, you antagonize, you hate, you change your mind, you feel so many things… this book is phenomenal, and I can’t wait for part 2! Oh! It has to be a part 2! 60% of the way in, I just didn’t want this book to end at all and knew that there has to be more to come.

There are parts where there is an info-dump, but I feel like it’s necessary so that the reader has a chance to learn what’s going on, but for the most part, the action in the book makes up for the info-dump. This book will keep you turning pages as you try to learn what’s about to happen next. When the books starts to look a bit predictable, PLOT TWIST! Tracy Deonn keeps you guessing and on your toes, never letting up on the quest to keep you trying to figure out what’s happening, all the way to the very last page.

I love how there is so much acceptance in this book with so many different aspects. Although race was an issue in this book, other identity issues were not. There were gay, queer, non-binary, bisexual and lesbian relationships that were introduced throughout this book in such a way that was it felt normal and just apart of the life in this world.

I really enjoyed the African rootwork that was explored here. The magic that Black women had to work in order to survive was something that needs to be shared. Bringing the African culture to life and explaining how enslaved men and women were forced into certain lineages by rape (let’s call it what it is), and how slaveowners did not want to acknowledge the children they had by enslaved women in many cases, was true and very real. Many people today are walking around not knowing fully the bloodlines they came from because of the atrocities that slavery did to many African men and women.

Legendborn discusses some serious subject matter, but in such a way for the YA crowd that it isn’t lost nor is it dumbed down or watered down to make it more palatable. The lessons learned here are clear, direct, to the point, but in a thoughtful, careful, sometimes humorous, respectful, and consistent way that you as the reader really understand the messaging that is in the book:

Racism sucks for everyone. Don’t be that person. Learn about your history, but don’t hold anyone else back from learning about theirs. Be kind to others because we all have something going on, and we all have a story to tell. We are no better than anyone else. We all have a role to play. Do some good in this world and pay it forward!

I would highly recommend this book to everyone! Very solid YA fantasy debut novel! Can’t wait for part 2!

Thank you to Simon Pulse (Simon Teen) and Tracy Deonn for providing me with this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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A Girl is a Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

A Girl Is a Body of Water

A Girl Is a Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A coming-of-age story you never knew you needed until you’ve read A Girl Is A Body of Water!

I don’t know where to start, but this book is a powerful story-telling epic saga of young Kirabo who is coming of age, and her sweeping journey of life from the 1960s through the 1980s. This book explores observations of every aspect of what being a woman is all about: feminism, womanhood, motherhood, gender roles, family, love and more.

Kirabo is a young Ugandian girl who begins to question herself and her background as she reaches her twelfth birthday. Raised by her father’s family, she’s never known who her real mother is, or where she is, or if she’s even alive. As she searches for answers, she meets with Nsuuta, a woman who has been called ‘evil witch’ by others in the community, and has to learn/grapple with what is being a woman all about, and how she can navigate her life as a woman on her own terms.

Kirabo’s world and her experiences in Uganda, are more than she realizes. She wants the love and respect of her grandparents, she wants to know her absent/lost mother, she wants love from her father, she wants respect from her friends, she wants love from a young man, she wants success in life, she wants to be her own woman, and she wants independence/choices/options from the patriarchal culture she’s been born into.

There is just so much here:
– Sexuality/Chasity (stigma of women having premarital sex)
– Religion
– Patriarchal society limits/restrictions/ideas
– Culture
– Identity
– Gender roles
– Motherhood
– Womanhood
– Feminism
– Education
– Beauty
– Classism
– Colorism
– Marriage

Her relationships between her grandmother, Nsuuta, her Aunt Abi and others help to shape and mold Kirabo into the woman she is becoming. She has to grapple with loss, death, and forgiveness concerning the people in her life, and how that challenges her ideas, expectations, and her journey in her own womanhood. However, beyond culture and religion, there is a universal message here that transcends culture; our self-discovery journey of being a woman are met with all types of complexities that there is confusion and doubt and a not-so-straight path to what being a woman is all about.

“…we are our circumstances. And until we have experienced all the circumstances the world can throw at us, seen all the versions we can be, we cannot claim to know ourselves. How, then, do we start to know someone else?”

“Nothing takes the sting out of a woman like marriage. And when children arrive, the window closes. Wife, mother, age, and role model – the ‘respect’ that comes with these roles is the water they pour on your fire.”

Mukumbi’s writing is just magnificent! Her rich story-telling encapsulates your whole being, and transports you right into what the world in which she has created. You are surrounded on all sides by the characters, the dichotomies, the complexities, the experiences of all that you are not left wondering and completely infatuated with her writing abilities.

I would consider this book a MUST READ. It is so important for young women to understand who they are in the world, and how to navigate various situations in life for themselves. Although your ancestors and elders can provide you with guidance, it is important for women to learn who they are apart from what any relationship can give them and what is important for them to feel whole. This book is more than just about Kirabo, but a message to women as a whole. The author is telling of a patriarchal society in which women exist but have been treated less than a man, where women feud with others because of societal pressures placed on them, how beauty can somewhat dictate a woman’s trajectory in life, how marriage, motherhood, and life as a woman can be oppressive at times. Women always seem to have to choose between having a life of their own or be doused by the limitations put on them to be a wife and mother.

Regardless, the author emphasizes the importance of being able to share our stories.
“Stories are critical…” “The minute we fall silent, someone will fill the silence for us.”

Overall, this book is a 4.5, rounded up to a 5. Must read!

Thank you to Tin House and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi for providing me with this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. Full review can found in link in bio.

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