I love June: not only does it bring us the first days of summer but it’s also officially Audiobook Month. This year, June is extra special because here at AudioFile, we’re celebrating the narrators whom we’ve honored as Golden Voices, a lifetime achievement award given to voice actors who have demonstrated excellence in the art of transporting stories from the printed page to headphones and car speakers for grateful listeners like me.
Today I’m happy to feature one of the newest AudioFile Golden Voices: Bahni Turpin. Bahni has narrated more than 200 audiobooks, spanning the entire range of genres from sweet children’s stories to intense thrillers to thought-provoking nonfiction.
My introduction to Bahni’s work came when I made the wise decision to listen to Kathryn Stockett’s THE HELP, a period piece set in the waning days of the Jim Crow South. Bahni’s memorable performance clearly delineated her character’s double life—domestic help by day and mother and friend by night. At the same time, Bahni demonstrated her talent at being part of an ensemble cast, and she, Octavia Spencer, Jenna Lamia, and Cassandra Campbell were together awarded an Earphones Award and were Audies winners.
Over the last decade, I’ve listened to dozens of Bahni-read audiobooks, each one as affecting as the last. One of the standouts—and another Audie Award winner—is THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas, which is set in contemporary times and deals with grief, friendship, and racial profiling by police. Bahni taps into the main character’s complex array of emotions from sadness to anger, underscoring the audiobook’s heart-wrenching themes; at the same time, she sensitively delivers the moments of humor, lightening the mood while respecting the author’s intent.
A roundup of Bahni’s audiobook performances would be incomplete if it didn’t include at least one example of her impressive work on nonfiction titles. I chose NASTY WOMEN, edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding, because this collection of essays about modern-day “Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America” shines a spotlight on Bahni’s versatility. Her delivery emphasizes each author’s core reaction to modern times in America (anger, shock, grief) and connects listeners to the women’s impassioned calls for empathy, equality, and action.
The final two audiobooks I’m featuring are both 2019 Audie Award winners and are very different in terms of genre and intended audience. For the first one, Bahni joins SiSi Aisha Johnson, January LaVoy, and Lisa Renee Pitts to perform Lesa Cline-Ransome’s BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET, a short audiobook that introduces young children to Harriet Tubman and her various life roles, from daughter of slaves to Civil War spy to suffragist activist. The second Audies winner, CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi, is the initial installment of a young adult fantasy series set in an alternative West African universe. Both of these stories provide Bahni with a platform for rendering a variety of accents and creating believable characterizations. Bahni’s good sense of pacing draws us into the action as we root for our heroes’ successes, whether in the real world or in an imaginary one.
I find myself reluctant to end this roundup of Golden Voice Bahni Turpin’s narrations because I still have many more audiobooks to recommend. I’ve also enjoyed her work on middle grade novels, fiction for adults and teens, historical fiction titles, thrillers and mysteries, short stories, and . . . well, you get the picture. For specific titles, take a look at the dozens of AudioFile reviews of Bahni’s performances.
To learn more about Bahni Turpin, listen to her short interview on our Behind the Mic podcast.
Top photo by Max Flatow Photography.