The Bookshelf: The Mothers and Swing Time


It’s been a tough November. Let’s not speak of it. But suffice to say, we need books now more than ever, and we need these books in particular, two novels by accomplished, incredibly smart authors, speaking to the experience of black women in the world today. Voices that some corners of the universe are trying to silence. Good luck with that, I say. 

The first, The Mothers by Brit Bennettis a stunning debut novel. It follows a teenage girl – a great beauty, mourning her mother’s recent suicide – embroiled in a fling with a failed football player sidelined by injury and waiting tables at a local diner. But when Nadia falls pregnant her world starts to slowly unravel. It’s a heartbreaking book that asks the question, what if? How would things be different if we had made different choices, how would our lives look if we hadn’t done all the things that were easy, and not done the things that scared us. It’s an ode to missed opportunity written with a sparkling, luminous deftness of prose.

And then there’s Zadie Smith, who practically needs no introduction. She’s a literary it-girl, who penned her first novel (White Teeth) at the startling age of 21, and has gone on to write several more novels and non-fiction. Her latest, Swing Time, is her first novel in four years, and the wait has definitely been worth it. It follows two best friends, both black, both dancers, one who has a passionate and feverish love of rhythm, the other who doesn’t care… but is truly talented. You might be able to tell how this one will end, but the joy of this story isn’t in the outcome, but in the telling.

Words by Hannah-Rose Yee