10 books selected by Christina Fonthes
Reflections of me: 10 books that feature positive representations of Black, African, women & LGBTQ characters. These books give me affirmation in world where I am told that I should not exist.
Roll of Thunder, Hear – My Cry by Mildred by D. Taylor
Cassie Logan was the first time I saw a black pre-teen girl in a book. When I think back now, I wonder how I wasn’t fazed or traumatised by the horrors and brutality of Mississippi racism described in Mildred D Taylors’ Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry series; even the title is heavy. I loved Cassie. I wanted her to win at all costs, because her plaits and her brown skin looked just like mine.
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
After Cassie, came Akunna, and the other ordinary black characters in Chimamanda’s short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. For the first time, I saw Africa and Africans in books, and not in the use-Africa-as-a-backdrop-for-your-otherwise-mundane-read-boring-story that I had become used to reading. I am not Igbo, I am not even West African, but in these stories I found a language that felt like home.
Efuru – Flora Nwapa
Flora Nwapa and Alice Walker showed me Black Women who were not afraid to speak; Black Women who were not afraid of what their men would say. Nwapa showed me what strength looked like.
Possessing The Secret of Joy by Alice Walker
Walker taught me Womanism and Sisterhood.
Jazz – Toni Morrison
Morrison taught me how to fashion; how to use and control words. The narrator and the characters in Jazz made no sense, yet, they made perfect sense. All were flawed and suspect, yet I loved them all. Morrison made me fall in love with a woman who stabbed a dead girl in the face. Toni Morrison is the Nina Simone of literature; she breaks the rules, and she breaks them well.
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
Long before Lemonade, Warsan Shire’s poetry was affirmation, after affirmation. In teaching her mother how to give birth, she taught me how to give birth to poetry.
Butterflyfish by Irenosen Okojie
Irensosen Okojie is, for me, the new Mother and Father of magical realism. Continuing in the legacy of the greats, Borges and Okrie, her stories are fresh, punchy, and damn right dazzling. She will take you there, and you won’t want to leave.
No Place to Call Home by JJ Bola
No Place to Call Home was where I found myself as a Congolese person. Bola’s refreshing portrayals of Congolese families in Kinshasa and the diaspora continues to melt my heart.
Sista!: An anthology of writings by Same Gender Loving Women of African/Caribbean descent with a UK connection
Sista is life. It is where all of my worlds meet: Kinshasa-born, London-living, lover of letters, and lover of women. In Sista, I found myself truly and wholly.
Christina Fonthes is a Congolese-British writer. Her work, laden with themes of womanhood, sexuality, and mental health has featured in several publications around the world. Christina is Founder of REWRITE, an organisation for black women and women of colour writers. Follow @congomuse