A tender, brutal yet beautiful memoir that chronicles Machado's experience of an abusive relationship with another woman. Its form cleverly centres various constructed genres/tropes/literary or cinematic modes as versions of their relationship, either representing or in stark contrast with reality as her partner's behaviour becomes more and more cruel. As well as her own story, Machado examines what she calls the 'archival silence' around abuse in same sex relationships, the barriers to female-reported violence and tropes of queer representation in wider culture. Amazingly the abusive relationship has a real outcome that is one of the most ‘fable’ like parts of this memoir. Machado’s exquisite grasp of form and deep psychological insight makes this one of the most exciting books you’ll read in 2020.
This (Booker Prize shortlisted) novel is a glorious, multi-layered representation of black women in Britain; a playwright, a trans teenager, a single mum, an investment banker, a pensioner. Each character is written in a nuanced way with lives overlapping, while showing the many ways in which they can and can't win. It is undeniably a feminist novel; almost all them are to some extent inhibited by the patriarchy, some characters more brutally than others. Despite difference in class, sexuality, faith, age Evaristo ultimately celebrates individuality, showing that there is not one 'black british female experience' but many, and that they are complex, glorious, real. Highly recommend.
Published by Hamish Hamilton on 2nd May 2019
Defying the norms of the sci-fi genre by exploring themes of race, power, gender and class, Octavia Butler's books feel totally modern.
The protagonist Dana, a strong, believable black woman, gets pulled back in time to save her ancestor who happens to be a white slave owner. As she lands back in 1815 she instantly loses all her rights as a human being as without papers her existence is illegal, so we feel firsthand the injustice and prejudice the author experienced as a black person and as a woman. This is a roller coaster of a read, the writing is so visual I can still picture scenes from it and Octavia Butler explores themes such as empathy, love as political resistance and adapting to change, making this is a must read.
See also Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown: radical self/society help inspired by the philosophies of Octavia Butler.