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Eight books to read in June

  1. Nightbloom by Peace Adzo Medie Genre: Literary Fiction Themes: Friendship, Womanhood, Race, Class Summary: When Selasi and Akorfa were young girls they were more than just cousins: they were an inseparable duo, prepared to do anything to protect one another.

Then Selasi begins to change. She becomes withdrawn and hostile, losing interest even in the schoolwork that used to be so important to her. Selasi constructs a wall around herself designed to keep everyone out - even Akorfa. It will be years before Akorfa learns what happened. But is there still time to save their friendship? When a terrible crisis brings them back together as young women, they must confront the secrets that Selasi has worked so hard to bury, and challenge those who would prefer her to remain silent.

2. The God of Good Looks by Breanne McIvor

Genre: Fiction

Themes: Career, Power, Relationships, Trinidadian Culture, Art and Artifice

Summary: Bianca Bridge is like an eyeshadow palette. She's a vibrant kaleidoscope of big personality and even bigger dreams, with a tendency towards messiness and fallout. Case in point: ruining her career prospects and hopes of becoming a writer by having an affair with a married government minister.

Fiercely confident and uncompromising, her tyrannical new boss Obadiah Cortland - makeup artist and legend in Trinidad's beauty scene - is like a statement red lipstick. 'The God of Good Looks' is a facade he has perfected over years of slipping through the island's rigid class barriers, and he knows as well as Bianca that the tiniest smudge can ruin your image. When Bianca's ex threatens both their futures, this clashing combination must find a way to work together to save everything they care about. But might they actually bring out the best in each other?

3. Everything's Fine by Cecilia Rabess

Genre: Fiction

Themes: Romance, Interracial Love, Prejudice, Humour

Summary: When Jess first meets Josh at their Ivy League college she dislikes him immediately: an entitled guy in chinos, ready to take over the world. Meanwhile Jess is almost always the only Black woman in their class. And Josh can't accept that life might be easier for him because he's white.

After graduating, Jess and Josh end up working together in the same investment bank. As they lunch, spar and pick each other's brains, Jess begins to see Josh in a different light, and it seems their connection might be deeper than Jess could ever have imagined.

As their tempestuous friendship turns into an electrifying romance that shocks them both, Jess begins to question who she is and what she's really willing to compromise for love.

Everything's Fine is an utterly original and deeply moving take on an age-old question from a dazzling new voice: what have you got to lose when you fall in love?

4. Big Girl by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan

Genre: Fiction

Themes: Body Image, Fatphobia, Queerness, Coming of Age, Community

Summary: Growing up in rapidly gentrifying 90s Harlem, Malaya struggles to fit into a world that makes no room for her. She's funny, creative and smart, but all people see - even those who love her - is her size. At eight, she is forced to go to Weight Watchers; at twelve, her parents fear she'll be taken from them; by sixteen, a gastric bypass is discussed.

On good days, Malaya braids bright colours into her hair, turns up Biggie Smalls on her Walkman, and strides through Harlem, his words galvanising her; on bad days, she doesn't leave her bed other than for furtive trips for the forbidden food that will comfort her - for a while. Big Girl is an unforgettable portrait of a queer Black girl as she learns to take up space in the world on her own terms.

5. The History of a Difficult Child by Mihret Sibhat

Genre: Historical Fiction

Themes: Family, Coming of Age,

Poverty, War, Class

Summary: Selam is the youngest child in her large, turbulent family. Even before she is born, her electrifying omniscience animates life in her Small Town in 1980s southwestern Ethiopia. She arrives like a flash flood; unexpected, strong-willed, roaring.

Selam and her father listen to the radio in secret as the socialist military junta seizes properties and wages civil war in the North. Meanwhile her mother, the powerful and relentlessly dignified Degitu, embraces a persecuted, Pentecostal God as she gets sicker. Once an enterprising, landowning family, now they are ostracised under the new regime, and Selam grows up seeking revenge on despotic comrades, neighbourhood bullies and a ruthless God. Wise beyond her years yet thoroughly naive, she contends with an inner fury, a profound sadness, and a throbbing, unstoppable pursuit of education, freedom, and love.

6. The Talk by Darrin Bell

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Themes: Coming of Age, Race, BLM, Family, Community

Summary: Darrin Bell was six years old when he had The Talk: his mother told him he couldn't have a realistic water gun. She said she feared for his safety, that police tend to think of little Black boys as older and less innocent than they really are.

Through evocative illustrations and sharp humour, Bell examines how The Talk shaped intimate and public moments from childhood to adulthood. While coming of age in Los Angeles - and finding a voice through cartooning - Bell becomes painfully aware of being regarded as dangerous by white teachers, neighbours and police officers, and thus of his mortality. Drawing attention to the brutal murders of African Americans, and showcasing revealing insights and cartoons along the way, he brings us up to the moment of reckoning when people took to the streets protesting the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. And now Bell must decide whether he and his own six-year-old son are ready to have The Talk.

7. The Secret Summer Promise by Keah Brown

Genre: YA Romance

Themes: Romance, Friendship, Disability, Queerness, Coming of Age

Summary: Andrea Williams has got this. The Best Summer Ever. Last summer, she spent all her time in bed, recovering from the latest surgery for her cerebral palsy. She’s waited too long for adventure and thrills to enter her life. Together with her crew of ride-or-die friends, and the best parents anyone could ask for (just don’t tell them that), she’s going to live it up.

There’s just one thing that could ruin Her best friend, Hailee, finding out Andrea’s true feelings. So Andrea WILL fall out of love with Hailee – even if it means dating the cute boy George who keeps showing up everywhere with a smile.

8. Yellowface by R. F. Kuang

Genre: Fiction

Themes: Diversity, Racism, Cultural Appropriation, Publishing Industry

Summary: Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars: same year at Yale, same debut year in publishing. But Athena's a cross-genre literary darling, and June didn't even get a paperback release. Nobody wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.

So when June witnesses Athena's death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena's just-finished masterpiece. So what if June edits Athena's novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song--complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn't this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That's what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree. But June can't get away from Athena's shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June's (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.


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