To say 2020 came with some “heat” would be an understatement. As a collective, we bear witness to several unforeseeable events this year. Kobe Bryant [R.I.P] and his beautiful daughter, Gianna Bryant, tragically passing away. Pop Smoke’s sudden death, COVID-19, and its reign of terror and countless lives lost at the hand of police brutality. As the protest against racial injustice continues and various stay-at-home guidelines still in place, the demand for books on race, antiracism, and the Black experience has skyrocketed. If you are a reader like me, you are always pursuing books that speak to Black culture and history whether that be the good, bad, or the ugly. These 10 books by Black authors provide insight to help readers understand the experience of Black people in a variety of spaces while prioritizing blackness.
- Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" by Zora Neale Hurston
This non-fiction work captivated by Zora Neale Hurston debuts the unfiltered accounts of the trauma and exploitation of slavery through the lens of Cudjo Lewis, the last presumed survivor of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Based on a series of interviews, the cultural anthropologist helps bring to light the Middle Passage’s ordeal, the contributing role that the African Kingdom’s played, and the freed slaves’ experiences during the Reconstruction era. Unlike other slave narratives, Lewis details his life before the bondage and life in Africa. What even more intriguing is, he speaks in the vernacular of his time.
- The Bluest Eye By Toni Morrison
The renowned author shares a black girl named Pecola Breedlove, who longs for beauty while being teased by her distinct features. Throughout the novel, Pecola yearns for blonde and blue eyes because she has been conditioned to believe that those features are the standard of beauty. Morrison offers a fictional experience while touching on the underrepresented perspective of black women in America.
- Becoming By Michelle Obama
This profound memoir is a sheer of inspiration as the former first lady, Michelle Obama, takes us down memory lane where she recounts her upbringing, time at Princeton University, meeting Barack, and leading up to her time in the White House. This book offers a glimpse of our forever lady outside of her medial portrayal, and it is elevating to black girls all over.
- Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist By Franchesca Ramsey
In a series of events, Franchesca Ramsey initially didn’t start in the space of activism, but becomes one almost overnight when her Youtube video “What White Girls Say… to Black Girls,” goes viral. This book explores race, online activism, and the downfall of communication in the age of social media, as Ramsey finds her voice in the space of social injustice in America. Funny, honest, and revelatory ‘Well, That Escalated Quickly’ brings the readers into Ramsey’s world, chronicling the experiences that shape who she is today. In a healthy balance, the memoirs touch on activism101, interracial dating, and race identity. Through it, all, the star of MTV's Decoded reminds us to be a better version of ourselves while stressing that she is also figuring this thing called life out as well.
- The Color Purple By Alice Walker
This culturally- steep novel explores sisterhood, resiliency, and trauma of black women as Alice Walker takes us into black women living in rural Georgia in the early twentieth century. Walkers take us on a soulful ride as these women: Celie, Nettie, Shug Avery, and Sofia face an avalanche of hardships, domestic abuse, and triumphs while living through American social culture. This book is beautifully imagined with characters expressing themselves in the colloquial language of their time, which in the process, helps readers connect to the character’s cultural environment on an intimate level.
- We're Going to Need More Wine By Gabrielle Union
You heard the book’s title, grab that red bottle of wine you’ve been saving for that special occasion, and open it right up [only if you are 21, of course!] because Gabrielle’s memoir requires it. With her colorful commentary and casual tone, she will have you talking to yourself and nodding a few “Yes girl!” as she addresses societal issues faced as a black woman. The book touches on a few topics like racism to societal expectations of a girl child, the trauma of being a rape survivor to the demands of being a public figure. In a casual approach, she takes us through being black and a woman in Hollywood, expectations of a stepmother, the role of being a divorcee, and the infertility challenges she faced. This contemporary book is refreshing due to the Union’s ability to cut straight to the bone while remaining candid, funny, and informative.
- The Black and the Blue by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris
This book speaks to our current political and social climate as a 28-year career, and Law enforcement Matthew Horace provides an insider's examination of age-old police tactics in America. Speaking from his account, interviews with government and polices officials, and extensive research, Horraces dissects the some of America’s publicized police shooting cases and communities, unpack how the system has harmed the individuals they serve, uncovering the missteps of racist supremacist policing, mass incarceration rates and a pandemic of brutality. The book’s tone and perspective are quite different from books I’ve read; Horace speaks from a place of honesty when addressing the blue code while still portraying respect for the system and profession.
- The New Jim Crow By Michelle Alexander
Often, we hear people refer to the American prison system as a modernized slavery system. We often hear stories of how black people and people of color are in prison, yet prisoners are working for little to no cost while Corporate America continues to crack the whip. Well, Michelle Alexander’s thought-provoking book offers a more in-depth explanation of that theory. The New York Times Best Seller book examines the systemic barriers that have resulted in millions of black Americans being placed behind bars. Through the lens of a civil rights litigator, Alexander unpacks the social channels that most black men faced on both in an orange suit and life outside of the ordeal. The book also invites readers to look at the criminal justice system, discriminating laws, and policies that have been systemically placed to challenge ex-prisoners.
- The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row By Anthony Ray Hinton and Lara Love Hardin
If you are a longtime reader and subscriber of Oprah's Book Club like I was back in 2018, you are aware of The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton. 29-year-old then, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with capital murder in Alabama, in a case of mistaken identity. The beacon of hope spent his first three years on Death Row and later 27-years in prison. This heart-tugging book is a prime example of the number of black men often placed behind bars for a crime they did not commit. Nonetheless, Hinton’s experience is transformative, and he portrays hope and love despite what his circumstance was.
- All About Love By Bell Hooks
The topic of love is often overlooked, well at least nowadays, it is and often time when we are speaking on the subject of love. We often associate it with intimacy or having a significant other. But rarely ever, we unpack the various aspect of love. In All About Love, Bell Hooks peels back the curtains on the ideal love and offers us a different perspective, infused with individuality, healing, and self-love. Hooks uses her anecdotes, psychological, and philosophical ideas to teach reads how to love in the face of an environment of lovelessness.