Here’s a list of books to deal with 2020

Here’s a list of books to deal with 2020

Knowledge is power, and in times like these we can all use a bit of ammunition against hate and violence. I have found myself speechless in the light of recent events and realized we are never done learning. There are many interesting testimonials, essays and books to help understand what’s happening right now, but even fiction can help. In the latter category, here’s a list of telling tales to broaden the horizon: 

The Night Tiger by Yansze Choo


  • Status: Read. 
  • Mood: dream away. 

Lazy summer nights are looming and this read is perfect to get into the dreamy vibe. The lives of a local dancehall girl, an orphaned servant boy and an English doctor get weirdly entangled in this magical novel by Malaysian author Yangsze Choo. The story is set in her homeland in the 1930s and follows the bizar trail of local superstition, mysterious men-tigers, troublesome deaths, ghosts both good and bad, theft and first love against the backdrop of colonialism and folklore. It’s not written from a colonial point of view for once, the locals not merely dispatched to the role of staff. I loved it because this story had the weird power to suck you into the book and, once you’re in, it is very hard to get out. It speaks about the power of dreams and fate, and I happen to firmly believe in both.

Conjure Woman by Afia Atakora 


  • Status: To Be Read. 
  • Mood: historical drama. 

Conjure Women is set in the South before and after the Civil War. Spanning eras and generations, it tells of the lives of three women: Miss May Belle, a wise healing woman; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a midwife; and their masters’ daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women and their community come to a head at the beginning of a war and at the birth of a cursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear. A story about magic, superstition and above all, freedom. 

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu 


  • Status: To Be Read. 
  • Mood: satire. 

You know the issue with Asians being under- and misrepresented in Hollywood? That is exactly the case with aspiring actor Willis Wu, who earns a living by playing Generic Asian Man in countless movies. The shy extra dreams of becoming Kung Fu Guy -the most respected role someone like him could ever attain, but that is without counting his overly present mom, who predicts other, bigger things for him. A funny, playful satire on Western narratives. 

Lattitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup


  • Status: To Be Read. 
  • Mood: fantasy, ecology. 

I don’t really know what to expect of this one, but it sounds like a fantastical journey through India and an ode to nature. We follow a scientist who studies trees and a clairvoyant who speaks to them; a geologist working to end futile wars over a glacier; octogenarian lovers; a mother struggling to free her revolutionary son; a yeti who seeks human companionship; a turtle who transforms first into a boat and then a woman; and the ghost of an evaporated ocean as restless as the continents. You get the picture: not for you if you can’t take a bit of fantasy. 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


  • Status: Read.
  • Mood: love story. 

This was actually recommended by a colleague who laughed at my attempts to understand the crazy beautiful world of afro hair. She told me she herself had struggled with her seemingly untamable locks for years (she was adopted and her mother had no clue how to handle her natural hair) but this book and its hilarious scenes at the hairdresser’s helped her a lot.  

So much for la petite histoire, back to the story: It recalls the very different life paths of two teenage lovers, Ifemelu and Obinze, who grow up in Nigeria under military dictatorship. The former will go on to achieve success as a writer in America, blogging about the everyday challenges of a woman of color in the States, while the latter leads a comfortable life in their newly democratic homeland. Their paths will meet again at some point, leaving them with heartbreaking choices to make. ⁠

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese


  • Status: Read. 
  • Mood: life story. 

This story sheds some light on the often forgotten story of the stolen First Nations children in Canade, who were massively abducted and locked up in residential schools to beat their heritage out of them and be turned into good, obedient citizens. The main character, Saul Indian Horse, survives it all and grows up to become a star ice hockey player, yet he still endures racism ànd struggles with the trauma of his youth. Not a very happy story, but an important one.  

Vox by Christina Dalcher


  • Status: I’ve read 9 pages so far, so let’s consider it To Be Read. 
  • Mood: Dystopia.

What if women were only allowed 100 words a day? What if all basic rights were suddenly stripped away and there was a governmental plot to keep all girls uneducated and muzzled since childhood? It’s actually not such an impossible thought, as women and young girls are denied basic rights and education all over the world, but in this thriller it happens in a dystopic America. Within the space of a year, an extreme government has silenced half its population, but one woman is prepared to fight for the future of her daughter. 

The Parisian by Isabella Hamad


  • Status: To Be Read 
  • Mood: historical drama.

The Parisian is the much-acclaimed debut of young writer Isabelle Hamad (who already counts Zadie Smith amongst her fans). Starting in 1914, it follows the whereabouts of a Palestinian medical student in France: arriving in Montpellier, Midhat Kamal falls desperately in love with his host’s daughter Jeanette. The love story unfolds against the backdrop of the First World War, the end of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Palestinian nationalism.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett


  • Status: Read. 
  • Mood: satire. 

The Help is the at times heartbreaking, at times hilarious story of Afro-American housemaids in sixties Mississippi. While white housewives spend their days bridging and gossiping at social functions, “the help” is back home raising the children and keeping the entire household going, only to return to her miserable shag every evening with little less than a dollar in her pocket. The story is told through the eyes of three very different women: housemaids Aibileen Cark en Minny Jackson, and rich heiress Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan. This satirical read at times had me roaring with laughter over everybody just trying to trick everybody, only to have me cry like a baby minutes later over the injustice of it all. An emotional rollercoaster, but worth the ride. 

Ghana Must Go by Taije Selasi


  • Status: To Be Read. 
  • Mood: family. 

This is the book model Edie Campbell recommended a few years ago to our Backstage Book Club, she prized how poetically it was written. Story: The death of Kweku Sai, a renowned surgeon, in Ghana launches a series of events in his family’s life. His four children -Olu, Kehinde, Taiwo, and Sadie- have all immigrated and are called back home by their mother Fola. Together, they must deal with the passing of their father and confront the events that have divided them through the years.

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