One of my most anticipated books of 2020 was Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola. Although it did come out in the U.K. last year, here in the U.S. we had to wait a bit longer, but my excitement never waned. So I was thrilled when Book of the Month chose it as one of their April add-on selections this spring. Needless to say, I ordered it immediately.
|Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola|
|Genre||Romance; Short Stories|
|Setting||Africa; Asia; Europe|
|Number of Pages||283|
|Format I Read||Hardcover|
|Original Publication Date||April 13, 2021 (US)|
A high-born Nigerian goddess, who has been beaten down and unappreciated by her gregarious lover, longs to be truly seen.
A young businesswoman attempts a great leap in her company, and an even greater one in her love life.
A powerful Ghanaian spokeswoman is forced to decide whether she should uphold her family’s politics or be true to her heart.
In her debut collection, internationally acclaimed writer Bolu Babalola retells the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology with incredible new detail and vivacity. Focusing on the magical folktales of West Africa, Babalola also reimagines Greek myths, ancient legends from the Middle East, and stories from long-erased places.
With an eye towards decolonizing tropes inherent in our favorite tales of love, Babalola has created captivating stories that traverse across perspectives, continents, and genres.
Love in Color may be the first collection of short stories I’ve ever read, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into it. Would I like the condensed format of telling a whole story in just 20 pages? Would the stories be different enough from each other that they wouldn’t all blend together in my mind? Luckily, after reading the first few stories, I found that I was really liking this collection, and it only got better up its end.
The first 10 stories here are retellings of ancient myths. Their origins range from Lesotho and Ghana and Egypt to Greece and China and Mesopotamia. Personally, I was only vaguely familiar with the tales of Nefertiti and of Eros and Psyche – and even those, not enough to really know anything besides their names and geographical settings. All of the other stories were completely new to me.
I loved the chance to explore the world and different cultures through these stories. My goal is always to read as diversely as I can, and this collection of retellings satisfied that thirst for me. Of course, Bolu Babablola made significant changes to these stories, as she describes in the Author’s Note at the end of the book. While some of the tales seem to still be set in ancient times, most of the stories she updates to a contemporary setting. For example, Eros and Psyche are now co-workers at a fashion magazine called Olympus. Thisbe and Pyramus are no longer in prehistoric Mesopotamia; instead, they are college students who share a thin wall in their coed dorm.
Likewise, the plots and characters are greatly changed, too. Although the author aimed to stay true to the core of the stories – and I trust that she did – she also purposefully gave the women characters much more agency and power. Making the men less creepy, violent, and domineering is certainly a plus in these retellings! The stories feel much more equal and empowering now that the women have choices and the opportunity to make their own decisions.
Of the retellings, my favorite stories were Scheherazade (an update of 1,001 Nights in Persia), Attem (“Ituen and the King’s Wife,” from the Calabar peoples of Nigeria), Psyche (from Greek mythology), Naleli (“How Khosi Chose a Wife,” from Lesotho), and Thisbe (from Mesopotamia). However, I thoroughly enjoyed all the others as well.
I also enjoyed Bolu Babalola’s three original stories. Tiara stood out as a beautifully done tale of how two exes can reunite after a painful breakup. Orin, in contrast, was a fun look at modern dating culture. The final chapter, Alagomeji, seems to describe the author’s own parents’ love story, given the time, setting, and last name of the “prince.” All three of these stories were among the best in the book, further affirming the author’s immense talent.
Love in Color is a wonderfully done collection of stories depicting diverse forms of love and romance. From youthful first love to second-chance lovers to finding you deserve better, each of these stories brings something different to the table. (However, it would have been nice to see more than one LGBTQ+ love story here.)
I took my time with this book, reading only one short story per day, and it allowed each chapter to shine on its own. I expect that I’ll revisit some of these stories in the future, or even reread the whole book.
Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold is an excellent short story collection, and I can’t wait to read more from Bolu Babalola. Her first novel, titled Honey & Spice, is due out sometime in 2022, and I’ll be reading it as soon as it’s available.
About the Author
Bolu Babalola is a British-Nigerian woman with a misleading bachelor’s degree in law and a masters degree in American Politics & History from UCL. She feels it is important to state that her thesis was on Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and she was awarded a distinction for it. So essentially she has a masters degree in Beyoncé. A writer of books, scripts, culture pieces and retorts, a lover of love and self-coined “romcomoisseur”, Bolu Babalola writes stories of dynamic women with distinct voices who love and are loved audaciously. She is a big believer in women being both “Beauty and the beast”. She is not a fan of writing her own bios.