1000 Black Girl Books

Before I get into my new project, I want to announce an update schedule change. Alongside working full time and trying to plan a wedding, I’ll be starting grad school to get my MLIS next month. I want to keep updating at regular intervals, so I’ve decided to post here every other week. I’ll also be posting about each book as a whole, rather than chapter-by-chapter reviews. If you have a Twitter account, you can follow me @nortonwriter14, where I’ll tweet every time the blog is updated. I’ll also occasionally post about books, the writing process, and probably about space and/or cats.

Thank you to everyone who’s read with me this far!


 

For three years, give or take a couple hiatuses, I’ve worked on this blog, reviewing nostalgic books, one chapter at a time. Originally, I wanted to see which old books were worth keeping, and which should find new homes. I’ve downsized a lot since those early days. There are still books that I brought with me from state to state that I’d love to review here, and maybe someday I’ll get to them. But as my life has changed, I think it’s time for this blog to change as well.

I’d debated with myself about what that change should be – one idea I had was reading through Newberry Medal winners – but inspiration struck during a trip to the local library. I was on a tour as part of my volunteer orientation when the librarian pointed out a wall of books near the children’s section. “This is something new we’re trying,” she told me. “1000 Black Girl Books.”

#1000BlackGirlBooks was founded by thirteen-year-old Marley Dias, who’s collected over 11,000 books featuring Black female protagonists. The full list can be found at Grassroots Community Foundation.  I’m a voracious reader, and I was curious to see how many of the books I’ve read made it on to the list.

Four. And of those four, only one was written by a Black author.

I went to my bookshelves and scanned titles, asking myself, “how many of these books are written by White authors? How many of them have characters of color?”

The answer was, “very few”.

I was so disappointed in myself. For all I reminded myself to check my privilege or “stay woke”, my own personal library was incredibly lacking. And that’s when I decided: I needed to step out of my literary bubble.

To be totally honest, I’m a little nervous about doing this. I can’t pretend to be enlightened, or even have a solid foundation to discuss race on. I grew up in a town and went to schools full of de facto segregation, all without knowing it. I saw White heroes everywhere, and Black sidekicks without ever thinking deeply about. Because I loved The Help until I read a Roxane Gay’s take on it, exposing the work’s flaws and all my ignorance with it.

Going through this blogging project, I know I’m going to say the wrong thing. I’m going to stick my foot in my mouth, and there are times when I just won’t “get it”. I know reading books isn’t going to completely eliminate the prejudices and biases that I have. But only by acknowledging and challenging them will I be able to change them. And this is how I’m combating them: with empathy, and information, and books.

Tithe 14 + 15

It’s the first post of 2019 and the last one for Tithe. 

In the penultimate chapter, we’re almost at the real climax of the book, with Kaye and Roiben leaving the Seelie Court to rescue Corny. I wouldn’t normally talk about the transition scene here, except for Kaye and Roiben’s conversation as they’re leaving the Seelie Court.

‘I’m here because you are kind and lovely and terribly, terribly brave,’ he said, his voice pitched low. ‘And because I want to be.’

She looked up at him through her lashes. He smiled and rested his chin on top of her head, sliding his hand over her back.

‘You want to be?’

He laughed. ‘Verily, I do. Do you doubt it?’

‘Oh,’ she said, mind unable to catch up with the stunning joy that she felt. Joy, that was, for the moment, enough to push the other sorrows aside. Because it was true, somehow, that he was here with her, and not with the Seelie Queen.

This is the first scene in the book that makes me think that their budding relationship is based on something more than lust, and the allure of the mysterious stranger you met on the side of the road.

When Roiben and Kaye get to the Unseelie Court, they learn that Spike is dead, and Nephamael has made himself king. I don’t think anyone feels bad about Spike getting killed. He never made himself likeable in the first place, and he wasn’t an important enough character to pay attention to.

They don’t really have much of a plan to get Corny back from Nephamael, but pretty soon Roiben’s opinion is moot. Nephamael learned Roiben’s name and uses it to take control of him. Kaye escapes, but Roiben remains in Nephamael’s command.

There’s a lot of situations in Tithe that are pretty intense. Maybe it’s because I’m older or because I’ve read the book a few times before, but very little in it scares me anymore. Except when Nephamael takes control of Roiben.

I’m not going to be ritually sacrificed by faeries, I think I’m smart enough now to avoid any teenage-like boyfriend shenanigans, and even driving isn’t that hard anymore. But Nephamael’s total control over Roiben is way more frightening than I remember it being. He’s ordered to humiliate himself and to “cut the pixie until she dies” when Kaye gets recaptured. The disturbing thing about this is that Roiben is totally conscious and aware of himself doing these things. He doesn’t want to do them, but has no choice. His body totally betrays his mind. The idea of not being in charge of my actions is scary, but that someone else could have absolute control over me is even worse. At some point, even I have to wonder, how much of me is really “in control”? How much of my life is actually dictated by me, and not, say, my boss, or my bank account?

But that line of thinking will probably lead me to some introspection and depression, and that’s not what we’re here for. What we are here for is to see Roiben and Corny get saved, right?

In discussing the last chapter, I talked about my disappointment in the shift from urban fantasy to just straight fantasy. I wanted to see Kaye’s world clash more with the fae world. I got a little bit more of that here. Kaye doesn’t know how to think like a pixie, and this works to her advantage. She poisons Nephamael with tiny iron nails from her boots, something she could have only gotten from the mortal realm. Nephamael dies, Corny and Roiben are free, and everyone’s a little closer to earning their happy endings.

I don’t think that this climax was bigger or more exciting than “escape from ritual sacrifice”, but I love that Kaye used her wits and resources to win the day. And, of course, that a girl saves the boys.

I’m combining my review for Chapter 15 as well, because I don’t think there’s enough in the final chapter to warrant a full post of its own. It’s basically a parlor scene wherein Kaye reveals the the Seelie Queen planned all this out, which should be intriguing, but is more confusing than anything. Roiben declares himself king of the Unseelie Court, and Kaye and Corny return to the mortal world.

The ending is bittersweet. Kaye and Corny are safe, but Janet is dead. Roiben and Kaye start a relationship, but it’s made clear throughout the book that kingship will not necessarily be kind to Roiben.

I like Tithe, but I don’t think it’s Holly Black’s best work. Reading it through again, it doesn’t feel as cohesive as it should. The charmed kissing scene was also pretty questionable for me. But it’s still and enjoyable book, and easy to get sucked into. I’ve read a few of Holly Black’s other books, including Ironside and The White Cat, and I think both are more polished than Tithe.

Tithe meant a lot to me as an adolescent. It introduced me to YA fiction and urban fantasy. I took a lot of inspiration from Holly Black and her stories. Even her webpage  had a lot of resources and inspiration for a teenage writer like me at the time. She helped me learn about the publishing industry and the writing process. But most important, she made me feel like I could be a writer, and that someone wanted to hear what I had to say.

That’s a wrap for Tithe! Next week I’ll be back with a final – yes, final – manga review, and then I’ll be moving on to a new project for the rest of the year. Thanks for sticking with me this far, may your new year be full of good books and free of human sacrifice.