Welcome to The Black Experience, a month long blog series through February, in honour of Black History Month, which features Black bloggers, booktubers and authors. This project aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences both in real life and in publishing, as well as showing our individual and collective struggles.
Today’s post is by Chinelo and Tanya. Nelo and Tanya are both black bloggers, and will be sharing a list of fantasy books inspired by Caribbean & African lore.
I love folklore and mythology; my dream is to collect mythology from different parts of the world. I have already started with my collection. This list would comprise of five books set on the African continent and the other five the Caribbean.
Thank you, Zainab, for this wonderful idea (A bish has been living in a bubble apparently).
May your TBR’s be overflowing (click on the links to add them to your TBR).
The Mostly West African list (I realised that this is the most popular kind the world is familiar with):
1. The Famished Road by Ben Okri (Igbo, West Africa): Uncle Ben was the first Nigerian to win a booker prize in 1991. This is based on an Ogbanje child. An Ogbanje child in Igbo mythology is a spirit that has one leg in the human world and one leg in the spirit world. What this means is that the child can decide it wants to leave the human world and then it dies. The problem is that it does this often thus tormenting the mother.
2. Freshwaster by Akwaeke Emezi (Igbo, West African): This also has the theme of Ogbanje, and it has a more personal feel to it (okay what I meant is that the author wrote it as a fiction-autobiography). Akwaeke is a Trans Nigerian Author, they have had experience with the ogbanje, I would recommend listening to the audiobook, its narrated by them and it would send shivers down your spine, but you’ll like it.
3. Kingdom of Souls by Rena Baron (Yoruba, West African): (psst I am recruiting for the Demon Kings army, come join) Rena Baron based this book on the lore of the Orishas. Now I swear on my Unicorn horn y’all have heard of the Orishas somehow (Ahem, remember that book called CBB).
4. Anansi Boy by Neil Gaiman (Ghana,West African Based): Neil did his research and he did a pretty good job of it (in my opinion obvs). Anansi is a trickster god of Ghanaian lore; he has the form of a spider. This is a fun book about two brothers one tries to help (or not) the other and it goes horribly wrong making everything ten times worse.
5. Kintu by Jennifer Makumbi (Uganda,East African): It’s a magic-realism book set in Uganda,
Fun fact while researching this, I was looking at the Caribbean book foundation and I swear on a unicorn’s bottom…I passed it. You would think that’s the first place one would check! I would leave a link below this to the Caribbean book foundation please do check out the books there, I know I am certainly checking them out (pay no attention to my tbr).
1. Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James: You must be patient to get through this book and no it’s not like game of thrones (it’s not ‘the African version’ of it but someday we would talk about that). Uncle Marlon picks folklores from different parts of Africa, and a lot of times it’s like WTF is happening here but stick with it and if you are curious research the terms I mean that’s how you learn about other cultures (I may or may not be throwing major shade at some reviewers’). It is ermm graphic (entrails are splashing everywhere in this one).
2. Everything Nalo Hopkinson has written (Available on Scribd too!) because we cannot talk about Caribbean books without her. But here are some are some of her popular books
• Skin folk (An anthology)
• The Salt Roads
• Brown Girl In The Ring
3. Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
4. Crystal Rain by Tobias S Buckell
5. The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
• Indaba My Children by Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa (South Africa)
★ You can find a list of Popular Caribbean mythological creatures HERE
• The Madman and the Medusa by Tchicaya U Tam’si (Congo, central Africa)
• Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Kenya, East Africa)
★Discover Caribbean books HERE
I love me some fantasy books. If you didn’t know before, let this be the word. There nothing more beautiful to me than reading a book that not only takes me outside of reality but takes me into mythology and pulls me into a history lesson without knowing.
Some of the best books I have read were about Caribbean and African lore.
Tristian Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
This is a mix of African and African American lore and it is perfect. There were a lot of references that I was familiar with (Anansi and John Henry) but there was also plenty I did not know of (High John and Gum Baby). The greatest thing about this book is it was informative without you realizing you was getting a lesson. It was creative, detailed, colorful and it pulled at your emotions all the while telling you the stories that our ancestors listened to. It was great.
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
This book creeped me out and introduced me to a Caribbean lore that I have never heard of. I would love to tell you all but it would be giving away such a huge huge HUGE piece of the story that I cannot. All I can say is it involves water, mermaids and Africans. When everything comes together, when it all clicks and then you do some research, you are blow away.
Five Midnights by Ann Davila Cardinal
Another creepy read. Based in Puerto Rico and based off a lore that is told to children to keep them from becoming bad eggs, this book digs pretty deep into this mythology. Character concerns aside, this book reminds you that words have power . . . really deep power.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
If I believe correctly Mexico or at least parts of Mexico is considered the Caribbean. With that being said, this book, this book is dripping in lore. Shoot, just look at the cover. It is rich in culture and focus on Mayan lore.
The Mermaid’s Twin Sister: More Stories from Trinidad by Lynn Joseph
I read this as a child and lost my copy as an adult (plan on replacing it). This collection of short stories are based on Trinidadian folklore and give you an insight to history and also how stories are/were told. These stories are colorful, beautifully crafted while also paying respect to the original lore.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
A classic from my childhood. This book is based off an African lore about a man and his two daughters; one kind and considerate while the other mean and selfish. This book is illustrated beautifully, and it is deeply invested in providing a lesson, which is extremely common in folklore.
New releases/books I have yet to read
I love the fact that Black writers are writing more about lore and mythology. It is about time that these stories be told and shared all over the world. You can only read so many retellings of Greek, Irish and Russian mythology.
1. Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender
2. The Deep by Rivers Solomon
3. A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy
4. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown