In 2017 I read Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. It was a breakout, much anticipated first novel by young black woman responding to America’s current world order through a world of fantasy and magic. It was a great read, full of unique characters and a fantastic world and I looked forward to reading the sequel.
The sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance came out this past December and in anticipation of it’s arrival under my Christmas tree, I reread Children of Blood and Bone. As I dove once again into Adeyemi’s fantasy world of Orisha I found myself reading Audre Lorde’s poetry collection The Black Unicorn. This. This was how I came to realize that Orisha, this fantastical land that Adeyemi created, is actually built upon the principals and gods of the Yoruba people’s faith whose origins are found in Western Nigeria.
I was absolutely blown away. The depth from which Adeyemi was working in religion, culture, myth and legend was so much more complex than I had ever given her credit for or even understood. My own ignorance and assumption that this world simply derived from Adeyemi’s head, instead of a historical reality, kept the complexity of this story hidden from me. Yes, I could certainly enjoy the book without this prior knowledge, but once Lorde made me aware of this connection I did a bunch of quick research and colors and connections within the book were illuminated that I would never have experienced if I’d remained in the dark.
This is why I am such a proponent of reading authors of color. These stories are absolutely universal and they give me and other white folks like me, the opportunity to learn about others’ heritage and culture in a way we might never encounter outside of books we choose to read. I also found myself reading Whereas a poetry collection by Layli Long Soldier in response to her indigenous heritage this December, and it too made me open my eyes to events and realities that I would otherwise have no exposure to in my mostly white, upper-middle class existence.
We all have blindspots people. We all have so much to learn about ourselves and each other and I so wish more people (yeah, read white people there) would do the work of reading the stories, watching the movies and listening to the music of people of color because honestly, it’s not nearly as hard as we think it is. We simply have to enter with a modicum of humility, realizing that we might not get every reference or historical connection, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the stories, the poems, the truth that is found in a human experience different than our own.
Happy reading all!
Book Review for:Whereas by Layli Long Soldier
Book Review for: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Book Review for: Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi