One thing about audiobooks, narrators can make or break the whole experience. I am very particular about my audiobook narrators, and sometimes it can be difficult to impress me. One thing that’s for sure Bahni Turpin ticks all my boxes for a good audiobook narrator.
I listen to a lot of audiobooks; they are the primary way I read books (note: we at Feminist Book Club do not fall into the very abelist and gatekeeping stance that by consuming audiobooks is somehow less than, any questions or concerns take it up with our Editor in Chief). I have listened to many different narrators, some great and engaging, some not so great. I even suffered through a NetGalley audiobook that sounded like it was narrated by Siri. Usually I quit an audiobook when I don’t like the narrator, but for this book the story was strong enough to carry me through.
But Bahni Turpin? *Chef’s kiss* She is perfect. (Natalia’s Note – She was also in Star Trek Voyager and while Tayler had nothing to do with this addition and it doesn’t relate in any way to her ability to narrative, I felt it was important [as a Trekkie] to inform you of this fun fact. Thank you for your indulgence).
I look for several things in an audiobook narrator: voice, engagement, and versatility.
Bahni Turpin’s voice
I am big on paying attention to the way a narrator’s voice makes me feel. If their voice is annoying to me or feels too boring, I know it’s time for another book because I love myself too much.
For those of you who have heard her voice, we can all agree that Bahni Turpin has a very distinct one. We all know from the first few words uttered, that we will be listening to Bahni Turpin. Her voice is just very rich.
Because Bahni Turpin’s voice is so unique, it is easy to stay engaged with the book. She uses her voice as a tool to pull readers/listeners in to really suck them into the story. When she is reading text that isn’t dialogue, she isn’t neutral. She gives life to the text and adds inflection in places to evoke different types of feelings. It’s far from dry narration.
When she reads different characters, they feel distinct. You can tell by the way she changes her voice which character is speaking. She doesn’t just read what they say, but she adds emotion and depth with voice breaking and sighing. Sometimes it comes across as insincere or cheesy when other narrators attempt this, but Bahni Turpin does it artfully.
I typically dislike audiobooks read by a full cast for each character’s dialogue. I think an exceptional narrator is able to seamlessly voice all of the characters without removing the listener from the story. Bahni Turpin has that versatility among every character she voices.
She not only knows how to morph her voice between characters, but she has the versatility of genres and subjects too. She can do YA fiction (The Hate U Give, Children of Blood and Bone). She can do Black classics (If Beale Street Could Talk). She even read nonfiction essay collections by instrumental Black women (The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay).
Bahni Turpin, badass narrator
Needless to say, Bahni Turpin is a badass narrator. I have listened to at least 25 of her books, and she has many more. She has won so many awards for being amazing. If after all this you don’t believe me, have a listen for yourself!
I agree. I’ve bought books I know nothing about simply because she’s the narrator. There are a few other narrators I love (Saskia Maarleveld, Marin Ireland, for example) but Bahni is in a class by herself.
I just started listening to Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. It’s the first audiobook I’ve listened to with Bahni’s narration and dang, you’re not kidding. Her voice and style are sublime.