Monday, 5 October 2015

beige books update

For Black History Month I'll be updating my BEIGE BOOKS page a little more frequently to share the wonderful books I've read that feature protagonists of colour. There are (and always have been) some amazing writers of colour but their work is not always easy to find. 

I have loved teaching novels with a range of characters in a plethora of nations dealing with a mulititude of predicaments. Whilst I believe it's incredibly important for writers to share experiences and issues through characters of colour, it's also imperative that youngsters read about different peoples in everyday situations too. This is why I love Malorie Blackman (more about her another time) because her lead characters (in the books that I have read) are usually black and that's just it. They fight wars, have arguments with their parents, fall out with friends, need organ transplants, use computers - you know just everyday stuff. 

This week I'm featuring BUFFALO SOLDIER by Tanya Landman which I finished reading last week. I guarantee you won't be able to put this book down.

This novel had me gripped from beginning to end. I have a penchant for browsing the YA sections in bookstores and I'm glad I found this because I discovered the strongest, inspirational female character I have read in a long time.  Set in America at the end (?) of slavery, slave girl Charlotte finds herself living a new life she could not have predicted and certainly would not have wished for. Forced to make life-saving decisions at every turn Charlotte - now Charley - faces the horrors and evil left in the wake of a civil war but is strengthened by the loyalty and love of other freed slaves and Native American Indians striving to survive day to day. As mentioned this is a story for older readers and as the story develops the language and situations are often gruesome to create realism. As Charley wises up to her predicaments the reader feels her ageing so expects the tone of the novel to change. In light of recent tales about characters of colour being erased from book covers I was especially heartened to see the protagonist honestly represented on the front but felt that the blurb did this story a dis-service. Although she does not start off as a child in this novel I would consider it a bildungsroman novel as she is removed from the relative safety of a plantation to the unknown plans of a fractured North America (not yet United). Hidden amongst the depiction of Charley's army life is a question that I was totally unprepared for. This is one of those books that I want everyone I know to read so we can talk about it and will certainly be one to keep for my girls when they're a bit older. Browsing in an independent bookstore in Rye, East Sussex I was captured by the title but on reading the blurb realised it had nothing to do with Bob Marley but was also intrigued by the cover.

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