The Black Experience 2.0: Black Anger

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, with the inclusion of a prelude from me, Mel (she/her/they) recommends in a YouTube video 5 books she finds cathartic and we talk about Black anger.


Black anger, or rather the suppression of Black anger to conform and fit into white palatability, is an important part of the experience of many Black people.

Just like joy, fear and pain, anger is a basic human emotion. Children as young as six months old feel and express anger, but when Black people show the slightest hint of this emotion, a problem arises.

Like I said in one of the earlier posts I wrote for The Black Experience 2.0, Black people don’t get to be imperfect or human. We are to remain perfect, placid and pleasant; the moment we deviate a little from this mold we become problematic, irrational, violent and aggressive. And it doesn’t take much for us to be categorised as such, a groundless perception from a non Black person is enough to label us the angry Black person. Whether or not our anger is justified or we’re truly angry, it matters not because Black people are perceived to be angry, indesirable, despite it being a universal emotion.

We do not get to outwardly process a basic emotion. Even in a world with severe inequalities and injustice that push us to the brink and right into the fold of said emotion. We do not get to react, to be upset, to be angry. We don’t get to deal with the bullshit.

Today in the last post for the original portion of The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat, Mel recommends in a YouTube video, 5 books to help process the bullshit and deal with Black anger, frustration and racism and the response to racism; and all based on their personal experiences and emotions.

About Mel

Hey, I’m Mel from mel.theravengirl. I’m a booktuber, reader and actor. I talk about books that bring me joy whether that be a cheesy fantasy romance, or a collection of essays. (either way I’ll probably mention BTS.)

You can find Mel on Twitter @meltheravengirl and on their YouTube channel @mel.theravengirl.


We’ve officially come to the end of the original segment or part of TBE 2.0. While I’ll be adding more posts to this series at different points of the year or during the second celebration of Black History Month in October (UK Black History Month), TBE has originally planned this year ends with the post and the last day of February.

I hope all Black people all over the world had a great month and I hope you enjoyed this series.

Till next time and the next addition, I hope you stay safe and sound.

With love,

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The Black Experience 2.0: Interview With Emery Lee

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, I chat with the author of one of my most anticipated YA releases, Meet Cute Diary, Emery Lee (he/him/e/em). We talk about eir debut, trans joy and what trans joy means to em.


Q: Hello Emery. Thank you so much for making time out to chat with me today. Before we start, could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us what your book is about?

Emery: Sure! I’m Emery Lee, author of MEET CUTE DIARY a YA romcom about a trans boy who tries to stages a fake relationship to save his trans romance blog from an internet troll, but everything he thinks he knows about romance flies out the window once real feelings get involved. 

Q: A small tradition when interviewing people on my blog is asking about their favourite Winnie the Pooh character. May I ask who yours is?

Emery: Eeyore! I’ve always had a soft spot for the emo, grumpy characters, even at age like five I guess LOL. 

Q: Due to the fact that I haven’t read Meet Cute Diary yet, I’m going to keep the questions generic and light. From what I’ve been able to gather from reviews, your book, Meet Cute Diary is a book about trans joy and love and this makes me even more excited to read it. So I want to ask, when writing Meet Cute what moments or parts gave you the most joy?

Emery: This is a little hard to answer without giving any spoilers, so I’m going to try to keep my answer super vague. I absolutely loved writing about Noah and his brother, Brian, and the way Brian supports Noah’s transitioning and basically all of Noah’s chaotic life choices. There are also a couple scenes that I’ll just call the “the Christmas party scene” and the “the scavenger hunt scene” that were just so much fun to write. This should make sense once you read it!

Q: I want to keep this interview limited to joy and positive things, so I want to know what parts of the story are closest to you? What parts make you smile whenever you recall them?

Emery: There were so many casual queer or PoC jokes throughout the story that felt like sharing a secret with a good friend as I wrote them. Every time I stumble over one of those again, I can’t help but laugh. I also just loved writing Noah’s witty sense of humor and sarcasm. His voice is really strong, and I know it can be off-putting to some people, but he’s just so dramatic so reading some of his internal monologue just has me cackling. 

Q: While books and other media forms about trans joy aren’t as popular or readily available as those about trans trauma and pain, they do exist. What are some of your favourite books (or other media) about trans joy or love or basically centring trans people being happy?

Emery: So, this is actually a really hard question for me because I think I have a different definition of “trans joy” than a lot of other people. For me to consider a book a “joy” book, I don’t want oppression anywhere in the plot. Like mentions of it here and there as things go down are just kind of natural, but there shouldn’t be any major plot points that involve being outted or misgendered or fighting against bigotry. That being said, I can’t really think of any stories in which transness is centered without being a huge source of conflict. One book I recommend to everyone looking for a good trans story filled with a lot of happy moments is CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas because it’s a truly lovely story filled with amazing characters and a beautiful romance, but to say that the book doesn’t also show a lot of trans pain would be a lie. Ultimately, I think the story was kind of cathartic for me, and I adore that book, but it’s not something I could read if I was in the wrong headspace because it still centers a lot of trans trauma and pain. FELIX EVER AFTER by Kacen Callender was a similar experience for me. It was difficult to get lost in the “joy” of the book because there was still a lot of trans pain at the forefront. Ultimately, I think I’m still in a place where I’m trying to find those books that I can truly call “happy” without feeling like I’m setting readers up to be re-traumatized. I have high hopes for a couple on my list coming out this year, but I don’t want to say too much until I’ve gotten a chance to read them for myself!

Q: When people read books they take away something from the experience. Most of what they take is subjective but what is one thing you’d like people to keep in mind after reading your book?

Emery: Trans people are not our trauma. There’s one trans character in MEET CUTE DIARY who experienced some major transphobia after coming out, but those elements are in the past, and Noah, the main character, came out to a fully supportive family and deals with very little transphobia. I want readers to see this and not think “oh, that’s so unrealistic”. I want them to see it and think “Oh, this is what trans people should experience and we should do everything we can to make it so that more trans people have this lived experience.” I want to flip the expectation that trans people will experience bigotry on its head. Trans people deserve happiness, and the bigotry we experience is the result of moral failures, not just something we should be used to.  

Q: It’s been a fun conversation so to wrap things up, pitch your book is only seven words.

Emery: Noah thinks he knows romance. He’s wrong! 


About Emery Lee

Emery Lee is a kidlit author, artist, and YouTuber hailing from a mixed-racial background. After graduating with a degree in creative writing, e’s gone on to author novels, short stories, and webcomics. When away from reading and writing, you’ll most likely find em engaged in art or snuggling cute dogs.

You can find Emery on: Twitter | Instagram | Website | YouTube 

*name of social media = link 


More on Meet Cute Diary

Felix Ever After meets Becky Albertalli in this swoon-worthy, heartfelt rom-com about how a transgender teen’s first love challenges his ideas about perfect relationships

Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.

When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.

In this charming novel by Emery Lee, Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.

Add on: Goodreads | Storygraph 

Preorder through eir website 


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The Black Experience 2.0: Interview with Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, I chat with the author of the highly anticipated YA debut, Ace of Spades, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (she/her). We talk about her debut, conventions in the Thriller genre, and ways in which real life can be more terrifying than fiction, especially for Black people. 


Q: Hello Faridah! Thank you so much for taking out some of the time to chat with me today. It’s really great to have you here. Before we fully start with the interview, could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us a little on what your debut, Ace of Spades, is all about?

A: Hello! Thank you for having me. My name is Faridah Abike-Iyimide and my debut novel Ace of Spades releases on June 1st 2021. Ace of Spades is best pitched as Gossip Girl meets Get Out and it is a YA Thriller that follows Devon and Chiamaka in their final year at Niveus Private Academy. Things are going well for the both of them, for one they have both been elected as senior prefects this year, and they both have plans to graduate and attend elite Universities. Things start to take a turn when an anonymous texter – Aces – starts leaking their secrets to the entire school. Despite being very different people, Devon and Chiamaka have to put aside their differences and team up before things get deadly.

Q: Before we get down to business, for research (for fun ahem) purposes I like to ask anyone I interview who their favourite Winne the Pooh character is, so who is yours?

A: I love this question so much because I was OBSESSED with Winnie the Pooh when I was a kid. My bedroom was Winnie the Pooh themed and I even still own a Winnie the Pooh book filled with all of Winnie’s wisdom and advice. But back to the question… I think my favourite character is… Winnie. Not sure if that is basic, but I really love Winnie.

Q: On your Twitter and Instagram, you talk a lot about your love for Gossip Girl and how it impacted your decision to write Ace of Spades. What other books or media, aside of Gossip Girl, inspired you to write Ace of Spades?

A: This might surprise some people but ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell was a huge inspiration for me when writing Ace of Spades. I really loved the allegorical nature of Animal Farm and the way Orwell told this story about the Russian revolution through these animals. Ace of Spades is very much an allegory. Aspects of it may seem far fetched, but it’s meant to mirror real life events and experiences.

Q: A lot of thrillers and even books in the horror genre rely on ableist tropes as major twists or themes in their plots. The reliance on misrepresentation of mentally ill characters is quite rampant in the genre and from the reviews I’ve seen so far, Ace of Spades deviates from this convention and rather uses real and truly insidious experiences of Black and queer people instead. This must have been a lot for you, so I want to ask how did you feel throughout the writing process or writing these themes?

A: I’ve noticed that too and I really hope it is something that happens less in the genre as it is very harmful. I definitely wanted to steer clear of that because not only is it problematic but I think it sends a very bad message to teenagers – many of whom are dealing with disabilities and mental health issues – that they are antagonists.

Writing Ace of Spades was definitely a long and gruelling self-therapy session. Writing the book was painful because I had to really uncover thoughts and feelings I hadn’t really felt in a while. Being a Black teenager in this very anti-black world is traumatic, and I think while reliving that trauma was hard, I ultimately felt like it was a healing process, as I was adamant on giving my main characters a happy ending. An ending Black people deserve. 

Q: As I said before real life situations are more insidious than exaggerations, so I want to ask what are some of your favourite books or media that utilise these themes (real life scenarios)?

A: I reallyyy love Dear White People, I think it is smart and fun and also really important!

Q: I know you must love both of your main characters, but which of you MCs do you identify with the most?

A: This is so hard because there are aspects of both characters that I identify a lot with… but I think Devon. He grew up in very similar circumstances to me, some scenes/ aspects of his life and upbringing are heavily influenced by mine. 

Q: Something a little fun before wrapping up, as a lover of Winnie the Pooh (yes, I’m mentioning this again), I’ll like to know Chiamaka and Devon’s verdict on the cartoons?

A: Winnie is something Devon is definitely a fan of. Devon is not so up to date with programmes that are aimed at his demographic as he mostly watches whatever his baby brothers watch. Chiamaka on the other hand was probably a huge Winnie fan as a kid but outgrew it quickly (sad)

Q: I’ve asked you to pitch your book in seven words before, so instead of asking that again, what seven words would immediately grab your attention in a pitch? 

A: Queer, Black, Arthurian, Nigerian, Plantain, Monsters, Gothic


About Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, 22, is a writer from South London who has dreamt of writing books about Black kids saving (or destroying) the world all her life. Her debut novel ACE OF SPADES is an unputdownable thriller that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism. Billed as ‘Get Out meets Gossip Girl with a shocking twist’, gal-dem has called it ‘one of 2021’s biggest books’.

Àbíké-Íyímídé describes the novel as “a love letter to queer Black teenagers who feel powerless and alone finally finding their voices. I hope readers see that Black people belong in stories like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars, and that above everything else we deserve happy endings.”

The novel was acquired by Usborne Publishing in 2018 and then pre-empted by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group US for a seven figure deal in early 2020. ACE OF SPADES will publish simultaneously in the UK and US in June 2021.  

Àbíké-Íyímídé established and runs a mentorship scheme for unagented writers of colour, helping them on their journey to get published. She has also written for NME, The Bookseller, Readers Digest and gal-dem, and currently studies English Literature at a university in the Scottish Highlands.

You can find Faridah on Twitter and Instagram @faridahlikestea and on her website https://www.faridahabikeiyimide.com.


More on Ace of Spades 

Genre: Thriller

Expected publication date: 1 June (US); 10 June (UK)

Blurb:

An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice. Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game…

Preorder: Amazon | Blackwells | Book Depository | Bookshop

 Add on: Goodreads | Storygraph

The Black Experience 2.0: Black Magic — New Black Magic Books I Love

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Alechia Dow (she/her) talks about the change in representation of Black people in the media and recommends some new Black magic books that make her squeal in the third sub segment of Black Magic. 

(Black Magic is a sub segment of TBE with the contributions of authors and bloggers recommending books by Black authors. With the exception of Hoodoo, Black Magic is a sub series of recommendation list)


When I was a kid, Black Magic didn’t exist outside the magical Negro narrative. You know the Black character who shows up on screen or in a book, says something the white protagonist needs to hear or does something for the white protagonist that they desperately need to happen for the story to progress, and then poofs out before you ever really knew their name or story… That’s the kind of representation I could hope for as a Black kid. Because if it wasn’t the good-doing magical Negro, it was the drug dealer/gang member/prisoner/villain or… in horror, it was the Black person, who was ultimately the first to die because they made a bad decision or sacrificed themself for the white folks. Or they were the Black kid who was really good at basketball but had nothing of substance to say off the court. That’s it. 

Now we have honest-to-goodness MAGIC. Black Magic. Where Black characters are centered, where they can live their best life while having an adventure. They can do spells, their words have power, they have love interests, best friends that “get” them, and they don’t exist to boost the white characters. They just get to exist and live and love and do magic. And maybe things aren’t so great, but you’re going to root for them, you want to see them succeed. And that’s what’s amazing about these books out and coming out. They’re beautiful, hopeful, and don’t cater to the white gaze.

Here’s my list of newer titles by Black Authors: 

Let’s kick it off with MIDDLE GRADE

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

Here’s the official synopsis: 

“Amari Peters knows three things.

Her big brother Quinton has gone missing.

No one will talk about it.

His mysterious job holds the secret …

So when Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain this is her chance to find Quinton. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau, where mermaids, aliens and magicians are real, and her roommate is a weredragon.

Amari must compete against kids who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives, and when each trainee is awarded a special supernatural talent, Amari is given an illegal talent – one that the Bureau views as dangerous.

With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is the enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton …”

I chose this one because I’m reading it with my 7 year old right now, and WHEWWW it’s so good. She’s hooked and getting her hooked is hard. But she’s so into it, she wants to know everything about this world, and the adventure Amari’s going on, and what happened to Quinton!!! B.B. Alston, you genius! 

Some other fave MG: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia, Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron

Now let’s talk my fave new YA

WINGS OF EBONY by J. Elle. 

Here’s the official synopsis:

“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.

Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.

Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.

First of all, J. Elle is incredible. This is a love letter to her home, to her neighborhood, to sisterhood, and to #BlackGirlMagic. It’s one of those stories that you pick up and can’t put down. I seriously can’t wait for book 2! Also, J. Elle is writing a magical Black school middle grade which AHHH, and nonfiction. She’s a force to be reckoned with—don’t sleep on her books, this is just the beginning. 


Other recent YAs you have to read: Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi, Conquest by Celeste Harte, A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope edited by Patrice Caldwell, Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Baron, Given by Nandi Taylor, A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy,  and more. Ask me, I have HUGE lists! 

Now let’s hop on over to Adult: 

Song of Blood & Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles) by L. Penelope 

Here’s the official synopsis:

The kingdoms of Elsira and Lagrimar have been separated for centuries by the Mantle, a magical veil that has enforced a tremulous peace between the two lands. But now, the Mantle is cracking and the True Father, ruler of Lagrimar and the most powerful Earthsinger in the world, finally sees a way into Elsira to seize power.

All Jasminda ever wanted was to live quietly on her farm, away from the prying eyes of those in the nearby town. Branded an outcast by the color of her skin and her gift of Earthsong, she’s been shunned all her life and has learned to steer clear from the townsfolk…until a group of Lagrimari soldiers wander into her valley with an Elsiran spy, believing they are still in Lagrimar. 

Through Jack, the spy, Jasminda learns that the Mantle is weakening, allowing people to slip through without notice. And even more troubling: Lagrimar is mobilizing, and if no one finds a way to restore the Mantle, it might be too late for Elsira. Their only hope lies in uncovering the secrets of the Queen Who Sleeps and Jasminda’s Earthsong is the key to unravel them.

Thrust into a hostile society and a world she doesn’t know, Jasminda and Jack race to unveil an ancient mystery that might offer salvation.

So, I loved this book. It’s everything I love about fantasy (although CW about assault), but it’s got the romance, the magic, the otherworldly feel, the DRAMA… I hadn’t read adult in forever, so this was that book––that series––that brought me back to the genre. Go pick this up! 

Some other adult books I love: How Long ‘til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin, OCTAVIA BUTLER EVERYTHING, Some non-magical but amazing books: How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams, Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid, EVERY SINGLE BOOK BY TALIA HIBBERT, and more!! Feel free to ask me! 

Thank you all for reading and I hope you love any and every of these books. Let’s give Black Magic their due!!! 

Alechia. 


About Alechia Dow

Alechia Dow is a former pastry chef, food critic, culinary teacher, and Youth Services librarian. When not writing YA sci-fi featuring determined black girls (like herself), you can find her having epic dance parties with her daughter, baking, mentoring, or taking teeny adventures around Europe.

You can find Alechia on Twitter @alechiawrites and on Instagram @alechiadow. You can also visit her website https://www.alechiadow.com


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The Black Experience 2.0: The Devaluation and Consumerism of Black Pain

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Laila Sabreen (she/her) talks about the devaluation and consumerism of Black pain and Black trauma. 


The role that Black pain plays in the publishing industry is one that I’ve had to think about a lot as both a reader and writer of YA.

Pain, like any other emotion, has its place in the Black community– as it does in pretty much all communities. The problem that is present is how stories centered around Black pain are able to make it further past the gatekeepers of the publishing industry compared to stories centered around Black joy or Black love. A parallel problem that sometimes arises when examining how Black pain is devalued and consumed can be seen when books that feature Black pain, as well as Black joy and/or Black love, only receive attention for the former aspect rather than any of the latter. This is because publishing often places more value on Black pain compared to the Black joy or Black love, which leads to a greater consumption of Black pain which then leads to its devaluation and the cycle continues. Black pain does, and should continue to, have a space in publishing, but it is not what defines us as a community. It is not all that we are.

Though Black pain, Black joy, Black love, etc are all equally important, I believe that Black pain is more consumed by the publishing industry because it’s often thought to teach or act as an educational tool for readers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning something from books, in fact it’s pretty great, but a problem sometimes arises when stories about Black pain are expected to educate readers. Black pain can educate those that don’t experience it, but that’s not its function. Our pain doesn’t exist to educate or serve others, and the expectation for it to do so lends its devaluation and consummation.

There are stories that I look to, especially as a writer, that include Black pain in ways that I found really engaging and insightful. In Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, Bree, learns about her lineage and family history especially as it relates to growing up in the South. In Slay by Brittney Morris, Kierra, has to learn how to navigate and celebrate her Blackness in both the real world and a virtual one. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, is both a love story and a story about how Felix, a Black trans boy, faces transphobia, classism, and racism. There are many more examples, but these are three where the Black protagonists do face pain because of their identity at some point on their journey, but facing that pain is not the eternity of their stories.

It’s only a part.

About Laila Sabreen

Laila Sabreen is a young adult contemporary author based in the Washington DC area. She currently attends Emory University where she is double majoring in Sociology and English. Her love of writing began as a love of reading, which started when she used to take weekly trips to her local library. There she fell in love with the Angelina Ballerina series, so much so that she started to write Angelina Ballerina fanfiction at the age of five (though she did not know it was fanfiction at the time). Today, she writes novels about the Black Muslim characters she wanted to see growing up. Her debut novel, You Truly Assumed, will be published by Inkyard Press/HarperCollins in Winter 2022.

Website

Twitter

Instagram 

TikTok


 

The Black Experience 2.0: Black Magic — 5 Under-appreciated African SFF Authors

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Suyi Davies Okungbowa highlights five under appreciated African voices in SFF in the 2nd sub segment of Black Magic. 

(Black Magic is a sub segment of TBE with the contributions of authors and bloggers recommending books by Black authors. With the exception of Hoodoo, Black Magic is a sub series of recommendation list)


Often, when we think about science fiction written by authors on the African continent and its diasporas (or simply inspired by African-descended cultures and ethnicities), the scope seems broad at first. With the explosion in calls for literature and media diverse in culture and content, we have tended to see an uptick in such work in present times.

The pool, however, remains small. I don’t need to get into the myriad of issues that prevent a sizeable number of African-descended talent–from the continent or diasporas–from breaking through the glass ceiling of visibility in global publishing. What I will do, instead, is highlight five of such instances, in the hope that readers and lovers of SFF will seek them out and partake of their riches.

Lesley Nneka Arimah

Arimah could be described less as underappreciated, and more in the category of isn’t-being-screamed-loudly-enough-from-the-rooftops. What does it take for an African author whose work The Washington Post declared as “equally timely and timeless” to be one of the foremost voices in the genre? Winning the Caine or Commonwealth regional prize? The Kirkus Prize for Fiction? A New York Public Library Young Lions Award? Well, Lesley has won all those and more, with hits including her short story collection, What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky (Riverhead, 2017) and “Skinned” (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 59). Newcomers to her work can start anywhere, many of which are free to read online: “Glory” in Harpers, “Light” in Granta, “Who Will Greet You At Home” in The New Yorker, and more.

Tendai Huchu

Tendai (who is also T.L. Huchu sometimes) is another one of those names that intermittently flies a tad underneath the global SFF radar. Huchu actually has multiple novels published: The Hairdresser of Harare (Ohio University Press, 2010), The Maestro, the Magistrate and the Mathematician (Parthian Books, 2016) and his new novel forthcoming from Tor Books in June 2021, The Library of the Dead. The most impressive thing about Huchu’s work is that it manages to centre his native Zimbabwe, whether or not the stories are set there (his new novel is set in Edinburgh, where he lives). Readers can start by peeking into “The Marriage Plot,” the flash story that won him the 2017 Nommo Award for Best Speculative Short Story. After that, Hairdresser or any of his free-to-read short stories (“Ghostalker,” “Egoli,” etc) would be decent pathways to his new novel.

Tlotlo Tsamaase

Tlotlo is a strong example of an excellent, talented writer with a number of published stories in recognized venues under her belt. Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review of her forthcoming fantasy-horror novella The Silence of the Wilting Skin, describes her work with words such as “atmospheric anticolonialist battle cry” and “tour de force.” The Motswana author is also a poet (one of her poems, “I Will Be Your Grave” was a 2017 Rhysling Award nominee) and writes architecture articles. One of her earliest stories, “Virtual Snapshots,” was published by Vice and is a good place for new readers to start. Other places to experience her work before The Silence of the Wilting Skin drops in May include: “Murders Fell from Our Wombs” in Apex Magazine; “Eclipse our Sins” and “The ThoughtBox,” both in Clarkesworld; “Behind Our Irises” in the Brittlepaper Africanfuturism anthology; and her most recent story in The Dark, “The River of Night.” Find her full body of work at tlotlotsamaase.com.

Wole Talabi

Wole is a Nigerian who lives and works in Malaysia as an Engineer, but is known more in global literary circles as a Writer and Editor. His 2019 collection, Incomplete Solutions contained the novella “Incompleteness Theories” which won the 2020 Nommo Award for Best Novella. Prior to that, he was shortlisted for the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing with “Wednesday’s Story” (Lightspeed, 2016) and won the 2018 Nommo Award for Best Short Story with “The Regression Test” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 2017). Wole’s writing has been touted to examine “what it means to be human in a world of accelerating technology, diverse beliefs, and unlimited potential, from a uniquely Nigerian perspective.” This he also does as an editor, by spotlighting work uniquely examining speculative realities as imagined from the African continent. The anthologies Lights Out: Resurrection and the recent Brittlepaper Africanfuturism anthology are two good examples of these. New readers can start anywhere on his extensive list of publications.

Chikodili Emelumadu (Chịkọdịlị Emelụmadụ)

Emelumadu is a British-Nigerian author whose work has flirted with various awards: The Shirley Jackson Awards in 2015 (for “Candy Girl” in Apex Magazine); the Caine Prize in 2017 and 2020 (first for “Bush Baby” and then for “What to do when your child brings home a Mami Wata,” in The Shadow Booth: Vol. 2); and the Nommo Award for Best Short Story in 2020 (for “Sin Eater” in Omenana), which she eventually won in a tie. Emelumadu describes her work as examining tensions “between conservative and liberal, contemporary and traditional,” and this she does via rooted tales with dark undertones and strong familial leanings. Though without a website listing publications, readers can start anywhere with Emelumadu’s work, including her forthcoming, Dazzling (publication date TBA), with which she snagged representation with Curtis Brown UK after emerging winner of their inaugural First Novel Prize in 2019.

About Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Suyi Davies Okungbowa is the author of Son of the Storm (Orbit, May 2021), first in The Nameless Republic epic fantasy trilogy, and the godpunk novel, David Mogo, Godhunter (Abaddon, 2019). His shorter works have appeared internationally in periodicals like Tor.com, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, Fireside, and anthologies like Year’s Best Science Fiction and FantasyA World of Horror and People of Colour Destroy Science Fiction. He lives between Lagos, Nigeria and Tucson, Arizona where he teaches writing at the University of Arizona and completes his MFA. He tweets at @IAmSuyiDavies and is @suyidavies on Instagram. Learn more at suyidavies.com.


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The Black Experience: Black Magic — Hoodoo

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Amber McBride(she/her) talks about Hoodoo/Rootwork, the problem with mainstream exploitation of Hoodoo and some book recommendations that incorporate rootwork, in the first post in the subsegment Black Magic.

(Black Magic is a sub segment of TBE 2.0 with the contributions of authors and bloggers recommending books by Black authors. With the exception of Hoodoo, Black Magic is a sub series of recommendation list)


HOODOO – ROOTWORK – BLACK MAGIC

To put it simply Hoodoo, also known as Rootwork or Conjure, is an African American magic system that arose in the Americas after enslaved Africans were stolen from their homelands and stripped of their way of life. Hoodoo and its many practices are as unique as regions in North and South America, but the pillars of Hoodoo include—the elevation of ancestors, knowledge of and working with herbs, roots, candles, sticks and bones, oneness with nature and balance.

Hoodoo unlike Voodoo is not a religion rather a series of rituals and traditions that when applied properly can bring good fortune and ward off bad energies. Many enslaved African Americans were not permitted to practice the religions/traditions of their homelands and therefore many elements of Hoodoo were hidden in plain sight. This is why often Hoodoo uses Bible verses or psalms in tandem with many spells.

Those who practice Hoodoo have an enormous respect for nature and therefore all herbs and roots should be sourced ethically. If a particular root is rare or going extinct it is important to find a substitute. Tree bark should not be continuously taken from the same tree. Any bones used should come from animals that have already passed on. Furthermore, as articulated in Sticks, Stones and Bones by Stephanie Rose Bird, metals (silver, copper, lead, iron) often share similar properties to bones and can be used as replacements.

In recent years Hoodoo has been exploited by mainstream media. Often linked to Voodoo or Witchcraft. It is easy to see the similarities, but these practices are each unique and should be respected for their profound differences.

The problem with Hoodoo being seen as something new and profitable by the mainstream is that shops sell products that are not ethically sourced and therefore carry bad charges. If the roots, oils, candles are not carrying the right energies more harm than good can be done. In short, capitalism got its hands on Hoodoo and went wild.

Hoodoo’s links to African and African American ancestors make it a uniquely African American practice. With this said, Hoodoo does borrow and give to many traditions, including Native American rituals. Many belief systems around the world that utilize storytelling, respect for ancestors and admiration of nature have similarities to Hoodoo. These practices have conversations with each other, but nuance is important when learning and respecting any belief system in and of itself.

I am not here to say that only people of African descent can practice Hoodoo, but an extensive knowledge of African and African American traditions is needed to practice it in any substantial regard.

Practicing Hoodoo is different for each Conjurer or Rootworker, but respect for the ancestors and the living world around you is of paramount importance.

 

Books That Incorporate Hoodoo

*Book title = Buy link

Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith

Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a family with a rich tradition of practicing folk magic: hoodoo, as most people call it. But even though his name is Hoodoo, he can’t seem to cast a simple spell.—HMH Books

Sticks, Stones & Bones by Stephanie Rose Bird

This book gives a comprehensive overview of Hoodoo/Rootwork and the importance of sticks, stones and bones in the practice. It is an excellent introduction into Hoodoo.

Me (Moth) by Amber McBride

Moth has lost her family in an accident. Though she lives with her aunt, she feels alone and uprooted. Until she meets Sani, a boy who is also searching for his roots. If he knows more about where he comes from, maybe he’ll be able to understand his ongoing depression. And if Moth can help him feel grounded, then perhaps she too will discover the history she carries in her bones.—Macmillan

Root Magic by Eden Royce

Debut author Eden Royce arrives with a wondrous story of love, bravery, friendship, and family, filled to the brim with magic great and small.

—Harper Collins

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Filled with mystery and an intriguingly rich magic system, Tracy Deonn’s YA contemporary fantasy Legendborn offers the dark allure of City of Bones with a modern-day twist on a classic legend and a lot of Southern Black Girl Magic.—Simon and Schuster


About Amber McBride

Amber McBride is an English professor at the University of Virginia. She also low key practices Hoodoo and high key devours books (150 or so a year keep her well fed). In her spare time she enjoys pretending it is Halloween everyday, organizing her crystals, watching K-dramas and accidentally scrolling through TikTok for 3 hours at a time. She believes in ghosts and she believes in you.

Website: amber-mcbride.com

Twitter: @ambsmcbride

Instagram: @ambsmcbride


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