Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans
Published by Berkley, 2021
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
In this collection of poems, Mans explores her identity and experiences at the intersection of race, gender and sexuality.
Often narrative driven, her approachable, punchy style reflects her performance background, as she muses on the highs and lows of living as a young, Black, queer woman. Quite a few pieces are written as though open letters to various celebrities, which isn’t a framing device I’m particularly fond of, but I enjoyed the unflinching immediacy of Mans’ voice.
Infidel by Pornsak Pichetshote, art by Aaron Campbell
Published by Image, 2018
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
A highly contemporary twist on the haunted house archetype, this graphic novel is set in an apartment building that was once the site of an improvised terrorist bombing. The story looks at racism, Islamophobia, faith, and responses to extremism. It does so by essentially personifying hatred and xenophobia into the ghosts of those who died in the attack, and who now stalk the building’s current residents in search of revenge.
It was incredibly refreshing to see important social and political issues woven into a horror story without feeling too heavy-handed (though it did come close a few times). I also appreciated that the two leads each offered a different, modern perspective on life as a woman of colour raised within the Islamic faith – the positives and negatives alike.
The artwork is also strong, presenting us with some striking tableaus and finding a balance between realism and frantic energy that really complements the story. That said, a few scene cuts didn’t quite work, jolting me out of the story somewhat, and I wasn’t wholly satisfied by the way things wrapped up. Enough was left open to revisit this world, and if a sequel ever emerges, I certainly enjoyed enough about this to check it out.
Running Upon the Wires by Kae Tempest
Published by Picador, 2018
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I’ve read several of Tempest’s other offerings – both poetry and nonfiction – and I wanted to continue making my way through their back catalogue. Though I still enjoyed the bold poetic voice on offer here, this was easily my least favourite of their books so far. The pieces chronicle Tempest’s emotions as they come to the end of one relationship and tentatively begin another.
There are certainly still some great lines throughout, but thematically and linguistically it’s much more stripped back, and, for want of a better word, basic; indulging in much of the angst and melodrama one tends to associate with poems centred on love. If that’s your thing, you’ll enjoy this more than me (I did like reading about unashamedly queer love though, I must say), but I missed Tempest’s sharp observations on society, which is where their voice really comes into its own, I think.
I agree with you 100% that Running Upon the Wires isn’t Tempest’s strongest collection. I enjoyed the same things that you did – reading about queer love and her usual deft turns of phrase – but I didn’t find the collection nearly as impressive as Hold Your Own, which is one of my all-time favorite poetry collections. This has reminded me that I really must read their novel at some point.
Infidel sounds fascinating. It definitely sounds like it’s worth checking out, even if it isn’t a perfect read. Great reviews!
Thank you! Same here, I’ve loved Tempest’s poetry and nonfiction, so I really should give their fiction a go soon!
I discovered Infidel at random when I was on a horror kick and I’m really glad I did. It’s not easy to blend horror with social commentary but I think they did a good job.
Thanks for those reviews, Callum. I’ve never read any of these writers; I need to expand my horizons!
My pleasure! So many books, so little time, as they say 😊
Infidel sounds like a really interesting exploration of race and religion!
I’m glad I stumbled upon it!
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