Highlighting Black Women's Voices in Audiobooks
By Cameron, Nuria and Kathryn
Cameron’s pick: Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola, narrated by Ajjaz Awad, Nneka Okoye, Bolu Babalola and Olukemi Babalola.
Love in Colour is a collection of retellings of popular love stories from mythology and folklore. From Ancient Greece, the Middle East and Western Africa, Babalola takes us through a variety of scenarios and journeys that highlight just how complex and grappling the feeling of love is. From continent to continent, from antiquity to the contemporary, this is love in all its forms. Babalola’s writing style successfully brings together the intimate and individual nature of love with the more grandiose themes it covers through these mythical retellings. Love is not only about the great acts of romance that sweep us off our feet but is also about the small things; the things we do every day that make us fall in love every time the sun rises.
Mythology and folklore provide a unique setting for tales of love and romance, and so do the array of narrators who take turns to tell these short stories. They really capture the warmth, joy and perplexity of what it means to be in, and indeed, out of love. It’s a fantastic cast of narrators that more than match up to the lightness and sincerity that is contained in Babalola’s prose. One voice would not have been appropriate for this collection of stories, especially in the sense that love is not only universal but also individual, something that hopefully happens to us all. For fans of classic mythology and folklore told through the prism of the romantic, this is a great recommendation.
Nuria’s pick: Hunger by Roxane Gay, narrated by Roxane Gay
Ever since I read her collection of essays titled Bad Feminist, I fell in love with Roxane Gay and her intimate and vulnerable writing style. In Hunger, she brings us an honest memoir of food, weight, self-image and reflection. She relays the important message of how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself.
She shares with us her relationship with her body and eating habits, while exploring the trauma that made her turn to food to feel safe. “I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble.”
Narrated by the writer herself, you really feel like you’re having a close conversation with her. You can hear the candour, vulnerability and power in her voice as she brings you on this journey of self-discovery and salvation.
Kathryn’s Pick: Kindred by Octavia Butler, narrated by Kim Staunton
Kindred is one of those stories that stays with you long after you finish listening. Butler’s writing combined with Staunton’s narration is haunting and masterfully revolutionises the science-fiction genre.
Recognised as a cornerstone of African-American literature, Kindred is a marriage of fantasy, historical fiction and slave memoir to create a listening experience of rich complexity. The narrative powerfully mingles time travel with the atrocities of slavery from an American bicentennial perspective. Throughout her disorienting trips from California in 1976 to the Antebellum South in 1815, the protagonist Dana struggles to reconcile her place as a Black woman amongst the other enslaved people on the plantation.
Highlighting the horrors and abuse of slavery during the peak of contemporary patriotism is what makes Kindred a brilliant commentary on a Black woman’s experience. In different but meaningful ways, Butler does not want audiences to miss that each day for a Black woman is an exercise of self-preservation. After decades of silence and torture, Black women are learning to exercise their power while remembering the troubled past of their kindred ancestors.
Staunton’s narrative talent immediately transports listeners through time with Dana. Kindred is brutal and horrifying but incredibly illuminating and poignant. Although a difficult listen, I encourage everyone to take the time to listen to Dana’s story and a voice that will never be silenced again.