Finding Freedom in Fallibility with Raven Leilani’s Luster

A desire expressed many a time by me and other Black women is the desire to be seen and heard, to be afforded the space to stumble, learn and grow. Everyone expects us to fail, and to succeed is to be the exception. The space between renders us unremarkable. While our struggle for perfection isn’t going anywhere, Raven Leilani’s sharp and sparkling Luster presents us with a devastatingly human Black female protagonist: Edie, a twenty-three-year-old artist struggling to make ends meet. It’s in this novel that we are given the freedom to fall short of expectations, given permission to just be in our Blackness. Embrace fallibility as it gives you stories to tell, and those stories are your proof that you were here.

“I really wanted to write the book that I wish I’d had at 15”: A conversation with Danielle Jawando

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando is an emotionally rich story about mental health. We follow 15-year-old Nathan, who is looking for answers in the aftermath of his brother Al’s suicide with Al’s former classmate Megan. I interviewed Danielle, who was one of my undergraduate tutors, about her debut novel. We discussed mental health, the need for Northern representation and the impact of covid on both And the Stars Were Burning Brightly and her latest novel.

Finding Myself in a Teenager: Empress & Aniya by Candice Carty-Williams

If Queenie is the black Bridget Jones, then Empress & Aniya is the black Freaky Friday. Friendship and black girl magic permeate these pages, shaped by Candice Carty-Williams’ deep understanding of the nuances that set apart the haves from the have-nots. Having grown up in an area of relative poverty, Empress’ life really struck a chord with me. I got her. I knew what it was like. This truly is a book I wish I had when growing up and learning how to navigate my friendships and my blackness in a world not made for me.