I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi
What it is: A series of essays detailing the author’s immigration from Nigeria to the United States as a young child. As she gets older, she struggles with self-destructive behaviors, a complicated relationship with her mother, and bouts of severe depression; she’s later diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder.
Why I read it: Several people I know read it, so it’s been on my radar.
What I thought: This is an emotionally heavy book. From the beginning, Ikpi divulges difficult parts of her childhood. Immigration would be difficult for anyone, but she already carried a burden and then moved from Nigeria to Oklahoma of all places. She lets readers into her mental state through the different stages of Bipolar II disorder; she’s brutally honest about how it affected her jobs, her romantic relationships, her friendships, her family dynamics, and of course, her physical and mental health. There aren’t too many books written by people of color about their struggles with mental health, and this book — written by a Nigerian immigrant and published by a major publisher — is important for the Black community in particular.
Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Length: 11 hours, 39 minutes
What it is: The Civil War has come to a close, and Simon, a fiddler who was unwillingly conscripted into the Confederate Army weeks before the end of the war, is now travelling around with a few other former army musicians trying to make a living. Before the Confederate surrender, he had fallen in love with Doris, an Irish indentured servant employed by a cruel Union officer. Much of the book is about Simon trying to earn enough money to purchase his own land and find his way back to Doris.
Why I read it: I loved the author’s previous book, News of the World.
What I thought: I appreciated the atmosphere and the setting; especially towards the end of the war, men were just rounded up and conscripted into service. They weren’t serving for a cause; they were forced into service. Jiles does a good job of conveying the low morale, hunger, and sickness that prevailed even after the war ended. But the plot itself left me feeling underwhelmed. Simon cared about two things: his fiddle and courting Doris (which was strictly forbidden by her contract). He had a one-track mind regarding both, and his stubborn behavior in guarding both led to foolish behaviors. That would be fine if there were more to the plot, but unfortunately no, that’s it: boy wants girl and acts a fool. I needed more.