I didn't forget about you all or this lovely blog. Things have been crazy in my life and I'm trying to get them all figured out. I have a lot I want to blog about, especially my DC trip, but this past weekend I read to books with Black lesbian main characters and I figured what the hell I might as well review them for you all so here we go. Since you're supposed to give stars and shit when you review something I'm going to give stars(or asterisks since I don't know how to get stars on my Blog) and its out of a possible five.
The first book I read was Manjani by Freedom Speaks Diaspora. ***1/2
Coming from a Black Studies background, I really wanted to read it because it was about a Black Lesbian fighting for the revolution. So I dove in head first anxious to read about a politically aware Black Lesbian, and I have to say overall I really liked it. The story is about the coming of age of a young Black Lesbian named Manjani, now I mention that she's a lesbian, because that's what attracted me to the book in the first place however, she doesn't come out until towards the end of the book. But, sexuality is definitely an issue that is dealt with throughout the whole book. The book really speaks to how gender and sexuality fit into a Black Nationalist paradigm. I have to be honest, that when I struggled with the book a large part of it was because of the heavy Black Nationalist perspective that Manjani was a part of. My own vision of what true liberation means for us as a people and it's not exclusive to the Black community, and therefore not in line with Black Nationalism. However, that's another post for another time. Back to the story, the book carries you through the emotional, spiritual and even physical journey of Manjani as she deals with a family crisis, and tries to live out her socio-political ideals. The story is filled with tons of quintessential Black Nationalist rhetoric that is both refreshing, and entertaining. I was often annoyed by Manjani's attitude, but also loved how she dealt with the "well meaning" White racists she encounters. It highlights a lot of the short comings in Black Nationalist organizations and what happens when your idealic view of the Black community is confronted with the reality of human nature. All in all it was a good read, I felt like the book dragged through her transformation and she went really unchanged for a large portion of the book and then all of a sudden her eyes are open.
This might be due in part to the spiritual journey she is also on throughout the book. I have to be honest I find that part of the book the most riveting and exciting, but also confusing. You are thrust into her world which is completely like ours except that she sees things in the spiritual realm that most people don't. It is such an ingrained part of her life that the author doesn't really give full explanation of. In the beginning she talks a lot about second sight and her journey, but you're not sure if she's speaking literally or metaphorically. I found myself frustrated at times, but ultimately I was rooting for her and eager to see where her journey would take her. I wished that the author would have included more of a lesbian community, rather than just references to other Queer people, but her sexuality really wasn't the focus of this book. It isn't a coming out novel, but rather a coming of age novel and I appreciate the boldness that Manjani possesses and the novel as a whole.
The next book I read was She Slipped and Fell by Shonda. **1/2
I came across this book the same way I did Manjani through Sistah's on the Shelf; really the only resource out there for Black Lesbian fiction. She slipped and fell seemed like it would be a departure from much of the Black Lesbian hood lit that's out there. Which, if you like it then more power to you, I just prefer something different. Anyway, I've had this book for a few months and hadn't gotten around to it until today. I tried to start it a couple of weeks ago, but was turned off by the very first scene where one of the characters is taking a shit. I'm sorry that just grossed me out too much. That may just be my issue, but it definitely made me pause.
She slipped and fell is in short about two friends who fall in love, and try to figure out how to love each other openly. I have to be completely honest and say I absolutely did not like this book for at least the first half of it. I felt like the author was slipping into a lot of the same tired descriptions and notions of beauty concerning the characters. *side rant* I'm so sick and tired of authors having to make one of the characters have light eyes, skin or hair in order to make them extra special and beautiful. My family is filled with people of varying shades of hair, skin and eyes and it adds to their beauty in the same way that anyone else's hair, skin and eyes do. It doesn't make them extra special, and they shouldn't be exoticized because of it! Ok rant over. Back to the story the two main characters Tina and Kendall were refreshing in that they were middle class Black girls, not extra rich and not struggling through the drug game. They were both good students with goals and little to stand in their way. They fall in love and that predictable throws their worlds for a loop, but for me the most interesting part of the book was seeing who they became as adults and how they handled the decisions the made and the tragedies they were dealt. It was a nice coming out story in that you got to see the whole spectrum of coming out, acceptance of self, acceptance by your family and also dealing with being openly gay in the world. I was troubled with the book in that I felt like the author invalidated butch identity, by inferring that because the two main characters were both femme, they were some how not like those Lesbians, and she also played into a lot of the stereotypes surrounding Butch women.
Their emotional maturity that they showed towards the end of the book made the beginning more bearable and even worth it. I found myself going aww at the end instead of throwing the book. I definitely recommend reading it; however don't expect any profound revelations or your world to be changed. It is a nice book to just sit, read and maybe even commune with a story that may or may not have resonated with your own coming out story.