A review of “The Death of Vivek Oji” by Akwaeke Emezi, a novel that examines gender identity and cultural norms. In some ways, it’s a murder mystery where you as the reader have limited information about who or what killed Vivek. As the story unfolds, you learn about Vivek and how the family and friends around him navigate him being different. And also the circumstances that lead to his death.
“It’s Not All Downhill From Here” by Terry McMillan is about a year in the life of Loretha, a woman in her 60s, and her circle of friends. Moving through life they experience diverse trials and tribulations, some of which revolves around them being at that particular stage in life. It immediately reminded me of “Waiting to Exhale” but while the women are also imperfect, they feel a bit more self-aware and somewhat settled in their lives. The friend group is also slightly larger and the story is set in Pasadena, California rather than Arizona.
“Jungle Fever” is a 1991 Spike Lee joint about a Black architect who has an affair with his White secretary. Flipper Purify (Wesley Snipes) and Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra) are respectively from Harlem and Bensonhurst. Set during the period following the murder of Yusef Hawkins, the film not only charts the course of their entanglement but also the reactions of their friends and family.
Published in 1970, “The Bluest Eye” was Toni Morrison’s debut novel and earned her a Nobel Prize. A deceptively short book that packs quite a punch, the story follows eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, a Black girl growing up in Lorain, Ohio shortly after the Great Depression. Growing up in a family plagued by generational dysfunction and a community plagued with self-hate, Pecola comes to believe that having blue eyes will make her beautiful in the eyes of others and solve all of her problems.
“Sugar” by Bernice McFadden is the story of a world-weary prostitute who moves to a small town in Arkansas and forms an unlikely and transformational friendship with her neighbor. Sugar Lacey arrives in Bigelow, Arkansas looking for, if not change, then a break from her life. Strutting into town sporting makeup, wigs, high heels, and vibrant big city clothing makes the local women uncomfortable with Sugar’s presence. But one woman, Pearl Taylor, makes it her duty to befriend Sugar when she moves into the house next door.