March 1st marks the end of Black History Month in the United States (in the Netherlands, Black History Month is reserved for the month of October). A month that sheds a light on the accomplishments of Black people despite the many, many adversities and atrocities they had to push through and liberate themselves from. Though true, ie. systemic, equality has not been achieved, this month puts a strong focus on the advancements already made and often brings into the conversation the many steps forward that lead to equality’s righteous path. Celebrating the many wonderful works of people along the African diaspora and nurturing the history of Black people, and therefore the history of the world, so as not to forget and especially to remind us that the world is a much better place when filled with the riches of human creation and creativity.
For many special occasions, Writer’s Block offers a series of recommendations that encompass any form of media. Though it is understandable that some would be reluctant to have a magazine predominantly staffed with white people as pale as post Recovery Eminem recommend a collection of Black authors and creatives in a series of recommendations that has used themes such as Halloween and Christmas, incredibly trivial subjects compared to Black History Month. We have found that in doing so, apart from simply wishing to spread the word when it comes to some of our most captivating experiences with art and literature, the ability to have Black History Month as the theme for this issue of recommendations serves in a sense to normalize the month’s goals and make it as essential in our celebrations as Christmas and Halloween. Yes, Black History Month is much more solemn than those two holidays, much more serious in its subject, and I do not exactly equate them all but there are baby showers and there are gatherings to mourn someone’s death. Black History Month is a unique combination of both.
Rebecca’s Recommendation: the works of N.K. Jemisin
I fell in love with N.K. Jemisin as an author when I read her breathtaking Broken Earth Trilogy, which is forever my #1 answer when anyone asks me for a book recommendation. Jemisin works themes of cultural conflict and oppression into all of her works, stemming from both her lived experiences as a Black woman in America, and experience as a psychologist. The Broken Earth Trilogy is a riveting tale, but it’s worldbuilding is what truly stands out to me; it takes place in a future where our world is racked by a fifth season of constant natural disaster, destroying and remaking our Earth on a cyclical basis. There are those, called orogenes, who can bend earth to their will, and they are both a commodity and deeply distrusted by their society. It explores motherhood and loss, oppression and civil unrest, all through a distinct science fiction/fantasy world. Other than Broken Earth, I can recommend her most recent novel The City We Became, if you like something a little weirder—cities come alive and need to be saved by a motley crew of misfits—or her collection of short stories How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? that explores the necessity for Black stories in our future, not only in our past.
Jérémy’s Recommendation: Death of a King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka
Nothing shocks more than learning that someone close to you has committed suicide. It hurts beyond belief, leaves a thousand unanswered questions and even more moments impossible to spend side by side. So imagine a play about a community where suicide is not only celebrated but essential to the integrity of the community. In colonial Nigeria, a village is gearing up to have the King’s horseman commit suicide and accompany the King to heaven. The days leading up to the horsemen’s end are far from doom and gloom, rather, they are filled with elation, celebration and never-ending comforts. From the marketplace bustling with powerful women exchanging harsh words and hard bargains to the gorgeous homes lavishly displaying patterns and the pitter patter of busy feet; the entire play is engulfed in musicality and a strong sense of rhythm. The main conflict stems from the British colonizers as a small garrison on the outskirts wishes to end this “barbaric” practice. The play tackles the results of colonization but should absolutely not be lost in such a singular interpretation. The play branches out and roots itself into so many themes that to list them here would be an exhausting list of ideas that are best left to be discovered by y’all if ever the curiosity conjures you to pick up the play or sit at the theater and enjoy this incredible tale!
Constantinos’ Recommendation: Sam Selvon – The Lonely Londoners
Read this novel as part of my postcolonial literature studies and absolutely loved it. Through the eyes of his narrator Moses, Selvon provides us with a glimpse of the lives of migrant workers coming to London to find work from Jamaica and Trinidad in the 1950s, something that Louise Bennet-Coverley so aptly described as “Colonization In Reverse” in her 1966 poem bearing the same title. The migrants’ struggles to adapt in their new reality, the racism they faced and the sense of a migrant community are the main ingredients of this novel. Selvon’s characters (even someone as eccentric as Galahad) feel real, approachable and offer a different perspective than one is used to. The novel is not written in “proper English” which was somewhat unexpected, yet it does the trick as, besides offering a form of resistance to more conservative views on language, also makes it a lot more enjoyable to read – unless you are a grammar Nazi that is. The comedic, perhaps more light-hearted incidents that are described will put a smile on your face, yet they will also make you think.