Books in Review: ‘Love in Color’ by Bolu Babalola and ‘The Conjure-Man Dies’ by Rudolph Fisher

By Emmarae McLendon The Black Lens

‘Love in Color’ by Bolu Babalola

In this debut collection, internationally acclaimed writer Bolu Babalola takes to retelling the most striking and beautiful love stories in history/mythology. She focuses on the stories of West Africa but ventures a few into Greek and Middle Eastern stories.

Now I’m gonna be real with y’all – I’m not a romance reader so I avoided this book for a while. My friends kept recommending it to me saying “Girl, I know you don’t read romance but this right here! This you gotta check out!” I am so glad that I finally did!

These captivating stories really express love on different scales and what it means to other people while honoring the origins of the stories. She gives back power to the women in the stories where their power or voice was stripped from them.

One of my favorite things was doing some quick research on the stories in the book so I knew what they were based off of. The table of contents is the names of the women: Osun, Scheherazade, Nefertiti, Attem, Yaa, Siya, Psyche, Naleli, Zhinu, Thisbe, Tiara, Orin, and Alagomeji. Now for some of these women I knew of their stories but a lot of these names were new to me. I had a thrilling time looking up their stories so I could know what to expect to see what changes have been made to amplify their voice and presence in the upcoming story. (Note: You don’t have to do this extra bit of research in order to enjoy this collection. My curiosity just overtook me and led me to extra reading)

While the stories were short their pacing was very enjoyable and I felt like I had enough time to feel connected to the characters and understand the love they were seeking.

If you have always loved reading about powerful women throughout history or in mythologies I strongly suggest you pick up this collection of stories! Even if you’re like me and don’t tend to pick up romance I think you’ll enjoy this. If you also have an interest in learning more about West African tales I think this is a cool place to start by gaining a modern interpretation on the stories. I know for me it has driven my research further as I look up more stories about these women.

‘The Conjure-Man Dies’ by Rudolph Fisher

“The Conjure-Man Dies,” a Harlem mystery – the first ever African American crime novel by Rudolph Fisher! First published in 1932 (2 years before the author’s unfortunate early death), an all Black cast – the detective, the victim, the suspects, the doctor, and the policemen. The story opens up with the body of N’Gana Frimbo, known as the conjure-man, being found in his consultation room by two men named Bubber Brown and Jinx Jenkins. They both rush to Perry Dart who is one of Harlem’s ten Black detectives to investigate who killed him.

Dart is highly motivated to figure out how Frimbo came to his demise, Bubber and Jinx are of course determined to clear their name of any suspicion since they were the ones that found the body so they help (…eh more like hinder) Dart’s


Reading this story was an experience! This book is the earliest written crime fiction that I have ever read. It wastes no time getting to the mystery! You are immediately warped into the story of figuring out who killed Frimbo. Mind racing and catching clues to solve the murder before the pages run out. It was interesting to see how crime solving was handled in the 30s compared to now. There was a discussion between characters about how blood types were just being used to help identify a person as well as dental records.

Anyway – back to the mystery. Frimbo was a man shrouded in mystery and the pace of the story highly reflects that. As I approached the halfway mark of the book I figured I had the mystery solved and it must wrap up soon…yet, there was the whole half of the book left. Well reader, the twists and turns that ensued after this point was absolutely thrilling! I finished the last half of the book in the car and as my husband drove I kept shouting “No way!”, “How?!”, as well as numerous gasps which made him laugh and exclaim “what’s happening?? Tell me everything!”.

While this murder case is being solved the characters Bubber and Jinx add a fantastic level of comedic relief. Their bickering back and forth feels like listening to my cousins at a BBQ bickering back and forth.

This Black classic is definitely one to add to your shelves! Rudolph Fisher’s writing is extremely magnetic and offers a unique lens to what it was like being Black in the 30s.

Emmarae McLendon can be reached online at @EmmaraeEmpowered.