Just like last year, I hadn’t planned on doing a themed TBR for the month, which is why I’m still working to finish three whole other books, but seeing everyone else talk about their themed TBRs has made me kind of want to jump in! A lot of the books people are reading and talking about are books that have been on my TBR for a while, so I may as well read them in February!
Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth. As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.
This has been marketed as the Black Bridget Jones, but I’ve heard that’s seriously false advertising. Personally, I want to read this book because it’s the sort of literary/commercial fiction mash-up that I might want to write someday, and because as a WOC I’m always intrigued to read the experiences of other WOC navigating whiteness.
The Confessions of Frannie Langton
All of London is abuzz with the scandalous case of Frannie Langton, accused of the brutal double murder of her employers, renowned scientist George Benham and his eccentric French wife, Marguerite. Crowds pack the courtroom, eagerly following every twist, while the newspapers print lurid theories about the killings and the mysterious woman being held in the Old Bailey. The testimonies against Frannie are damning. She is a seductress, a witch, a master manipulator, a whore.
But Frannie claims she cannot recall what happened that fateful evening, even if remembering could save her life. She doesn’t know how she came to be covered in the victims’ blood. But she does have a tale to tell: a story of her childhood on a Jamaican plantation, her apprenticeship under a debauched scientist who stretched all bounds of ethics, and the events that brought her into the Benhams’ London home—and into a passionate and forbidden relationship. Though her testimony may seal her conviction, the truth will unmask the perpetrators of crimes far beyond murder and indict the whole of English society itself.
This has been on my TBR forever; I’ve been aware of this book since months before it was published. Not sure why I haven’t read it yet, but a couple of folks I follow on GR and Booktube have either read or will be reading it, so it’s on my radar again. No time like the present!
Queen of the Conquered
Sigourney Rose is the only surviving daughter of a noble lineage on the islands of Hans Lollik. When she was a child, her family was murdered by the islands’ colonizers, who have massacred and enslaved generations of her people—and now, Sigourney is ready to exact her revenge.
When the childless king of the islands declares that he will choose his successor from amongst eligible noble families, Sigourney uses her ability to read and control minds to manipulate her way onto the royal island and into the ranks of the ruling colonizers. But when she arrives, prepared to fight for control of all the islands, Sigourney finds herself the target of a dangerous, unknown magic.
Someone is killing off the ruling families to clear a path to the throne. As the bodies pile up and all eyes regard her with suspicion, Sigourney must find allies among her prey and the murderer among her peers… lest she become the next victim.
Got this in a book box subscription last year. I wasn’t super enthusiastic about it at first but then I saw a thread by the author discussing all the reasons why they were excited about the book, and it got me excited too! Plus I’m alwys here for ruthless female characters and I mean, mind control? Sign me up.
Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.
Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.
Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.
I’ve seen a lot of people talking about this book, and the concept of it sounds so, so intriguing. And it’s a novella, so hopefully it’ll read quick!
Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends—some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community.
Normally this wouldn’t be the sort of book that I would gravitate towards, but like I said, I’m trying to read more literary fiction. Also, oddly enough, I’ve followed this author on Twitter for years, long before he got this book deal, only I have no idea why or how. I just know that I’ve been aware of him for a long time, and he’s really clever and witty on Twitter, so I’m hoping I like his debut! Oh, and I read a short story he wrote and published a few months back and adored it, so that bodes well.
Conjure Women is a sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning eras and generations, it tells of the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healing woman; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a midwife; and their master’s daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women and their community come to a head at the beginning of a war and at the birth of an accursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear and a spreading superstition that threatens their newly won, tenuous freedom.
This one doesn’t come out in April, so it’s a bit low on my priority list, but I’ve heard really good things about it, and the summary sounds absolutely fantastic. I love the threads of witchery intertwined with this tale of the Old South. This isn’t a historical locale I’ve read a ton of, so I’m intrigued to see what this book is like!
Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
So this book is actually way, way longer than I thought, especially for a work of literary fiction, so I don’t actually know if I’ll have the chance to get to it this month, but, you know, TBRs are aspirational.
Considering that I’m still working on finishing three books at the moment and have started precisely none of the above mentioned books, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not I’ll actually get to these! I even wanted to throw another non-fiction book in here but at this point I don’t think that’s at all feasible, even though I do have two non-fiction books by black authors that have been on my TBR forever that I’d like to read but…I highly doubt I’ll get to them, so best to leave them off.
Are y’all doing themed TBRs for the month? Reading any of these books I mentioned?