Words Worth Noting

Favorite Quotes

"Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. French. Pascal. The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing."— Madeleine L'Engle

Carole V. Bell Bio and Writing

About Me

I'm a cultural critic, writer and researcher exploring media, identity, public opinion and the politics of art and entertainment. 

In recent years I've written about books and authors for print and online media including The AtlanticThe New York Times, NPR, The Washington PostPublishers WeeklyBookPageBook RiotShondaland, and theGrio

Links to recent articles, interviews, and reviews are below. 

What's New—The Highlights


March 2024

Book cover for Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez
You know that great moment when you discover a new book that is destined to be a favorite? I had that pleasure when I read and reviewed Xochitl Gonzalez's great second novel Anita de Monte Laughs Last for NPR. Far from falling to a sophomore slump, the author raises her game with a stimulating dual timeline stunner about art, identity and power.  

For NPR, I also wrote a roundup of new romantic fiction by authors who have historically been marginalized in the genre. The piece considers genre expanding publications including 'This Could Be Us' by Kennedy Ryan, the first Black woman to win the genre's highest honor, A Love Song for Ricki Wildea magical, Harlem Renaissance inspired novel tinged by Reese's Book Club alumni Tia Williams, romantasy, and more. 

February 2024

I'm still basking in the joy of finally writing one of the pieces on Black movie history that I've been thinking about since grad school. My feature for IndieWire on
Black Pioneers of Film explores early African American participation in the movies in the early twentieth century. It's based on copious reading of film history, watching movies, and conducting original interviews with insiders — film historians and the descendants of American legends Lena Horne and Fayard and Harold Nicholas.

The package has two parts: a dive into the segregated systems, challenges and triumphs of Black artists and a gallery of some of the most memorable performances of the 1920s to 1940s.

The essay: 

How Black Actors Broke Through in Old Hollywood — Day to Day, Role to Role

The list: 
15 Path-Breaking Black Performers of Old Hollywood — and Early American Indie Film

January 2024

I reviewed Come and Get It by Kiley Reid's complex and confounding second novel for The Boston Globe

And for NPR, I reported on  Hallmark's new month-long lineup of Jane Austen-inspired movie romances—a quartet that includes a first of its kind for Hallmark full-costume, 19th-century-set, Black-led reimagining of her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. The piece considers the logic and implications of the recasting with input from key creatives behind the production.



December 2023

For NPR I wrote about Percival Everett’s biting satirical novel Erasure and ‘American Fiction’, the acclaimed new film it inspired. I also contributed multiple entries about my favorite books across genres to the 2023 edition of NPR’s Books We Love

New In November 2023

In Focus at Publishers Weekly: Black Voices in Publishing

Two pieces I'm particularly proud of writing appear in the November 20 issue of Publishers Weekly:

A feature on Black creatives making waves in the romance genre. Amid challenges and frustrations with the industry, Black authors and editors are creating the love stories they want to read. Half a dozen shared their insights with me for this piece and talked about the projects coming in 2024. We even broke some news about a new deal for Naima Simone.

A cover story profiling author Ijeoma Oluo (pictured above). With her forthcoming book, 'Be a Revolution,' Ijeoma Oluo looks to shift conversations about race from a place of trauma to one of loving action. 

A romance roundup for the Boston Globe. 

Winter is coming fast. Cold weather goes with hot reads. The scoop on The Art of Scandal and several more from sweet to tart that top my shortlist.

12 Short Reviews for NPR Books We Love

Fall Reads

Review of HOW TO SAY BABYLON for The Washington Post

I reviewed Jamaican poet Safiya Sinclair's incredible memoir HOW TO SAY BABYLON, a book that is as incisive and addictive as it is gorgeous. It's phenomenal —very specific but also somehow one of the realist, most relatable renderings of life on the rock.

The Enchanters by James Ellroy for The Washington Post

James Ellroy returns to L.A. with Hoffa, the Kennedys and Marilyn. The latest from the king of west coast noir is a wild, genre-defying trip of a novel that should not be missed. The troubled specter of Marilyn Monroe haunts “The Enchanters,” but its real star is Freddy Otash, the notorious Los Angeles police officer and private investigator who’s said to have inspired Jack Nicholson’s character in “Chinatown.” 

"Butcher or baronet?" Review of The Fraud by Zadie Smith for The Boston Globe

“It is remarkable,” writes literary supernova Zadie Smith, “how quickly a man of flesh and blood can become mere symbol.” “The Fraud” captures exactly this situation in Smith’s typically dry and insightful fashion. In the late 19th century, Victorian England was transfixed by a high-profile spectacle of disputed inheritance. Years after the aristocratic Roger Tichborne was lost at sea and presumed dead, a butcher living in Australia came forward claiming to be the missing heir to the extensive Tichborne estate and title.

‘A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens’ 
by Raul Palma

For brave and not so brave readers: this is a spooky season recommendation that I would endorse any day. Scary smart and Miami and set, it ingeniously uses metaphor and horror to explore the many dimensions of debt, including those that have little to do with money.

Summer Coverage

"The Whitehead Manifesto" My conversation with Colson Whitehead was the cover story for BookPage's August Issue.

The Ray Carney saga is Colson Whitehead’s first series, and just like his readers (myself included), he feels passionately about the man at its center: a respectable, upwardly mobile furniture salesman by day, and fence of stolen goods by night. “I love him too. He’s been a great source of pleasure and inspiration,” says the author. But that affection doesn’t stop Whitehead from mercilessly putting Ray through the wringer. 

All The Sinners Bleed by S.A. Cosby

I reviewed the thriller of the year for The Washington Post. As the first Black sheriff of Charon County, Va., former FBI agent and local football star Titus Crown is used to navigating treacherous waters. He hails from the dangerously divided community he polices —one infamously “founded in bloodshed and darkness.”

An Essay for NPR.org: "Debut novel 'The God of Good Looks' adds to growing canon of Caribbean literature"

In 2023, two of the Pen/Faulkner Award finalists for fiction, Dionne Irving's The Islands and Jonathan Escoffery's If I Survive You, were crafted by authors of Jamaican descent. Another, Fire Rush by Jaqueline Crooks, was a finalist for the UK Women's Prize for Fiction. That's neither a blip nor an accident. The debut novel 'The God of Good Looks' from Trinidadian author Breanne Mc Ivor is a prime example of this new Caribbean literary wave.

"What to Read When You Need to Start Over" in the Atlantic

This is a very personal and special collection. If you’re in search of a boost or motivation to change your life, these seven books may help.

January to February 2023

‘The House of Eve’ is a triumph of historical fiction'

Review of The House of Eve for The Washington Post. Sadeqa Johnson's fourth novel is a powerful exploration of Black womanhood, motherhood and ambition.

"The Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2023"

With a stunning array of authors and settings stretching from Uttar Pradesh in Northern India to Uganda to Amsterdam and back to the United States, this list shows why the year ahead in books looks especially tantalizing.  Oprah Daily.


November and December 2022

"Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s Relentless Vision for Octavia Butler’s Kindred"
In this profile of Obie award winner Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins for the Oprah Daily website, we discussed how he approached his history-making dream project adapting Octavia Butler's classic novel Kindred for FX on Hulu.

"The Best New TV Shows Based on Books"

Between this year and the next, a wildly exciting and diverse group of adapted programs are coming to our home screens. So
me of the most anticipated will be based on works by women and authors of color. Roundup, Oprah Daily Nov 30.


The Power of Percival Everett” 

Though his accolades is growing more numerous every day, Percival Everett has always attracted more of a cult than blockbuster audience. This  profile explores why more readers are finally catching up to the satirical genius of this literary icon. Oprah Daily. 

Kathryn Ma and the cover of her new novel The Chinese Groove
"Kathryn Ma's 'The Chinese Groove' Is a Family Affair"

When I met Kathryn Ma via Zoom, we talked about a great many things, but one that stuck with me was how a trip to her father’s birthplace shaped her imagination and writing for decades and inspired her excellent new novel ‘The Chinese Groove'. Read about in Publishers Weekly.

October 2022

I reviewed Celeste Ng's powerful third novel Our Missing Hearts for Oprah Daily. 
The “Little Fires Everywhere” author’s latest is almost dystopian, except that the social and familial upheaval it depicts are too familiar for that label to stick. 

September 2022

I'm particularly proud of this piece: "The Spectacular Legacy and Sparkling Future of Queen Sugar" is a deep dive into an iconic program that changed the game for women directors.For seven seasons, "Queen Sugar" has chronicled the beautiful complexities of Black family and love. It was my privilege to visit the set during the shooting of the very last episode and speak to a dozen members of the crew. The result was this report on the show's history and the lasting change it leaves behind.

July 2022

July was a busy month. 

I made my Oprah Daily debut with a roundup of innovative contemporary crime fiction by women authors: "Crime Fiction Goes Global and Diverse."

I dove into Historical Espionage for BookPageAllison Montclair’s The Unkept Woman explores English life after World War II, at the dawn of the Cold War, while Winter Work is an elegant murder mystery complicated by the turmoil surrounding German reunification as the Cold War was coming to a shaky close. 

I reviewed Honey and Spice for The New York Times (July 1, 2022)

In this witty and incisive first romance novel, Black British author Bolu Babalola plays with familiar literary romance tropes to explore questions about gender, sexuality and modern dating.

Little Nothings, BookPage July 2022 (Print edition) In Julie Mayhew's Greek island-set thriller, little cuts do lasting damage and friendships are as intense and heartbreaking as romantic relationships.

June 2022

I interviewed the multi-genre, award-winning author Akwaeke Emezi about their latest novel (the first in the romance genre), You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty, for a cover feature in the June issue of BookPage.  

New reviews in June:

- I also reviewed You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty for BookPage.

- The Mutual Friend by Carter Bays.

May 2022

For NPR.org, I reviewed two stand out contemporary romances aimed at upsetting genre conventions: Book Lovers by Emily Henry and The No-Show by Beth O'Leary.

I reviewed the intergenerational family dramedy Love Marriage by Monica Ali for the May issue of BookPage.

April 2022

Starting the month with reviews of two great new novels:

Lessons in ChemistryBonnie Garmus’ devastating and funny debut novel blows the lid off simplistic myths of post-World War II American life. I had a blast reading and reviewing it for the April issue of Bookpage. Read the starred review.


I also reviewed Portrait of a Thief for BookPage. With a heist at its center and rebellion in its heart, Grace D. Li’s debut is a politically savvy diaspora story wrapped up in a thriller.


March 2022

The reading list I created for NPR Books was a month or two in the making and a true labor of love: "5 books at the intersection of Black feminist thought, culture, and politics." 3/21/22.

Sometimes the best love story is the one you aren’t expecting. In books like Jai Chakrabarti's A Play for the End of the World and Less by Andrew Sean Greer, romance is an essential but secondary feature. I wrote about five such books in my first piece for The Atlantic: "Five Books in Which Romance Sneaks Up on You"

I also reviewed several thrillers and one international contemporary novel about loss, love and family:

— In Like a Sister by Kellye Garrett, "...elements of character & voice mesh with ...explorations of race, class & family in an arresting combination." NPR Books 3/19/22.

— Alex Segura's Secret Identity is a 1970s comic book thriller by one of crime fiction's new innovators. NPR Books 3/17/22.

One Italian Summer by bestselling author Rebecca Serle blends contemplations of love and loss with adventure. BookPage 3/1/22.

February 2022
I contributed an essay to the excellent new collection, Black Love Matters, edited by Jessica Pryde. "I'm Rooting for Everybody Black" explores how group values and political solidarity are conveyed in stories about Black romance. 

January 2022


In Nigerian culture, "Wahala" means trouble. In Nikki May's sharply observed debut novel Wahala, trouble's name is Isobel, the new girl who shakes up the equilibrium in a tight group of Anglo-Nigerian friends. The premise is brilliant: it's as if The Other Black Girl strolled into an Anglo-Nigerian "Sex and the City," a story of love and female friendship with a killer edge. I had a great time reviewing it for NPR Books.


Book cover, Olga Dies Dreaming

Olga Dies Dreaming is a brilliant choice to kickstart your year in reading: a sprawling and insightful saga exploring love, family, culture and the American Dream. BookPage January 4, 2022.



Olga Dies Dreaming author Xochitl Gonzalez generously unpacks her striking debut for me in the January print issue of BookPage. 


November 2021

Essay: I wrote ​a​bout the artistry and legacy of Nella Larsen's Passing for NPR Books. 

'Passing' — the original 1929 novel — is disturbingly brilliant. ​11/10/21. 

October 2021


​I reviewed Tamron Hall's debut thriller for NPR Books: A journalist takes inspiration from cases that haunted her in 'As the Wicked Watch'​.  10/30/21.​

I reviewed Tiphanie Yanique's Monster in the Middle for NPR: 'Monster in the Middle' muses on the complex nature of romantic love. 10/23/21.

NPR Books: Tiphanie Yanique's " 'Monster in the Middle' muses on the complex nature of romantic love." October 23, 2021.

BookPage: As emotionally taxing as it is terrifying, "This Thing Between Us" by Gus Moreno is a scary, spooky read with intellectual depth. Leave the Lights on when you read it. October 2021 Print edition and online.

September 2021


"African American authors lead the pack for Kirkus Prize nominees." Finalists include: Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Colson Whitehead, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, Dr. Tiya Miles and more. My news story for theGrio. September 13, 2021.



NPR Books: "The Trees": Percival Everett’s new novel is a mix of whodunnit, history, horror and dark humor that calls back across to the murder of Emmett Till. NPR September 22, 2021.

"These Toxic Things": Rachel Howzell Hall's terrifying and creepy new novel. NPR September 2, 2021. 

"A Play for the End of the World" by Jai Chakrabarti. BookPage September 2021.


August 2021

Two new lists: dozens of book recommendations across a multitude of categories. 

theGrio Top 50: Pandemic or no, Black authors continue to produce outstanding work in a wide variety of genres. So I produced a big, thematic listing of books for us to consider in the waning, hazy days of summer. TheGrio August 6, 2021.

On BookRiot.com: An oasis of certainty in an uncertain world, mood-boosting and increasingly diverse cozy mysteries are the perfect pandemic comfort read. August 11, 2021.


I wrote an article for NPR Books on the heat and hype surrounding recent Booker Prize nominee The Sweetness of Water. August 4, 2021.

I reviewed Rémy Ngamije's sparkling, insightful and sexy debut The Eternal Audience of One. BookPage August 2021. Print and Online.

An Interview

Acclaimed crime fiction author Malla Nunn discusses her new YA suspense novel Sugar Town Queens, set outside Durban, South Africa.

July 2021


My review of Sugar Town Queens for BookPage. July 23, 2021. 

I reviewed Vanessa Riley's Island Queen for The New York Times:
"A New Novel Gives Wings — and a Megaphone — to a Complex Woman." July 8, 2021.

My first piece for NPR: a review of Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby. July 6, 2021 

That piece is also quoted in this roundup by NPR Books editor Petra Mayer: "July Book-Ahead: What We're Excited To Read Next Month".

Review of The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam. BookPage July 2021. Print and Online.

Review of The View Was Exhausting by Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta.  


"Best friends in a fake relationship: What could go wrong?"  Q and A with the authors of The View Was Exhausting: BookPage July 6, 2021.

Other Recent Highlights

Review of The Other Black Girlan innovative novel of suspense and social satire, by Zakiya Dalila Harris. BookPage June 2021. Print and online.

Review of A Sitting in St. James by Rita Williams-Garcia. BookPage online May 16, 2021. And my interview with the acclaimed authorBookPage June 2021.

Review of the new legal thriller by a beloved public figure: "Stacey Abrams evokes ‘Trust Black Women’ with new book ‘While Justice Sleeps’ " The Grio May 20, 2021. 

Review of People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry. BookPage online May 11, 2021.

Review of Red Island House by Andrea Lee. BookPage April 2021. Print and online. 

Review of "Wild Rain": In Beverly Jenkins's Romance Novels, Black History is Front and CenterThe New York Times February 9, 2021. 

Review of The Devil You Know by Charles Blow. The Grio, February 4, 2021.


Rita Williams-Garcia
BookPage June 2021

Talia Hibbert: Let the Sunshine In 
BookPage interview March 2021

Olivia Dade and Rebekah Weatherspoon: On fat positivity, fandom and fame-adjacency. BookPage, Online 10/27/20

"Cowboy Charming: Publishers Weekly Talks with Rebekah Weatherspoon" Publishers Weekly, Print and Online 9/28/20

Alyssa Cole on her striking new thriller about race and gentrification, When No One Is WatchingBookPage, Print and Online September 2020.


Feature: "Sweet and Substantial
BookPage, June 2021. A feature on LGBTQ romance with reviews ofThe Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian and Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall.

Feature: "New arrivals, new love, bad timing"
BookPage, April 6, 2021. With reviews of Life's Too Short by Abby Jimenez and Knit, Purl, A Baby and A Girl by Hettie Bell.

Senate GOP Still Hasn’t Renewed the Violence Against Women Act. It’s Been 20 Months.
Courier Newsroom December 17, 2020

Love and Liberation
BookPage December 16, 2020

Beyond 2020: The Deeper Story of American Politics in the Trump Era
Book Riot Nov 3, 2020

Casting Spells Upon Your Shelves: A feature on feminist literary witch tales. 
BookPage, Print and Online October 2020

12 Must-Read Romances With Great Fat Representation.
Book Riot Sep 24, 2020

The Troubling Gap Between Fat Representation and Fat Acceptance In Romance
Book Riot Sep 10, 2020

Small-town struggles in three realistic yet comforting romances
BookPage 8/5/20

Love In the Public Eye
BookPage 7/7/20

Finding Black Joy in Romance Novels
The Grio 7/24/20

Black Romance Novels Matter Too
Shondaland.com 2/23/20

15 Must Read Black-Authored Historical Romance Novels of The Last 25 Year
Book Riot 2/29/20

I Read My Way Out: My Year of Reading Copiously and Therapeutically
Book Riot 3/3/20



"Tamika Mallory’s ‘State of Emergency,’ a front-row seat to a masterful political performance"
Nonfiction Book Review. The Grio May 14, 2021.


"...Jones is already a master stylist, writing gorgeous, lyrical and readable prose about some of the ugliest things that human beings feel and do to one another. Sometimes the prose reads like scripture. At other times, it’s poetry." —BookPage review of The Prophets

An Extraordinary Lord by Anna Harrington. June 29, 2021

The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary. June 1, 2021 

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert. March 1, 2021

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones. February 5, 2021

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr. Print and Online January 2021 

Crosshairs by Catherine Hernandez. Online 12/8/20

White Ivy by Susie Yang. Print and Online November 2020 

If the Boot Fits by Rebekah Weatherspoon 10/27/20

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade 10/6/20

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole 9/1/20

You Lucky Dog by Julia London 8/25/20

Kept Animals by Kate Milliken. Print June 2020

Until the End by Juno Rushdan 5/26/20


Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa on The Book Queen's Book Palace

House Rules by Ruby Lang on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books


Alyssa Cole, in conversation with Glory Edim and Carole Bell, discusses When No One is Watching. October 25, 2020.

Bunk and the History of Hoaxes with Kevin Young: My in-depth interview with the acclaimed poet, Poetry Editor of the New Yorker, and Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Kevin Young, about his second nonfiction book, Bunk. April 2018 At MIT.  Available as a videopodcast, or summary transcript.

A Tribute to the Dream with Renee Goldsberry:  I enjoyed a wide-ranging and emotional conversation with the Tony award-winning actress from Hamilton about art, politics, and life as part of the keynote event at Northeastern University’s MLK day celebration in 2017.


CaribBelle at www.cvbell.com


Dr. Carole V. Bell My Google Scholar profile

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