The Black Experience 2.0: Interview with Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, I chat with the author of the highly anticipated YA debut, Ace of Spades, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (she/her). We talk about her debut, conventions in the Thriller genre, and ways in which real life can be more terrifying than fiction, especially for Black people. 


Q: Hello Faridah! Thank you so much for taking out some of the time to chat with me today. It’s really great to have you here. Before we fully start with the interview, could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us a little on what your debut, Ace of Spades, is all about?

A: Hello! Thank you for having me. My name is Faridah Abike-Iyimide and my debut novel Ace of Spades releases on June 1st 2021. Ace of Spades is best pitched as Gossip Girl meets Get Out and it is a YA Thriller that follows Devon and Chiamaka in their final year at Niveus Private Academy. Things are going well for the both of them, for one they have both been elected as senior prefects this year, and they both have plans to graduate and attend elite Universities. Things start to take a turn when an anonymous texter – Aces – starts leaking their secrets to the entire school. Despite being very different people, Devon and Chiamaka have to put aside their differences and team up before things get deadly.

Q: Before we get down to business, for research (for fun ahem) purposes I like to ask anyone I interview who their favourite Winne the Pooh character is, so who is yours?

A: I love this question so much because I was OBSESSED with Winnie the Pooh when I was a kid. My bedroom was Winnie the Pooh themed and I even still own a Winnie the Pooh book filled with all of Winnie’s wisdom and advice. But back to the question… I think my favourite character is… Winnie. Not sure if that is basic, but I really love Winnie.

Q: On your Twitter and Instagram, you talk a lot about your love for Gossip Girl and how it impacted your decision to write Ace of Spades. What other books or media, aside of Gossip Girl, inspired you to write Ace of Spades?

A: This might surprise some people but ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell was a huge inspiration for me when writing Ace of Spades. I really loved the allegorical nature of Animal Farm and the way Orwell told this story about the Russian revolution through these animals. Ace of Spades is very much an allegory. Aspects of it may seem far fetched, but it’s meant to mirror real life events and experiences.

Q: A lot of thrillers and even books in the horror genre rely on ableist tropes as major twists or themes in their plots. The reliance on misrepresentation of mentally ill characters is quite rampant in the genre and from the reviews I’ve seen so far, Ace of Spades deviates from this convention and rather uses real and truly insidious experiences of Black and queer people instead. This must have been a lot for you, so I want to ask how did you feel throughout the writing process or writing these themes?

A: I’ve noticed that too and I really hope it is something that happens less in the genre as it is very harmful. I definitely wanted to steer clear of that because not only is it problematic but I think it sends a very bad message to teenagers – many of whom are dealing with disabilities and mental health issues – that they are antagonists.

Writing Ace of Spades was definitely a long and gruelling self-therapy session. Writing the book was painful because I had to really uncover thoughts and feelings I hadn’t really felt in a while. Being a Black teenager in this very anti-black world is traumatic, and I think while reliving that trauma was hard, I ultimately felt like it was a healing process, as I was adamant on giving my main characters a happy ending. An ending Black people deserve. 

Q: As I said before real life situations are more insidious than exaggerations, so I want to ask what are some of your favourite books or media that utilise these themes (real life scenarios)?

A: I reallyyy love Dear White People, I think it is smart and fun and also really important!

Q: I know you must love both of your main characters, but which of you MCs do you identify with the most?

A: This is so hard because there are aspects of both characters that I identify a lot with… but I think Devon. He grew up in very similar circumstances to me, some scenes/ aspects of his life and upbringing are heavily influenced by mine. 

Q: Something a little fun before wrapping up, as a lover of Winnie the Pooh (yes, I’m mentioning this again), I’ll like to know Chiamaka and Devon’s verdict on the cartoons?

A: Winnie is something Devon is definitely a fan of. Devon is not so up to date with programmes that are aimed at his demographic as he mostly watches whatever his baby brothers watch. Chiamaka on the other hand was probably a huge Winnie fan as a kid but outgrew it quickly (sad)

Q: I’ve asked you to pitch your book in seven words before, so instead of asking that again, what seven words would immediately grab your attention in a pitch? 

A: Queer, Black, Arthurian, Nigerian, Plantain, Monsters, Gothic


About Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, 22, is a writer from South London who has dreamt of writing books about Black kids saving (or destroying) the world all her life. Her debut novel ACE OF SPADES is an unputdownable thriller that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism. Billed as ‘Get Out meets Gossip Girl with a shocking twist’, gal-dem has called it ‘one of 2021’s biggest books’.

Àbíké-Íyímídé describes the novel as “a love letter to queer Black teenagers who feel powerless and alone finally finding their voices. 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.”

The novel was acquired by Usborne Publishing in 2018 and then pre-empted by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group US for a seven figure deal in early 2020. ACE OF SPADES will publish simultaneously in the UK and US in June 2021.  

Àbíké-Íyímídé established and runs a mentorship scheme for unagented writers of colour, helping them on their journey to get published. She has also written for NME, The Bookseller, Readers Digest and gal-dem, and currently studies English Literature at a university in the Scottish Highlands.

You can find Faridah on Twitter and Instagram @faridahlikestea and on her website https://www.faridahabikeiyimide.com.


More on Ace of Spades 

Genre: Thriller

Expected publication date: 1 June (US); 10 June (UK)

Blurb:

An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice. Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game…

Preorder: Amazon | Blackwells | Book Depository | Bookshop

 Add on: Goodreads | Storygraph

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The Black Experience 2.0: Black Magic — New Black Magic Books I Love

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Alechia Dow (she/her) talks about the change in representation of Black people in the media and recommends some new Black magic books that make her squeal in the third sub segment of Black Magic. 

(Black Magic is a sub segment of TBE with the contributions of authors and bloggers recommending books by Black authors. With the exception of Hoodoo, Black Magic is a sub series of recommendation list)


When I was a kid, Black Magic didn’t exist outside the magical Negro narrative. You know the Black character who shows up on screen or in a book, says something the white protagonist needs to hear or does something for the white protagonist that they desperately need to happen for the story to progress, and then poofs out before you ever really knew their name or story… That’s the kind of representation I could hope for as a Black kid. Because if it wasn’t the good-doing magical Negro, it was the drug dealer/gang member/prisoner/villain or… in horror, it was the Black person, who was ultimately the first to die because they made a bad decision or sacrificed themself for the white folks. Or they were the Black kid who was really good at basketball but had nothing of substance to say off the court. That’s it. 

Now we have honest-to-goodness MAGIC. Black Magic. Where Black characters are centered, where they can live their best life while having an adventure. They can do spells, their words have power, they have love interests, best friends that “get” them, and they don’t exist to boost the white characters. They just get to exist and live and love and do magic. And maybe things aren’t so great, but you’re going to root for them, you want to see them succeed. And that’s what’s amazing about these books out and coming out. They’re beautiful, hopeful, and don’t cater to the white gaze.

Here’s my list of newer titles by Black Authors: 

Let’s kick it off with MIDDLE GRADE

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

Here’s the official synopsis: 

“Amari Peters knows three things.

Her big brother Quinton has gone missing.

No one will talk about it.

His mysterious job holds the secret …

So when Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain this is her chance to find Quinton. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau, where mermaids, aliens and magicians are real, and her roommate is a weredragon.

Amari must compete against kids who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives, and when each trainee is awarded a special supernatural talent, Amari is given an illegal talent – one that the Bureau views as dangerous.

With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is the enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton …”

I chose this one because I’m reading it with my 7 year old right now, and WHEWWW it’s so good. She’s hooked and getting her hooked is hard. But she’s so into it, she wants to know everything about this world, and the adventure Amari’s going on, and what happened to Quinton!!! B.B. Alston, you genius! 

Some other fave MG: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia, Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron

Now let’s talk my fave new YA

WINGS OF EBONY by J. Elle. 

Here’s the official synopsis:

“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.

Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.

Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.

First of all, J. Elle is incredible. This is a love letter to her home, to her neighborhood, to sisterhood, and to #BlackGirlMagic. It’s one of those stories that you pick up and can’t put down. I seriously can’t wait for book 2! Also, J. Elle is writing a magical Black school middle grade which AHHH, and nonfiction. She’s a force to be reckoned with—don’t sleep on her books, this is just the beginning. 


Other recent YAs you have to read: Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi, Conquest by Celeste Harte, A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope edited by Patrice Caldwell, Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Baron, Given by Nandi Taylor, A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy,  and more. Ask me, I have HUGE lists! 

Now let’s hop on over to Adult: 

Song of Blood & Stone (Earthsinger Chronicles) by L. Penelope 

Here’s the official synopsis:

The kingdoms of Elsira and Lagrimar have been separated for centuries by the Mantle, a magical veil that has enforced a tremulous peace between the two lands. But now, the Mantle is cracking and the True Father, ruler of Lagrimar and the most powerful Earthsinger in the world, finally sees a way into Elsira to seize power.

All Jasminda ever wanted was to live quietly on her farm, away from the prying eyes of those in the nearby town. Branded an outcast by the color of her skin and her gift of Earthsong, she’s been shunned all her life and has learned to steer clear from the townsfolk…until a group of Lagrimari soldiers wander into her valley with an Elsiran spy, believing they are still in Lagrimar. 

Through Jack, the spy, Jasminda learns that the Mantle is weakening, allowing people to slip through without notice. And even more troubling: Lagrimar is mobilizing, and if no one finds a way to restore the Mantle, it might be too late for Elsira. Their only hope lies in uncovering the secrets of the Queen Who Sleeps and Jasminda’s Earthsong is the key to unravel them.

Thrust into a hostile society and a world she doesn’t know, Jasminda and Jack race to unveil an ancient mystery that might offer salvation.

So, I loved this book. It’s everything I love about fantasy (although CW about assault), but it’s got the romance, the magic, the otherworldly feel, the DRAMA… I hadn’t read adult in forever, so this was that book––that series––that brought me back to the genre. Go pick this up! 

Some other adult books I love: How Long ‘til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin, OCTAVIA BUTLER EVERYTHING, Some non-magical but amazing books: How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams, Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid, EVERY SINGLE BOOK BY TALIA HIBBERT, and more!! Feel free to ask me! 

Thank you all for reading and I hope you love any and every of these books. Let’s give Black Magic their due!!! 

Alechia. 


About Alechia Dow

Alechia Dow is a former pastry chef, food critic, culinary teacher, and Youth Services librarian. When not writing YA sci-fi featuring determined black girls (like herself), you can find her having epic dance parties with her daughter, baking, mentoring, or taking teeny adventures around Europe.

You can find Alechia on Twitter @alechiawrites and on Instagram @alechiadow. You can also visit her website https://www.alechiadow.com


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The Black Experience 2.0: The Devaluation and Consumerism of Black Pain

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Laila Sabreen (she/her) talks about the devaluation and consumerism of Black pain and Black trauma. 


The role that Black pain plays in the publishing industry is one that I’ve had to think about a lot as both a reader and writer of YA.

Pain, like any other emotion, has its place in the Black community– as it does in pretty much all communities. The problem that is present is how stories centered around Black pain are able to make it further past the gatekeepers of the publishing industry compared to stories centered around Black joy or Black love. A parallel problem that sometimes arises when examining how Black pain is devalued and consumed can be seen when books that feature Black pain, as well as Black joy and/or Black love, only receive attention for the former aspect rather than any of the latter. This is because publishing often places more value on Black pain compared to the Black joy or Black love, which leads to a greater consumption of Black pain which then leads to its devaluation and the cycle continues. Black pain does, and should continue to, have a space in publishing, but it is not what defines us as a community. It is not all that we are.

Though Black pain, Black joy, Black love, etc are all equally important, I believe that Black pain is more consumed by the publishing industry because it’s often thought to teach or act as an educational tool for readers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning something from books, in fact it’s pretty great, but a problem sometimes arises when stories about Black pain are expected to educate readers. Black pain can educate those that don’t experience it, but that’s not its function. Our pain doesn’t exist to educate or serve others, and the expectation for it to do so lends its devaluation and consummation.

There are stories that I look to, especially as a writer, that include Black pain in ways that I found really engaging and insightful. In Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, Bree, learns about her lineage and family history especially as it relates to growing up in the South. In Slay by Brittney Morris, Kierra, has to learn how to navigate and celebrate her Blackness in both the real world and a virtual one. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, is both a love story and a story about how Felix, a Black trans boy, faces transphobia, classism, and racism. There are many more examples, but these are three where the Black protagonists do face pain because of their identity at some point on their journey, but facing that pain is not the eternity of their stories.

It’s only a part.

About Laila Sabreen

Laila Sabreen is a young adult contemporary author based in the Washington DC area. She currently attends Emory University where she is double majoring in Sociology and English. Her love of writing began as a love of reading, which started when she used to take weekly trips to her local library. There she fell in love with the Angelina Ballerina series, so much so that she started to write Angelina Ballerina fanfiction at the age of five (though she did not know it was fanfiction at the time). Today, she writes novels about the Black Muslim characters she wanted to see growing up. Her debut novel, You Truly Assumed, will be published by Inkyard Press/HarperCollins in Winter 2022.

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The Black Experience 2.0: The Dehumanisation of Black Characters

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, I talk about something I’ve wanted to discuss for a long time and it’s the dehumanisation of Black characters and the casual anti blackness in the book community.


A common call in book spaces, in relation to characters, is the call for messy, imperfect characters. There is a nearly constant call for human, imperfect, messy characters  but after spending a while in the book community, I’ve noticed that this call doesn’t apply to characters of certain races, specifically Black characters.

Like with other trends developing in publishing, this need is being met, albeit slowly, we have a little more messy characters now. But the reception of these characters are vastly different.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised or as frustrated when I noticed the disparity between the way non Black imperfect characters and Black ones are received.  

I shouldn’t be shocked or angry whenever I see a Black character being bashed for the same thing a non Black character gets sympathy for. I shouldn’t be shocked when Black teen characters going through life are called ‘troublesome’ or ‘awful’ and their non Black counterparts are called ‘struggling poor dears’.

The lack of empathy for and constant dehumanisation of Black characters shouldn’t be surprising since it’s reminiscent of the real life treatment of Black people.

Black people don’t get to be messy in real life, Black characters in fiction can’t too. Black people don’t get to go through rough times in real life; Black characters can’t too. Black people don’t get to have lapses of judgement in real life; Black characters can’t too. Black people don’t get to make honest mistakes or be ignorant in real life; Black characters can’t too.

Black people and Black characters have to be perfect. Messiness, imperfection is not for us. Those concepts aren’t relatable in us. Complex realities don’t exist for us. We’re either really good or we’re not.

Humanity and it’s complexity is not for us.

So excuse me whenever I feel slightly irritated when people ask for imperfect characters but cannot accept imperfect Black characters.

Because I see y’all bashing that Black teen character’s experience is reminiscent of an actual Black person’s teenhood struggles and trying to figure out right from wrong, and then in the same breath empathising with a White character for doing the same.

I see y’all looking for redemption in White antiheroes and villains and in the same breath rage at Black antiheroes and villains and claim there’s no redemption for them.

I see y’all love and coddle character A (or W) and despise character B.

I see your casual and projected anti blackness, and I’m tired of it.

“We need messy characters” “Less put together characters and more hot messes”

These are all great requests but until you can accept less than perfect Black characters, and in extension Black people, don’t ask that.

Solve your antiblackness, it’s glaring and Black folks are tired.


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The Black Experience 2.0: Black Magic — 5 Under-appreciated African SFF Authors

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Suyi Davies Okungbowa highlights five under appreciated African voices in SFF in the 2nd sub segment of Black Magic. 

(Black Magic is a sub segment of TBE with the contributions of authors and bloggers recommending books by Black authors. With the exception of Hoodoo, Black Magic is a sub series of recommendation list)


Often, when we think about science fiction written by authors on the African continent and its diasporas (or simply inspired by African-descended cultures and ethnicities), the scope seems broad at first. With the explosion in calls for literature and media diverse in culture and content, we have tended to see an uptick in such work in present times.

The pool, however, remains small. I don’t need to get into the myriad of issues that prevent a sizeable number of African-descended talent–from the continent or diasporas–from breaking through the glass ceiling of visibility in global publishing. What I will do, instead, is highlight five of such instances, in the hope that readers and lovers of SFF will seek them out and partake of their riches.

Lesley Nneka Arimah

Arimah could be described less as underappreciated, and more in the category of isn’t-being-screamed-loudly-enough-from-the-rooftops. What does it take for an African author whose work The Washington Post declared as “equally timely and timeless” to be one of the foremost voices in the genre? Winning the Caine or Commonwealth regional prize? The Kirkus Prize for Fiction? A New York Public Library Young Lions Award? Well, Lesley has won all those and more, with hits including her short story collection, What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky (Riverhead, 2017) and “Skinned” (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 59). Newcomers to her work can start anywhere, many of which are free to read online: “Glory” in Harpers, “Light” in Granta, “Who Will Greet You At Home” in The New Yorker, and more.

Tendai Huchu

Tendai (who is also T.L. Huchu sometimes) is another one of those names that intermittently flies a tad underneath the global SFF radar. Huchu actually has multiple novels published: The Hairdresser of Harare (Ohio University Press, 2010), The Maestro, the Magistrate and the Mathematician (Parthian Books, 2016) and his new novel forthcoming from Tor Books in June 2021, The Library of the Dead. The most impressive thing about Huchu’s work is that it manages to centre his native Zimbabwe, whether or not the stories are set there (his new novel is set in Edinburgh, where he lives). Readers can start by peeking into “The Marriage Plot,” the flash story that won him the 2017 Nommo Award for Best Speculative Short Story. After that, Hairdresser or any of his free-to-read short stories (“Ghostalker,” “Egoli,” etc) would be decent pathways to his new novel.

Tlotlo Tsamaase

Tlotlo is a strong example of an excellent, talented writer with a number of published stories in recognized venues under her belt. Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review of her forthcoming fantasy-horror novella The Silence of the Wilting Skin, describes her work with words such as “atmospheric anticolonialist battle cry” and “tour de force.” The Motswana author is also a poet (one of her poems, “I Will Be Your Grave” was a 2017 Rhysling Award nominee) and writes architecture articles. One of her earliest stories, “Virtual Snapshots,” was published by Vice and is a good place for new readers to start. Other places to experience her work before The Silence of the Wilting Skin drops in May include: “Murders Fell from Our Wombs” in Apex Magazine; “Eclipse our Sins” and “The ThoughtBox,” both in Clarkesworld; “Behind Our Irises” in the Brittlepaper Africanfuturism anthology; and her most recent story in The Dark, “The River of Night.” Find her full body of work at tlotlotsamaase.com.

Wole Talabi

Wole is a Nigerian who lives and works in Malaysia as an Engineer, but is known more in global literary circles as a Writer and Editor. His 2019 collection, Incomplete Solutions contained the novella “Incompleteness Theories” which won the 2020 Nommo Award for Best Novella. Prior to that, he was shortlisted for the 2018 Caine Prize for African Writing with “Wednesday’s Story” (Lightspeed, 2016) and won the 2018 Nommo Award for Best Short Story with “The Regression Test” (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 2017). Wole’s writing has been touted to examine “what it means to be human in a world of accelerating technology, diverse beliefs, and unlimited potential, from a uniquely Nigerian perspective.” This he also does as an editor, by spotlighting work uniquely examining speculative realities as imagined from the African continent. The anthologies Lights Out: Resurrection and the recent Brittlepaper Africanfuturism anthology are two good examples of these. New readers can start anywhere on his extensive list of publications.

Chikodili Emelumadu (Chịkọdịlị Emelụmadụ)

Emelumadu is a British-Nigerian author whose work has flirted with various awards: The Shirley Jackson Awards in 2015 (for “Candy Girl” in Apex Magazine); the Caine Prize in 2017 and 2020 (first for “Bush Baby” and then for “What to do when your child brings home a Mami Wata,” in The Shadow Booth: Vol. 2); and the Nommo Award for Best Short Story in 2020 (for “Sin Eater” in Omenana), which she eventually won in a tie. Emelumadu describes her work as examining tensions “between conservative and liberal, contemporary and traditional,” and this she does via rooted tales with dark undertones and strong familial leanings. Though without a website listing publications, readers can start anywhere with Emelumadu’s work, including her forthcoming, Dazzling (publication date TBA), with which she snagged representation with Curtis Brown UK after emerging winner of their inaugural First Novel Prize in 2019.

About Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Suyi Davies Okungbowa is the author of Son of the Storm (Orbit, May 2021), first in The Nameless Republic epic fantasy trilogy, and the godpunk novel, David Mogo, Godhunter (Abaddon, 2019). His shorter works have appeared internationally in periodicals like Tor.com, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, Fireside, and anthologies like Year’s Best Science Fiction and FantasyA World of Horror and People of Colour Destroy Science Fiction. He lives between Lagos, Nigeria and Tucson, Arizona where he teaches writing at the University of Arizona and completes his MFA. He tweets at @IAmSuyiDavies and is @suyidavies on Instagram. Learn more at suyidavies.com.


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The Black Experience 2.0: Black Joy

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Celeste Harte (she/her) and booktuber Ashley (she/her) talk about Black joy, the need for more stories about Black joy and how being Black is more than just pain and trauma even if it’s what the media is more interested in. And in a small Instagram picture addition, Sumayo (she/her) talks about how Black joy and love is an act of resistance.

(This post is divided mainly into two parts; an article and a linked YouTube video with the addition of an Instagram post)


Celeste Harte: The Need for Black Joy

Black entertainment has always been a two edged sword, in my opinion. Black people have been able to sing, dance, and perform for people for a long time. And obviously make money from it. But whenever you see those old videos, when the camera panned out on those black and white screens, you saw a lot of white faces. Not Black ones.

But this was the Jim Crow era! Why would white people want to watch Black people sing and dance knowing they would benefit from it, one might ask.

That’s because white people actually do enjoy Black entertainment. To some degree, I believe they expect it. We’ve always been marveled at. But there’s a difference between being enjoyed and being respected. Those performers still had to leave out the back, and go through the “for colored people” exits, and go back to their “for colored people” lives. Because those white people *only* saw those Black people as entertainment. Yes, Black people enjoyed Black music and performances, but they couldn’t afford to see them live. So the entertainment was made by Black people, for white people, even though Black people happened to enjoy it.

The same goes for entertainment today. I get a bad taste in my mouth when I see slave movies come out and white viewers are the main ones that enjoy it. Or when Black books highlighting our pain are more popular than books highlighting our victories.

I feel like we’re still only providing entertainment that white people enjoy. It technically puts money in our pocket, but by the time we go home, nothing has changed. Because we’re still not respected. We’re just entertaining.

Books featuring Black Joy are important because they have nothing to do with the white audience. It’s not about educating white people on how not to be racist, it’s not about making them aware to how different our situation is from theirs. Because at the end of the day, those stories don’t benefit Black readers at all. They already know what their lives are like. What does an educational book do for them? It may be cathartic to some degree, yes, but sometimes we just want to escape to some fantasy land where there are other problems than skin color and oppression. We want to see ourselves falling in love and having a happily ever after. To some degree, racism may always be part of it, because that’s the reality of our lives, but the story doesn’t have to always center it to be accurate. 

So therefore, these stories highlighting Black pain simply become another form of entertainment, by Black people, for white people. White people enjoy being the center of attention, whether it’s negatively or positively, apparently. And stories that don’t center them simply don’t get attention because they don’t care to read or support them.

Black Joy reads are important for non-Black readers to stop having to be taught about our experience and just read these books because they’ve been missing. Read them because they’re needed. Because there’s more to us than just our oppression and being entertaining. These books should be read so that readers can stop getting the idea that Black people have a duty to educate the world on our oppression and start simply supporting us because it’s what we’re due.

We’re due the experience of not having to be entertaining for other people. We’re due being able to write stories about us simply being.

So don’t read a book just so you can feel sorry for us. Read a book that simply cheers us on. Because that’s what we deserve.


Ashley: Where’s The Joy? | Black Joy Books You Should Read

I grew up loving sci-fi, loving fantasy as I said but never seeing myself represented in those books. I never got to see Black girls, Black boys in fantasy stories, sci-fi stories, fighting aliens, taking down dragons, storming castles, rescuing princesses the whole nine yards[…]but people who looked like me, my friends and my family did not exist in them. We got Black trauma narratives.

AShley (PaGES IN THE STARS)

Sumayo: Black Joy Is An Act of Resistance (Instagram post)


About Celeste Harte

Celeste Harte is an African-American writer living in Spain. She loves reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy, and is obsessed with all 

things mermaids and dragons.

You can find Celeste on Twitter and Instagram @celesteharte and @celeste_harte respectively.

About Ashley

Ashley is a booktuber, bookstagrammer and a huge Stars Wars fan.

You can find her on Twitter @TheJediAshCash, on Instagram @pagesinthestars and on her YouTube channel Pages In The Stars


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The Black Experience 2.0: (Re)Discovering My Blackness and Queerness

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, Rogier (he/him) shares a raw post about rediscovering his Blackness and queerness and how they come together in his experience.


This post will be chaotic and I’m sorry. I talk about being mixed Black and queer in Suriname. A South American nation with a Caribbean culture.

I’m Black and Indigenous. I live in a lower middle class neighborhood. Growing up, we only spoke Dutch at home, rarely Sranang (the language developed here during the colonization). My mom was scared we wouldn’t do well at school and that we would be seen as the ‘rowdy black and brown kids’. I find it funny, how in a majority POC country whiteness is still upheld.

I’m Black. My family on my mother’s side is Black but I never felt Black enough growing up. I could not hold a conversion in Sranang, wasn’t aware of idioms and didn’t listen to local music/ American rap. My music taste ran mostly white. I mostly listened to Pop, Punk growing up ( Paramore, Avril Lavigne, All American Rejects, Panic at the Disco) and whatever Lykke Li and Florence are. Only in recent years have I become aware that it’s okay to only love the songs I do and I’m still Black despite it. And to not be afraid to listen to rap and local music.

I had to learn that colorism exists and how it was presented in my life. My mom was afraid that darker skinned Black people could be criminals and were too loud. I had to unlearn that. I had to unlearn immediately imagining white people when reading fiction. That’s still an ongoing process, still sometimes when reading a Black or Brown character on page, for a split moment I imagine them to be white.

Society is flooded with white body ideals and this has definitely influenced my romantic attraction. Now I find myself thinking “Are some white guys really attractive or are they just white?”.

I know this sounds weird but I had to sit with myself why I would not date Black men and why Black guys were not even in my mind. Now that I’m nearing 30, that has changed and is changing. I’ve noticed that there are so many cute Black and Brown guys.

I knew I was gay at age 12, asexual at 22. Discovering I was gay was a lot easier than figuring out I was ace. Romantic attraction came first and sexual attraction sporadically. I also did discover that I’m sex averse. I haven’t enjoyed any sexual encounters really. Cute guys are cute, some nicer than others but I find sex acts generally boring. I find people attractive but I don’t want to have sex with them lol.

Talking about my sexual orientation, homoromantic and asexual is a mouthful. So I just use queer or ace instead.

With exploring my sexuality; Suriname has a decent gay night life in normal times. Although, I haven’t been to any because I don’t feel safe and its very sex driven. Homophobia is still a thing here, although it’s not as bad as some Latin countries and other Caribbean  nations, it exists. Someday, I hope that queer cafes or pubs will be a thing that are cozy and ace inclusive in the future.

How sexuality and being Black come together for me? It’s that I have become comfortable with my feminine qualities. I’m neither really masculine or feminine. More in the middle really. Who knows what the future will bring but I know that a guy is out there that will accept me being ace.


You can find Rogier on Twitter @rocapri 

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The Black Experience: Black Magic — Hoodoo

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author Amber McBride(she/her) talks about Hoodoo/Rootwork, the problem with mainstream exploitation of Hoodoo and some book recommendations that incorporate rootwork, in the first post in the subsegment Black Magic.

(Black Magic is a sub segment of TBE 2.0 with the contributions of authors and bloggers recommending books by Black authors. With the exception of Hoodoo, Black Magic is a sub series of recommendation list)


HOODOO – ROOTWORK – BLACK MAGIC

To put it simply Hoodoo, also known as Rootwork or Conjure, is an African American magic system that arose in the Americas after enslaved Africans were stolen from their homelands and stripped of their way of life. Hoodoo and its many practices are as unique as regions in North and South America, but the pillars of Hoodoo include—the elevation of ancestors, knowledge of and working with herbs, roots, candles, sticks and bones, oneness with nature and balance.

Hoodoo unlike Voodoo is not a religion rather a series of rituals and traditions that when applied properly can bring good fortune and ward off bad energies. Many enslaved African Americans were not permitted to practice the religions/traditions of their homelands and therefore many elements of Hoodoo were hidden in plain sight. This is why often Hoodoo uses Bible verses or psalms in tandem with many spells.

Those who practice Hoodoo have an enormous respect for nature and therefore all herbs and roots should be sourced ethically. If a particular root is rare or going extinct it is important to find a substitute. Tree bark should not be continuously taken from the same tree. Any bones used should come from animals that have already passed on. Furthermore, as articulated in Sticks, Stones and Bones by Stephanie Rose Bird, metals (silver, copper, lead, iron) often share similar properties to bones and can be used as replacements.

In recent years Hoodoo has been exploited by mainstream media. Often linked to Voodoo or Witchcraft. It is easy to see the similarities, but these practices are each unique and should be respected for their profound differences.

The problem with Hoodoo being seen as something new and profitable by the mainstream is that shops sell products that are not ethically sourced and therefore carry bad charges. If the roots, oils, candles are not carrying the right energies more harm than good can be done. In short, capitalism got its hands on Hoodoo and went wild.

Hoodoo’s links to African and African American ancestors make it a uniquely African American practice. With this said, Hoodoo does borrow and give to many traditions, including Native American rituals. Many belief systems around the world that utilize storytelling, respect for ancestors and admiration of nature have similarities to Hoodoo. These practices have conversations with each other, but nuance is important when learning and respecting any belief system in and of itself.

I am not here to say that only people of African descent can practice Hoodoo, but an extensive knowledge of African and African American traditions is needed to practice it in any substantial regard.

Practicing Hoodoo is different for each Conjurer or Rootworker, but respect for the ancestors and the living world around you is of paramount importance.

 

Books That Incorporate Hoodoo

*Book title = Buy link

Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith

Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a family with a rich tradition of practicing folk magic: hoodoo, as most people call it. But even though his name is Hoodoo, he can’t seem to cast a simple spell.—HMH Books

Sticks, Stones & Bones by Stephanie Rose Bird

This book gives a comprehensive overview of Hoodoo/Rootwork and the importance of sticks, stones and bones in the practice. It is an excellent introduction into Hoodoo.

Me (Moth) by Amber McBride

Moth has lost her family in an accident. Though she lives with her aunt, she feels alone and uprooted. Until she meets Sani, a boy who is also searching for his roots. If he knows more about where he comes from, maybe he’ll be able to understand his ongoing depression. And if Moth can help him feel grounded, then perhaps she too will discover the history she carries in her bones.—Macmillan

Root Magic by Eden Royce

Debut author Eden Royce arrives with a wondrous story of love, bravery, friendship, and family, filled to the brim with magic great and small.

—Harper Collins

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Filled with mystery and an intriguingly rich magic system, Tracy Deonn’s YA contemporary fantasy Legendborn offers the dark allure of City of Bones with a modern-day twist on a classic legend and a lot of Southern Black Girl Magic.—Simon and Schuster


About Amber McBride

Amber McBride is an English professor at the University of Virginia. She also low key practices Hoodoo and high key devours books (150 or so a year keep her well fed). In her spare time she enjoys pretending it is Halloween everyday, organizing her crystals, watching K-dramas and accidentally scrolling through TikTok for 3 hours at a time. She believes in ghosts and she believes in you.

Website: amber-mcbride.com

Twitter: @ambsmcbride

Instagram: @ambsmcbride


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The Black Experience 2.0: What Happened to Ben — Blackness and Horror

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which was held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, horror author, Sylvester Barzey (he/him), talks about the alienation of Black people and Black characters in modern horror and the whitewashing of the genre.


For those of you that don’t know, I’m a horror addict. My love is for everything and anything that falls within the genre, so much so that I started writing within the genre. I didn’t go with haunted houses or serial killers; I went with a section of the genre that I believed was open-minded and accepting to BIPOC within the fan base. I became a post-apocalyptic zombie author and boy was I ever wrong about my beloved genre.

Now, you might say, but Sylvester you silly goose you’re Black, the horror genre has no safe place for you. Normally you would be right, Black voices within the horror genre are non-existent but I feel like they have grown and will continue to grow, but I wasn’t going after the whole genre. I wasn’t trying to take Karen and Ken’s bloody basket and run with it. I stepped into a genre that I believed would be safer for minorities because minorities built the genre.

Look at any zombie author or writer and they will normally cite Night of The Living Dead as the reason they got into the genre, a movie made by George A. Romero (son of a Lithuanian mother and Spanish father) starring Duane Jones (son of a strong Black woman) these two New Yorkers made the movie that became the foundation for the modern zombie genre. So, I assumed the genre was in fact safe and used to minorities within the house they built. What I didn’t factor in is throughout the years since Romero and Jones gave us Ben in Night of The Living Dead, the White fan base has slowly removed strong minorities from the head of the genre to side characters. Most zombie books now have White, ex-military or survivalist major characters who come across a minority in their journey, but you can really only tell they’re a minority by whatever stereotype the authors threw in.

If you look at the Amazon charts for zombie fiction, you see very little non-White characters and writers. Romero the man that people praise for giving birth to the genre had Strong Black Leads in all three of his Dead movies and a Strong Black Villain in his fourth but somehow his fan base didn’t get the memo of this being a trope within the genre. Which is hard to understand because every other horror genre seems to rehash their tropes to death, but having a strong Black character was just one that the zombie genre left in the past, no matter how hard its creator tried to include Black actors?

Now, while many people have modeled their worlds or used Romero’s groundbreaking film as inspiration, few have adapted the use of Strong Black Leads within their worlds. There are some exceptions such as LT Warren in Z Nation and Michonne in The Walking Dead, but given the gap between 1968 and the creation of those characters, you would think there would be many more examples.

Let’s look at some modern examples of how White creators have pushed Black characters to the side in the zombie genre. We consider the Walking Dead the revitalization of the zombie genre, and Robert Kirkman himself has said the comic series was like a love letter to Romero’s Night of The Living Dead, so much so that Kirkman was going to use the same name. While Kirkman pays a lot of tributes to Romero’s creation in his comics, none are strong Black characters until later on in the series when we meet characters like Tyrese & Michonne. The first Black characters we meet are Morgan and his son, but they’re mainly a plot device to explain the issues in that universe. Kirkman’s introduction of Morgan is far from what Romero did with Ben.

The Walking Dead show was even worse for Black characters. They stripped most of the ones that came from the comics of everything that made them great, iconic scenes were cut or given to other characters. Then came the running joke that there could only be one Black male on the show at a time, because of the older Black character being killed off once they introduce a newer one.

It seems when something becomes successful off of the help and labor of minorities; the concept is white washed and replaced with white characters. Is it because the creators are just writing what they know? Or do they buy into the excuse that Black led stories won’t sell? 28 Days Later kick started a zombie craze. The key characters were a White Male and Black female. Now after the success of that project you would think they wouldn’t mess with the formula much, but in 28 Weeks Later we follow a White family as they try to overcome the apocalypse. What happened to the minor representation they had before? Who sat down and decided they wanted to remove one whole element that reaches a whole other fan base?

The Whitewashing of the genre isn’t just in Hollywood movies, but all throughout zombie media. The need to include themselves within the genre has slowly polarized it to the minority community. Now when people think about zombies and the apocalypse it’s a picture of a white survivor overcoming extreme odds but there were no more extreme odds than Ben, a Black man in the 60s trying to take control of a situation from a White man, while the dead surrounded them.

I know a handful of BIPOC within the zombie genre and when it comes time for collaborations for anthologies or marketing, it never seems like they involve those BIPOCs. Much like Hollywood’s horror space, I see slow change coming within the zombie genre, but it’s still disheartening that a space minorities built was taken over and now we’re looked at as outsiders, trying to break in. I just want to say on behalf of all zombie BIPOC authors… We’re taking the genre back, one story at a time.

 

About Sylvester Barzey 

Sylvester Barzey is a best selling horror and fantasy author who grew up in Bronx, NY and was later transpalented to Lawrence, GA. A military veteran with an addiction to all things horror, Sylvester’s goal is to shine a spotlight on BIPOC characters within the horror/fantasy genre. You can find Sylvester at http://www.sylvesterbarzey.com

Website 

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The Black Experience 2.0: Africanism and The Western Portrayal of Africa (Part 1)

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author, Deborah Falaye (she/her) and booktuber, Chioma (she/her) talk about Africanism, the western portrayal of Africa and how it differs from the experience of actual Africans

This post divided into two parts; an article part and a Youtube video linked in the post.


Deborah Falaye: MY AFRICA IS NOT A JUNGLE: SHIFTING THE WESTERN GAZE

9.00 am. Mid-October, 2004.

Two weeks after my family and I moved to Canada, it was officially time to enroll me in a new school. The semester was well underway, and like most Nigerian parents obsessed with education, my father didn’t want to waste any more time. So off we went that morning, covering the short distance between our home and the school. My mother and I arrived at the principal’s office a little after first period, with me clinging ever so closely to her side, filled with that same familiar dread most twelve-year-olds felt when they had to start over at a new school.

But I would soon come to find out just how unfamiliar my experience was.

One of the first things the principal wanted to know was if I had another name. “An English name, perhaps? Something to help her assimilate better with the other kids.”

Prior to arriving in Canada, I’d gone by the name ‘Tolu’ my entire life. It was the first name on my birth certificate. A name emblematic of my cultural identity as both Nigerian and Yoruba. To change it then didn’t feel right, but I was a foreigner in a new country. More than that, I wanted to belong. So my mother and I said, of course, and the switch to my Christian middle name began. This name would be easier to pronounce and remember. It would be better accepted. Less African, more western. And so ‘Deborah’ went on all official documents, from my social insurance card to my bank statements.

When all was said and done, the principal sent me off to class with a name card in hand. It wasn’t lost on me that he’d hastily scrawled Debra across the flimsy white paper. It seems even he had somehow managed to butcher my easily pronounced, better accepted, more western name the first chance he got.

Fast forward to lunch period, where I now sat amongst my new classmates, all of whom were quite welcoming. As expected, my arrival was a hot topic, but as I answered many questions about what it was like growing up in Nigeria, something else became apparent.

The Africa I know is not the Africa they’ve been shown.

Did you used to play with monkeys? No.

Did you live in huts? No.

Sleep on trees? No.

So you really had beds in Nigeria? Yes.

I still cringe at any reminder of this moment. Back then, the ignorance was new to me, strange, and I had no idea how deeply flawed the portrayal of Africa in western media was.

A few months before my arrival, Hollywood had released a new film that would rise to become an epitome of pop culture and teen drama. I loved Mean Girls the first time I saw it. But less than two minutes into the opening scenes, we are immediately greeted with a series of disillusioned shots of Cady Heron’s Third-world Africa. A sprawling, jungle-like landscape stripped of its civility, and replaced with roaming exotic animals, wilted grass, and a weapon-wielding tribesman. The filmmakers made a point of reminding their audience of this throughout the duration of the movie, as Cady so often alludes to the barbarity of the “wild jungle” and the violent methods with which disputes are often solved. We also see a similar, distorted view mirrored in George of the Jungle, an old classic about a man raised by apes in the belly of an African jungle and its surrounding native tribesmen.

It should come as no surprise that there are representations and stereotypes attached to the depiction of Africa in western media, all of which have become synonymous with a poverty-stricken, uncultured wilderness in dire need of saving. We are well aware that the foundation of this is very much steeped in the West’s justification of slavery and colonialism. Yet, even now, we still see how much the media continues to perpetuate this false narrative of western superiority and African inferiority.

It’s 2021, and there is a slight shift in the exploration of Africa through the western gaze. 2018 gave us Black Panther, a revolutionary movie that so unabashedly and simultaneously shows us Black excellence and African pride. But to celebrate Black Panther and its brilliance is to celebrate the authenticity of the African culture that existed long before it. It is in the intricacy of African art, the vibrancy of the elaborate garments and beads worn across the continent. It is in the richness of afrobeat and the growing emergence of other forms of African media—all of which tell the story of a thriving, diverse civilization unlike what has long been portrayed.

So when I return to that very particular moment with my classmates, fielding their questions left and right, it comes with this realization in mind: though they may have had no clue, the West knew better.

My Africa is not a sparse cluster of crumbling huts erected along a muddy, dirt road.

My Africa is not that acacia tree you’ve slapped on the front cover of a children’s book.

My Africa is certainly not a jungle.


Chioma: Western-centric view of Africa and New Releases by African authors.

“There are so many African authors out there that are writing African fiction, African fantasy, thrillers, mysteries, coming-of-age, etc. that they do not need to be overshadowed by the white gaze of Africa”

About Deborah Falaye

Deborah Falaye is a Nigerian-Canadian young adult author. She grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, where she spent her time devouring African literature, pestering her grandma for folktales and tricking her grandfather into watching Passions every night. When she’s not writing about fierce Black girls with bad-ass magic, she can be found obsessing over all things reality tv. BLOOD SCION is her debut YA fantasy, soon to be published Winter 2022.

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Instagram

About Chioma


Hello all! My name is Chioma (I go by Chi on the internet) and I am a Nigerian American lifelong book lover, data scientist by trade, and over opinionated Aries. I am graduate student who also works full-time and reading is my favorite form of procrastination for both of these obligations. So I outlet my bookish opinions on my booktube channel!

YouTube


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