Book reviews and recommendations

Inclusive Reads

Compiled by: Niamh Ennis & Aoife Kerr, Leixlip Library

Inclusive Fiction

The Bombs that Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan

Fourteen-year-old Charlie Law has lived in Little Town, on the border with Old Country, all his life. He knows the rules: no going out after dark; no drinking; no litter; no fighting. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of the people who run Little Town. When he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, the rules start to get broken. Then the bombs come, and the soldiers from Old Country, and Little Town changes for ever.

Sometimes, to keep the people you love safe, you have to do bad things. As Little Town’s rules crumble, Charlie is sucked into a dangerous game. There’s a gun, and a bad man, and his closest friend, and his dearest enemy.

Charlie Law wants to keep everyone happy, even if it kills him. And maybe it will…

I love this book. One of the things that I love about it is that it doesn’t tell you where the story is set. It just mentions Little Town and Old Country. Due to the fact  you don’t know where this is set, you can imagine this happening where you live. It does give you an idea of what it is like to grow up resenting a whole group of people. I love how it takes one person to change your view. My only criticism is that in the middle it drags a little. But apart from that it is an excellent book, and one that is worth reading.

Available to borrow as an ebook on BorrowBox

Fiction by Black Authors

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamade Ngozi Adichie

Set in the repressed household of Kambili, a 15 year old Nigerian girl, this story follows a journey from regulated and rigorous routine to her first taste of freedom. This novel includes elements political crisis to a military coup. Adichie covers everything from the strains of religious and national identity, family issues, parental expectations and adolescence.

This was a book club pick from when I worked in Maynooth library. I wanted to give my bookclub a more rounded (and multicultural) set of different books,without being overwhelming and this was a perfect pick for that. A touching and well rounded story which brings a whole new beautiful world to light through Nigerian culture and the Igbo language. It was rich in a different world while still being universal so I enjoyed the discovery immensely.

This title is available to borrow as an ebook on Bolinda Borrowbox.

Other title by Chimamande Ngozi Adichie’s available on BorrowBox can be found here. If you already enjoy Chimamande Ngozi Adichie’s work you may also like Toni Morrison’s, which you can borrow here.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could not only upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

This title was recently recommended to our young adult readers recently on Facebook and it’s a solid pick for both teens and adults. While this book is about some big topics, the author tackles them from the point of view of a teenager with no particular agenda, other than justice for her friend which is a useful vantage point for breaking down and understanding the issues involved. The approach is neither too political or judgemental it is just an honest account by a young girl whose friend was shot. 

Available to borrow as an ebook on Bolinda BorrowBox

You might also enjoy another great Young Adult Fiction title ‘Knoughts and Crosses’ by Malorie Blackman was already reviewed by my colleague Orla in her post : 

Non-Fiction by Black Authors

Becoming by Michelle Obama

A memoir full of compassion and honesty, ‘Becoming’ covers the life so far of one of America’s most popular and inspirational First Ladies. Covering her relatively average and middle class upbringing in South Side Chicago to her time at University, meeting her husband Barack and community work and ultimately her time as first lady, this is an interesting look at both the woman herself and how the former president’s policies and values evolved. Possibly the most requested title in our libraries in recent times, this is a wonderful read. While some parts appear to be slow moving, this can mostly be attributed to the down to earth feel and relatability of her experiences. Obama’s storytelling skills are fantastic and it is well worth the BorrowBox wait list! If you reserve it now, it might be ready sooner than you think!

Available to borrow on BorrowBox as an ebook or audiobook.

‘Dreams From My Father’ By Barack Obama is also available to borrow on BorrowBox here.

Or you might also enjoy works by Martin Luther King here .

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Abandoned by their parents, Maya and her older brother Bailey are sent to live with their grandmother and uncle in the small Southern town of Stamps in Arkansas. Struggling with rejection, they endure the prejudice of their white neighbours and suffer several racist incidents.

One day, their father unexpectedly returns and takes the children to live with their mother in St Louis, Missouri. Aged only eight, Maya is abused by her mother’s boyfriend, an experience that haunts her for a lifetime. Filled with guilt and shame, she refuses to speak to anyone except Bailey – until she meets Mrs Bertha Flowers, who encourages her love of books, helping her to find her voice and regain her own strong spirit.

Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic, beloved worldwide, which recounts a youth filled with curiosity, wonder, disappointment, frustration, tragedy, and hard-won independence. This radio dramatisation, starring Adjoa Andoh, Indie Gjesdal and Pippa Bennett-Warner, plays out her extraordinary story with dramatic verve and poetic brilliance.

This is one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for years and never got round to reading. I am so glad I did. It is engaging, well written and so easy to read, despite the difficult content. I’ve heard Maya Angelou speak on YouTube and I can almost hear her telling me her story as I read this book. She has such an easy and visual way of writing that you can almost see things happening as the book unfolds. It really is a very powerful book and I loved reading it. I think it’s one that everyone should read.

Available to borrow as an audiobook on Bolinda BorrowBox.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Written by a British journalist, this is the expansion of an essay about racism that she has both experienced and researched statistics around the topic. This title also approaches the discussions around racism in the UK. The original piece, by the same name, was a reaction to her frustration that discussions such as these were generally led by non-black people. Covering topics such as privilege, the intersections of sexism, class politics and racism and black history this is a book that is  intellectual but written in a way that every person can read. I found this to be well thought out, researched and written as well as opening my mind further. The honesty and personal elements of the text pulled me in straight away, and I think this is one that will stay with most people. 

This title is available to borrow in both ebook and audiobook format on Bolinda Borrowbox.

If this title took your fancy, some others that might interest you and that are well worth a read are ‘How to Be an Antiracist’ by Dr Ibram X. Kendi and ‘I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness’ by Austin Channing Brown which are both on BorrowBox.

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