Archive for April, 2021

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

April 27, 2021

[Tricia]

This vibrant, rich debut YA fantasy novel tells the story of Tarisai, who we first meet as a lonely, isolated child. Tarisai is the daughter of The Lady, a mysterious woman who drops in and out of Tarisai’s life. Tarisai has the gift of being able to read, change and erase people’s memories when she touches them, which leads to a childhood of people avoiding her touch. She is eventually brought to the Capitol to compete to become part of the Prince’s Council of 11, a council of gifted children who will swear loyalty to the Crown Prince for life, and form a family in which they are able to telepathically communicate. This is the dream for Tarisai – to have this kind of closeness and connection with others. However, her mother has implanted in her an order to kill the Crown Prince if and when she is anointed as part of his Council.

I loved the world building of this book, which is rich and vivid and inspired by pre-colonial West African history and folklore. I was immediately drawn into this world and Tarisai’s story. The book does a nice job of weaving in broader issues of imperialism and the role of culture, with Tarisai’s personal struggles with trust and loyalty, and finding her voice and her purpose. I also appreciated the nuances in the positions and beliefs of the characters, where things are more complicated than just good vs evil. This is a highly readable and enjoyable book – I gobbled up the audiobook in a couple of days. I’m really excited to read book 2 when it comes out!

You can find this book at the Library and both the eBook and the audiobook on Hoopla.

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

April 12, 2021

[Tricia]

I love it when historical fiction reminds me, as it so often does, of how much I don’t know. This was the case in many ways with Libertie. For one thing, the book introduced me to the life of Dr. Susan McKinney Steward, the first Black woman physician in New York, and only the third Black woman to become a doctor in the country. The book, inspired by Dr. McKinney Steward’s life, is told through the eyes of Libertie, the daughter of a Black woman doctor, growing up in a free Black community in Brooklyn during the Reconstruction era. At the heart of the story is the complicated relationship between Libertie and her mother. Libertie idolizes her mother growing up, but struggles with her mother’s expectation that she too will become a doctor.

One of the things I liked most about this book is the that it provides such a fascinating snapshot of two particular places during this pivotal time – first, the free Black community in Brooklyn where Libertie grows up, and then Haiti, where Libertie moves when she marries a Haitian doctor. The racial, political, religious and class dynamics the author depicts in both places during this time were fascinating. I also realized how little I know about the history of Haiti, which is something I need to dig into.

One of the most striking aspects of this book to me is its focus on the mental health impacts of slavery. As a child Libertie sees her mother treat several people who are brought to her directly after having escaped slavery. Even when their physical wounds are healed, the psychological toll, what we would recognize today as PTSD, is something that her mother struggles to treat. There is also a fascinating dynamic throughout the book between those like Libertie and her mother who were freeborn, and those, including many of her mother’s patients, and two college friends of Libertie, known as The Graces, who had been enslaved.

There was so much to think about from this book, and I think it will stay with me for a while. I’m very glad I read it.

Libertie is available as both an ebook and an audiobook on Hoopla, as well as at the Library.

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Nick, by Michael Farris Smith

April 5, 2021

[Lesley]

It has been an incredibly long time since I read The Great Gatsby and I thought about re-reading that before picking this up. I’m glad I didn’t. The writing is stunning; stark and slick like Fitzgerald when depicting Daisy’s life and Jay Gatsby’s parties and odd behavior but meditative and melancholy in Nick’s voice. We get the original novel’s story from this unusual inside observer. Nick’s military history and his own struggles cut through the empty superficiality that both Daisy and Jay are suffering through. And, seeing them through Nick’s eyes, we start to see the real humanity behind the superficial.

I did re-read Gatsby after I finished this. It is still a seminal work, no doubt. But in some ways I liked Nick better — or more that I like Gatsby more having read Nick.

The Great Gatsby in our library catalog (book, audiobook, movie, graphic novel, about the book), libby/overdrive, hoopla

Nick in our library catalog