If you’re looking for a good book to add to your summer reading list, the Melan Magazine roundup of newly released or soon to be published books will have something for you and your kids.
Summer is here, and whether you’re holidaying on British soil or safely travelling abroad for a beachside vacation, a good book is the perfect travelling companion whether or not you’re rolling solo.
We’ve made it easy for you; our list of newly published books [and a few book releases due out in the coming months] will make choosing your next literary treat a little bit easier. Our roundup spans a range of ages and tastes and a mixture of styles, but all are sure to be satisfying to the discerning reader. Have a skim and get stuck in!
First a few book titles for the teens, tweens and all around young and heart.
The Gilded Ones – Namina Forna
Fans of Children of Blood and Bone and She Would Be King will love The Gilded Ones, a fantastic new Afro-futuristic world created by Namina Forna. Weeks after its release, the book, named as part of a Deathless Book Trilogy, was picked up to be turned into a film, with Forna signed to write the script, and Misha Green who brought us the wonderful Lovecraft Country, among its producers.
The Gilded Ones is set in a West African-inspired Ancient Kingdom under oppressive patriarchal rule. The story follows sixteen-year-old Deka and her quest to discover her destiny as a near-immortal with magical powers.
Deka, who lives in Otera, a deeply patriarchal ancient kingdom, where a woman’s worth is tied to her purity, must bleed to prove it. But when Deka bleeds gold – the colour of impurity, of a demon – she faces a consequence worse than death.
She is saved by a mysterious woman who tells Deka of her true nature: she is an Alaki, a near-immortal with exceptional gifts. The stranger offers her a choice: fight for the Emperor, with others just like her, or be destroyed…
Buy The Gilded Ones here.
Grown: The Black Girls’ Guide to Glowing Up – Melissa Cummings-Quarry & Natalie A. Carter
Being a teenager and trying to understand who you are and what you stand for is hard. Period. But if you’re a Black girl and don’t always see yourself represented in the books you read, the films you watch, the adverts you see or the history you’re taught, it can be even tougher. From understanding identity to the politics of hair, to maintaining squad goals, to dealing with microaggressions; from issues of consent to figuring out what career you might want, Grown has got your back.
The authors offer honest, practical advice that will show you how to own your choices. To live your truth without fear. To be grown on your own terms without limits or apologies. This book is filled with guidance, tips and motivational stories from powerful and inspirational Black women like Diane Abbott MP and Candice Carty-Williams. Grown is a celebration of Black British girlhood that will empower the younger generation live their very best life.
Grown: The Black Girls’ Guide to Glowing Up is due out on 30 September and can be pre-ordered here
The Lightning Catcher – Clare Weze
“I like the hybridity of literature and science. They belong together, and they certainly belong together in my head,” says author of The Lightning Catcher Clare Weze, who is also a trained scientist. Her debut novel combines her love for science with her skills as a fiction writer.
The Lightning Catcher tells the story of Alfie who has noticed a few things since his family moved to Folding Ford. There’s nothing to do in the countryside. He and his sister are the only kids in the whole village who aren’t white. But the most interesting one is that the weather is BONKERS. One frost-covered branch on one tree in the middle of June? A tiny whirlwind in a bucket in the garden? Only in Folding Ford.
Armed with his bike, a notepad and his new best mate Sam, Alfie is going to investigate. His best clue is strange scientist Nathaniel Clemm … the only thing in town weirder than the weather. When Alfie ‘investigates’ Mr Clemm’s garden, only SLIGHTLY illegally, he finds a strange box that freezes his trainers and makes his teeth tingle. And when he opens it, only SLIGHTLY deliberately, SOMETHING gets out. Something fast, fizzing and sparking with electricity and very, very much alive. But the creature from the box brings trouble of its own, and as barometers and tempers go haywire in Folding Ford, Alfie finds himself at the centre of a perfect storm.
Buy The Lightening Catcher is available here
Something I Said – Ben Bailey Smith
Author of Something I Said Ben Bailey Smith began his career as a rapper known as Doc Brown before diversifying and moving into mainstream TV and film acting, stand-up comedy, screenwriting and now children’s book author (I Am Bear and Bear Moves). His latest book centres on 13-year-old Carmichael Taylor, a world-famous stand-up-comedian… in-waiting.
Car sees life as one big joke and can’t understand why no one else finds everything as funny as he does. When Car is filmed stumbling into performing a piece of hilarious stand-up at the school talent show, targeting his family, school and friends, the footage ends up creating international infamy. But with the promise of fame and fortune comes trouble, and it’s up to Car to decide what or who he’s willing to risk to chase his comedy dream.
Buy both the audio and the print version of Something I Said here.
Ace of Spades – Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Ace of Spades is a thrilling debut novel from Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé. The novel explores being queer as a Black person through a gripping story about two young African American students.
This book delves into the heart of institutionalised racism uncovering the social inequalities and struggles that many Black students face. Ace of Spades’ two main protagonists’ personalities contrast vividly. Devon has kept a relatively low profile at school, spending much of his time in the music rooms trying to prepare to get into Juilliard, a prestigious music school. Devon is ‘out’ as he put it, but where he is from, homosexuality is something that could get you killed and coupled with the narrow-minded views of his mother [who he loves dearly] who strongly resists the idea that her son could be gay, he has a lot on his plate. On the other hand, head girl Chiamaka is from a rich, privileged background, her being Black doesn’t stop her from being considered one of the most popular girls in high school. But on the inside, she is struggling with insecurities and feelings she doesn’t understand that are further highlighted after the series of events that push her and Devon to the edge mentally.
This book is perfect for teenagers coming of age and who may be struggling to understand why they do not feel themselves. Faridah describes the novel as “a love letter to queer Black teenagers who feel powerless and alone finally finding their voices.” She continues: “I hope readers see that Black people belong in stories like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars, and that above everything else, we deserve happy endings.”
Ace of Spades is available here.
A few book titles for grown folks…
Assembly – Natasha Brown
Assembly is a story of our times. In 100 pages, we are taken on a journey that gives an eye-opening insight into a colonial legacy seen through the view of a Black British woman.
Assembly tells the story of our unnamed narrator preparing to attend a lavish garden party at her boyfriend’s family estate deep in the English countryside. At the same time, she is considering the carefully assembled pieces of herself. As the minutes tick down and the future beckons, she can’t escape the question: is it time to take it all apart?
The tone of the book is set with a series of seemingly insurmountable instructions: Come of age in the credit crunch. Be civil in a hostile environment. Step out into a world of Go Home vans. Go to Oxbridge, get an education, start a career. Do all the right things. Buy a flat. Buy art. Buy a sort of happiness. But above all, keep your head down. Keep quiet and keep going.
This novel is a moving story of one woman daring to take control of her own story, even at the cost of her life.
Buy Assembly here
Black Buck – Mateo Askaripour
The tone of this debut novel is set with a simple maxim: there’s nothing like a Black salesman on a mission. Darren is an unambitious twenty-two-year-old living in a Brooklyn townhouse with his mother. She desperately wants to see him live up to his potential, but Darren is content working at Starbucks in the lobby of a Manhattan office building. Otherwise, he loves hanging out with his girlfriend Soraya and eating his mother’s home cooked meals. But all of this changes with a chance encounter with the silver-tongued CEO of New York City’s hottest tech start up.
Rhett Daniels’ meeting with Darren results in an exclusive invitation for him to join an elite sales team at Sumwun on the 36th floor. Darren is the only Black person in the company and after enduring a “hell week” of training, reimagines himself as “Buck” – a ruthless salesman unrecognizable to his friends and family. But when things turn tragic at home and Buck feels he’s hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of colour infiltrate America’s sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game.
Black Buck is available here
Coconut – Florence Olájídé
A generation of Nigerian children were born in Britain in the fifties and sixties, privately fostered by white families and then taken to Nigeria by their parents. Coconut tells the true story of its author Florence Olájídé, fostered by Nan (as the little girl calls her foster mother) in North London in 1963 at the age of one year old.
Nan names the little girl Ann and is adored by the child with dark brown skin. But soon Ann realizes the other foster children all have white skin and thinks something is not quite right. Four years later, after a visit from her birth parents, Florence never returns to Nan. Sandwiched between her mother and father, along with her three real siblings, the little girl steps off a ship in Lagos to the fierce heat of the African sun.
Florence struggles to adjust to life in Nigeria. She is keen to embrace her cultural heritage but doesn’t speak Yoruba, her parents’ mother tongue, and knows nothing of the customs. Frequent clashes with her grandmother end in beatings. Torn between her early childhood experiences and the expectations placed on her in Africa, Florence begins to question who she is and where she actually belongs. Is she Nigerian? British? Or both?
Published by Thread in early July, Coconut is the story of finding a place to call home.
Coconut is available now here.
The Other Black Girl – Zakiya Dalila Harris
There’s already a film buzz around The Other Black Girl, a debut novel that is on many high-profile ‘must-read’ lists. New York-based Zakiya Dalila Harris spent a year in publishing before leaving to write her book, which has been described by i as: “The year’s most buzzed-about debut more than lives up to the hype… a smart riff on black horror, the publishing world, and the realities of being black and female”.
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and the micro-aggressions, she’s thrilled when Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events causes Nella to become Public Enemy Number One and Hazel, the Office Darling.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realises that there is a lot more at stake than her career.
Reviewed as Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada, this electric debut displays the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of book publishing.
Available in hard cover, paperback and audio book formats here.
Harlem Shuffle – Colson Whitehead
Harlem Shuffle is the latest novel from the double Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and George Orwell Prize winning Colson Whitehead. Fans of his work will have seen the screen adaptation of his book, The Underground Railroad as an Amazon Prime TV series, produced and directed by the Academy Award winning director Barry Jenkins.
Harlem Shuffle is driven by an ingeniously intricate plot that plays out in a beautifully recreated Harlem of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.
To his customers and neighbours on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably-priced furniture, making a life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home.
Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger and bigger all the time. A failed attempt to seal those cracks kick starts the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he starts to see the truth about who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?
This title will be released on 14 September 2021. Pre-order the book here here.
Katrina Marshall contributed to this article.