QUEENIE by Candice Carty-Williams was one of the most enjoyable books I read this year. I love books that center on Black Womanhood. I love books where I see myself in the characters. I love representation and that’s that. Were there things that annoyed me about Queenie? Sure, but I focused on the things that I loved and there were too many to count. The topics this book addressed were so spot on! The character development was brilliant. This is totally a book club read so you can unpack it with others. I wanted to do this book review justice so much that I considered reshooting it but decided my first take is my realest feelings innit (British voice). Anyway, by now I’m sure most of you read Queenie so let’s talk! And if you haven’t go get it!
Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad by Betty Deramus truly illustrates that love conquerors all. Even is a despicable system such as Slavery, black people were able to find hope in love, marriage, and freedom.
You can purchase this book recommendation here: https://kit.co/Lifestylebyky/books-by-ky
The book title “The Courage to be Disliked” intrigued me. I was curious if it would be a guide for how to stand in the truth that sometimes not everyone is not going to like you (people-pleasing is overrated yet so many of us struggle with it including myself) and while it did touch on that, it definitely was not what I expected. In this review, I explore some of the topics addressed in the book, which ties to the theories of Alfred Adler, including Trauma, Rejection, Comparison, and Freedom. It wasn’t my favorite book but it was a very interesting read.
You can purchase this book recommendation here: https://kit.co/Lifestylebyky/books-by-ky
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This is not only a book review but a testimony. Elaine Welteroth is someone who I admire. Her career trajectory was meteoric and aspirational. She flipped corporate cultures upside down and paved the way for many through her boldness and advocacy for diversity and inclusion. I had the pleasure of interviewing her for work during her book tour and it was one of the highlights of my career. Check out my review of her book More Than Enough.
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What is Books By Ky (Formerly By Ky Books)? Well, if you’ve been a follower of this blog, then you know I’ve been sharing some of my favorite books with you for years. Something that I’ve wanted to do since around 2016 is start a Book Youtube channel for book reviews and book recommendations. This year, I finally took the leap and launched Books By Ky @booksbyky.You can learn more about it by watching the below video. Don’t forget to check out my book reviews which I will be posting on this site as well. In the meantime, you can purchase all of my book recommendations here: https://kit.co/Lifestylebyky/books-by-ky. Click SUBSCRIBE to support and FOLLOW @Booksbyky on Instagram.
The word memoir used to sound like the most boring thing ever when I was younger. I stayed away from those types of stories. But within the last year, I’ve read more of them and it has grown into one of my favorite types of narratives. I think there’s something so inspirational about reading someone’s story (dead or alive) and learning how they navigated life. Life is full of ups and downs and we don’t have an instruction manual for it. Sometimes we all get confused about our place in it or if we will ever achieve our goals, but when you read how others navigated their lives and see that their situations were no different from yours it gives you a sense of hope and sometimes may even inspire you to take risks and go after dreams. I am one of those people who google the age of celebrities that I admire to compare where they were at my age. I know this is an odd thing to do, but I do it, to make sure I am on the right track. Most times I realize that I am, but there’s always that extraordinary person who’s killing it in their teens or twenties. For me, some of the key elements of really good memoirs are:
- Transparency: I love memoirs where the author is transparent about their life and their mistakes. No one wants to read a memoir that they can’t relate to.
- Started from the bottom: I love memoirs that take you on the journey of life starting from the beginning. Society and social media tend to show you what success looks like without showing what it took to get there. I like when authors take you on the journey from the bottom up and not just the “up”.
- Evolution or Growth: As humans, we are constantly evolving and growing. I love memoirs that show a person’s growth. If you are the same way at the beginning of the story that you were at the end, something is wrong. Life should always push you to be better, greater, stronger. We are constantly learning and evolving and I love memoirs that illustrate that.
Some of the memoirs that I read recently have all three of these characteristics:
A memoir that I am looking forward to reading this year is Foxy: My Life in Three Acts by Pam Grier. I absolutely love her and I know she has a powerful life story.
What are your favorite memoirs?
Religion. Suicide. Abortion. Sexual Abuse. Failed First Love. Grief. Depression.
The book The Mothers does not hold back on the issues it addresses. But although these topics seem heavy, the author Brit Bennett does such an excellent job with her writing and character building that you don’t feel weighed down by the story once it’s over. It feels real.
At the core of this story is an abortion that beautiful Nadia Turner, the main character feels like she must have. She doesn’t confide in anyone including her boyfriend, she’s just hell-bent on getting one. This book tackles the choice women make when they either have an abortion and pursue the rest of their lives and their dreams or become a mother. The idea is that both choices come with costs and for Nadia, having a child would mean halting her dreams of going to college and becoming successful to stay at home, where being home meant dealing with grief and depression that her heart could no longer take.
I would identify this as a coming of age story that is representative of reality; not those coming of age stories where characters jump in lakes and try to soak in the last real summer before adulthood. This story hits home for several reasons and really illustrates the reality of young adulthood for some people. It tackles real-life issues while intertwining religion and often time the hypocrisy of it. I don’t want to give too much away, but I liked this book, I didn’t like the ending that much but I enjoyed reading it overall and loved how the author developed such powerful relationships that may or may not withstand the test of time.
If you’re into podcasts, For Colored Nerds on iTunes has an amazing interview with the author Britt Bennet who gives further perspective into the narrative of this story.
Americanah is the best book I have ever read. After 27-years of life and reading, I finally have a favorite book. I’ve been searching for it all my life and finally, it’s here! The book follows the lives of Ifemelu and Obinzie, two lovers who first meet in a secondary school in Lagos, Nigeria. The couple eventually separates. Ifemelu moves to America to go to school, while Obinze moves to London in search of work. They are smart, charismatic, and hopeful in Nigeria, but their new lives as immigrants in these sensationalized countries prove to be hard.
This book illustrates the power of first love. It’s a love story at its core, but a culturally important book that explores race, immigration, navigating adulthood, education, relationships, culture, culture clashing, assimilation, and so much. Like I said, this is the best book I’ve ever read in my life. Check out the below concept trailer for the movie:
Jacqueline Woodson wrote a beautiful coming of age story, set in Brooklyn in the 70s which felt familiar to me. Her main character August is telling this story of her childhood as an adult. She’s a successful archeologist but has to come back to Brooklyn because of her father’s death. Seeing an old best friend triggers memories of the borough that made her who she is. The story is charming but very short. It deals with themes that include grief, friendship, poverty, religion and so much more. If you’re interested in a short read that feels like soul food, this would be it.
Super late with this, but still wanted to share. In 2016 I challenged myself to read two books a month or 24-books. In turn, I only read 20, not reaching my goal, but I still set a new standard in my book intake (In 2015, it was only 14 books). I read books about race, self-help, finance, and spirituality. I read books that built me up, motivated me to change my life, and taught me about my history. I learned things about Malcolm X that I never knew and Assata Shakur became my hero. I learned how important purpose and destiny was and to avoid complacency all together. My life reached new heights as a result. Each book on this list was great, some better than others but none not leaving a permanent mark on my mind and my heart. Let me know your thoughts and let me know if you’re interested in reading what’s on my list (click the picture of the book to be linked directly to Amazon):
God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
I wanted this book to be better. Maybe it’s because I am used to unparalleled depth and history in Toni Morrison books and this was one of the first books she’s written set in modern-day. It tells the story of Bride, who has blue-black skin, born to a light-skin mother and her struggles with becoming successful and finding what she thinks is love in spite of her insecurities. I read a similar book, The Blacker the Berry by Wallace Thurman a few years back and that one was similar but had a bit more depth than this.
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
Funny. Relatable. So Issa. This book is a series of essays that navigate Issa’s upbringing in California. Daughter of a Senegalese father and American mother, Issa tells stories of her summer adventures in Senegal, her first relationships and the days of AOL AIM, where she (we) chatted with friends before Iphones and Group text messages were even a thought. Honest, comedic, and so darn good, Issa tackles race, the early beginnings of Awkward Black Girl, and what it really means to be “different” as a black woman. One of my favorites by far.
The Education of Kevin Powell by Kevin Powell
I went to a Kevin Powell event at the Brooklyn Historical Society and it was almost obligatory to buy his book. I am happy I did too. It was one of the first memoirs that I read from the perspective of a man which was interesting, to say the least. Kevin Powell is a man that was raised by an unattached single black mother, who had been let down by the system and the men in her life and in turn, took her resentment out for the world on her son. Kevin Powell is a man who would grow up to become a writer, an activist and apart of the first season of the groundbreaking reality show “The Real World.” But Kevin Powell is a man who was troubled and lacked the guidance of a positive male figure who would’ve been able to show him right from wrong when it came down to his treatment of women, especially his girlfriends.
If you like good memoirs, I recommend this one.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
Malcolm X autobiography is required reading. If you read it as a kid, I believe you should read it again as an adult. I loved everything about this book. I write a full review here, that you can check out. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and one of my favorite memoirs…ever!
Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur
A close second to The Autobiography of Malcolm X is Assata Shakur’s autobiography. Try as I may, I wanted to write a review about this book but for me it defied description and I knew my review would do it no justice. I was left feeling angry, empowered, and moved after reading this book. Angry because of the injustices that went behind getting Assata convicted. The right to a fair trial was not given to her. They treated her like an animal left to die in jail, the abuse was inhumane and I was disgusted. Empowered, because of the ownership and agency, she took over her life and over the situation she was in. She eventually escaped her prison hell and received asylum in Cuba. Moved, because her story matters. Our stories matter. We can’t let others manipulate and tell our stories, we ultimately have to write our own and I am impacted to this day by her power and her spirit.
You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
I read this book during a very vulnerable time in my life. It was the perfect pick. I do a full review of this book here.
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Hmmm. Good book, but not great. I like the concept of the book, especially for what saying yes did for Shonda. Basically, what she’s trying to get across is that we have to say yes to living. Say yes to opportunities. At times she came off a little bit haughty and other times pretty humble. I will be the first to say I am proud of Shonda Rhimes and all that she’s accomplished. I loved learning about her journey and listening to her words of encouragement. I guess I was looking forward to a book about Shonda’s trajectory, how she got to where she was, and not how she overcame her insecurities and social anxieties once success came. It just seemed like more of a second book, as opposed to her first. Nevertheless, one of the most poignant moments in the book for me was that in the midst of saying Yes to everything, she said No to marriage; an engagement proposed by her then-boyfriend. Ultimately, Shonda said yes to herself, her children, and her own happiness not the happiness defined by society.
What I Know For Sure by Oprah
This book is better via Audio than reading…just saying! Oprah has the perfect audiobook voice. This book navigates a series of things that Oprah knows for sure. It takes you on a journey through her life including epic recaps of birthdays and first jobs, relationships and career ups and downs. What I loved about this book was Oprah’s ability to be transparent about her mistakes and triumphs. If you’re not already in love with Oprah, this book will make you fall hard.
Between the World and Me by Ta’neshi Coates
Required Reading in present times, also keep a highlighter handy. I wanted to write a full review of this book, and I still might. Coates explores race in America in an explicit way so his son, whom this book was written for, is not disillusioned by his place and position in this world as a black boy-soon-to-be-man. Ta-Nehisi explores “the dream” and the different connotations it takes on for someone who is white vs. someone who is black. He navigates gentrification, and the freedom whites have to walk through our streets without fear, while we constantly live in fear for our lives. He talks about black bodies and how devalued they are in America. Most importantly, he addresses violence at the hands of police, as he consoles a friend’s mother who has lost her son at the hands of a senseless police officer. He didn’t deserve to die but he did. And so, with so much more to say but at the risk of giving too much away, I would recommend this book to any and everyone.
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
Redefining Realness was eye-opening. Janet Mock is fabulous. She has brown skin, big spiral golden brown curls, and an amazing body. Upon looking at her you would never think she was born male. This book takes you on a journey through her troubled childhood in Hawaii, born to a mother who put her boyfriends before her children and a drug-addicted father. Janet explores the perils of sexual abuse, human trafficking and the plight of her transgender identity which ultimately shapes the successful woman she is today. I loved what this book did to me. It opened my mind to the struggles of the LGBTQ community and how hard it is to be true to yourself when society is telling you how you feel is wrong. There’s still so much for me to learn, but I am proud that I tackled this book and have more of an understanding of this community that has been silenced and ostracized for so long.
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki’s
Rich Dad Poor Dad was a good book. It taught me that you should never judge a book by its cover as the first couple of pages unveils who Robert’s rich dad was and who his poor dad was and it’s definitely not who you would have expected. Money consciousness and financial awareness are very important if you want to secure your financial future. I learned many important lessons. One of them being that you must pay yourself first. Bills will always be there, but if you don’t pay yourself out of your own paycheck, you’ll be in a cycle that benefits your bill collectors but does not benefit you. I also learned the importance of entrepreneurship, owning something. Being the boss, not working for one all your life. Finally, I learned how dangerous complacency is. I was moved by this book, and would like to read more books about financial awareness in the future.
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I expected a bit more from this book than I received. After all, it was one of Oprah’s favorites. What separates this novel from others of its kind is that the author Colson Whitehead, actually makes the Underground Railroad, a railroad. Another unique characteristic of this book is that the main character is a black woman named Cora. This book tackles mental health, the horrors of slavery, the medical experiments performed on blacks both dead and alive, and the hopelessness of many blacks whenever they thought the system was on their side (and it wasn’t). I was empowered by the main character Cora but slightly disappointed in the ending.
You Can and You Will by Joel Osteen
One of the most transformative books for my mind. I read You Can and You Will, while I was interviewing for a new job. When you’re in such a vulnerable position, you immediately want to be hard on your self. You want to tell yourself, you will never make it and that you will mess up during the interview. You say a bunch of things to yourself so you won’t be disappointed when the rejection email comes through. However, Joel wouldn’t allow me to do that. This book encouraged me. It helped me to realize that I have to think positive and change my outlook on life. Good things will happen to me. In fact, he encourages you to say that every morning “Today something great will happen to me” and it’s that type of upbeat positivity that has changed my life. I don’t have to be miserable like everyone else. I don’t have to think negatively. I want amazing things to happen in my life and because I believe it will…it will. I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of this book. It will change you for the better.
Destiny by T.D Jakes
Destiny by T.D Jakes was good but not earth-shattering great. I think listening to his sermons every Sunday was more transformative for my 2016. One thing this book made me realize is how your ego could get in the way of destiny. When we’ve been hurt by someone, we can’t forgive them because our ego won’t allow it, but we have to. I was also amazed when a powerhouse like Corretta Scott King revealed that her destiny was being the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It made me realize that sometimes our destines have nothing to do with us, but how we can impact and help others. I really enjoyed the stories in this book and the different way it made me look at destiny. Not all of us will be huge superstars and that’s ok. Getting to your destiny is a process but we have to remain faithful through it.
Colliding with Destiny by Sarah Jakes
Colliding with Destiny dissects the bible story of Ruth, which some believe is about love, but Sarah Jakes characterizes it as a story about destiny and Purpose. She takes the book of Ruth and intertwines it with her own personal stories. It was important for me to read this book because I am constantly on the search for purpose and what this book showed me was that having integrity, humbling your self in rough times, keeping faith, and always looking to God will eventually allow God to do a work in you, leading you to his plan for your life. In Ruth’s case it was her Boaz, a man that was equally upright and equally yoked with Ruth. At the heart of the story is a beautiful love that was ignited as a result of loss and pain, but God abundantly restored everything that the devil tried to take from Ruth.
Negroland by Margo Jefferson
Eh! It wasn’t the best memoir I read this year, but it served its purpose in teaching me about the life of elite blacks or as they refer to themselves the third race. Margot Jefferson has been raised privileged all her life during the 1950s but learns that money and class do not erase your blackness in the eyes of whites during the civil rights era. She takes us on a journey through her childhood, sharing experiences about her awkward but funny habits and we follow her into adulthood as she becomes more conscious of race and advocates against the injustices of her people. I learned a little more about the origins of Jack and Jill and organizations like it so the upper-class blacks could network with one another. I still wasn’t moved by it. Maybe it was a bit pretentious for me. Maybe it was because I couldn’t relate.