Bookstagrammers You Should Be Following For Diverse Book RECs

Bookstagrammers are a community of book lovers on Instagram. A lot of people ask where I find book recommendations, while I usually check GoodReads, publishing websites and magazines, bookstagram is the quickest way to get straight to the books. Also, it’s very soothing to look at books when you can’t get to the bookstore.

While #Bookstagram is a popular hashtag on Instagram, it can become very hard to find diverse books using that hashtag alone. Also, when you keep following the same people with their 20,000 followers, you’d be bombarded with the same books which do nothing for a rich reading experience. The great thing about Instagram is that you can always find your tribe if you look hard enough.

And so, I bring you a new instalment of my favourite Bookstagrammers for diverse books that you should really be following.


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Advanced readers copy was sent to me by @aaknopf / @doubledaybooks in exchange for a review. Here are my thoughts . . The Nickel Boys is a historical fiction novel about a real life “reformative school” for boys, both white and black, where young offenders of the law receive physical, intellectual and moral training. Behind the facade is a system of abuse that was allowed to continue for decades – as Whitehead painfully writes, ‘the sons held the old way close’. Under segregation in the deep south the black students got it way worse. They were subjected to brutal beatings, sexual abuse, solitary confinement and unimaginable torture which led many to their deaths. Whitehead infused his story with quotes from the actual school survivors which made it all the more chilling . . One could fault Whitehead’s prose for being a tad distant but I thought it fitting for the grim topic at hand. I also felt the detached writing forces the reader to take up that vacant space and reflect on the depths of man’s cruelty, as well as fill it with indignation and empathy for the “brotherhood of broken boys.” What I loved the most about this book, unexpected revelations and unforgettable climax aside (which added many more layers to the story!), was how despite being battered and broken, despite all the trauma, both main characters took agency and refused to let the stories of the school disappear in the past. A powerful take on how hope, perseverance and determination can transcend misery, injustice and fate . . In a heart-wrenching scene, the main character wanted to open up to his visiting grandmother about the horrors he experienced but he was too ashamed and humiliated to say anything, and perhaps all too familiar at that young age, of its futility. In this powerful novel Colson Whitehead took it up to himself to tell the world, “look at what the Arthur B Dozier School did to our young black boys.” The Nickel Boys is both a tribute to the boys and a charge at the world that failed them . . #KenyanBibliophile #TheNickelBoys #ColsonWhitehead #IGreads #Bookstagram #HistoricalFiction

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// of gods and men // • – Happy New Week🎉🎉 I picked up The Half-God of Rainfall by Inua Ellams after finishing The Women’s Courtyard (review to come 😁) and I didn’t immediately recognize the feminist similarity. I’m always skeptical when a male author writes female characters especially on topics as sensitive as violation but Ellams did way better than I expected • – The Half-God of Rainfall is a poetry-like, play-like novella that tells the tale of Demi, a half-mortal, half-god, half-Nigerian, half-Greek boy, with incredible basketball skills. Although he was initially banned from the sport, Demi catches the eyes of the deities when he took a shot on the basketball court. • – In his songlike description of how men (and gods) fight wars that turn women into casualties, Ellams makes this short book an ode to women who have suffered (still suffer) because of men’s ego. He wrote the story in a way that gave women (who conceive through rape) the choice to grief, hate and come to love its fruits. It’s a choice lots of women don’t get to have what’s with social pressure, stigma and even ridiculous laws like abortion bans 🙄. • – Although the book gets points for providing this choice, its biggest plus, for me, lies in its portrayal of the strength with which women rise up after every patriarchy- induced fall, as well as the sisterhood that aid that rise. I applaud Ellams for conjuring up s story that brings several deity worlds together; the Nigerian òrìshàs, Greek Gods and the Egyptian, Hindu, Norse, Chinese gods. He managed to fit all those and love for basketball ball, immigration and racial issues into just 84 pages! Can I get a whoop?!🎉💃🏾 • – It’s not to say the book is without any flaw. For one, it became a little hard trying to separate the dialogues from the narration itself but asides that, it was an enjoyable read. A strong 4 star read, i received a signed copy from @4thestatebooks (THANK YOU!) and I recommend it if you want a short, poetic novella to unwind.

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It's 12th of May. I have just finished Patsy. I have also scattered the jenga of lies told to build and shape my reality since childhood, and amidst the rubble, I might have stumbled on a secret my entire family's been hiding until now: my mother was deported from the USA. 🗽 Patsy documents the lives of undocumented immigrants. This book knocks hard questions into my entire existence, but before I dare answers to these, I am tasked with drilling through the depths of personalities this woman has buried herself under, siphoning the madness she's gassed herself with after her failure to pursue her American dream. I have to toss off these sheets, find my mother underneath and wish her a mother's day.🗽 You'll love Patsy right from its first page. I imagine my mother standing in line behind Patsy, waiting for her turn at the embassy, thinking, maybe suffering from the guilt of leaving a child behind to seek greener futures. Jamaica is so much like Ghana, that even though Dennis-Benn's writing (she's grown so much after her debut!), characters and patois airlifted me to this island, I felt like I was in so familiar a place I could call home. 🗽 The perspectives shift between Jamaica and America in this one. I will find Tru's story too familiar, struggling with the loss of a mother, angry, abandoned and dealing with the confusion of harnessing genders at such a young age. I will also be transported to the streets of America that swallows up immigrants, denies them quality health-care, yet expects them to stay sane amidst the chaos; run from Flatbush after cleaning jobs in establishments owned by their countrymen, in Times Square bump into tourists purchasing souvenirs of the statue of 🗽which in the past may have offered some hope but now looks bent weighted by all its unfulfilled promises, then materialise on the Upper East Side with babies foisted on them. 🗽 I walk to my mother's room and rouse her awake, Julie, I say, she looks disoriented a bit, then with clarity, call me Thomas, she says. Happy Mother's Day. I am not your mother, my kids are white. America swallowed my mum in a dream, then spat her out.

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About last night…. 💫💫 I am truly thankful to @niiayikweiparkes for extending an opportunity to me to chair a conversation between the brilliant @joanneramosthefarm, author of The Farm & @season_butler, author of Cygnet at @brightonfestival 😍❤️🙌🏾 💫💫 Cygnet by @season_butler is a discomfiting, yet, pleasant read that offers a philosophical take in the topic of ageing, dis-belonging, climate change and the concept of death. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey that #SeasonButler takes the reader on in getting you to querying our use of technology, conceptualisation of the past, dis-remembering, and the treatment of isolation. In my opinion, it is a book that will leave you pondering on the importance of relationships long after reading. 💫💫 #TheFarm by JoanneRamos is an expository over on the surrogacy and the outsourcing of child-rearing. The Farm intelligently centres around the different actors that uphold the commodification of childbirth. I really enjoyed the expansive, intuitive, and sensitivity with which Ramos humanises the characters and the variables that inform power dynamics & their decision making. 💫💫 I really do think both novels brilliantly compliment each other. They each capture the reader’s interest right form the first page, they have excellent character development – I found myself caring for characters I initially detested, and they both leave the reader with a different perspective on a otherwise familiar topic. 💫💫 TBH: It is absolutely satisfying to read two dystopia novels that centres complex women without judgmental apology. 💫💫 A thoroughly recommended read. 💫💫 The Farm is published by @panmacmillan & Cygnet is published by @dialoguebooks 💫💫 Have you read either of these novels? What was the last book you read the surprised you? 💫💫 #BooksAndRhymes #Podcast #Podcasts #Bookish #BookReview #Dystopia #Dystopian #Bookstagram #BookishPodcast #ReadersOfIG #BooksOfIg #BookNerds #Bookstagrammer #ReadSoulLit #WellReadBlackGirl #GoodBlackReads #Bibliophile #DiasporaLit #Literature #unreadshelfproject2019

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‘Queenie’ Book Review: At the risk of sounding off, I don’t know why quite a few reviews seem to describe this book as a ‘quick’ and ‘light’ read? This book tells the story of Queenie, a black woman living in London, trying to navigate life (which in and of itself is already hard enough). Queenie, however, also has to navigate gendered racism, cultural differences between her and her white boyfriend (and his racist family members), the lack of access to mental & sexual health care, being a black and female professional, gentrification, etc. That, to me, doesn’t really sound like a light read, does it? Also, why do people like to call this book the black ‘Bridget Jones’? Maybe Queenie shares some superficial similarities with Bridget in terms of choosing annoying and sub-par men, but honestly, that’s as far as it goes. 😒 I find these kinds of comparisons lazy and presumptuous (and demeaning to black authors). There is so much more to this book than a neurotic and chaotic protagonist. Queenie has real issues and society seems to fail to come to her aid in time. The book analyses the impact of gentrification, the pervasive and insidious nature of racism in Britain, and the objectification and fetishisation of black women. I guess that even the assumption that this is a light and funny read speaks to the fact that Queenie, a regular young black woman, is not taken as seriously as she should be, which is ironic since that’s kind of the point of the book. Even though the book has generated some positive buzz and black women like @reads.and.reveries @sofia_akel and @jeanellnicolereads have done this book justice with their reviews, I hope people will not just continue to see it as an entertaining quick read, but as an important part of black, female, and British social commentary- one that has been far too neglected and unheard until now, at least in my opinion.

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BOOK REVIEW – Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih. 4 Stars. . I need to re-read this book. Slower, more intentionally. I want to pause and reflect on all the metaphorical meanings and symbolism. . The book begins with the narrator having returned home to Sudan after 7 years of study at Oxford. He is nostalgic, educated and optimistic about newly independent Sudan. At his homecoming, he notices a strange face in the crowd that piques his curiosity. This strange face belongs to Mustafa Sa’eed – an enigmatic, equally well educated but arrogant Oxford returnee. Through their interactions, Sa’eed opens up about his trysts in England and the events leading up to his imprisonment and eventual return to the narrator’s small village. . Sex is at the centre of this narrative, both in the literal and metaphorical sense. Sa’eed and the Narrator could also very well be representation of post-colonial African countries and how they chose to engage with their former colonial powers. Sa’eed the arrogant country that is intent on revenge and ‘using’ the West as his country had been, as seen through his defiant acts and the eventual murder of his wife. And the narrator, the complacent country torn in between her traditional values and western influence – aspiring to progress but not really knowing how to do it and not willing to make choices. . At a time when most post-colonial literature had an outward-in focus, I am quite impressed that Saleh opted to use an introspective angle. The book asks subliminal but important questions; How do we as newly independent nations choose to engage with the colonial masters? Is it possible to establish relations with them? And do we approach these relations from an arrogant, entitled perspective that would ultimately lead to our self-destruction, or a more subdued approach? . The beginning and the end of the book are powerful. In the end, the narrator himself had to make a choice. As African countries, we had to make tough choices post-Independence- on whether we were to become combative or collaborative in ways that would benefit us. Complacency was not an option. . #africanliterature #review #books #tayebsalih #bookstagram #sudan

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"When somebody speaks in the name of God I feel he means the opposite" – Zeina. . I have finally read my first Nawal al Saadawi. Zeina! Many thanks to Elizabeth (@saqibooks) for providing me with the three copies of Nawal Al Saadawi's books. . Zeina is a book hard to review for me because I don't want to reduce it to smashing the patriarchy so it's gonna be long! . If you know a little bit of Arabic, then you'll realize all throughout the story that the name Zeina carries a heavy meaning. Zeina means beautiful, and in a society where children are represented by they fathers' names, Zeina proudly writes "Zeina bint Zeinat" (Zeina daughter of Zeinat) on the black board – Zeinat being the old woman who raised her as she is an orphan, "a child of the street". . The story isn't about Zeina per se, it's about all the characters who are jealous, envious of Zeina. Zeina, a daughter of the street, doesn't live a life of luxury, she is poor, can't afford higher education. But she has 3 things everybody wants: she has freedom, love and a talent for music. Although poor, Zeina was raised with love she received love so she was able to give love in return. Because she grew poor, a daughter of "nobody really respectful" she didn't have rules to conform to, she was free from societies' rules which made her an honest person. She wasn't afraid of speaking her mind. And lastly Zeina had talent for music and she was beautiful. For all of these reasons everybody loved her. . In the other side, we have all the characters who hate her (& love her) because they don't have that freedom. They are usually wealthy people, famous with a reputation to maintain. That's when trouble comes. Nawal strongly depicts the dichotomy of these characters: their inner struggle between their desire & maintaining their reputation. Nobody is spared. Men and women. (Continued in comments👇🏼👇🏼) . . . #nawalalsaadawi #zeina #epyptianliterature #bannedbooks #bookreview #bookstagram #bookaddict #bibliophile #bookish #arabliterature #arablit #saqibooks

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My presence around here has been irregular and infrequent but read I did which is a surprise to me given the busy and stressful month I’ve had. I mainly finished books I had started the previous months – all the generously-sized books in the photo are part of that category – and gravitated towards short but mostly wonderful works. Essays, short stories, novels – something to soothe every craving. The only true disappointment was the little Kathy Acker book – « New York City in 1979 ». I plan to read Olivia Laing’s « Crudo » and given its heavy connection to Acker’s work and life, I thought it worthwhile to get a taste of her writing before embarking on that journey. It was probably not the most inspired choice to begin with even though the subject appealed to me. It’s presented as being a highly-charged depiction of New York’s 70s underground scene, permeated by radical political and social commentary and an unfiltered, evocative look on a specific moment in time in an iconic setting. Art, sex and broken dreams. While I found the latter two, art was conspicuously absent. Without going into too many details, I found it empty, atrociously written, incoherent, shocking perhaps, but in a terribilistic «look-mom-l’m-vulgar-manner » that is rather irrelevant in 2019. Most of the other books were worthwhile and beyond worthwhile though. Have you read any work by Kathy Acker? Would you recommend one in particular? . . . . . . . #maywrapup #bookspines #booksbooksbooks #classicbooks #modernfiction #mynonfiction #booksandcoffee #bookgrammer #whativeread #essays #bookishphoto #bookflatlay #booksaremagic #allthebooks #penguinmodernclassics #kathyacker #femaleauthors #culturetripbooks #bookpile #mayreads

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🇳🇬🇳🇬🇳🇬🇳🇬 (4 flags/stars) Good people, this is one devilishly delightful read! I cannot emphasize enough how much I really enjoyed it!! The whole story is in its title – the narrator's sister (Ayoola) keeps killing her boyfriends and as any responsible older sibling would, our narrator (Korede) is constantly cleaning up her mess. That is until Ayoola catches the eye of a man Korede has feelings for. Should she stand by and watch yet another man die? The beauty about this book is that it doesnt pretend to be something it is not. Whilst the story does touch on some heavy topics, it does so without losing its unique voice or pacing. One never gets the sense that Ms. Braithwaite is forcing issues in her narration. The best part of the book is its humour. It is wickedly funny – sometimes in a laugh out loud way, sometimes a chuckle, sometimes a snigger – at the very least it will put a smile on your face. Having read it, I see why some reviewers said they didn't particularly care for which men lived or died. I think this is the third book I have read (after both books by Chinelo Okparanta) where not a single man fairs well!! I have a budding theory around this but I don't have the language with which to express it yet. Non-the-less, it did not detract from my enjoyment!! . This has allowed me to completely escape and push aside thoughts of what is going to be a hectic work week so I am a little sad to lose the distraction. I will say, if you are looking for a light quick humorous read, do yourself a favour and pick this up! #mysistertheserialkiller #oyinkanbraithwaite #africanliterature #nigerianliterature #readwomen #readblackwomen #literaryfiction #bookstagram #bookstagramafrica #pocreaders #kenyanreader #bookworm #bookreview #bookrecommendation #bookstagrammer #igreads #bookblogger #blackmenread #bibliophile

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Review: One of the most thought-provoking recent reads. Freshwater explores the mind of a young woman with the infusion of myth, folklore(African), trauma, psychology and social conditioning. This person (woman for most part) deals with her fractured mind and self, with the belief that she is born with god(s) in her. The pathway to “the other side” is believed to be open for her which results in her belonging neither to this world nor that. – We follow the life of Ada (also referred to as “the Ada” on multiple occasions), who is plagued with gods/spirits since childhood, with the connection to “the other side” open. We see her go through her childhood battling these very concerns, to her move to America for college. Here, after a traumatic sexual experience, her mind fractures with the birth of another personality, which protects her, takes on anything negative, and wants to shield Ada from harm. She later on develops another personality and Ada recedes into the shadows of her mind. – This book was extraordinary. It was immensely layered, and beneath every layer, there was just so much to unpack. With an unconventional narrative structure, we see the repercussions of a troubled childhood, dive deep into Ada’s trauma and see its manifestations. This book focusses on many important themes with heavy focus on the state of Ada’s mind, also with the infusion of spirituality. It is one of the most creative books that I’ve read recently. The author uses literary agents, her imagination, her narrative structure and her story telling capability to bring us this intense and emotionally charged read. – This book was not a light read and not very fast paced. It was through provoking and highly emotional. There was a lot to take away from this. Therefore, I would suggest picking this up at a time it will work for you, if you are planning on reading this. Based on its literary merits, I’d rate it around 4.25/5 🌟 – Highly recommended it! (Depending on your reception of such themes and content) 😊

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One last account you need to follow is The African Review. It’s the best place to get the tea from readers of African descent.

Did you learn about someone new to follow? If your favourite book blogger/influencer or bookstagrammers aren’t on my list, please give them a shout out in the comments. I’m always looking for new accounts to follow.

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