The Far Field

I am thirty years old and that is nothing.

This library haul had a 75 percent success rate, with The Far Field being the concluding chapter (heh) of that rate.

And – as it sometimes is with good stories – with this one it’s hard to put into words what exactly is good about it. It’s not like the naive, spoiled protagonist is easy to love, nor are the other characters particularly likeable. The plot could well be called Eat Pray Love with poverty tourism, so honestly, Madhuri Vijay had the stacks against her.

But there’s so much humanity in these characters and their stories. The randomness of things, people and situations brought together and bringing the worst or the best out in each other. You could say that the protagonist leaves a trail of destruction behind, but does she even have that kind of power? What is there to destruct in a war zone?

This book is coming of age, a rapport of ordinary life in contested country, a confrontation with bias. It’s written in such an appealing way that sometimes the plot arrives second because you’re just enjoying the words.

It’s good.

The Far Field, Madhuri Vijay, Grove Press 2019

Freshwater

The first time our mother came for us, we screamed.

Sometimes a book leaves you with a feeling instead of easy-put-into-thoughts words. Freshwater is exciting, eerie, scary and frustrating, both the story and the story telling. It’s a book you’d recommend with a long disclaimer.

Main character Ada (or the Ada) is born with one foot in the other world, she’s possessed by creatures/things/ghosts, and they have quite the impact on her health, her life and her loved ones. It’s not just her that gets to speak either, it’s the ‘we’ and others that get to control the human Ada from time to time, or at the very least debate her decisions.

It makes for a creepy, aggravating story that isn’t always easy to get through, like it’s not just Ada that’s being dragged down and manipulated by the other ones. At the same time it’s such a balanced story about a culture (Nigerian) that doesn’t view all this as too exotic, but at the same time has elements that prevents Ada from speaking the truth. So there’s different layers to her straddling two worlds, even when she hasn’t has her creatures involved.

Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi, Grove Press 2018

Jam on the Vine

Ivoe liked to carry on about all she could do.

Female history, black history and history of the (newspaper) media, and all that coming from a black female author? It’s like a filled out bingo card of potential amazingness.

I’ve mentioned before how I try to read more of the unfamiliar point of view, and this book makes me glad I did. You learn so much, but most of all that the white (male) author doesn’t have a monopoly on a good story on any subject.

Ivoe¬† is a nineteenth century born black woman who wants more than the cotton fields or house work. She’s got the brain to back it up, but brain isn’t enough to open doors with. Even with the necessary education, she can’t land the so much desired job of journalist. Instead of giving up, she starts her own newspaper.

What makes this story is how every step is harder (than the white male’s one) than necessary. This can’t be used by black people, that can’t be done for black people, and definitely don’t get involved with the law, if you don’t want to lose at least eight years of your life. It’s so bizarre how all of this happened not all too long ago, but even more how so many of these ideas are still alive and active. Jam on the Vine is a rousing, educating story that probably will never get the attention is deserves. Because of the author, because of the subject. The only huge difference between now and then is that there’s no segregated public transport.

Jam on the Vine, Lashonda Katrice Barnett, Grove Press 2015