The Free Black Women’s Library Reading Challenge: 2017 round up!

Having made my selections for this year’s Free Black Women’s Library reading challenge I realise that towards the second half of last year I had not updated with any selections or reviews for the 2017 challenge. Here they all are with a star rating!


1. A novel set in your hometown (London): Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy. Five stars.

2. A book from your childhood (substituted for a book I read with my child): Niama’s Adventures by Renina Johnson. Five stars.

3. A womanist text: Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory by Michele Wallace. Five stars.

4. A book you had to read in school (substituted for a book I wish I’d read in school): Black Sexual Politics by Patricia Hill Collins. Three stars.

5. A book with one word title: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Five stars.

6. A YA novel: Noble Conflict by Malorie Blackman. Five stars.

7. Poetry book: Citizen by Claudia Rankine. Five stars.

8. A romance novel: Destiny’s Embrace by Beverly Jenkins. Four stars.

9. A spiritual text: Be Love by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel. Four stars.

10. A play: For Colored Girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange. Five stars.

11. A memoir: Assata by Assata Shakur. Five stars.

12. A novel by Octavia Butler: Kindred. Three stars.

13. A novel by Toni Morrison: Song of Solomon. Five stars.

14. A book by Alice Walker: In Search of My Mother’s Garden. Five stars.

15. A chick lit novel: I Wish I Had a Red Dress by Pearl Cleage. Four stars.

16. An urban fiction novel: Sister Souljah reader’s companion by Sister Souljah. Three stars

17. A text written 100 years ago: Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley. Four stars.

18. A book by an African author: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo. Three stars.

19. A book by a Caribbean author: Pepper Seed by Malika Booker. Four stars.

20. A book released last year: Spill: Scenes of Back Feminist Fugitivity by Alexis Pauline Gumbs. Four stars.

21. A book by Zora Neale Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God. Five stars.

22. A book with a name in the title: Zami, a new spelling of my name, an biomythology by Audre Lorde. Five stars.

23. An Afro-Futurist text: Bloodchild by Octavia Butler. Three stars.

24. A self-help book: Every Body Yoga: Let go of fear, get on the mat, love your body by Jessamyn Stanley. Four stars.

25. A recipe book: 28 Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot by Jessica Jones and Wendy Lopez. Four stars.

26. A book by a lesbian or bisexual author/about lesbianism or bisexuality: Afrekete edited by L. Joyce DeLaney. Five stars.

27. A short story collection: What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi. Two stars.


Such a rich and rewarding year of reading. All those with a four or five star rating I highly recommend!


The Free Black Women’s Library Reading Challenge 2018

Another year of reading books written by Black women. And so far some wonderful, life-affirming books. Here are the first eight of the categories I’ve read:

A book with a name in the title: The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah

A romance: Indigo by Beverly Jenkins

A book by Toni Morrison: A Mercy

Afro-futurist text: Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

A spiritual text: Radical Dharma by Rev. angel Kyodo williams

YA: Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman

Lesbian non-fiction anthology: I Am Your Sister by Audre Lorde

Contemporary womanist text (post-2000): Some of Us Did Not Die by June Jordan


I’ve finally planned out the remaining categories with the exception of urban fiction, which I think is the only prompt that I’ll skip this year.

A book published in the past year: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

A book by an activist or revolutionary: If They Come in the Morning by Angela Davis

A story or poetry collection by a lesbian author: Bodies of Water by Michelle Cliff

A book by Alice Walker: Meridian

A classic: The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara

A novel centring female friendship: So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

By a Caribbean author: A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

Health and healing: Sistah Vegan by A. Breeze Harper

Self-help text: This Is Woman’s Work by Dominique Christina

A banned book: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Set in your hometown: Never Far From Nowhere by Andrea Levy

Vintage womanist text (pre-2000): Black Macho and the Myth of the Super Woman by Michele Wallace

One word in the title: Blacks by Gwendolyn Brooks

Recommended by someone you love or admire: Daughters of Africa by Margaret Busby (recommended by poet nayyirah waheed)

A play: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansbury

An African author: The Joy of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta

Memoir: Unbowed by Wangari Maathai

A book by Octavia Butler: Parable of the Sower

A book by Zora Neale Hurston: Of Mules and Men

Written with patois or creole language: Long Song by Andrea Levy


More information about the Free Black Women’s Library can be found at:

Four further selections for the Free Black Women’s Library reading challenge

14. A book released last year. Spill: Fugitive Scenes by Alexis Pauline Gumbs.

Alexis Pauline Gumbs is an African American poet, artist, and educator, who has previously edited a collection of essays focused on women of colour and other marginalised mothers, Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines. Spill: Fugitive Scenes is an experimental and unusual piece. An interactive text, in dialogue with Hortense Spillers, another Black woman writer I’d not heard of and whose work I am now keen to read.

‘before black is bad and broken i am more. i am not coin or token. i am deepest spell spoken. and you are shook. i am the energy of birth that you took. i am every blackened letter pressing on the book. and before that.’

15. A Caribbean author. Pepper Seed by Malika Booker.

Malika Booker is a Guyanese-Grenadian poet. I came across this collection of poetry, Pepper Seed, when it was reviewed by Didi of Brown Girl Reading. These poems are infused with Caribbean history and culture, redolent with ancestral voices and the search for belonging.

I stand at this cliff’s edge waiting for the bones

to rise and reclaim their names.

16. A book by Toni Morrison. Song of Solomon.

Since reading Beloved I’ve been gradually reading each of Morrison’s novels. The next on my list was Song of Solomon, one I’ve been very much looking forward to reading and like each of her other novels I was enthralled by the deftness with which Morrison writes; her work is stunningly brilliant.

‘She needed what most colored girls needed: a chorus of mamas, grandmamas, aunts, cousins, sisters, neighbours, Sunday school teachers, best girl friends, and what all to give her the strength life demanded of her.’

17. Self help type text. Every Body Yoga: let go of fear, get on the mat, love your body by Jessamyn Stanley.

Jessamyn Stanley is a yoga teacher whom I’ve been following on instagram for some time and was excited to learn that she would be publishing this book. Every Body Yoga is part memoir part motivational text part yoga workbook. As my own yoga practice has been fallow for a long while I consider this book to be ‘self-help’ in the sense that i need all the help i can get to bring myself back to the mat and reestablish a home practice. Jessamyn’s writing is frank direct and unpretentious. Her accessible and inclusive teaching style is reflected in the accompanying photographs and illustrations. The sequences that i’m practicing include i want to feel strong, i need to feel balanced, i need to release fear. Gentle, refreshing, uplifting.