Eight Books to Read in April
1. Hold My Girl by Charlene Carr
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Themes: Motherhood, Race, Families
Summary: Katherine has everything under control. After years of struggling to conceive with her partner, Patrick, she finally gives birth to Rose, her IVF miracle child. But she's afraid that Rose may not be her daughter, her pale skin not matching Katherine's own.
Tess never got her happy ending. Just like Katherine, she was also a hopeful IVF mother, but her daughter, Hanna, was stillborn. Now divorced, broke and stuck in a dead-end job, she's beginning to lose all hope.
But when Rose is ten months old, both women get a call from the fertility clinic. There was a mistake: their eggs were switched.
It will take a custody battle like no other to decide who will get to be Rose's mother – a battle that will push them both to the brink...
This is a story about what it means to be a mother, and the lengths we go to for the people we love.
2. Chain Gang All-Stars By Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Themes: Dystopia, Penal Systems, Capitalism, Science Fiction
Summary: Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of Chain-Gang All-Stars, the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly-popular, highly-controversial, profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators and prisoners are competing for the ultimate prize: their freedom.
In CAPE, prisoners travel as Links in Chain-Gangs, competing in death-matches for packed arenas with righteous protestors at the gates. Thurwar and Staxxx, both teammates and lovers, are the fan favourites. And if all goes well, Thurwar will be free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer. As she prepares to leave her fellow Links, she considers how she might help preserve their humanity, in defiance of these so-called games, but CAPE’s corporate owners will stop at nothing to protect their status quo and the obstacles they lay in Thurwar’s path have devastating consequences.
3. Black Chameleon: Memory, Womanhood, and Myth by Deborah D E E P Mouton
Themes: Coming of Age, Myths, Poetry
Summary: Growing up as a Black girl in America, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton yearned for stories she could connect to--true ones, of course, but also fables and mythologies that could help explain both the world and her place in it. Greek and Roman myths felt as dusty and foreign as ancient ruins, and tales by Black authors were often rooted too far in the past, a continent away.
Mouton's memoir is a praise song and an elegy for Black womanhood. She tells her own story while remixing myths and drawing on traditions from all over the world: mothers literally grow eyes in the backs of their heads, children dust the childhood off their bodies, and women come to love the wildness of the hair they once tried to tame. With a poet's gift for lyricism and poignancy, Mouton reflects on her childhood as the daughter of a preacher and a harsh but loving mother, living in the world as a Black woman whose love is all too often coupled with danger, and finally learning to be a mother to another Black girl in America.
4. Ada’s Relm by Sharon Dodua Otoo
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Themes: Time Skips, Historical Fiction, Womanhood
Summary: WHERE IS ADA?
In a small village in West Africa, in what will one day become Ghana, Ada gives birth again, and again the baby does not live. As she grieves the loss of her child, Portuguese traders become the first white men to arrive in the village, an event that will bear terrible repercussions for Ada and her kin.
WHEN IS ADA?
Centuries later, Ada will become the mathematical genius Ada Lovelace; Ada, a prisoner forced into prostitution in a Nazi concentration camp; and Ada, a young, pregnant Ghanaian woman with a new British passport who arrives in Berlin in 2019 for a fresh start.
WHO IS ADA?
Ada is not one woman, but many, and she is all women – she revolves in orbits, looping from one century and from one place to the next. And so, she experiences the hardship but also the joy of womanhood: she is a victim, she offers resistance, and she fights for her independence.
5. The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa by Stephen Buoro
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Themes: Coming of Age, Race, Religion, Boyhood
Summary: Fifteen-year-old Andrew Aziza lives in Kontagora, Nigeria, where his days are spent about town with his droogs, Slim and Morocca, grappling with his fantasies about white girls – especially blondes – and wondering who his father is. When he's not in church, at school or attempting to form 'Africa's first superheroes', he obsesses over mathematical theorems, ideas of black power and HXVX: the Curse of Africa.
Sure enough, the reluctantly nicknamed 'Andy Africa' soon falls hopelessly and inappropriately in love with the first white girl he lays eyes on, Eileen. But at the church party held to celebrate her arrival, multiple crises loom. An unfamiliar man claims, despite his mother's denials, to be Andy's father, and the gathering of an anti-Christian mob is headed for the church – both set to shake the foundations of everything Andy knows and loves.
6. Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes: Southern American History, Parenthood, Social Care
Summary: Montgomery, Alabama, 1973. Fresh out of nursing school, Civil Townsend intends to make a difference, especially in her African American community. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she hopes to help women shape their destinies, to make their own choices for their lives and bodies.
But when her first week on the job takes her along a dusty country road to a worn-down one-room cabin, Civil is shocked to learn that her new patients, Erica and India, are children—just eleven and thirteen years old. Neither of the Williams sisters has even kissed a boy, but they are poor and Black, and for those handling the family’s welfare benefits, that’s reason enough to have the girls on birth control. As Civil grapples with her role, she takes India, Erica, and their family into her heart. Until one day she arrives at their door to learn the unthinkable has happened, and nothing will ever be the same for any of them.
Decades later, with her daughter grown and a long career in her wake, Dr. Civil Townsend is ready to retire, to find her peace, and to leave the past behind. But there are people and stories that refuse to be forgotten. That must not be forgotten.
Because history repeats what we don’t remember.
7. Rosewater by Liv Little
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Themes: LGBTQ+, Coming of Age, Romance
Summary: Elsie is a sexy, funny, and fiercely independent woman living in South London. But, at just 28, she is also tired. Though she spends her days writing tender poetry in her journal, her nights are spent working long hours for minimum wage at a neighbourhood gay bar.
The difficulty of being estranged from her family, struggle of being continually rejected from jobs, and fear of never making money doing what she loves, is too great. But Elsie is determined to keep the faith, for a little longer at least. Things will surely turn around. They have to.
As she tries to breathe through the panic attacks, sleeping with her hot and spirited co-worker Bea isn't exactly straightforward and offers Elsie just another place to hide.
As Elsie tries to reconnect with her best friend Juliet, her fragile world spirals out of control. Can Elsie steady herself and not fall through the cracks?
8. Natural Beauty by Ling Ling Huang
Genre: Mystery Thriller
Themes: Societal Pressures, LGBTQ+ Lives, Beauty
Summary: Our narrator produces a sound from the piano no one else at the Conservatory can. She employs a technique she learned from her parents—also talented musicians—who fled China in the wake of the Cultural Revolution. But when an accident leaves her parents debilitated, she abandons her future for a job at a high-end beauty and wellness store in New York City.
Holistik is known for its remarkable products and procedures—from remoras that suck out cheap Botox to eyelash extensions made of spider silk—and her new job affords her entry into a world of privilege and a long-awaited sense of belonging. She becomes transfixed by Helen, the niece of Holistik’s charismatic owner, and the two strike up a friendship that hazily veers into more. All the while, our narrator is plied with products that slim her thighs, smooth her skin, and lighten her hair. But beneath these creams and tinctures lies something sinister.