Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson

Three parallel stories of downtrodden women in three eras. Our first (and to me, primary) story is set on Haiti in the era of slavery. The second story is an actress struggling to survive in pre-revolution France, while the third is of a slave in Roman occupied Egypt.

All three are well told; there’s a great deal of immediacy. Childbirth matters a lot to all three… and the odd spirit framing device between them.

It’s a heavy book, but very well told. Your empathy gets quite a workout.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Very well written, without fantasic elements. It’s a good look at whiteness and passing and how powerful and subtle its effects are.

Boy, the first POV character, is a runaway from New York in the early 1950s. Her problems are an abusive dad and trying to relocate with pluck as the main skill in your quiver. She develops interesting relationships with her fellow boarders, who are similarly vibrant characters. The double dating market was interesting, as were some of the part time jobs and other employment that Boy navigates.

Near the middle, we start getting a bit more from Snow, Atrutro’s daughter. It moved the fastest. skimming over the differences in life after she moves in with Clara and restarting mostly when Bird is old enough to write.

Bird’s birth is the big shock that reorganizes the family. The book follows bird pretty closely and does a good job with its young protagonist. We see Boy as a mom and can understand what’s going on in the background, even though Bird’s understanding is much more limited.

The tangle of relations all comes to a head at the book’s end. We even get the return of ratcatcher and navigate a strange new normal. The end raises hope of resolution and reconciliation… but leaves its form to our imagination.

I must have heard about it on NPR some time ago. It was very well written and a grounded introduction to race at the boundaries.