How It Feels to Read As An Empath

Sunday Chat: How It feels to Read As An Empath

Banner by @Introvert Interrupted

The Sunday Post is hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer and Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb @Readerbuzz. Check their pages out for more information about these bookish memes!

Good Morning from my little corner of the Bookternet, peeps! I hope your weekend went well!

It’s looking like my reading slump is finally gone. I’ve finished two books and am slowly but surely finishing The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers.

For those of you who’ve been reading my WWW Wednesday posts, you’ve probably heard me mention Jeffers’ books more than a handful of times since August. Coming in at a whopping 816 pages, Jeffers’ book is an emotional and soul shattering family saga. 

In The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois, Jeffers tells the story of Ailey Pearl Garfield as she attempts to find her place in the world and combat the pain of surviving sexual abuse while she attempts to form her own identity as she honors the stories of her family’s past. It was an Oprah Book Club pick, which should instantly give you an idea of the emotional turmoil a reader could experience if they decide to pick up The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois.

For the average reader, this type of emotional book wouldn’t be so bad. However, I am an empath, which means that while the character is going through it, so am I.

An empath is a person highly attuned to the feelings and emotions of those around them. Their ability to discern what others are feeling goes beyond empathy (defined simply as the ability to understand the feelings of others) and extends to actually taking those feelings on; feeling what another person is feeling at a deep emotional level. 

- "What Is an Empath and How Do You Know If You Are One?"
By Leah Campbell

What is an empath?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with what being an empath is, it basically means that a person is “highly attuned to the feelings and emotions of those around them.” If they aren’t careful, empaths can take on the feelings of others and become deeply emotional because of what they feel others experiencing.

Scientists are torn if this “mirroring” actually occurs. However, the brain holds what is known as “mirror neurons,” which could help humans mirror the emotions of people they come in contact with. And it’s suggested that some of us have more mirror neurons than others.

Imagine walking through the world experiencing secondhand embarrassment, the frustrations of others, and also their successes, and you’ll essentially get the gist of what being an empath is.

For me, my empathic abilities come alive in the form of a profound feeling of intuition and when I’m reading or watching any form of television. I detest watching the news and going into stores and crowds because of all of the emotions that I feel rolling off other people. But, on the other hand, there’s no feeling that comes close to the contact high that comes with holidays, like Valentine’s Day and Christmas, where people are full of positive energy and uninhibited joy.

               Are you an empath?  

What does this have to do with reading?

Twitter post from @LitSplaining

As a reader, though, finishing heavy books can be a struggle. The usual feelings that come with reading a book that researchers attribute to building up emotional intelligence are amped up 1000% for me. When I read, I find myself experiencing what the characters are going through, no matter how small or big it may be, as if it were my own pain and trauma. 

The “reflection” period that other readers go through as they read, where they connect to the text seeing characters’ emotions and actions at a distance, is intensified for me as an empath. I feel as if I’ve been written into the story and am on an emotional rollercoaster embarking on a chaotic journey with the characters.

Even though I know that experiencing these narrative and aesthetic feelings are a part of what an author sets out to do with their writing, being drawn in as an empath sometimes feels like being bombarded from all sides – real and imagined.

How I cope with being an empathic reader

This wouldn’t be so bad if I weren’t reading books, like The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois, where Ailey’s family’s traumas are essential to the narrative and heavily drawn out. But, while I am a reader, I’m also going through my day-to-day life and experiencing empathic encounters IRL that require me to be present and in the moment. 

Because of this, pacing myself while I’m reading is essential.

If I try to read a book that has too many heavy topics at once, I’ll end up going into a reading slump. A slump is also inevitable if I try to draw out reading these books for too long.  

To combat this, I always try to be aware of how I feel as I read.

If you’ve been following me as I read The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois on Twitter, you know Jeffers has taken me through it as I’ve been reading this book. I’ve shed tears, grown angry with the book’s main protagonist, and just had to close the book and walk away from it altogether. 

Acknowledging and honoring my emotions throughout the reading process keeps me connected to the story but firmly rooted in reality as an empath. Posting Twitter threads for heavy books is especially helpful on this front. 

I’d also recommend pairing a heavy book with one that’s light or funny to help ground you if you’re an empath.

My last reading slump was harsh since I tried to read Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James with Jeffers’ book. These two dramatic books threw me for a loop. And that caused me to hit an instant slump. I’m now pairing The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois with a YA romance book to help ease the heavy emotions that come with Jeffers’ book.

Having these simple steps helps me mitigate adverse side effects that can come from reading and being an empath.

Reading will always be a hobby I’m passionate about, even when my empathic nature causes me to relate and interact with books differently.

            If you're an empath, how do you cope?

Thanks for stopping by for today’s Sunday chat!

If you’ve got any tips on how to cope with reading heavy tips or just want to share what you’re reading, leave a comment below.

As always, please don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe! #AllOfTheThings

Happy Reading!❤️📚

WWW Wednesday – The One That’s Really Short 

Happy Wednesday, bookish peeps! 

It’s time for my weekly reading check-in. 

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words and ask readers to answer the following questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

This week’s wrap-up is another short one, thanks to homework and projects.

What did you read last?

I think I’m finally out of my reading slump! 

Last week I finished Mona at Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James, and am I’m still working on a review of Mona at Sea

What are you currently reading?

I’m almost 87% done with The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. But Jeffers book is taking me through it! 

I haven’t felt this emotionally spent by a book in a long while. The last time I felt this frustrated, angry, and all together disgusted by the treatment of a character and their choices, I was reading Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Like Jones, Jeffers’ characters make me want to scream at them through the pages of her book. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been ready to hop into The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois and shake Ailey, the story’s main character, and her relatives for making the wrong choices. 

While I love Jeffers’ book, I will say there are heavy topics at play in Jeffers’ book.

The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois tackles everything from racism, Black womanhood, addiction, the perils and abuse of American Chattel Slavery, and sexual abuse through Ailey’s maternal bloodline. 

If you’re not a reader who likes to follow multiple plot points, The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois may not be for you. I’ve been live-tweeting my reading experience on my Twitter account if you want to see my unfiltered thoughts on Jeffers.

In addition to Jeffers’ book, I’m still reading Portrait of A Scotsman by Evie Dunmore and I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest. I’m also hoping to get Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune off of Scribd at the start of October.

What will you read next?

I’m a mood reader, so I don’t really plan what’s next.

              What are you reading now?

But I’ve got a few cool books on my TBR List if you want to check my previous post out to see what books I’m prioritizing.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you like, comment, and subscribe. #AllOfTheThings

Happy reading!

WWW Wednesday – The One Where I Had Homework To Do

Thank you to Book Sparks and LibroFM for my ARC and ALC of Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James and PRH Audio for my ALC of Portrait of A Scotsman.

Greetings, bookworms! We made it to Wednesday, which means it’s time for my weekly check-in for what I’ve been reading on this wonderful WWW Wednesday. 

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words and ask readers to answer the following questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

This week’s wrap-up is going to be shorter than my other ones since I’m supposed to be prepping for a presentation in one of my MLIS courses. 

*Fingers crossed 🤞🏿 I do well!*

What did you read last?

Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James

I’m still working through my books from last week. But, by the time you read this, I’ll have finished the last forty minutes of the audiobook from Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James.

Mona At Sea by Elizabeth Gonzalez James book cover

If you’re not familiar with this title, check out last week’s #BookishMeme post to hear more about it and other books I received as a Book Sparks Ambassador, or you can click the photo to your left.

So far, I’m enjoying Mona At Sea. I would recommend it for anyone who loves a “coming of age” story and characters who have just enough snark in them to keep you laughing and rethinking how you see the world. Fair warning, though, there are mentions of self-harm and body dysmorphia that can be triggering to some readers if they go into the book unaware.

What are you currently reading?

While I’m super close to finishing Mona At Sea, I’m still trying to stave off residual “slump” feelings. So, all my decisions about reading are still preliminary at best.

I’ve been jumping in and out of Portrait of A Scotsman by Evie Dunmore, and I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest, and my favorite doorstopper, The Love Songs of W. E. B DuBois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

However, TJ Klune’s newest book, Under the Whispering Door, just came out, and I’ve been excited to read it all summer. The House in the Cerulean Sea has been one of my favorite books since last year. You can read my review of it here.

What will you read next?

At this point, I’m at the mercy of my reading slump to decide what I’ll read next. 

If you have any good recommendations, I’d love to hear about them since my TBR List is forever growing! 

Drop them in the comment section below and tell me what you’re currently reading!

If you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you like, comment, and subscribe. #AllOfTheThings

Happy reading!

How much does it cost to make reading your hobby?

Sunday Chat: What Is the Hidden Cost of Being a Reader

Welcome to another Sunday on the Bookternet, friends! I hope you’re having a wonderful day!

Today is the last day of Summer Break for me, and I’m feeling a little sad about it.

Come Monday, I’ll be back on my grind, balancing work, school, and reading. Even though I’m excited since I love my job and going to school, I can’t lie and say it’s not all just a little bit overwhelming for me.

Majorly because this is my first semester back in-person for school since the COVID-19 Pandemic hit in March of 2020, and I’m attending school in the state of Florida (insert a deadpan stare into the camera here). While my school is requires masks to attend, this level of tackling the unknown in a state where people love to be rebels against reason at the risk of themselves and others is putting me on pins and needles.

On the other hand, I’m a little saddened that my leisure time for reading is coming to an end.

In last week’s Sunday Chat post, I discussed the constraints of time for readers when deciding what to read and inevitably DNFing or unhauling our books. And some of your responses across social media pushed me to think even more about how much of a taxing hobby reading is.

Society often paints reading as this calm hobby where you’re sitting in a comfy chair with your book and drifting off to exotic mental landscapes.

But that’s only a piece of it.

Reading, in my opinion, is a full-bodied hobby that requires access, time, and to a degree, money.

How much time do Americans spend reading?

In a study done by the Pew Research Center, it was found that since 2012, “7 in 10 U.S. adults” in America have made reading their hobby. And of this group, the mean number being read steadily ranged from 4 to 12 books in a given year. In addition, the average time devoted to reading for Americans uncharacteristically rose from 2019 to 2020 overall based on the Department of Labor’s American Time Use Survey

A consistent trend, though, was that the rich and white demographic of people were still able to read more than their BIPOC and economically impoverished counterparts thanks to increased free-time.

For example, people “earning less than or equal to the 25th percentile” of “full-time wage and salary” dropped in their free-time for reading from “0.15” in 2019 to “0.11” for the average hours per day they read. While people “earning in the50th to 75th percentile” had the greatest leap in their averaged reading time from “0.16” to “0.37” hours per day and those in the “25th to 50th percentiles” also had a slight adjustment in their average from “0.13 to 0.17.” Those earning greater than the 75th percentile stayed the same with an average of a “0.20” for both years.

African-Americans saw the most significant leap in free-time for reading with a “.14” average from 2019 to 2020 average increase putting them at “0.24” average hours of reading time per day. But, they still trailed way behind white readers who clock in at “0.37” average hours and slightly behind Asian readers who are at “0.25” for their leisure reading time. Hispanic and Latinx readers are dwarfed by all parties at a steady average of “0.10” hours for both years. Unfortunately, there was no data I could find on Indigenous and Native American readers.

Looking at this data from the Department of Labor’s American Time Use Survey made it clear that even in a year as stressful as 2020, the idea that we’re all on an equal playing field when it comes to reading isn’t necessarily true.

Reading cost money as well as time.

How much do Americans spend on reading a year?

As a working-class student, whenever I see a #BookHaul or stack of books on the Bookternet, I immediately feel myself tallying up the cost. 

Thanks to this, reading the School Library Journal’s (SLJ) report for the cost of books in 2021 left me floored.

According to the SLJ, the average Adult Hardcover in 2021 is projected at $27.45 for fiction and $28.49 for non-fiction. Trade paperbacks are going to run you about $21.04 for non-fiction and $17.89 for fiction. 

Young Adult books cost slightly less at approximately $19.13 for a hardcover fiction copy and $21.15 for non-fiction. This genre’s trade paperback are slightly less than adults, though, at roughly $12.66 for fiction and $17.25 for non-fiction.

And all this is before the discounts hit and you find that sweet coupon code or worn copy in your charity shop.

If you’re an e-reader, you’re going to have to factor in the cost of internet services and a compatible electronic device to hold your e-books.

In short, for some people who lack access to a public library and are short on funds, reading requires a lot of hidden costs to feed their reading habits.

While reading is a type of self-care, I never forget that it’s a privilege that not everyone has at their disposal. 

I’m blessed to have access, but I know the average cost for a reader adds up real quick.

So, I never take my love of this hobby for granted.

Sunday Vibes Banner

Enjoy your week, bookish peeps!

Let me know what you think is the driving force behind your reading hobby.

Interview With Angeline Boulley, Author of Firekeeper’s Daughter

II: Mrs. Boulley, thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you! Congratulations on your debut novel! 

A: Thank you so much! Please call me Angeline. (I’m not a Mrs.)

Cover of Firekeeper’s Daughter bay Angeline Boulley

II: I just finished Firekeeper’s Daughter, and it absolutely blew me away! Can you tell me what influenced you to write this novel and what the process of writing and publishing your first novel was like for you? 

A: It has been such a long process! I first had the idea when I was 18, but I didn’t start writing it until I was 44 and my own children were teens and pre-teens. I spent ten years writing and revising. Finally in 2019 I was ready to get an agent and try for a book deal. So I had a very long incubation period for the story but everything took off quickly at that point. I had an agent three weeks after I started querying. I did a modest revision over the summer based on my agent’s feedback. The manuscript went out on submission in mid-September and two weeks later there was a 12-party auction. Two weeks after that, there was a film option deal with the Obamas’ Higher Ground Productions for a Netflix series.

II: As a biracial Anishinaabe and Ojibwe woman who also has French roots, there is a strong sense of community that Daunis Fontaine frequently references within Firekeeper’s Daughter. How would you define community, and how did you use that definition to influence how you wrote the characters and setting in your novel? 

A: I define community as people bonded by their connection to land, family, teachings, and history. I wanted Daunis’s heritage to reflect the history of Sault Ste. Marie. Her background is that mixture of Anishinaabe, French, and Italian that made the town what it is now. I did this because our struggle for identity is also a struggle for a community to recognize the contributions of all. 

II: My favorite part of your novel is the way that you center Ojibwe and Anishinaabe culture. This can especially be seen in the way that Daunis and her family use the Anishinaabemowin language throughout the novel. Was there a conscious choice on your part to not go the traditional route of italicizing the Anishinaabemowin phrases and categorize these lines as “out of the norm” for readers to truly have to immerse themselves into Daunis’ world and see from her point of view? If so, is there a greater role you wanted language to play in your novel? 

A: Yes. It was a conscious decision not to italicize because Anishinaabemowin is not a “foreign” language. I wanted the language to feel very organic, where readers could figure out what a word meant through context instead of a glossary. The story is told from Daunis’ point of view and the language is a big part of her cultural teachings and upbringing. I couldn’t have readers inside her mind without immersing people in the language. I was extremely fortunate to have Dr. Margaret Noodin from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee be part of the editing process with my publisher. She loved the story and saw its potential as a teaching tool for people learning Anishinaabemowin. So, yes, I saw a greater role for language to play in the novel.  

Author Interview with Angeline Boulley

II: You mentioned on your website that you were apart of the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) Young Adult Mentorship Program for the 2018 class. This non-profit’s movement to diversify the publishing industry has brought forth amazing novels from voices that were once pushed to the publishing field’s margins. As a Native writer who is writing in this “new era,” do you ever feel pressure to represent the broad spectrum of Indigenous culture within your work? And if so, how do you pushback on that narrative of the “single story” that Black, Indigenous, and other authors of color are still forced into despite the WNDB movement?

A: No. I don’t feel pressure to represent a broad spectrum of Indigenous culture. I am committed to telling stories set in my tribal community, while acknowledging the diversity within bands, clans, and families. I’ve been vocal about pushing back on the “single story” narrative. I bring up in interviews and conference panels that there are so many stories from underrepresented communities. BIPOC authors may have other storytelling formats – beyond the typical Three Act Structure – that are like treasures readers haven’t experienced before. I’ve also discussed how important it is for the publishing world to recognize the richness, depth, and nuance that can come when an author writes from their lived experience.  

II: Who are some of your favorite authors or literary influences that have inspired your work?

A: Growing up, I loved Nancy Drew and tried to solve each mystery before she did. Reading Robert Cormier’s I am the Cheese was a revelation – it took such a dark turn and sparked my interest in telling stories that didn’t end with everything neatly wrapped up with a pretty bow. This, of course, led to my reading Lois Duncan and Shirley Jackson. My author idols currently are Louise Erdrich, Courtney Summers, Marcie R. Rendon, Tommy Orange, Terese Mailhot, Roxane Gay, Melissa Alberts, and Francisco Stork. (I could go on and on!)

Thank you so much for your time Angeline! I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions! I can’t wait to read more of your work!

Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper’s Daughter is out now! Purchase it now!

About The Author

Angeline Boulley, an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, is a storyteller who writes about her Ojibwe community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She is a former Director of the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Angeline lives in southwest Michigan, but her home will always be on Sugar Island. Firekeeper’s Daughter is her debut novel.

Author Interview With Louisa Onomé, Author of “Like Home”

Synopsis

Fans of Netflix’s On My Block and readers of Elizabeth Acevedo and Angie Thomas will love this debut novel about a girl whose life is turned upside down after one local act of vandalism throws both her relationships and neighborhood into turmoil.

Book Cover of Like Home by Louisa Onomé

Chinelo, or Nelo as her best friend Kate calls her, is all about her neighborhood Ginger East. She loves its chill vibe, ride-or-die sense of community, and the memories she has growing up there with her friends. Ginger East isn’t what it used to be though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, most of her friends’ families moved away. Kate, whose family owns the local corner store, is still there and as long as that stays constant, Nelo’s good.

When Kate’s parent’s store is vandalized and the vandal still at large, Nelo is shaken to her core. And then the police and the media get involved and more of the outside world descends upon Ginger East with promises to “fix the neighborhood.” Suddenly, Nelo finds herself in the middle of a drama unfolding on a national scale.

Worse yet, Kate is acting strange. She’s pushing Nelo away at the exact moment they need each other most. Now Nelo’s entire world is morphing into something she hates and she must figure out how to get things back on track or risk losing everything–and everyone–she loves.

Interview

A: Congratulations on your debut novel, Like Home, Ms. Onomé! What was the process like writing your first book?

LO: Thank you! The process was honestly pretty fun. I love every stage of writing a book because I tend to treat them as separate opportunities to fine-tune a story. When I was drafting, I had the most fun making things up and throwing things together to see what stuck. My process is a little chaotic. When I was revising (which I learned to do effectively while writing this book), I enjoyed asking myself tougher questions about how each character or each plot point was showing up. Overall, it was such a great learning experience.

A: The neighborhood of Ginger East felt so authentic to the story you’re telling about gentrification and coming of age in a place that others have written off as being “rundown” or “unfavorable.” Did you have any specific places that inspired the creation of Ginger East?

LO: Ginger East was loosely inspired by the neighbourhood I grew up in just west of Toronto. While the place I lived was more residential and had a mix of household incomes, it also had a growing immigrant population and was enriched by the experiences people brought to the neighbourhood. I was honestly very fortunate to have had that experience.

A: There is a strong sense of community that Chinelo constantly references within Like Home. How would you define community and how did you use that definition to influence how you wrote Chinelo and the characters of Ginger East in your novel?

LO: I define community as a place where you are seen and heard for who you authentically are. As such, Nelo really feels at home in Ginger East, not only because she grew up there and doesn’t know anywhere else, but because the people there understand her as well as she understands the area. It was important for me to define it that way because sometimes, as shown in Like Home, we live in communities where not everyone has our backs, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a part of the fabric of that neighbourhood. 

Spike Lee Tirade Against Gentrification ‘Get the F.. Outta Here’ Pratt Institute lecture Brooklyn, NY

A: My favorite part of Like Home is the passion you gave Chinelo for her neighborhood at such a young age. It reminded me a lot of what Spike Lee said at a lecture he gave in 2014 at Pratt Institute in honor of African-American History Month. 

During the lecture, Lee touched on how gentrification was ruining the local neighborhoods in the boroughs of New York City in his rant asking, “Why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better?… What about the people who are renting? They can’t afford it anymore!” 

Why was it so important for Chinelo, a sixteen-year-old teenager, to evoke the same disdain and possessiveness over the gentrification of her Ginger East community in your novel as Spike Lee, a then fifty-seven-year-old man, did for his neighborhood of Fort Greene?

LO: That’s such a great quote! In Like Home, Nelo’s possessiveness comes strictly from her inability to accept change. She’s sixteen and all she knows is the place she grew up. To see it change so brazenly without any regard for the people who live there, her family and friends, it begins to make sense how she would have such anger over new businesses moving in or rent prices increasing. Something she knows so well is being pulled out from underneath her by people she knows don’t care about people like her. That feeling of being neglected, of not really being seen, is a strong pain point for her and I think is something a lot of marginalized people can relate to.

A: In the same vein, Chinelo is facing an uphill battle trying to convince people in her age and friend group that fighting against Ginger East’s gentrification is important. This is in direct opposition to Maree, one of Chinelo’s ex-best friends, who becomes a social media influencer and capitalizes off her connection to what she deems her “old trashy neighborhood.” Why was it essential for you to include a character like Maree in Like Home and the discussion of gentrification in contrast to Chinelo?

LO: Great question! It was important to me because a lot of us have to deal with people like Maree in our daily lives. There is a recognition there, unfortunately. Maree represents the largest block that Chinelo has to face when it comes to attitudes about Ginger East and places like it: apathy. It’s one thing to try and change a place, but it’s harder to try and change someone’s mind. Chinelo believes if more people cared, then it would be possible to make a difference, but Maree exists in direct opposition to that in many ways. 

A: Black girlhood is a multi-faceted thing that can hold joy and beauty. However, it also can be a scary time in a Black girl’s life. Like Home strikes this wonderful chord where it is perfectly nostalgic of what being a teenager is like in the age of social media while also honoring the fact that Chinelo’s character is the child of immigrants and held to a different standard than others in her age group maybe. Were there any parts of your childhood as a Nigerian-Canadian author that you used as inspiration to writing Chinelo’s character?

LO: Yes I agree! It’s such a delicate time, but so multi-faceted. There were small instances I mined from my experience as a Nigerian-Canadian that I put into Nelo’s experiences, such as the chain messages from family, but not a lot of overt things. Instead, her Nigerian-Canadian identity is more in her way of being and existing in the world. I guess it’s like that for everybody, though.

A: In a blog post you did for the “Her Story: Ladies in Literature” series on Pop Goes the Reader’s last year, you made mention of the fact that when reading, you “[identify] with the quieter characters; ones whose motivations maybe are subtler, or ones who aren’t at the forefront of a conflict….[since] our motivations aren’t always lived out loud.” 

This quote really resonated with me because when reading about Chinelo, her character felt relatable. There’s a debate currently in the book community about how #OwnVoices authors are often asked to draw on traumatic or stereotypical experiences to get published, which does not always leave room for a “quiet character” in areas like Black Literature. Did you feel any pressure to make Chinelo or the story you wrote fit into either of these categories?

LO: Thank you, I’m so happy to hear that resonated with you. I’m thankful in that I didn’t feel that kind of pressure to make Chinelo anything other than who she is. I modelled her after the girls I had seen and the girl I had been growing up in the Greater Toronto Area. I know so many Chinelos. She’s not an uncommon figure around here: someone who has opinions, doesn’t always speak when spoken to, and prioritizes her friends and family above all else. I didn’t want to write a character who was meant to be some sort of martyr or one-size-fits-all representation for Black girls, because as we know, Black people aren’t a monolith. I hope readers can find comfort in knowing that even though Chinelo isn’t necessarily what you’d expect of a YA protagonist, she still has value.

Author, Louisa Onomé

A: Often, when I’m reading stories about activism in YA, it feels as if it’s taking place in a parallel universe based on how outlandish the methods and situations authors give their characters to carry out. Yet, the way you write about the grassroots movement Chinelo and her community put together to protest the gentrification of Ginger East feels very “do-able.” Is there a message about community involvement and activism that you want readers to take from Like Home?

LO: Yes, for sure. Oftentimes, labels can be somewhat daunting for those of us who just want to help in any way we can. I’d love for readers to take away the fact that all forms of help are different, and you don’t need to have the loudest voice to move the needle. I think it’s important to recognize that starting where you are, doing what you feel most comfortable with, is still good enough. 

A: What are some of your writing influences or authors you deem as “must-reads?”

LO: My biggest writing influences are usually music or video games, because I love to try and recapture emotions. But also, I’m such a fan of Nicola Yoon’s work. I think her writing is so sincere and so magical. I’m a big fan of the characterization in Mary H.K. Choi’s work too. 

A: What advice would you give to young writers looking to break into the publishing industry?

LO: Just like with reaching out and helping with causes you care about, it’s important with writing to start where you are. Write what makes you happy, write what makes you sad, write easy things, write hard things, find readers you can trust, take feedback, leave feedback, grow, continue to learn. Be as ready as possible for when your number is called, because it will be!

Thank you so much for your time and for the opportunity to interview you, Ms. Onomé!

Like Home is out now!

What to read after reading “So Long A Letter” by Mariama Bâ

Book Cover of So Long A Letter by Mariama Bâ

“Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.” – Malorie Blackman

What have you been reading this February?!

This year, I have been focusing less on giving books a star rating and more on how books connect across the Africana Diaspora literary canon.

Mariama Bâ

While So Long A Letter by Mariama Bâ is by a Senegalese novel, the issues Bâ covers in this novella mirror topics that so many African-American women have written about.

Bâ speaks of female friendships and how they sustain us, like Toni Morrison in Sula and Alice Walker in The Color Purple.

She speaks of messy affairs in marriages and how love can look different for each person, like bell hooks in All About Love and Changes: A Love Story by Ama Ata Aidoo.

And when I think of scholarly theorist Bâ is communing with, Wicked Flesh by Jessica Marie Johnson and Thick: And Other Essay by Tressie McMillan Cotton, come to mind in the way Bâ stands up for female agency and independence in a society which demands that Black Womanhood appear under the thumb of the patriarchy as a thing of lesser value. Bâ writes about Ramatoulaye, her protagonist, struggle to assert herself as an educated single mother who attempts to assert herself in a society that does not see her as a valuable asset once her husband throws her to the side for his second wife.

Bâ’s writing is intriguing, and to the point, and for anyone who loves a drama-filled read that’s also character-driven, please give this a read.

What to read after The Secret Lives Of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

“I heard my old friend Clem’s voice coming back to me through the dimness of thirty years: ‘I see you coming here trying to make sense where there is no sense. Try just living in it. Respond, alter, see what happens.’ I thought of the African way of perceiving life, as experience to be lived rather than as problem to be solved.” ― Audre Lorde

Author, Lola Shoneyin

Thanks to Femi from @thebookalert, I got a chance to read The Secret Lives Of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin last year, and I absolutely loved it! Thank you to @tlcbooktours & @williammorrowbooks for providing me a free copy!

Book Cover of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

Shoneyin’s story follows Baba Segi and his four wives, Iya Segi, Iya Tope, Iya Femi, and Bolanle, who are all hiding secrets from each other.

In a culture that values children, Baba Segi sees his collection of wives and gaggle of children are a symbol of prosperity, success, and a validation of his manhood. 

Book Cover of The Women Of Brewster Place

All is well in this patriarchal home until Baba arrives with wife number four, a quiet, college-educated, young woman named Bolanle. Jealous and resentful of this interloper who is stealing their husband’s attention, Baba’s three wives begin to plan her downfall.

Reading this book, I was placed in the mind of several books across the African Diaspora that are in conversation with Shoneyin’s story:

  • When it comes to the complexity and dynamics of sisterhood that Shoneyin displays in TSLIBSW, I immediately thought of The Women Of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor and the essay, “Scratching the Surface: Some Notes on Barriers to Women and Loving,” by Audre Lorde in Sister Outsider. There’s a myth that as a feminist or womanist, you have to like everyone, and as Naylor and Shoneyin prove, this isn’t the case. Solidarity amongst women can be as simple as me wanting you to have all your rights, especially the right to stay the heck away from me.
Book Cover of Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
Book Cover of Ain’t I A Woman by bell hooks
  • The problem of women being seen only as the bearer of children and through the lens of being the property of her husband is explored in #StayWithMe by #AyobamiAdebbayo and in Ain’t I A Woman by bell hooks. In TSLIBSW, Shoneyin does a deep dive into how catastrophic it can be to see a woman in a piecemeal way instead of seeing her as a whole being. Each of Baba Segi Wives has their own talents, but because Baba only sees his wives in reference to being child bearers, he can’t see their talents as businesswomen, homemakers, or educated women.
  • While Iya Segi, Iya Tope, Iya Femi, & Bolanle don’t make any qualms around who Baba fundamentally is as a man or the belief he holds about their culture, there is a sense of resentment that underlines their relationship with him. Each woman’s household status and, subsequently, their independence are tied to Baba’s goodwill. This symbiotic relationship reminds me of all the women’s love for Bill Cosey in Love by Toni Morrison.
Book Cover of Love by Toni Morrison
Book Cover of Decolonising the Mind by Ngūgi wa Thiong’o
  • Lastly, Bolanle’s character made me think of Ngūgī wa Thiongo’s idea of the “cultural bomb” in Decolonizing the Mind and how being educated in societies that rely too heavily on colonial or imperialistic knowledge dilutes the regional culture. Seeing how Baba’s beliefs get challenged by Bolanle’s mere presence was fascinating.

If you haven’t read this book, I highly suggest it!

Author Interview With Morgan Rogers on Honey Girl

Thanks to the team at @BookSparks for giving me the opportunity to interview Morgan Rogers on her debut novel, Honey Girl, which was released TODAY! Comment below if you’ve read the book.

Check out SheReads.com for more exclusive content!

Cover of Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.

– Blurb from Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

What surprised you most about the process of writing this first novel?

The thing that surprised me most about writing this novel was that it did not become this novel until maybe the fourth or fifth iteration. There were things about Grace Porter that didn’t surface until my very last time editing. Some of her motivations and wishes and desires were still hidden until I had both the input from my amazing editor and also an entirely different headspace. I always hear the phrase, “writing is re-writing,” and I think the depth of that truth didn’t really hit me until I was knee-deep in revisions and realizing, like, wow, I needed so much more time to figure out how to say this, but now I can. Surprise!

Author, Morgan Rogers

In an interview she recorded with Balticon 34 in April 2004, Octavia E. Butler talks about wanting to “desensitize” readers with her writing and show them the “world as she wishes it worked” in her novels. One of the things I really loved about Honey Girl is that you don’t waste time explaining or trying to convince the reader that Grace Porter, your main character, and the rest of her friends, who are LGBTQ+, deserve to exist when it comes to their sexuality. 

Instead, your writing creates these characters as messy and flawed human beings doing mundane day-to-day activities, like going to graduate school, trying to live up to their parents’ expectations, and falling in love. Why did you feel this was a significant angle to take with your writing? And did you feel, like Ms. Butler, that you were simply writing the world as you saw it or as you wanted it to be in your writing?

I know in theory it’s significant, but honestly, it doesn’t feel that big to me. Grace Porter is queer. Grace Porter is a lesbian. All her friends are queer. Queer people do really mundane things like work and go to school and date and even disappoint their parents for reasons other than being queer! I wrote a world that is very similar to mine, because I’m a queer person with queer friends and we just do really boring things like complain in our group chats and forget to pay bills. It doesn’t feel revolutionary to me because we are out here living our not-very-exciting lives, but then I remember in the larger scheme of things, us living our lives is revolutionary.

All of that is to say, I didn’t go in with any particular mindset except portraying queerness the way it is in my little corner of the world, and now in Grace’s, too. In academia and the corporate world adjacent to it, the reality is very cis-heteronormative and white, so that’s the reality I put on the page. I wish the world did not work that way, but it does. So, to answer the question, I feel like I was writing the world as I saw it and also how it really is, which is a world in which queer people, especially queer people of color, live and breathe and survive for as long as we can.

There is a strong sense of community and collective care that is frequently referenced in Honey Girl. At times, Grace is treated with more love and acceptance from her “chosen family” than her blood relatives. What made you create such a multilayered approach to family and community care when portraying Grace’s support system?

I say this all the time, seriously, but I feel like “found family” or “chosen family” is such an important component of the varied queer experience. It’s so hard to be alone, especially with people who are your blood, and may still love you, but can’t really understand something that makes up such a huge part of you and influences the other intersections of your identity. You need queer friends and queer friends that feel like family because those are the people you lean on and learn from and support on your respective journeys.

For Grace, her chosen family provides her with unconditional love and unconditional honesty. She makes a lot of mistakes, and she gets in her head a lot, and they are right there to be like, hey, you are not the only person going through this thing. They all have their own lives and issues, and though not every problem revolves around their LGBTQ+ identity, because they are all sharing this queer identity, they are able to be their full, authentic selves when they are vulnerable and asking each other for help.

At the same time, I wanted to show Grace’s mom and dad as people she thinks should be infallible and all-knowing, but she has to realize that’s not possible. Parents are not perfect. Parents don’t know everything, or even half of everything. They are flawed people who make mistakes like anyone else. Sometimes those mistakes can be apologized for and relationships redeemed and repaired, and sometimes not. Sometimes the best thing is for people to break off from their parents entirely. It was important in Grace’s journey for her to start to think about the type of relationship she wanted with her parents that was best for all them and didn’t sacrifice her mental and emotional health.
Basically family, in all of its manifestations, can be really complicated and intricate and nuanced, and there are so many different ways to build one or multiple with the different people in your life.

What books have you read recently and loved, that inspired Honey Girl in some way or that you very much look forward to reading?

Recently I’ve read and loved Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant, Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West, Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid, The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht, Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey, and of course, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir.

There are so, so many books coming out this year that I want in my eyeballs immediately. I can’t list them all, so here’s five:

The Other Black Girl – Zakiya Dalila Harris

This Close to Okay – Leesa Cross-Smith

The Unbroken – C. L. Clark

A Queen of Gilded Horns – Amanda Joy

Dead Dead Girls – Nekesa Afia

MLK Giveaway Hop

The MLK Giveaway Hop is hosted by The Caffeinated Reviewer & Mocha Girls Read !

Image created by Mocha Girls Read

Welcome to my stop on the MLK Giveaway Hop, which is hosted by The Caffeinated Reviewer & Mocha Girls Read.  The giveaway will last from Monday, January 18, to Monday, January 25, 2020.

Thank you to Harper Teen, Simon Teen, and Mahogany L. Browne for allowing me to receive finishing copies of the following books. Originally, these novels were meant for my Instagram Kwanzaa Giveaway. But, I wanted to give back to my subscribers for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Cover of The Black Kids
Author, Christina Hammonds Reed

Synopsis: This coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots. Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year. Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?

Chlorine Sky by Mahogany L. Browne

Author, Mahogany L. Browne

Synopsis: A novel-in-verse about a young girl coming-of-age and stepping out of the shadow of her former best friend. Perfect for readers of Elizabeth Acevedo and Nikki Grimes. 

Cover of Chlorine Sky

She looks me hard in my eyes
& my knees lock into tree trunks
My eyes don’t dance like my heartbeat racing
They stare straight back hot daggers.
I remember things will never be the same.
I remember things.

With gritty and heartbreaking honesty, Mahogany L. Browne delivers a novel-in-verse about broken promises, fast rumors, and when growing up means growing apart from your best friend.

Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds

Cover of Early Departures

Synopsis: Justin A. Reynolds, author of Opposite of Always, delivers another smart, funny, and powerful stand-alone YA contemporary novel, with a speculative twist in which Jamal’s best friend is brought back to life after a freak accident . . . but they only have a short time together before he will die again.

Jamal’s best friend, Q, doesn’t know he’s about to die . . . again.

He also doesn’t know that Jamal tried to save his life, rescuing him from drowning only to watch Q die later in the hospital. Even more complicated, Jamal and Q haven’t been best friends in two years—not since Jamal’s parents died in a car accident, leaving him and his sister to carry on without them. Grief swallowed Jamal whole, and he blamed Q for causing the accident.

Author, Justin A. Reynolds

But what if Jamal could have a second chance? An impossible chance that would grant him the opportunity to say goodbye to his best friend? A new health-care technology allows Q to be reanimated—brought back to life like the old Q again. But there’s a catch: Q will only reanimate for a short time before he dies . . . forever.

Jamal is determined to make things right with Q, but grief is hard to shake. And he can’t tell Q why he’s suddenly trying to be friends with him again. Because Q has no idea that he died, and Q’s mom is not about to let anyone ruin the miracle by telling him. How can Jamal fix his friendship with Q if he can’t tell him the truth?

Ways to enter the contest

To enter to win all three novels, you MUST:

  • Be subscribed to my blog via email or on WordPress
  • Like this post
  • Comment below with your favorite Young Adult read y an African or African-American author from 2020
  • An extra entry a piece will be given for anyone who follows me on Instagram (@IntrovertInterrupted) and twitter (@MakeItLITerary) and shares a photo or link to this giveaway. Tag me on each platform, so I can count your entry!

Happy Reading!

Adira