Bookshelf: Reinvention

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A compilation of must-read fictional tales, essays and poetry collections reimagining histories, exploring faith and feminism, and examining various forms of modern healing.

Handpicked by Alliyah Riaz, the London host of Because We’ve Read - a radical international bookclub working to challenge and redefine the way we understand the world and our place in it.



QUESTIONS FOR ADA by Ijeoma Umebinyuo


‘The woman, alone, finding parts of herself she never knew existed will always be more powerful.’ Ijeoma, a Nigerian born poet tells fierce tales of self-love and empowerment through her collection of ethereal poetry and prose. Ranging from simple, one-line poems that pack a punch to longer, story-like snippets of prose, Ijeoma writes of ancestry, gender inequality, friendship, faith and the damaging silence of generations of traumatised women. She is fearless in her pursuit of becoming an independent, brilliant woman who refuses to be muted. Not just for herself, but for the women who came before her and the women who will come after.

HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi


An epic tale weaved through generations. Yaa Gyasi’s ambitious novel begins in an African village not long before it is overwhelmed by the terrors of slavery, and ends in modern day America. Each chapter is written in the narrative perspective of a different character, thus the novel almost feels like a collection of short stories rather than a single, linear tale. Yet, despite the ever-shifting voices, there is a gleaming connection threaded through the novel linking characters together, irrespective of the centuries, the experiences and the oceans separating them. Homegoing is both historical and contemporary.




“And ain’t I a woman?” A collection of thoughtful, insightful and engaging essays, Can We All Be Feminists? is an absolute breath of fresh air. Inspired by the legendary likes of Bell Hooks, Audre Lorde and Angela Davis, as well as modern-day heroes such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Reni Eddo-Lodge, the contributors to this collection are brutally honest regarding their personal experiences, and how ‘feminism’ as we know it has or has not aided their struggles. Each writer calls for a truly inclusive, intersectional feminism. Topics range from reconciling feminism with religion and sexuality to representations of Muslim women to the frustrating exclusion of disabled and queer women in popular feminist discourse. Edited by the inspiring young feminist and activist, June Eric-Udorie, Can We All Be Feminists? gives marginalised women a chance to raise their voices regarding a highly relevant and significant issue.

Robin Yassin-Kassab

/contemporary fiction/

Comparable to Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, The Road From Damascus - written by British-Syrian journalist and teacher, Robin Yassin-Kassab - is a messy, vibrant and absolutely wonderful novel about reconciling Eastern values with Western culture and the lifelong process of learning and unlearning. The novel contains an array of distinct characters, ranging from self-satisfied academics to self-contradicting, confused religious extremists, and brilliant, determined, self-aware Muslim women. Robin Yassin-Kassab challenges his reader as he challenges his characters. This intelligent, humorous novel can often be uncomfortable but is dotted with memorable wisdom. At the end of it all, the characters and the readers take a deep breath as if we have all reached the finale of an exhilarating journey.

BURNT SHADOWS by Kamila Shamsie


‘She was a woman who had learnt that she could leave everything behind, and survive.’ Similar to Homegoing, Burnt Shadows spans across nations and generations. Beginning in Nagasaki, moments before the destructively fatal nuclear bomb dropped in 1945 and ending in contemporary Manhattan, Burnt Shadows stretches from Japan to pre-partition India, post-partition Pakistan, to Afghanistan and finally, New York. It tells a weaving tale which connects its characters together, despite their shockingly different identities and experiences. Shamsie works to humanise all her characters, reminding the reader that whether we are products of the East or West, the ‘first’ world or the ‘third’, we are all, achingly human, with an equal capacity to love, hope, dream and grieve.

ALL ABOUT LOVE by Bell Hooks


 ‘True love is unconditional, but to truly flourish it requires an ongoing commitment to constructive struggle and change.’ This heartwarming collection of essays on a ‘love ethic’ encourages the reader to perceive love as a verb, as an act of conscious doing, rather than a noun, a stagnant mode of being. The topics range from familial love to romantic love, to spiritual love and more. Hooks' arguably idealistic belief in love’s power to transform lives (if practised ethically) is undoubtedly uplifting.




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