To celebrate Black History Month, we’re featuring black authors who’ve made history and who are making history today. These voices in literature that have shaped the conversation around race and identity – both in the past and the present.
File this under essential reading. “Elbow Room” by James Alan McPherson explores race relations in America through short stories. In one, parents disapprove of an interracial marriage. In another, a white lawyer and black client struggle to understand each other. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1978, making McPherson the first black author to ever win the award.
Great minds ink alike. Pick up the graphic memoir series, “March,” which chronicles the life of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. The book was written by Lewis, co-authored by his aide Andrew Aydin, and illustrated by Nate Powell. In 2016, the third book of the series became the first graphic novel to win a National Book Award. NBD.
Get. Excited. “The Source of Self-Regard” by living legend Toni Morrison will be available at the end of the month. It’s full of essays, speeches, and reflections on money, race, female empowerment, and more. Psst...it includes the Nobel lecture she delivered after becoming the first black woman to win the award for literature. Cue the chills.
Here's some extra credit reading. If you watched "The Hate U Give," you need to read this book. "On the Come Up" is Angie Thomas's new novel set in Garden Heights. It follows 16-year-old Brianna, who has dreams of becoming a famous rapper. But first, she comes face to face with the realities of being black in America.
TL;DR: get “Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay” by Phoebe Robinson. In her second book, the stand-up comic talks feminism, beauty standards, the (over)work culture, money, and more. It’s basically an extra long version of the 2 Dope Queens podcast (hint: Robinson is a co-host). You’ll laugh. You’ll laugh out loud. You’ll read it fast.
Meet Jamel Brinkley. His debut work “A Lucky Man” is a collection of nine stories that explore masculinity and misogyny through the black male experience. Aaand you’ll want a book club to discuss, stat.
Pick up “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson. It sheds light on the Great Migration, when about 6 million African-Americans left the South starting in the 1910s. The book is being adapted by Shonda Rhimes as part of her 8-series Netflix slate, so consider your queue booked. PS: Wilkerson’s NYT reporting made her the first black woman to win the Pulitzer for Journalism.
Get “Heavy: An American Memoir” by Kiese Laymon, about the author’s lifelong struggle with weight and troubled childhood in the American South. Warning: reading this on the subway may make you miss your stop. Psst...if listening is more your thing, the Audible version is narrated by Laymon himself.
Take a trip with “We Cast a Shadow” by Maurice Carlos Ruffin. The book is a fictional satire that takes place in the near-future where race relations in America have spiraled. It follows a father who decides to have his bi-racial son undergo a procedure to lighten his skin. If you liked Get Out and Sorry to Bother You, put this on your list.
Try 1970s Harlem. You’re hearing about “If Beale Street Could Talk” by James Baldwin because the movie adaptation is Oscar-nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress (hail Regina King) earlier this year. It’s about a young couple that gets torn apart when one of them is sent to prison. Tissues are necessary but sold separately. PS: if you watched the movie, it follows the book v closely.
"I Can't Date Jesus" by Michael Arceneaux will deliver. It's a collection of essays on being LGBTQ+ and African American. It'll make you think, laugh, and you'll read it quickly. Done, done, done.
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